Marketing is the Product Podcast
Podcast: Eric Seropyan on Getting Your Small Business Ranked Higher in Google
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SEO and SEM expert, Eric Seropyan, is the founder of This Is My South Bay. Eric’s expertise is unique in that he specializes in international hyperlocal SEO helping founders, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and small business owners make sense of searchability and marketing on the web.

Join us this week as we get a masterclass in SEO from Eric, as well as actionable steps you can take to improve your business’s rankings in Google.

You can also check out his website. Social media includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Show Notes

30s – Eric’s introduction
1:00 – What is This Is My South Bay and what do you do there
2:20 – What is SEO
9:30 – What is search engine marketing and how does it differ from SEO
17:00 – How to determine what keywords to target
22:00 – Tracking keywords from competitors
23:45 – What did it look like getting your business going?
26:00 – Evaluating change in the industry
33:45 – What does it mean when someone means “the algorithm changed”
37:00 – Importance of reviews
40:30 – What can a business owner do today to rank better in search engines
50:00 – What Eric is passionate about
52:45 – Final thoughts

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Eric’s introduction

Brandon: Hey everybody, welcome to the Marketing is the Product Podcast. I’m Brandon Rollins, here today with my co-host, Pierson Hibbs, and our guest today, Eric Seropyan. He is an SEO and SEM expert and founder of thisismysouthbay.com, and he specializes in international and hyperlocal SEO, which he uses to help founders, entrepreneurs, business leaders and small business owners make sense of searchability and marketing on the web. Thank you for coming on the show today.

Eric: Thank you, thank you for having me.

What is This Is My South Bay and what do you do there

Brandon: Yeah, absolutely. So to kick us off, can you tell me a little bit about This is My South Bay and what you do with it?

Eric: Sure. This is My South Bay is a digital marketing agency, and we are search engine optimization or SEO-centric. So everything that we do is to try to get that free traffic coming in from Google. And we are located in the South Bay part of Los Angeles. I’ve grown up there, I live there, I do business there, I’m passionate about the area. And so I named the company after the area in This is My South Bay. And so we use the company as kind of like a case study to show how small businesses and mid-sized businesses can lock in on local advertising and hyperlocal where they… If you have a dry cleaning store or you have some restaurant, you’re looking to get that foot traffic from the locals that live within a 5, 10, 15 mile radius.

Brandon: So one thing that I would like to ask immediately just to catch up anybody who’s listening to the show, can you briefly go over what search engine optimization is? That’s SEO for anyone who hears us throwing out the term today.

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What is SEO

Eric: Yes. So let’s say you’re in front of your computer and you’re searching for something on Google or Yahoo or Bing, some of the search engines out there, and you type in, let’s say your car broke down and you’re searching for a mechanic. And so when you type in mechanic, Google is giving you search results for… It’s trying to figure out where you’re located, possibly given your history, what kind of car you have and so on, it gives you search results. And so you have the top couple of listings, it’ll say sponsored, and so those are paid ads, and at the bottom of the search results page, there are usually a couple of listings that are sponsored also. But everything else on the page is listed by Google because Google feels like it’s a good match between the search result, the user and the website, and so it’s trying to match up and give the best possible search result to the user. And so those are the listings that you would be ranked on, and you need to optimize and entice Google to give you that free listing, which turns into traffic to your website, hopefully, which hopefully turns into conversions.

Brandon: Yeah, and from the sound of it, it seems as if Google takes into account an individual’s behaviors and search history when it chooses to display results. So put another way, when two different people search for the same term, does it pull up different results?

Eric: Absolutely. So as creepy as it sounds, Google has a file on all of us. So and then…

[laughter]

Eric: Yeah, it’s a little bit weird but they know more or less where we live, what our hobbies are, what kind of food we eat, age group, etcetera. And so, for instance, if I’m searching for, let’s say, a restaurant in my neighborhood, I’m gonna get different search results than my next door neighbor, if they type in restaurants in my neighborhood. And so it could be because in the past, I’ve ordered pizza a lot, and my neighbor is into French food. And so what Google is trying to do is, it’s trying to give you the best possible user experience. So when you start typing in a particular keyword, you’ll see that it’ll auto-fill, and give some suggestions on what it thinks you might be looking for to help you along. And that’s because it has kind of a idea of what you’re into and your location and everything. So the big thing for Google, the secret sauce, as I always say for Google, is that they’re very user-centric. And that’s kinda their secret compared to other search engines that have come and gone, where they’ve been more advertiser-centric. And so they figure if you get the users, if the users have a good experience, the advertising dollars will follow.

