The following is a full transcript from Moby Siddique’s interview of SEO for Growth co-author Phil Singleton on the popular InboundBuzz Podcast.
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Moby Siddique is a seasoned Digital Marketing Strategist, Consultant & Educator, currently involved heavily in the world of Inbound & Digital Marketing Strategy. Moby is both Inbound Marketing & HubSpot certified.
Visit his agency, RedPandas, here https://www.redpandas.com.au
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Moby Siddique: Now, where do I start? Phil Singleton is an Amazon best-selling author of three books. He’s a digital marketing consultant, released his own SEO Plug-In and his work has raised reviews by Marcus Sheridan, HubSpot, WordStream, Jay Bear on and on and on. Phil, we can’t wait for you to rip into the world of SEO today, specifically. Thank you for joining us.
Phil Singleton: Hey, thanks so much, Moby. I’m really psyched to be here.
Moby : Awesome, awesome. Thanks for joining us all the way from Kansas. Is that correct?
Phil: Kansas City, yeah.
Moby : Kansas. Thank you to the power of Skype. Okay, let’s jump straight into it. Phil, I’ve heard you talk about SEO right and how it’s changed in 2017. I think you have a very interesting view on that. I often say here with myself with clients is, “SEO used to be more science and less art, and now is more of an art and less science” less back room techy stuff. Give me your thoughts on that. Is that right? Is that wrong? I’d love for you to elaborate your view on that.
Phil: I think that’s a very accurate view of where is it today. Although, I’d probably take a little step further and say, for the first 10 years of SEO, maybe more, a lot of it was driven by those back room tactics. Maybe not even so much techy stuff, it was really trying to take the shortcuts and the tricks through volume-based back-link building and maybe trying to really walk the line on trying to do some things on your website to try and maybe cheat the system more or less, at least for the guys who are more aggressive. Certainly, I totally agree that, up until a few years ago, if you looked at a pie chart of what was moving the needle in terms of the national search engine rankings. It would definitely have been some combination of back link building and on-page SEO. Now that pie chart looks a lot different.
Moby : Right, okay. This question possibly dives into that, maybe, maybe not. On one extreme, you still have the snake oil kind of SEO salesmen and they hide behind the guise of acronyms or whatnot. Then you’ve got other people who are like, “No, no. It’s really great content.” My question is, can great content marketing replace SEO, or is the definition of SEO really great content marketing? Or is that too simple?
Phil: I think maybe that’s a little too simple because to me, what it’s really boiled down to is Google’s in particular because they’re the 800 pound gorilla. I think they’ve just gotten really good at being able to collect a wide variety of digital marketing signals. Anymore it’s almost become so much more of a holistic approach and then measuring lots of different things.
What I mean by that is we get people approach us in my own agency for all sorts of different tactical things. They’ll come and say, “I’ve got a problem with AdWords or I want help on social media. I need help on reputation management.” Those are just those little front end tactical pain points. What it ends up and what we usually end up doing, and I’m sure you guys are doing the same thing, is you’re working on the marketing strategy and a more holistic plan and if you try and sync up the goals that you know who the audience and the ideal client is, and then start to build a website and content, all this kind of stuff around it, then all those other little tactical things, you tend to get better results on.
It’s interesting, because I was literally on the other side of the fence on this. You heard Google and everybody saying content was king for a long time but those of us who have been doing SEO for 15 years or more, that was just noise in the background. Sure, sure, sure, content is king. Where we saw that lots of back-links from different sources were actually where we’re probably getting the most in terms of waiting.
Now with the punitive algorithms that have come out in the last five years or so, they say content and king and they really meant it at that point. I think that we see that in the industry, those of us who are really focused on SEO, I think it would more become inbound marketers or digital marketers, because you have to do all these things like the reputation management, like blogging, getting involved in social media. Because all those things, if you’ve got a good web-centric platform, that’s what really helps you get a lot of that organic visibility.
You hit the nail on the head, probably. Your intro was probably one of the best ones I’ve heard in terms of summing it up in two sentences, which is there’s definitely a lot more art to it and there’s less getting too concerned about those techy things that are under the hood. This is why I still like to try and frame marketing around SEO, because you still have to know who your ideal client is and you really have to know how they’re searching for your products and services and information, I think, in order to know where the finish line is. Once you kind of know where these things are, then you can build that marketing plan and tactics and the contents you’re building around that kind of search activity.
I really think that helps and that helps you get maybe five or ten X versus one or ten X return on all your marketing dollars.
Moby : Yeah. Sure, sure. I like that. I like that. You find people who just focus on maybe content marketing and sometimes there’s only finite resources. Hey, that might get them anyways through, particularly if their competition isn’t doing anything. I like your view on … You’ve actually got to integrate all those other touchpoints and elements. Actually I was going to ask you about social.
Before I go into that, I just had a thought. The great thing about our industry is you read something one week and then you read something completely contradictory the week after.
