Justin Davis is a leading SEO Expert and specializes in Link Building, an important aspect of Search Engine Optimization. SEO or Search Engine Optimization simply means how effective your business is optimized for search engine results. For example, if you provide plumbing services and if someone searches on Google with the keyword ‘Best Plumbers Near Me’ and your business website or your information comes on the top position, you can be said to be search engine optimized.
Given the kind of competition Startups and Businesses have, it is important that they have an optimized search engine presence.
Justin, Thank you for talking with us. Tell us more about the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) for small business owners and startups.
Thank you for having me. SEO only matters for businesses that have customers (or potential customers) that go to Google or other search engines to look for their products and services. One of the benefits to a small business is that SEO will deliver leads that do not directly need to be paid for.
Of course most businesses would enjoy natural, organic traffic to the website from people researching services or products before making a buying decision. But there are costs in getting to this point. The time required depends on how strong the competition is.
At a minimum, small businesses should have a grasp on what keyword phrases are important to their business, how much search volume is behind those queries, where they stand compared to their competitors for those keywords, and approximately how much traffic the competitors are getting from those keywords.
What are some of the biggest mistakes businesses make when planning their seo strategy?
I have seen lots of businesses waste countless hours and thousands of dollars optimizing their on-page SEO, and reoptimizing, redesigning, and on and on. Monthly spending on SEO services should almost be entirely for off-page strategies like backlink building.
Onsite optimizations should generally be a one-time fix and coaching for best practices moving forward. Let’s face it.. Most companies know little to nothing about SEO. That’s why they hire out. So the client needs to at least somewhat educated on the basics in the beginning.
Setting clear expectations by talking about what the deliveries will be, a timeline, KPIs that will track progress throughout the campaign, costs, results – these should all be covered. Properly setting expectations of how much the services are going to cost, how long it’s going to take, and what estimated results will help with transparency and clarification.
Panda update of Google was a big learning curve for seo professionals. What are some of the current trends in seo?
Nowdays I just focus on producing high quality content and getting high quality links to point to that content. I leave the trends and tweaks to the SEO bloggers and every once in a while I incorporate something new into my strategies.
Think about link building as being a timeless SEO activity. Getting links from high-quality websites will always be great for your SEO. Why? Because this is the system that Google search results was based off of. A linking/vouching system is similar to that used by many scholarly medical journals and so on.
Forget trying to figure out the new fads, tips and tricks. Stick to doing a lot of what we already know works. Optimize your site on-page, and then continue adding content to your site while getting links from quality websites in your niche.
Tell us the importance of link building for a website. How do businesses ensure that they have a quality link profile?
Link building is important for a website because Google’s ranking system relies on links heavily to reveal authority. The amount of links from trusted sources are looked at as a vouch, basically voting for the linked site.
Businesses have a quality link profile by setting standards in the beginning. Authority scores, organic search traffic, the number of keywords ranked in Google, rankings/positions for various keywords, Moz spam score, sniff tests, experience, PBNs and IP addresses – are factors used to determine whether a link prospect is qualified.
Lots of businesses try to go cheap when it comes to link building. This is probably because it takes a lot of time and money. I get it! But when taking shortcuts and hiring amateurs, they often end up with spammy links and little to no improvements in keywords and actual website visitors.
Even worse, they could be penalized and completely lose everything in Google search. Bad SEO can also do lots of damage to a brand, because a big part of off-page SEO is outreaching/emailing every other business and organization in your industry on your behalf.
There are many businesses that want to indulge in shady link building programs just because they are in a hurry. As an expert in this field, how do you handle these clients?
I am very clear with possible new clients. I go over the preferred types of links and associated metrics ahead of time.
One of the qualifying factors I look for in clients is that they respect my expertise and take more of a hands-off approach. Micro-managers need not apply! So I just politely smile and reject those clients. PS: I turn down 90% of businesses that reach out to me because they don’t meet all of my qualifying factors. This is multiple businesses per day.
What SEO tips would you like to share with all the entrepreneurs who are reading this?
