John Sottile is a New York based SEO Consultant who has helped businesses big and small achieve their online goals. John uses a combination of techniques including On-Page SEO, Content Creation, Reputation Management among others in order to achieve desired results for his clients.
John, Thank you for talking with us. Kindly describe your journey as an Entrepreneur.
When I was younger, I had my own paper route for several years. That allowed me to get a taste of what it would be like interacting with customers and managing a service on my own time. When I attended college at the College of Staten Island, I never had a real direction at first. Once I decided to pursue a marketing degree, I started to look into social media marketing and search engine optimization.
I realized that not many businesses fully understand digital marketing, and realized that this was a service I could potentially offer to people. One of my first clients was a graphic design company. I used that experience to learn about how to rank a website, and from there I had the confidence to make the leap as a freelancer.
Providing quality SEO services requires a certain level of expertise. Having said that, there are a lot of SEO companies that have cropped up in the recent past providing average services. How challenging is this for your business given the kind of competition this segment has?
I think that having more SEO agencies, freelancers, and providers in the field is a good thing. Having more competition helps create more awareness for the service, and it also gives consumers more options to choose from. Since digital marketing is one of the most effective ways to market your company, it’s one of the safest investments a business can make.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of shady SEO providers out there too. These companies may use outdated tactics that hurt their clients’ websites. While these scenarios are unfortunate, it also creates opportunities for the legitimate SEO specialists to step in and repair the damage.
How has SEO evolved in the last 5 years?
Google is favoring websites and brands that provide value to their readers and customers. The days of spamming a website to the top of search engines with a link blast from Fiverr are long gone. You need to focus on organic engagement and create quality content that will keep people interested.
It’s also important to have a website that has an easy to understand user experience for the customer. This means that your website should load in a reasonable amount of time, it should have content that helps the user find what they’re there for, and it should have a clear call to action so it’s optimized for conversions. Google tends to favor websites that are consistently publishing quality content. Quality content also helps attract links to your website.
Do you think Google will remain the king of search engines in the foreseeable future?
I believe so. Google and YouTube are the top two search engines, and Google owns YouTube. I don’t see either of these companies going anywhere any time soon. Most people prefer watching videos over reading a blog post.
Do you think keyword research is a must for better search engine results or is it overrated?
Keyword research is absolutely important for search engine results. When you first start a blog, the truth is that no one’s going to find you and read your content. If you do your keyword research and target low volume and easy to rank for keywords, you give yourself the opportunity to compete on a smaller scale and build some initial traffic. As you continue to rank for several low volume keywords, you can build up your e-mail list and start building relationships with those viewers.
How can businesses achieve better results through On-Page SEO?
For on-page SEO, you need to make sure you nail your content and tag placement. Proper title and header tags can make the difference between whether or not your website will appear in the serps or not. A good title can also improve your CTR.
One factor that many people tend to neglect (even SEO agencies) is internal linking. I can’t stress enough on how important it is to make sure you take advantage of internal links. You can use these links to diversify your page rankings, and help your newer content rank. It’s also a user-friendly way to remind people of your existing articles and content that they may be interested in.
What SEO tips can you give to businesses who want to have an optimized online presence?
I think that businesses should strongly consider looking into keeping an active presence on social media. I always get disappointed when I see companies and brands that “don’t see the value” in social media, when everyone is addicted to their cell phones.
Social media has become a powerful tool for small businesses to reach a large audience of people in a cost-effective way. While social media doesn’t directly improve your SEO rankings, it helps more people become aware of your brand. When more people know who you are and search for your brand, you can get more traffic and user signals.
An Interview with Nicky Moffat, previously the highest ranked woman in The British Army
In this exclusive interview with Nicky Moffat, via The Female Motivational Speakers Agency, discover the secrets to strong leadership and high-performance teamwork. Nicky was the highest-ranking woman in the British army until 2012, when she pursued her passion for workplace performance and became one of the UK’s foremost corporate consultants.
Nicky’s knowledge and extensive experience of leadership, teamwork and inclusion is proven in this insightful interview, where she reflects on the biggest life lesson she learned in the military. Do not miss this exclusive Q&A with Nicky Moffat, a pioneer of corporate excellence.
What is the most important quality of a leader?