Moby : The one I’m talking about now is the content quality versus quantity debate. Now, it sounds obvious, but maybe for people like us who dive into this stuff, it’s not so obvious. For a long time, yeah, cool, the quality thing is working but then you see sites who are actually churning … It’s not bad content, but it’s okay content and it’s just churn, churn, churn and it’s working for them.
I want to get your thoughts about that, the content quality versus quantity debate. What are your thoughts on that?
Phil: I do tend to think that if you’re in a more competitive national niche, where the competition’s much higher and you’re doing something maybe nationally or maybe internationally, focusing on long-form content, especially for some very competitive keywords is going to get you more return and more benefit. Because you’re just not going to have a chance if you’re in a competitive niche and you’re trying to rank for these types of keywords, when the rest of people you’re competing with are turning out better content and it’s generating more link shares, reviews, and all those kind of social signals and that kind of stuff.
I think where it can still help folks a lot is maybe at the local and regional level because we see in smaller cities or cities, is the folks that are maybe blogging once a week or twice a week or three times a week, and just have the discipline to be able to execute content marketing plan. It’s thought out but it’s still … I think we’re saying the same thing here. It’s not necessarily total fluff, and just search engine stuff, but it’s not the best. It’s not 10 X content.
Moby : Yeah. It’s surface level. There’s no depth to it, but there is that surface level at least, maybe.
Phil: I think that that still does work quite well for maybe smaller local SEO type stuff, because a lot of times their competition isn’t doing any of it. If you are turning out content, I think, on a regular basis, on a weekly basis, just by nature of being able to plug that in and have something to feed out into your social media channels, gives you a little bit more visibility. Then if you’re doing it right … Because if we think, obviously your website should be the referral source for everything so you shouldn’t be just directly posting.
If you can’t have directly a social media, if you’ve got something where you could spin it up in a post and then distribute everywhere so people will have to come back to your site, I think that’s still … We see it working all the time. It’s part of our local and regional SEO strategy plans. For the bigger folks that are really trying to rank for really competitive keywords, I think the bar’s much higher and I would spend a lot more time trying to create authoritative longer form posts that are trying to get attention in that particular niche, than trying to churn out weekly stuff.
Of course you may have a different … I’d love to hear what your perspective. I’m turning the interview around on you on that. That’s my view of who’s winning with that kind of stuff and where it still might work. Tell me if you think I’m wrong here. You’re not going to see bigger websites with bigger marketing, that are just going to churn out a lot of fluffy stuff because they’ve got bigger audiences. The people maybe know what they’re doing, but more they pay attention. There’s more engagement on that content, so they’re just not going to get away with fluff in those competitive niches where you’re not going to see at the local or regional [inaudible 00:09:24] because they’re not going to get that kind of engagement but it’s still going to help them out with the visibility and the local rankings.
Moby : I think the favorite part of, for me, what you said there was if no one else is doing anything, and particularly local businesses, if nobody else is really doing it, then whatever they’re doing is better than the nothing that is out there. At the same time I’m also seeing, and this is cool because this is a good discussion. I’m also seeing bigger companies, or maybe not bigger companies. Maybe sometimes people selling digital products or courses, or whatever it is, have a lot of churn.
Look, dare I say, HubSpot has great content. They do fantastic content but I think they pump out something like 10 to 15 pieces of content a day. Some of it does look like a quantity type. I think to myself, they’re a huge company so for them maybe they have to be seen to be putting out content. I don’t know what you think about that, but sometimes I’ll go to a website and I try not to do it myself, and they haven’t put a post out since 2015.
Moby : They might be really really good and just really really busy but they’re not seen to be doing that content. I think that counts for something as well. It’s interesting. I do agree with you. I think if you’re not actually doing anything, then anything is going to be better than nothing. You’ve got to keep your eyes about because if they start doing the same things, you’ve got to go deeper.
Phil: I have noticed, and you’ve probably seen this too where you see a lot of these news publishing sites that are out there that have opened it up, and doing a little bit of what the HubSpot thing is, which is opening it up maybe to more contributors in general, and accepting more contributor posts, and all of a sudden that opens the flood gates up so maybe their editorial review, or the people they’re letting in … I think they’re trying to all work the system to some degree. They know they need to have more content on the site and more content that gets pushed out. Maybe they’ve got a better chance to rank for those niche keywords or long-form keywords, or whathaveyou.
To some degree they’re probably leveraging the contributor, because they’re depending on them to go out and market their article to some extent. Definitely I’ve seen it rise on that recently, where you’ve seen a lot of these larger websites that have opened the contributor programs up a little bit. Then there’s also been a few of them that have actually reeled them back in, I think to some degree, because maybe they’re noticing some of the things that you’re mentioning right now, which is, “Is too much churn too much?” We don’t want to just churn out for the sake of churning out.
You get these guys or these bigger websites, like HubSpot, that have a ton of authority. As soon as they roll things out, they’ve got a tremendous advantage in terms of how their site gets crawled and the sheer weight of the trust that they have on. A lower level quality piece of content might have a better chance to rank their site than it would anybody else’s site. Are they gaming it too hard? Are they risking some kind of cannibalization or some kind of dilution maybe of their own power if they don’t walk into it?