Brandon: Yeah, and that makes a lot of sense. I wanna throw something out there for casual listeners to be aware of when it comes to Google search results. And that is, no individual is necessarily deciding what results show up when a certain person looks up a certain term. In fact, a lot of what Google uses these days to the best that any of us can tell is machine learning algorithms. Meaning basically Google, through means that nobody is entirely aware of, basically tries out different stuff, sees what works and then updates its own algorithm to show people more of what they want to see.

Eric: Exactly. Most of the search engines out there, the ones that are getting some heat lately with even the platform like, let’s say Facebook or YouTube, where it sees what you’re gravitating towards, whether it’s politically or sports, like I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan, and I, sometimes I’ll watch old games or whatever, since the season is not on right now, and so I’ll find that in my suggested box always on YouTube are Cowboy games. First of all are football games, but also Cowboy games. And so what happens is the search engines, with their algorithms are trying to figure out what you like and just feed more of that to you.

Brandon: And this is actually, this is really, really important, even though it’s kind of a brain-bending concept, is these algorithms, search engines, social media feeds, all that stuff, they basically prioritize stuff that’s gonna keep you on their website for as long as possible so they can serve more ads to you which means, one of the things that engineers are going to have to figure their way around is how do we stop prioritizing stuff strictly on what gets an emotional reaction, what gets this certain kind of engagement and what is more useful to a user. That’s a whole rabbit trail and I don’t want to derail too much, but I do think it’s important to at least mention here so that people can kind of see how the way search engines work relate to stuff that’s going on in the world right now.

Eric: Exactly. They’re just trying to sell their ad space, sell their impressions, their clicks, and make sure that the user doesn’t get bored and go to another search engine, or another platform. And so if you’re fed constantly updates on things that you like, the other day I was at a meeting with someone and we had our computers next to each other and they had things that I don’t have on my computer, suggestions, a lot of Kardashian and a lot of fashion-oriented things, and they were into fashion blogging and things like that. So their feed was completely different than mine, and so this, yeah, I think at some point it needs to be addressed. But if I wanted to, if I was interested in Kardashian and I googled them and I went on my YouTube channel and I searched for them, then I would be in that algorithm. So the first step is if someone searches for it, then you get fed that topic.

Pierson: So Eric, we’ve been talking about SEO for 10 minutes now, but I wanna circle back to something that Brandon highlighted when we did your intro, which is search engine marketing. Would you mind explaining what search engine marketing is and how it differs from SEO?

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What is search engine marketing and how does it differ from SEO

Eric: Sure. Search engine marketing is when you’re more or less you’re buying the traffic, let’s say Google ads, for example, or Bing ads, where you’re bidding on the keywords that you want to purchase. So those would be at the top of the listing where there’s the sponsored ads, that’s where you would end up with that. One of the many differences between SEM and SEO is that when you stop running ads for search engine marketing, when you stop running those ads and paying for them, the traffic just stops, it’s like a running faucet, you just turn it off. With SEO, if you’ve done the campaigns correctly and you’re doing your thing and you decide for the next three months that you’re gonna take a vacation or whatever, you’ll still get traffic to your website, and you’ll still get phone calls and conversions and everything else. So SEO takes longer to implement, but once you have it in place, depending on your competition level and certain metrics, it could be that you aggressively set up the campaigns, and then after that, it’s a maintenance exercise that you just wanna keep the ranking that you have, you’re comfortable with it, and you don’t have to be as aggressive as you were in the first three months or nine months or whatever it took you to get there.

Pierson: Yeah, that makes a whole lot of sense. It seems like it’s, in regards to SEO, it’s more of climbing that initial hill, and then when you reach the top, you can kinda sit there without having to do a whole lot of work to get back to the top. But search engine marketing, it’s more of a perpetual thing, if you don’t keep it up actively, then you’re not gonna see any results from it.

Eric: Agreed, and you have to keep in mind that with search engine marketing, when you’re buying the bids, the prices for Google ads are going nowhere but up. And so what the strategy that a lot of businesses should have is that you should be able to create almost like an online community for your business. And so some of that will be through the different social media platforms, some of it will be with retaining email addresses from people that come to your website, some of it will be your SEO campaign where you wanna be able to build out content and build out links and reviews and everything that goes with getting optimized over a long term. And the thing that you have to keep in mind is that when you do search engine optimization, you can’t just expect that you’re gonna get, you’re gonna suddenly do an email blast to your 10,000 clients and then get 500 reviews, and then you’re done. That’s just not how SEO works. It’s almost like… Some of these clients that I run into where they had zero reviews the last 10 years, last month they got 200 reviews, and they’re not gonna have a single review the next 10 years. That doesn’t seem organic to the search engines, and it’s gonna do more damage than good.