“One of the important qualities in a leader is emotional intelligence, the ability to recognise that people process things in different ways and therefore, find ways to bring those people on board. There’s always going to be some people that have the same thinking and motivations that I might have as a leader, but just because the others don’t it doesn’t mean they’re not great employees!
“It just means that I’ve got to find another way to reach them, to give them time to process the change and then to encourage them to come on board with the journey. And of course, sometimes people who take longer to process change are busy reflecting and thinking about change in a way that might be different to me. They can come up with points, ideas, things that can actually make change go better because they have a different perspective.
“When we talk about diversity, it’s not just about Black, White, gay, straight, male, female and so on. It’s about people who lead differently, react differently or think differently.”
During periods of stress, how do you find the motivation to persevere?
“I think one of the things that brings on stress is a loss of control.
“What happens to me – and maybe this is one of the reasons why a career in the army was perfect for me – when I’m under stress, the adrenaline kicks in in a positive way. So I want to engage with it, whatever that thing is that’s stressing me, I want to make a plan. I try to be logical and to think through how to turn a bad situation, into a better situation.
“What I’m effectively doing is I’m trying to gain some semblance of control. And in terms of ownership, I’m trying to own the solution to the problem that I’m experiencing. But I thrive on responsibility, I think I do my best work when I’m under pressure and some element of stress. Sometimes I’ll inspire that by working late to a deadline rather than perhaps starting things earlier!
“And again, it’s important to know yourself, because if by doing that I’m stressing somebody else who process things differently, then I need to be aware of that. That’s a key part of emotional intelligence.”
What advice can you give businesses on how to build high performing teams?
“Building a high performing team starts with the leader. I often refer to something called Mission Command, it’s from the Prussian Chief of Staff many, many years ago.
“I can simplify it into three key areas: firstly, it’s about clarity of direction. A leader must have a clear vision and give direction on what needs to be done by the organisation. People must properly understand what’s being asked of them and why.
“Secondly, you need to have an environment of mutual trust, where I trust my teams to go and deliver what I’ve set out. They also must trust that they can come to me if there’s, for example, a lack of clarity or insufficient resource.
“And the third thing is true and full empowerment. So, building a high performing team, if I use Mission Command, is about clarity of direction in an environment and culture of mutual trust, where people are genuinely empowered.
“The other thing about a high performing team is that diversity within the team can add real value. I don’t just mean diversity as in Black, White, gay, straight, male, female. I mean diversity of experience, perspective, insight, culture and capability.”
The military appears incredibly masculine, did you feel a pressure to fit in and conform to that environment?
“Back in 1985, it was very much a case of wanting to fit in, wanting to prove yourself. You wanted to prove your credibility. You don’t want to let your colleagues down.
“But I certainly found having done that and then having established myself and grown in confidence and knowledge and credibility and so on, I was able to be more myself. I mean, what the military does in training is it sort of breaks you down – and I don’t mean that in a really negative way, it breaks you down so you can contribute as part of an effective team.
“Once you’ve done that and you’ve proved yourself, then the military encourages people to bring their personalities to the fore.”
What was the biggest life lesson you learnt in the military?
“I think in terms of life lessons, again, this was something that came to me over time, and I actually think it’s about self-care. What military people tend to be, not just because it’s ingrained in us and in our training, is very mission focussed mission, hugely focussed on developing our teams and the individuals within it. So we expend a huge amount of our energy on other people.
“And I think it took me some time to realise later on in my career, when I was a Colonel, that I was pushing myself too hard. I remember a particular job when I was working in the Ministry of Defence, I was really focussed on helping to create ministerial endorsed and funded policies that would support our troops on operations.
“And, of course, that’s a really important task. But I put so much energy and effort into that, that I would go home at the weekend exhausted and tired.
“So the biggest life lesson is that if you’re going to be a good leader or deliver your best in any role, then you’ve got to be match fit. And I was most match fit when I made sure I got the balance right between the energy and effort that I was expending on my work and [making time for] rest, recuperation, decompression and some time out.”
An Interview with David Malcolm, San Diego Real Estate Magnate
Real estate, often seen as a sound investment, has been a hotter topic than usual amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to record lows to support the economy. As a result, real estate prices have skyrocketed, though the industry is not without its challenges, especially for landlords.