I’m not calling out HubSpot specifically, but you mentioned a really good point. I think that’s more of a geeky SEO talk than maybe your average business owner would care about. It is interesting to see how people are leveraging that kind of content and the flow and the amounts and things like that.
Moby : Well, I do like that because even anyone listening now, they’re like, “Oh look, I’m not a huge business. I can’t get away with that churn. I’m going to have to see what my …” We’re not about shortcuts, but if your competitors aren’t doing it, I think first and foremost you have to answer their questions and their pain points. You touched, sort of, on personas. If that’s the only thing you can do and you can only pump out 500 words once a week, then that’s better than nothing, dare I say.
You said something before. Not getting controversial but talk a little bit gray hat for a second. What are your thoughts on … I’m not sure people know this but recently I realized some of the very very big sites, and I’m not going to mention them specifically, but sites like Huffington or Inc or Forbes. I’m not saying these guys, but like these sites, of the nature, people can pay for links on these sites. Not everybody knows that and newsflash if you don’t. Most people don’t know this. You can pay for links on those sites.
What are your thoughts on this, what I call a gray hat tactic? Is it good? Is it ethical? Give me your thoughts.
Phil: That’s a really tricky question. I want to make sure we’re talking about the same thing. When you say paying for links on the sites, we’re mostly talking about through editorial links on folks that are contributors, that type of web paid or paying directly, paying the publisher directly and somehow getting links, through advertisements or …?
Moby : Good point because there is a distinction. There is what I have seen in the industry, and again, I’m not going to call anybody out. Editors of big name sites-
Phil: Right. That’s a big rampant thing right now, sure.
Moby : Yeah. Offering to mention a topic or something and linking back. I think if they do their due diligence, and they actually research the person offering them money and they say, “This guy actually, Moby can talk about HubSpot, or no, he sucks on PPC,” or whatever, as an example, maybe that’s okay. That’s a good distinction to make. What are your thoughts on that?
Phil: I guess I think it’s okay to some degree. When it comes to ethics and things like that, you do wonder if the publisher knew that the writer were getting the money that they were to make these brand mentions or links, would that be okay with them? I have a sense that probably if they knew that, it wouldn’t be. There’s that issue. It seems to be so rampant right now that it’s almost unavoidable, especially if you’re a bigger company where you want to get …
Link building is one these things where it’s dangerous. You don’t want to be doing any of it, I think, these days for the sake of just getting a link on somewhere. They do count a lot, especially if you can find ways to get editorial lengths from high authority or sites, there’s no question that this helps. It helps from an SEO standpoint. It also helps just from being able to leverage the right audience. Getting a mention or getting into one of these things where you’re getting an article or a publication that’s got part of your ideal clients in there, then there’s that benefit as well.
To me though, I think it’s really up to the publishers to be doing that kind of policing. I don’t see too much of a problem with an agency trying to outreach to writers, to see if they are a way to promote their client to say, “Hey, is it possible for us to get a mention,” or that kind of stuff, that kind of outreach? It’s really more between, I think, the contributor and the company than it is between the business that’s trying to get the backlink or the mention or the agency is trying to help them out.
You do wonder if that somehow is going to be the next bubble that’s going to be burst and how Google would go about trying to police that better than they have, because it would seem to be a tougher one. At the end of the day, the one thing I think that changes most of the time that you’re seeing these backlinks or these mentions in these publications, they work. They’re natural. The guys that are writing them, they’re saying, “Hey, man, I want to keep my position here so I’ve got to make sure that it’s going to a quality page. It makes sense. It adds value to the article.”
I’m sure some sneak into that probably are questionable, but it seems like the guys that are going out and doing this do have a much higher standard in terms of making this happen. It feels a real gray hat, I guess is the answer.
Moby : Absolutely.
Phil: You cannot not avoid getting your content, or your name somehow mentioned in some of these authority sites, because your competitors are going to do it. The ones that are doing that, and they’re doing everything else that you’re doing, are probably going to beat you.
Moby : Yeah. Be aware, people are doing it. Yeah. I like that. I agree. Let me get back to my track, otherwise I’m just going to be having a chat with you and I’m not going to get through my questions.
Phil: Sorry. Let’s get back on.
Moby : It’s too much. This is me, I’m getting distracted by chatting with you. You talk about the issue of integration side of things and different forms of the marketing function, specifically also you talk about social media, as well. We know that social of course is a signal. Give me some of your tips on how you use social media to an SEO advantage and not just, “This is in the SEO bucket. This is in the social bucket.”