Brandon: Yeah, and one of the things that I personally found in using both SEO and SEM in my own marketing work and marketing consulting work, SEO tends to be relatively slow to build up. And when I say relatively slow I mean it can take months and maybe even years to really get the kind of organic search traffic that you’re looking for, but once you get it going, oh, it’s so consistent and it pulls in qualified leads better than pretty much anything else I can think of to be perfectly honest. And that’s a trade-off, it’s slow, but it works really well. Search engine marketing on the other hand, you can put 50 a day in ads or 200 a day in ads and you will get results that are roughly commensurate to what kind of money you’re putting in, and they both have wonderful purposes in different use cases, but you gotta know which one to apply in which situation.

Eric: Exactly. For us, when we use… Again, going back to what I said earlier, everything that we do is based on search engine optimization and how we’re gonna be able to get that traffic from Google for our clients. So the way that we use Google Ads a lot of times is that we run some ads in order to see what Google thinks of our website. And so Google has this function that you can use where it has a page score or ad score, Ad Rank, and you can see certain keywords where the highest is a 10, and if it doesn’t recognize anything on your website that fits the keyword that you’re bidding on it just will give it as a dash or a zero. And so if you have like a zero or a one or a two, even if you place the highest possible bid for that keyword, and Google doesn’t think that it’s a good fit between that keyword and your website, it won’t even sell you the traffic. So you have to go back and you have to look at your website and look at that landing page and be able to optimize that page so that Google understands that, “Hey, we do offer this service” or “We do offer this product.”

Eric: And so a lot of times what we do is with Google Ads, aside from getting traffic from the ads, we wanna look and see what Google thinks of each one of our keywords, so that if we’re not able to buy the traffic, there’s no way they’re gonna rank us for it, there’s no reason to waste time in doing things to optimize that page if we’re not even able to buy the traffic, which is ridiculous because in any other industry, when you have a client coming in saying, “Okay, I’ll spend money on your service,” and the company says, “I don’t wanna sell it to you,” it’s unheard of. But Google, what it’s doing is it’s trying to give the best possible user experience and make sure that hey, if I’m a chiropractor in Los Angeles, and for some reason you have… You’ve bid on a chiropractor in San Francisco or in Dallas, it’s not a good fit, and as the user if we get a bad user experience, we don’t blame the website that we went to, we blame the search engine. And so if you get consistently bad search results, then you might consider a different search engine at some point.

Brandon: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So not only does search engine optimization and search engine marketing help you by just pulling in traffic and closing leads and that kinda thing, it can also help you figure out whether or not your pages are actually a good fit for people who are searching for answers in the first place.

Eric: Yes, that’s SEM, search engine marketing.

Pierson: So Eric, I think this is a pretty good transition into this next question, and we talked about it a second ago, which is kind of the trial and error process of seeing if what you are doing is actually working to better your business, but how exactly do you determine what keywords you’re targeting?

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How to determine what keywords to target

Eric: So usually the way that we start off when we’re onboarding a client is we wanna take a look at… They need to give us about, I would say, 10 of their top competitors, and then we ask for about 10 or 20 keywords that they would love to rank for. So, I’ll use an example, I don’t know, I have a background in jewelry, so I’ll use jewelry. If you went after the keyword jewelry, that’s not gonna be helpful for us. We wanna go after something that’s like ladies’ diamond engagement wedding band or sapphire and diamond bracelet. We wanna go after the longer tail keywords that really fits what the client is offering. And so once we do that, we can identify ’cause when we look at competitors, sometimes they have thousands of keywords that are ranked. And so what we wanna do is we wanna lock in on the keywords that really fit the client. Even though they may be direct competitors, there will be services that they just don’t feel comfortable offering or they prefer to offer different services or products. So once we do that…

Pierson: Now as… Excuse me, I’m sorry.

Eric: I’m sorry. Sorry, go ahead.

Pierson: No, go ahead.