According to a study commissioned by the Southern California Rental Housing Association (SCRHA), San Diego County landlords have lost close to $2.4 billion in unpaid rent since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. To better understand the real estate market as a whole, we recently spoke to David Malcolm, a San Diego real estate expert with over 40 years of experience. Malcolm earned his real estate broker’s license in 1974, held exclusive rights to Rally’s Hamburger stores in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties from 1989 to 1997, and holds the highest professional commercial real estate designation, CCIM – Certified Commercial Investment Member. He currently serves as the President of Cal West Apartments, a trusted provider of quality rental housing in San Diego and South Riverside counties.
You earned your real estate license at a very young age. Looking back, what first inspired you to pursue this particular industry?
President Nixon decided that you should be considered an adult once you became 18 (versus 21) and be allowed to vote. California followed the President’s lead and lowered most requirements (including a real estate license) to 18 years old. One week after my 18th birthday, I was reading the newspaper and saw an advertisement about an upcoming test to get your real estate license. I decided to take the test in April of 1972 and was fortunate enough to pass. Once I had my license, I decided I should try to put it to good use. I immediately fell in love with real estate and the challenges and opportunities it presents. It seems fate (reading a newspaper) led me to real estate versus me pursuing the real estate industry.
What was your biggest ‘ah-ha’ moment as a real estate professional?
When I was 18, I bought my first home with a loan from my grandfather (who charged me 10% interest). After fixing the house up, I sold it and made $5,500. This was an incredible amount of money to me, and I decided right then that this was the business I wanted as a career. I hope I never lose the excitement I experienced in my first transaction and never become too big or important not to savor making $5,500.
What has been the most important part of your professional journey?
Education! You will never have a greater opportunity than your preparation will allow you to make of it! Getting my Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation was the most important tool in my toolbox.
How has real estate evolved, for better or worse, in San Diego and the surrounding area?
San Diego is one of the best markets in the United States to invest in due to its geographical location. While many cities keep spreading out (think Phoenix or many cities in Texas), San Diego has to consider the Mexico–United States border to the south, the ocean to the west, Camp Pendleton to the north, and mountains to the east. These factors have helped push valuations up faster than most areas in the United States. However, my fear is California is losing the rule of law and property rights; it’s these two cherished items that have made America great, yet they are more endangered now than at any time in my life.
What risks is the real estate industry facing? How do you, as President of Cal West Apartments, and your team, plan to face those challenges?
Once again, the most significant risk for all firms, not just in San Diego County but all of California, is the erosion of property rights and the rule of law. I have a contract with every tenant that the State of California wants to ignore. The state wants to tell my contracted tenants that they don’t need to pay me, and I can’t evict them for non-payment. Funny that the state didn’t say I can now stop paying the government my property taxes, license fees, water bills, etc. The government wants their money but doesn’t care about me getting my money to pay the government, banker, maintenance, landscaping, management, water, gas and electric, insurance, etc. We have stepped up with the real estate industry to help fight the erosion of these important rights that made America the greatest country on earth.
What would you do with unlimited resources?
I would certainly buy more real estate in states that protect the rule of law and property rights. Is it any wonder that the fastest-growing states are states that protect these rights? Resources flow to where the investor can be assured a fair return on investment. Do you want to invest in an apartment building with rent control or an apartment building that doesn’t have rent control? A sixth grader knows the answer to this question, but most of our elected officials can’t figure this out.
How has your profession of choice helped you make a difference in the world?
My profession has allowed me to make more money than I ever dreamed of having. My wife and I are big believers in giving a portion of our success to those who need a hand up vs. a handout. For over 30 years, we have worked hard to move the homeless back into a productive society with dignity. This means tough love at times (something our elected officials refuse to acknowledge). A drug addict or an alcoholic needs tough love, and you can change their lives in a dignified manner if you are willing to do the right thing.
An interview with London based Asset Management & Investment expert Fahim Imam-Sadeque
Fahim Imam-Sadeque is a business development professional with proven experience in the asset management industry. He has a Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Science from the City University of London and is a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries. Fahim’s top skills include asset management, hedge funds, investment management, sales, and consultant & client relationship management.
Fahim, Thank you for talking with us. Tell me about your best and worst days at work.
Generally, the best days are when I interact with my clients instead of dealing with administrative matters. When working with my clients as prospective investors, I am helping them solve their problems. My goal is always to be a trusted adviser to my clients because they’ll come to me when they need the products I’m selling. I try not to actively sell them; it’s always a consultative sales process. My best days are when I’m helping my clients, and as a result, they come back to me and talk about my available solutions.