Phil: I always take it back. Everything that we do, any engagement we’re going to start, trying to figure out the persona of the ideal client, how they search. Then we’re going to try and figure out, “What are the core search terms and what kind of topics and things are searching that?” Then we actually try and bake that in to the entire website build. You’re basically reverse-engineering the entire website and the pages, and core pages based upon this keyword research that you do. On top of that then we figure, “Okay, let’s get our social channels integrated into this site and make sure that anything that we do moving forward from one site is designed or redesigned, we’re going to use the website as the referral source for pretty much everything that we can do.
In a perfect world for me, every piece of content that you would have would be published from your website, and then shared through your social media as a distribution channel. Because I think one of the biggest mistakes I see for especially small, medium sized businesses, is they take their best content and they place it in one social media place where it sits there and dies. The problem with social media, to me, is it’s a place to show somebody something pretty much in real time, because you’ve got to catch them in the flow and they see it and then it flows down the stream and it’s never seen again. Right?
Moby : Yeah.
Phil: The beauty about your website, organic, is that piece of content or whatever it was can live forever if somebody is searching for it. We have a find a way to make sure that anything that we do … That’s my own philosophy in terms of SEO, is you want to make sure that all your best content is on your website in some shape of form and it’s always going to be the referral source.
How does it tie in? That’s where it gets into maybe a little bit more of a churn based content marketing strategy, where it makes a little bit more sense to publish more often, and then publish directly from your blog or your website directly into a social media channel. You’re sharing. It’s on your website so you’re sharing your links out there.
How does this relate to SEO? Well, if you’ve got a great piece of content or a post or maybe a group of pictures, and of course you post them up on Facebook, like I said, it dies there. There’s no chance to link back to the website, get a remarketing tag, get a Facebook pixel, really even a sign-up, get somebody back to the website to create what we would consider a social signal. This is a little bit controversial, because you’ve talked to some people. Google says, “No, we don’t count social signals.” Thee are a couple folks that we went out to, John Jantsch and I wrote the SEO for Growth book.
They didn’t necessarily like how we originally characterized social signals, because there’s a lot of us in SEO that will swear up and down that if you have a blog post or a piece of content or something on your website that gets a lot more likes, tweets, and shares and pluses than a piece of content that doesn’t, that other piece of content almost always ranks better than the one that doesn’t get any action.
How is that being measured? Well, I think it’s likely that there’s some kind of direct correlation between Google, but Google says no, and allow the guys, the pros out there at the very top of the SEO food chain and research and stuff say, “We’ve done research and it doesn’t work that way.” There almost certainly has to be then an indirect correlation because if you share a piece of content out, especially if it comes back to your website, then people are going to see it more. They’re going to share it more, and they’re more likely to link to it if there’s more eyeballs in it.
There has to be some type of indirect SEO benefit from sharing your website content in particular our in your social media channels. I think that’s the one thing that we, to impress when folks ask us, “How does social count? What are the social signals?” That’s really what it boils down to, is you have to treat your website as the referral source for all your content, and don’t think that you can just directly fill your social media channels on their own without having some digital throwback to your site. If you don’t, again, it’s one of those 1 X, 2 X versus 5 X, 10 X. That’s really where I think the heart of trying to integrate your social with your website, is to not forget about your website when you’re active in your social media channels.
Moby : Yeah, cool. I like that. I like that. Hey, if you want to take it to the next pro level, then maybe have a Facebook Live version of your blog, or something that’s the same substance, but a different format for social. At least start with a distribution reference point being your website. Next one, video. What is video’s role in SEO in 2017?
Phil: [inaudible 00:23:25] question. I don’t know if you follow, one of my favorite websites to follow in the SEO space is Search Engine Roundtable because that’s one where the guy, Barry Schwartz, basically follows all the daily SEO chatter from around the web. Of course we think we can really see things that are happening on a daily basis better from other folks in the industry than we ever would from Google because they rarely disclose what they’re doing. Sometimes it’s smoke and mirrors in terms of the information that they’re going to release. I lost my train of thought there.
Moby : The video site you say.
Phil: On the video, right, on the video. The reason I was mentioning Search Engine Roundtable there is because one of the spokesmen from Google just came out the other day. I saw this on Search Engine Roundtable, where he said, “Hey, embedding video or having video on your website is not a common on page SEO signal.” Now, there’s a lot of us that think when you make a blog post and it’s of a certain length, and it has the right structure in terms of the tags and has your bullets and your numbers and all these kind of things that make it more readable and include rich media, you’re going to have more of an on-page SEO score.
For a long time, I still think to this day people think that if you add video onto a webpage, it’s going to help you in some shape or form in terms of the way maybe a Google crawler would come and algorithm would grade the page of the website. I think that’s still maybe true. Again, I don’t know if it’s direct or indirect, but certainly having a video within a blog or a website, where somebody stops, plays it and listens, watches it, is going to stay on that page longer and it’s going to increase the quote, unquote dwell time, which is been a pretty hot topic the last 12 to 24 months, which is people that stay longer on a blog page is a signal. The longer people stay, the higher Google would rank it.