Hiring the right person for SEO is crucial if your business relies on traffic from search results. In the beginning, talk about what the SEO goals are, what the ideal timeline would be in order to meet those goals, and what budget is available in order to get there.
The SEO person should be able to explain what can be expected according to your goals, timeline and budget. Properly setting and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) that are specific to SEO and the campaign will show progress.
A proper SEO campaign will result in your website gaining authority. These gains will be shown in higher numbers of organic search visitors (check Google Analytics for this), higher rankings for more keyword phrases (various SEO tools for this), and higher authority scores (various SEO tools).
Justin Davis is the Chief Link Builder for Link-builders.com, an off-page SEO agency specializing in building high-quality backlinks.
An Interview with Digital Designer Kim Baschet
Kim Baschet is a French Digital Designer who has helped businesses build and strengthen their online presence. He has a particular interest in motion and has successfully conceived movement and transitions for all the products and websites he worked on to create a smooth and spirited experience for the users.
Kim, Thank you for talking with us. Please describe your journey as a Designer
I always loved illustration as a kid, so it started from there! I was drawing all the time. As a really empathetic person, I gravitated to design over time. I wanted to make things that looked great but also could serve people. I loved learning design software, as it allowed me to iterate, fail, retry, and finally produce something that I was really proud of. It gave me the freedom to explore my creativity! I studied at Gobelins in Paris and got a Master’s degree in Interaction Design.
Gobelins is a top school, so it was a really competitive process, but it was definitely worth it. It was amazing to meet, learn from, and collaborate with so many other like-minded people. After graduating, I worked for both agencies and studios in Paris before moving to San Francisco to work at Upperquad. I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with some talented people and work on some large brands such as Google, Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, DELL, Le Monde, GE, and Warner Bros. I am now an Independent designer. My next project for Google made in collaboration with Instrument will launch in April, so keep an eye out!
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear design?
Concept, Aesthetic & Usability. An important part is visual, but Design’s purpose is to be intuitive and communicate effectively.
How important is movement for you as a digital designer?
In digital design, movement is key. It guides the user from one screen to another. Motion makes an interface react with actions. These reactions can even convey as much information as words. With motion, I can create a delightful transition that accompanies the viewer from one place to another. It also can increase originality and elevate a brand’s image.
What are some of the software/ tools that are must for any modern-day designer?
Figma is a powerful tool that allows designers to team up and collaborate with development teams. I really recommend learning it. At the moment, it might be the best software for great workflow in interface design. With these remote times, it’s becoming the main tool of many tech companies and agencies worldwide. Motion tools are becoming essential as well.
Programs like After Effects or Principle can help a designer communicate their intentions so much better, whether it be for interactions or just pure aesthetics.
You take an active role in the interactive design community as a judge for Awwwards, CSS Design Awards and The Webbys. Tell us more about that experience.
It’s a great experience to be a judge in these international awards competitions alongside many talented and renowned people. More specifically, I get to vote on the Site of The Day’ and ‘Agency of the year’! It pushes me to do a deeper dive into the elements of great sites. In turn, this feeds back into my own work and inspires me. There are many cool projects out there, and it’s great to take them in every day and be an active part of the design community.
You have worked with a range of clients. With whom did you enjoy the most?
Well, I couldn’t pick one. I love all the projects I did with Google, like AI Responsibilities, Jigsaw type, and Scam Spotter because I get to create a playful style that resonates with me. I used my whole skillset on these projects, including conception, UI design, illustration, and animation.
Another project that’s worth mentioning is Le Monde’s website redesign. For this project, I worked with data from millions of users. I had to find solutions for a global audience while redesigning the site.
You have also been involved in the creation of Santa Tracker. Tell us more about Santa Tracker and the overall experience of its creation.
Santa Tracker is a website with holiday-themed games presented by Google. I worked on this project for 4 months with Upperquad. From the conception and workshops with the client to the design of the website, microgames, and final launch. I was able to collaborate with some very talented coworkers and illustrators. I started by building a whole new brand guide, so the Google team could implement the system we created across all touch-points.