Then my worst days would be when nothing seems to be going right, and nothing we are working on is achieving what we wanted to achieve. I’m sure everybody has days like that, but all I can do is just keep going and trust in my process, and trust that I’ve got a tried and tested process that will work, even when I’ve had a rotten day and I think I’ve done everything wrong. If I keep going, I will, in all likelihood, be successful again.
Who do you enjoy the most working with?
The clients I’ve enjoyed working with the most are those I built up a deep rapport with. I understand where they’re coming from, so it’s not a salesman-purchaser relationship. Instead, it’s very much a trusted adviser relationship, whereby they know that I’m selling a product that can maybe help them solve issues they face. Or they come to me because they can have an intelligent and meaningful discussion about the issues they face.
What was your biggest “aha” moment?
My “aha” moment was when I was being interviewed by my mentor Alberto Francioni back in 2004, and I’d never interviewed for a salesman position before. I thought sales was a dirty word. He explained to me that what I was describing to him in terms of my character set— I was a technical individual, but I wanted to work and talk with clients and not invest money —he said, “Well, then you have the skill set of a salesperson. Everything you described tells me that you are potentially a salesperson of technical products, and I can help train you to be that.”
Suddenly, it all made sense because I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t making progress in my existing job. I had all these skill sets, character traits, and qualifications, but I didn’t know how to put them together to find the sure-fitting role. But then he helped guide me and, in that way, I was very lucky to cross paths with him.
What has been the most important part of your professional journey?
The most fruitful part of my professional journey has been constantly trying to learn what my mentor Alberto Francioni taught me over the subsequent years. He just brought things out of me and would advise me on things after that.
After I stopped working with him later on in my career, I always heard his voice in my head. So when I see an issue, something I want to work on, I just ask, “What would Alberto tell me to do? What would his advice be?” He taught me everything about dealing with clients, managing their issues, assisting them, and moving things forward in the sales process.
The beauty of what he taught me is it’s not a static set of rules. The approach he gave me is very flexible, and it depends on each client. So it’s not one set of rules for every client; each has its own requirements. You are applying a set of principles and seeing how they fit that situation. Things won’t ever be exactly the same, but there will be things that you’ve tried in the past that may have worked in one situation and other things that may have worked in another. You can bring these principles to bear, and usually, you will find success. Not necessarily immediately, but you will make progress over time.
What are the risks associated with the alternative investment industry?
One of the risks of our industry is that the investors I deal with, the strategies they’re dealing with can be very complex. One has to be careful that one gets paid to take that complexity risk as an allocator. Also, illiquidity is another risk that people need to ensure they get paid to take on. The current geopolitical and economic environment that we face is quite unstable. So investors are very concerned when it comes to allocation decisions, potentially locking up money for 7 to 10 years. That means they have to do a lot of due diligence before investing tens or maybe hundreds of millions of dollars into a particular strategy.
What would you do with unlimited resources?
I would definitely retire for a few years, but then I’d probably get bored because I’m still relatively young, in my early 50s. My wife would want me to use my brain and not be in the house all the time. I’d probably go back to work again because I’m doing what I like. I genuinely enjoy my work. But before going back, I would take my wife around the world a couple of times and see all the places we’re planning to see because you never know when you’d get the chance to do that again.
When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?
The last time I completely lost myself was when I was with my family in Antigua in the summer. That was just a great holiday. I remember sitting on the beach, and one of my sons was paddle boarding in front of me, my wife was next to me, and my other son was next to me. That was great.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I spend time with my family. I watch sports with my younger son. My older son is 20 now, and he’s into all sorts of things I have no understanding of. However, if I’m going to find a level with him outside of “How’s your university course going?” we have to have something to talk about so I make an effort to take an interest in what he’s interested in. I’d just like to stay on top of what my kids are up to and spend time with my family.
How do you feel you make a difference in the world?
Well, I hope I have made a difference. I don’t know if I have. I believe in something bigger than us. I’m a person of faith, so I just try to live my life every day as well as I can, and if that makes a difference, that’s great. I’ll always keep trying, but we don’t need to make a difference in life, in my opinion. You just need to try and live a good life and do the best you can every day. That’s all that matters.
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