Again, it’s one of those things that Google doesn’t say that that’s an actual ranking figure, but lots of people in the industry say dwell time, there seems to be a direct corelation between dwell time and organic ranking. To that extent, having video on your website, I think, would help a lot. Where I see it help the most though has been the holistic package where you’re using video, video testimonials, really using it in a way that increases the trust factor on your website.
Is that an SEO thing or is that more of an on-page conversion, or just more of a branding type thing? Certainly it seems to be a really heavily weighted factor or at least an important factor in terms of conversion rate optimization. Because every time that we’ve tested and seen that we’ve got the right video on a webpage, or to our own page, when it’s got the right content, it seems to convert a lot more or a lot better than ones that don’t.
Moby : Yeah, sorry, go ahead.
Phil: I guess the key point is, how does it comes in? How does it play? I think it’s really important every new website that we design, we always in the layout include some type of a video in there, to the extent that we do new blog posts as part of our content marketing plan for folks. We do like to try and get them to create videos and add them on their pages, include them in blog posts when it makes sense because we think that it, again, keeps people on the site longer and we do think it also helps with the organic ranking to some degree.
Moby : You touched on it as well, conversion rate optimization, aka CRO. We’ve got to make money too at the end of the day. CRO is bringing the horses to the water. I know this is an oversimplification but maybe CRO is making them drink when they get there. That’s got to count for something, if video is only indirectly helping your SEO.
Phil: Big time.
Moby : The schema.org thing is interesting. I find with non-techies, it’s one of those things that’s confused people because there’s so much schema. You go on their website, schema.org. There’s probably hundreds there, hundreds of different types. Maybe in your answer you can explain first what schema.org is and what the manifestation, in Google what that looks like. My question specifically is, are some better than others? Should you just try to go get every schema tag on earth? How do you approach schema?
Phil: That’s a great question. It’s one of those things that’s come out there, and really I think there’s a lot of confusion as to what it is. To me I look at it as just almost an extension of the other ways that we tag data on a website. When I explain that to clients, it’s like, “Well, some people that have any amount of experience with Ghost SEO for example. They generally get an understanding of what a page title is, and a meta description.
To me, structured data and the schema that’s used to implement it is really just a way to tag the rest of the data that’s on a webpage. If there’s a review on a webpage, for example, somebody’s saying a quote or something that would count as a review of a product or service, Google’s not going to go crawl the page and say, “That looks like a review. I’m going to actually show that up in the search results because it looks like a review.” They need to actually have a tag there that gives them the confidence that that piece of content is actually a review and follows a standard in terms of how it’s laid out.
If they see that, and it’s tagged correctly and they trust it because they trust the rest of your site, then you might have a review or a star rating or an event time or whatever else show up in a Google search page listing, in addition to the basic page title and meta description that you would see on a standard listing.
That’s how I explain it. What do you do in terms of customers? It’s such a huge wide open place like you’re saying. It gets really confusing. What we do is, I just really, in my case, since we deal with small, medium sized businesses more, we focus just on the key areas which is let’s focus on the homepage and make sure that we’ve got the organization and location tags pinned down. Since blogging and content marketing is such a big piece of how our approach to SEO is, we spend more time on the pages and maybe the blog pages to make sure that those have as much the schema markup as we can so that they may have a better chance to show up and that additional information may have a better chance to show up in the search engines.
Products, again, on ecommerce sites that’s going to be a really critical one, also to make sure that those product tags … You can take schema pretty much as far as you want. Your question really is how deep should we get into it? I think you should really only get as deep as you need to be. If you see a blog post on a page, then I think it should be tagged as a blog. If there’s a video on it, then I think you should include the video schema. Of the major pieces of content that are on there, I think that if you can do that, then you want to tag those accordingly.
The end goal is two things, I think, three really. Google said one. Last year they said at some point schema, structured data and schema markup may become a ranking factor. Who knows? Maybe it already is. I think maybe to some degree it probably is because the more on-page structure you have or it’s tagged correctly, it has to be some kind of an on-page signal or you think common sense would say this.
Secondly is, you get a better chance to show more search engine bling. If you’ve got a star or a person’s name or an event or some other information, it’s going to stand out a lot more than a normal search result. Secondly, a lot of people are talking more about voice search and having voice search and how is Google going to be able to distinguish certain types of content if the more that your data is tagged correctly from top to bottom, I think you could potentially have a better chance to show up in voice search.
Moby : Yes, absolutely. I like that. It’s just future proofing, I guess, for the inevitable. Very very quickly there you mentioned the tip around putting schema on blog posts. What does that do? Does that tell Google that this is a blog versus something else? How do you think that helps just quickly?
Phil: I just think when you come in and you can tag the post, one, I think that being able to communicate that and having that extra layer of coding is a on-page trust factor one. I also think and I seem to have seen some cases that if you’ve got a blog post that’s structured properly, with the blog post schema, that it seems like some of those posts have a better chance to show up in a knowledge box, versus ones that aren’t. That’s the primary reason I use it, because if we do longer form ones and then we tag those blog posts correctly and put basically all the schema markup for a blog post, I think there’s five or ten fields for it.