From there, we work-shopped with the client and conceived new ideas for Santa’s Village. A part I particularly enjoyed was leading the design and 3D for a WebGL game called Snowball, a 3D interactive winter playground. The experience was a challenge because I had to create a 3D universe consistent with the 2D style. It was a success and the project was nominated for Best Visual Design by the Webby awards.
In your view, what’s the future of Digital Design?
The future of the industry will move a lot faster because things are easier to build with these new tools. With prototyping and “zero” development tools evolving (even 3D/WebGL one), designers can create more things autonomously and move quickly to testing. It will probably create new trends that evolve quickly and push the boundaries of creativity.
An Interview with SEO & Digital Marketing Guru John Sottile
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 Internet Marketing Expert Joe Mercadante
Joe Mercadante is an Internet Marketing Expert and the Founder of Unleash Marketing. Joe and his team provide Internet marketing services to doctors, hospital departments and medical practitioners.
Joe, Thank you for talking with us. Kindly describe your journey as an Entrepreneur.
I started my first company in 2004, and have been providing Internet marketing services to clients ever since. About 10 years ago, I made the decision to focus all of our energy on working with medical practices, doctors, and hospitals, and we’ve become true experts in that space.
What were the initial challenges that you faced in your endeavor as Internet Marketing is getting a saturated segment?
It took some time to find our space, and for the first few years, we did a great job for our clients and had a lot of early success. Since pivoting to serve only the medical practice and hospital community, we’ve been able to stand out for sure. There are only a handful of companies that focus on this industry and that understand the complexities of medical insurance and HIPAA and some other components, so we’ve become one of the leaders in this space in the last decade.
Tell us more about what kind of Marketing services you provide?
We’re a full service agency, but we primarily provide website and landing page design, social media management, review and online reputation management, paid search campaigns through platforms like Google, Bing, Facebook and Instagram, and some very advanced reporting. An easy way to think of it would be: everything related to making a medical practice, doctor or hospital stand out online and attract more new patients.
As an Internet marketing expert who has helped hospitals and doctors expand their presence, how do you describe the evolution of Internet Marketing in the last 5 years?
Great question. It’s definitely changed in a few ways. First, there’s much more competition. If you own a medical practice (or really almost any business for that matter), you can bet that almost every one of your competitors will have a website and be running Google and Facebook ads. It used to be that doing these things alone would make you stand out in front of potential patients (or customers), but now, advertisers are having to outsmart and out compete the other online competitors and how well (or poorly) you do that as a business owner really determines your ultimate success.
When it comes to making Internet Marketing more effective, what lessons have you learned through your experience?
No question, that strategy and relevance are the key. Internet marketing campaigns that don’t target a very refined audience are like throwing brochures out of a helicopter above a city. It’s not effective.
If you’re going to market online, and you’re an eye doctor, run ads that only display to 30 – 45 year old women with photos of moms at the eye doctor with their kids, and wording that relates to them – “Are you a busy mom? We make eye exams easy for the whole family with flexible evening and weekend hours”, and a landing page that both represents your brand, but also makes your audience feel that you’re catering to them. That’s just one example, but being very specific is the key. Campaigns that we manage might have 10 or 15 different subsets, each with an audience, a set of ads, and several variations of landing page environments.
What suggestions would you like to give to small businesses in order to help them formulate a better marketing strategy?
As we’ve said, be specific but also be data-driven and analytical. Fortunately, at this point there are tons of tools (many of them are free) that allow you to see every click, every conversion and more.
I talk to folks all of the time who are spending money on some form of online ads, and don’t have tools like Google Analytics, or incoming phone call tracking set up to be able to tell what their marketing campaigns are actually producing. Don’t spend a dollar until you can tell where every single lead, patient, prospect, customer came from and how much they spent with your business.
How can people reach you, or learn more about the services that Unleash Marketing provides?
The best way is our website, UnleashMarketing.com – from there, you can see more about our services, you can request a free consultation, see our portfolio of some recent projects, and check out our blogs and social media, which are great resources for anyone who wants to learn more about Internet marketing.
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