The ones that have the detailed schema list, it’s seen to have a little bit better chance to get listed in the knowledge box for search than those who don’t.
Moby : Awesome, awesome. By the way I will link the SEO for Growth book, everything you’ve mentioned and possibly some examples of the blog schema in the show notes which will be at https://www.redpandas.com.au/
Moby : … /ep66. I might get you to check those schemes before I put them up. That’s where you can find them. AMP, have you had any results? First thing, what is AMP? Have you had any preliminary results with it, versus before and after implementing Accelerated Mobile Pages?
Phil: Wow. It’s already mobile pages we’re talking about, right?
Moby : Yes, yeah, absolutely.
Phil: That, like with anything else, I was really interested in jumping into that. Took a step back here, I’m a certified duct tape marketing consultant. I don’t know if you know John Jantsch but he’s the guy that I wrote the book with. He’s got a network of about 120 marketing consultants around the world. We take his course and we get trained on, and all this kind of stuff.
A lot of us got agencies and we’ve got whatever it is, a handful of clients, 50, 100 clients. We’ve all got our own network of folks and we all have our own clients. We get to see things, how folks are implementing different things, or review them later and we talk about things. Recently we’ve been talking about AMP. The conclusion that my fellow marketers have come up with is it’s what I’ve been really doing on my own, which is almost like a wait and see type of a thing. There’s been some confusion in how people implement it, when to implement it, what to implement it with.
It really almost seems today to be more of an almost bigger website issue. Guys that are churning out lots of big content, really more concerned about speed and being able to consume, feed content out there and be able to consume it quickly on mobile devices and that kind of thing, not so much a small business issue. The approach that we have is really the same way we approach SSL, which is wait and see. We waited on that. That was two years ago. I think we waited a year to start implementing that almost as a standard on all the new websites that we’ve done.
In fact I think even on one of my main websites, we haven’t even done it yet because we were waiting for the relaunch of it. AMP is the same thing. I was almost ready to start jumping into it and using it, but at this point we’re still in that wait and see mode. Interested to know what your take is on it, if you’ve implemented it on any of your sites or your clients’ sites. Right now we haven’t done it.
Moby : For me, I was curious because my very very limited view on it is, and this was just a hunch or a feel. It’s like a wait and see approach. I’ve heard from some people in the industry say, “Oh yeah, you should just put it on everything,” to the point where I was chatting to somebody and we work with a big retailer. It’s a big magenta e-commerce website, a lot of products. They’re like, “You should put it on every page.” I’m like, “Should you?”
Because my view was that at the moment, and I think you said this. Correct me if you didn’t, something about consuming content quickly. I feel like it is advantageous for maybe the blog part of your website, maybe for publishers. I believe in some way, all good marketers should be some form of publishers. Read into that what you will. Is it for Forbes and Inc because they’re so content-heavy?
I don’t really know, but my view at this point is maybe it’s something for content and blogs. I don’t know.
Phil: That’s where we are. First, I was like, jeez, are we going to have to do this for everything really quickly? Then if you look around, there’s nightmare stories about how it’s implemented. At this point, if you’d asked me today, I would say, this really seems would be more of a big company, big publishing platform issue to deal with, but it’s certainly not on the high list of priorities for small business websites.
Moby : Small businesses, right.
Phil: For us right now.
Moby : As a takeaway, would you agree for people listening maybe it’s something where if you do have a blog where you are a bit of a mini publisher, maybe you’re publishing three times a week … I say that because I’ve got some clients who I push to post three times a week, the ones who are not doing content. If they can do three times a week, I’m happy.
Moby : For clients or businesses running content maybe three or four times a week, maybe it’s something they can test with their blog. Would you agree as a first, deep in the water?
Moby : Okay, cool.
Phil: That’s only if they had all the other fundamental things in place, which is I guess what we’re assuming.
Moby : True.
Phil: It would be right at the end of list, but sure, yeah.
Moby : Yeah, true. You’ve done all the things. You’ve checked all the boxes. You’re looking for other things to do. Sure. Just a couple more questions, if you don’t mind, Phil. This is around SEO. It’s looping back to one of the very first questions I asked you. If you’re looking to hire an SEO person in-house, and I want to ask about agencies later, or you want to be an SEO expert, what skills do you need to have in 2017?
Phil: I mentioned this duct tape marketing thing that I’m in, because I think it really speaks to where SEO is today. The first 10 years of my career, I was so focused. I so much had the tactical technical SEO blinders on, and I really wasn’t paying attention to the rest of, I guess you would say, digital marketing atmosphere. It’s really digital marketing so much as marketing now. I think the best skill for somebody that wants to get into this is to really know how marketing works in general, just marketing skill because I think that’s what SEO has become.
I don’t look as ranking so much. Everybody looks at SEO rankings for the ranking, meaning I rank high. Somebody’s going to click on my website. If I got the CRO stuff set up, I’m going to get the phone call or the email, or I’m going to get these guys into my phone. Yes, of course that’s what most people focus on. Really I think the rankings have become a critical marketing KPI because Google’s coming out and they’re measuring all these other pieces that are what’s actually making the site and its pages and its content come up in the rankings in the first place.
What would you be looking for? The last thing I would look for in somebody, and I see this all the time, is you still get a lot of SEO folks that are way too focused on just the tactical pieces and they don’t talk enough about marketing and content, or trying to even understand the goals of the company or who the ideal client is. I see this all the time. It’s still one of these, the tactical pain point issue where you’ve got … It doesn’t matter what it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s a social media person or an AdWords person or a technical SEO person.
I think really for those guys, for all of us to be able to do our jobs the best that we can, we have to understand the broader marketing picture and really get our heads around the business more than just focus on this piece. The short answer to that is I think to really be good at SEO these days, you have to know more about marketing. That’s really why I became a duct tape marketing consultant, is because I wanted to get myself, my head around the broader picture of how marketing works in general and get myself out of that little technical SEO box because that’s what Google’s focusing on now.
That’s really what I think, what people should be looking for. They shouldn’t just be looking, “Do you know where the meta tag is? Is description in all tag? You know what AMP is and schema is?” That’s great because that’s part of it, but you can do that stuff all day long. If you don’t know how marketing, reputation management, social media, ad words, all this kind of stuff works into that whole picture, then you’re never going to get the results from the guy that’s just applying the technical piece.
Moby : Yeah. You’d be chasing your tail for years. Yeah, absolutely. Just try being a marketer and understanding strategy over tactics. Oh man, we could have a whole episode.
Phil: A whole other thing.
Moby : Whole other thing. I’ll like to Duct Tape Marketing as well so people can unpack that in their own time. On the other side, and again, thank you for being so generous with your time, just quickly, how do you test the quality of an SEO agency? Maybe, what do you ask a good quality SEO agency? Then what separates the cowboys from the stars, you think?
Phil: I think it’s going to come back to really what their approach is and what questions they’re asking. This almost parallel the answer that I just gave in this last one, which is what questions, what are they talking about? Are they talking about marketing in general or they’re just going to zero in on backlinks and traffic? I think if you’re going to talk to an agency and get help from them, if the conversation and the questions you ask are just really just on that one little sliver of what I would consider the old SEO, you’re probably not going to be getting the results.
If I was going to go out and test an SEO agency out, I’d go out and ask them, “What things are you going to need from me or from our company to be able to succeed?” The answer I think there should be, “Well, we need to understand what your business is, what your goals are.” I think one of the questions that people don’t ask a lot is, they take the client’s … If somebody asked them, “What do you do in your business?” and they say, “80% of it comes from this and 20% comes from this,” well a typical SEO person would go after that and maybe prioritize it accordingly.
Unless you ask deeper questions, like, “Maybe that 20% of the business is the most profitable one.” That’s maybe where some of the SEO in the content should be, not on the lower margin 80%. The agency that you’re working with should really be trying to get your head around your business, how it works, where you want it to grow, where your profit margins are and really trying to get their head around your total marketing plan and seeing how they can bake that into the whole strategy, versus maybe just saying, “Here’s our package. Here’s how many links we’re going to build for you. Here’s how many blog posts we’re going to churn out,” and just focus on how many hours or how much work you’re going to get for the budget type of a thing.
I think that’s really what separates the … At the end of the day we talk about snake oil and people feeling burnt. That’s really what happens. You get small business owners go out there and just price shop SEO and are just trying to compare numbers to numbers in terms of what I get for the money. They’re not really seeing the big picture of somebody’s got to work this into everything to be able to make it all work, type of a deal.
I think if you get back to your question, I think you should be paying attention or ask the agency what kind of information involvement they would need from the company. They should be talking about marketing strategy and asking you what things you’re doing, how much willing you’re going to be to participate in the plan, and those types of things, versus just zeroing in on a couple …
You go and talk to any SEO agency out there that’s doing it the old school way, a lot of what the tactic there is to just start barraging the clients with all sorts of technical stuff until their eyes start to water and drool starts to come out of their mouth and they say, “Okay. Okay. Okay. We’ll do it,” type of deal.
The reality of what works for SEO these days is what we know, getting the website set up right, getting the content set up right, establishing yourself as an authority, building trust into your website, all these things that really most clients can get their head around, and again, not focusing on just those highly technical pieces. Those are the things I’d focus on, if you’re going to try and figure out which ones are the cowboys and which ones are likely to maybe run off with your money or not get results for you, versus the guys that are really going to look after your business and do it the right way, would be those upper level questions.
Moby : Yeah. If I would speak to someone who’s said to me, “I’ve just spoken to a bunch of people. I’m really confused.” I say, “Look, it actually shouldn’t be confusing. It is actually pretty simple.” It goes back to the strategy side that you just so eloquently articulated there. If you can explain that and how you bake that into your company and your prospects, it’s not about the stuff that … Actually SEO today, it isn’t complicated in my view. It really isn’t. It should be able to be communicated simply. That’s often giveaway as well.
Phil: So many people are just wanting to write checks away for the tactical pain points. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s an SEO agency or any kind of agency that’s really trying to come across with some tactical expertise. If a professional digital marketer is not bringing it back to the strategy, then they’re probably going to be missing the boat on the tactical execution. That’s really the key point to all of this.
Moby : Yeah. Awesome. Phil, final question, and again thank you so much for being so patient with my barrage of questions and slight digressions. It’s been a lot of fun.
Phil: Love it.
Moby : A lot of value added. My final question is, for you on the personal side, obviously you’ve worked with so many big thought leaders. You just go on your website. You check out the book SEO for Growth book and see all the things that you’ve actually done. How do you stay ahead? You’re busy, you’re doing your own stuff as well, but you have to stay ahead. How do you do it personally?
Phil: I think part of it is just making sure that at least in my business, I’ve got such a hand into my own client accounts, meaning I’m actually rolling up the sleeves and helping out with the strategy and maybe even doing a little bit of execution. Always having that touch, I think, to what’s going on on the street, I think, helps a lot, versus sometimes when people get more and more clients and they get a little bit bigger, they tend to get away from what’s actually happening with their clients, and then maybe can lose a little bit of touch on what things are actually working is one thing.
I mentioned Search Engine Roundtable, being able to have a place out there that collects chatter and being able to see the right kinds of engagement in whatever … In my case, I still zero in on SEO a lot because I think even [inaudible 00:48:29] still put it out as one of these technical things, it really is I think a bellwether for digital marketing in general. Being able to follow that group and still see what people are saying in terms of the changes they see on a day to day basis, I think really is telling.
I like to tell people, you have to look at what the environment that we’re in today. The two most valuable companies in the world, I’m pretty sure it’s as of today. It’s been off and on this whole last year or two. It’s Google and Apple. It’s a 750 billion dollar company versus a 600 billion dollar company. Some months Google’s been number one, and some months Apple. Apple represents the way that we consume content on the physical devices. Google’s the one almost monopolies how we are able to get content out there.
Being able to follow these companies and particularly Google in general, I think is a great way. When you follow what they’re doing and the moves that they’re making, then I think it gives you a pretty good window into what things are important, what things are working in terms of marketing in general. That’s how I try and stay ahead of it. I think Google gives us a good window into technology and marketing things.
You’ve probably seen this too. They had the March conference and they’ve got that March, has this giant infographic that gets bigger and bigger every year. I think the picture they had now is 40% bigger than they had last year. They pile all these logos onto this one infographic and they’re just thousands of collage.
Moby : I didn’t even note that anymore.
Phil: How can you possibly-
Moby : … so over that infographic.
Phil: It gives you a headache. How do you follow which ones are work and which ones … It’s just impossible. It’s impossible to do. The way I do it, is I really just try and stay focused on Google and I try and see what algorithm and trying to focus on what algorithm, what changes and what things they’re going after because they’re looking at so many different pieces right now. I focus on Google and I focus on one or two industry websites, and that’s the only way that I can make sense of that giant infographic with thousands and thousands of tools that are supposed to help us all churn out our return investment.
Moby : Cool, fantastic. I love it. I’ll link to everything you mentioned, everything I can possibly link to. Where can people find you, Phil, and what you do?
Phil: It’s interesting in terms of inbound strategy. I used to have one website, at least locally where I had just Kansas City Web Design, that was the one that I can rank locally for SEO and the webs design stuff. Then it’s gotten more and more competitive to rank for web design and SEO, so we’ve got a web design website called Kansas City Web Design. We focus on the web design stuff. We’ve got one called Kansas City SEO where it’s more internet marketing and SEO.
Those are the two places where we actually do the day to day stuff for folks here, local in Kansas City and in the region. The one I’ve been spending more time on recently of course is on SEO for Growth, and that’s where John and I wrote the book and where we published it. It’s also where we started to do a little bit more in terms of coursework and we’ve actually got our little program where we’re starting to set up these licensee agency partnerships around the U.S. We signed up one in Atlanta and St. Louis, where we basically, if you were to search St. Louis SEO, you’d see St. Louis dot SEO for Growth, and that’s a little child site that we have to set up to help our licensee there generate SEO leads.
Based on the book, we’ve got this little platform we’ve built, the course, a lead generation platform for people that are trying to get into an SEO business in their metropolitan area. That’s where the bulk lead effort’s been. If people want to find me now, it’s most of the content marketing and promotional stuff that we’re doing it’s tied to SEO fro Growth dot com.
Moby : Yeah, cool. I was looking at that earlier. I’ve got it up now. Awesome sites. Got the book there and everything. Phil, thank you so much for your time once again. Sorry for going a little bit over. Man, keep doing what you’re doing. It’s awesome to watch.
Phil: Thank you so much, Moby.
Moby : Thanks.
Phil: Really appreciate this opportunity.