Eric: Okay, so once we lock in on the keywords, then we can see on our existing website which one of those keywords we are ranked for and we kinda start from there. So you can use tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, Moz, there are many apps out there that all you do is you put in the URL into the search box, and then you look to see which keywords you’re right for, estimated monthly search volume for that keyword and certain metrics to see what’s going on, and you can make a educated decision on what to do. Some keywords are gonna be very difficult to rank for, so you might wanna save your efforts on those keywords and go after other keywords that are low-lying fruit that you can go after and see more immediate results. And so you can see the traffic coming in from your Google Analytics.

Eric: And you can see Google Analytics is a incredible tool that most people just use it for a couple of pages, but you can literally drill down to see where people are coming in from, age group, gender, if they’re using mobile, tablet or desktop. If they’re using mobile, what kinda phone they’re using, if it’s a iPhone, whatever, or if it’s a Samsung, and you can see the top landing pages, top exit pages, there’s a lot of data there that you can consume. And so that way you can kinda get an idea where your campaign is going, where your strengths are, where your weaknesses are, how the keywords are doing and decide if… Let’s say this month you brought on 10 keywords that you wanna target, it’s not like next month you’re gonna see immediate results, like we talked about, SEO is a long game. So you can introduce 10 keywords, and then next month, maintain those 10 keywords and add another 10 keywords and kinda go from there.

Brandon: One trick that I’ve had success with, and I’m curious is that whether this is something you do as part of our just regular work, is I’ve had luck going for keywords that have a high search volume but relatively low competition. I’ve just… I’ve found that to be one of the most effective ways to actually reach out to different people and get a good rank on certain Google pages.

Eric: That’s exactly how it’s supposed to be done.

Brandon: Okay, cool. [chuckle]

Eric: That’s what we’re looking for.

Brandon: That’s validating. [chuckle]

Eric: Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s textbook. So we wanna be able to… That’s where we’re… The keyword analysis comes into play, is sometimes people see a keyword that has a million searches a month, and that’s what they want. But they don’t realize that a lot of the big boys, bigger companies, are going after those exact keywords. And so there are the longer tail keywords that have a lower search, they may have a lower search volume than those higher volume keywords, but they’re also gonna have lower competition, ’cause a lot of people just overlook it.

Pierson: So I’m curious is there a way that you could, I guess, track or view the keywords that your direct competitors would be using and check to see how high or where at their rankings stand?

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Tracking keywords from competitors

Eric: Sure. So that’s part of the competitor analysis, is just like how we can check on our keywords and see where we stand, we can do that with our competitors. We can see month-to-month, we can see where they’re at now, and we can see a particular keyword that they’re ranked for, what position they’re ranked in, what the estimated monthly search results are and so on. So we do the same exact report for our competitors that we do for our clients so they can see more or less. ‘Cause it seems like especially with local or hyper-local, everybody has their eye on that one company down the street that they think is doing great, and with the internet, it’s easy to look behind the curtain if you know what you’re doing. Everything… A lot of the things out there, they’re open source, so it’s not like websites where you need a password to get in and things like that. And it’s easy to see what people are doing, where they’re getting their links, their reviews and so on, and be able to emulate that and possibly do a little bit more.

Pierson: Yeah, that makes… I feel like having the ability to see what your competitors are doing is also tremendously helpful for you to make sure that you’re doing not only the best that you can do in regards to SEO but to see what other people are finding success with.

Eric: Exactly.

Pierson: So I’d love to kinda to change gears for a second, Eric, and ask you about how you got This Is My South Bay up and running. What was the process of getting your small business up and going? What did that look like for you?

What did it look like getting your business going?

Eric: Well, back in the day I used to be a jewelry designer, and I owned a business with my brother in Downtown LA in the Jewelry District, and we used to sell diamond jewelry mostly to jewelry stores across the country, and a little bit in Canada. And so when the Great Recession hit around 2006, ’07, it slowed things down. There was a seismic shift coming anyway where people were starting to feel more comfortable purchasing online and purchasing jewelry online, about a third of the jewelry stores in the United States closed in about a four-year period because of the Great Recession. And so while working full-time, I start… And I went back to school and start to educate myself on this thing called marketing and specifically in digital marketing. And so we decided to shift selling to consumers more. And I really took to SEO, I understood it, and I really enjoyed it. And at some point I decided to pivot away from the jewelry business, which my brother carried on, and I went all in with digital marketing.

Pierson: That’s awesome. It seems like you came on board with the marketing aspect to what you do in a very interesting time, because over the last 10, 15 years, the industry has changed quite a bit with the advancement of technology and how many people are using social media, and I guess with that being said, how have you seen the industry change over the last 10 years, because where it’s at now, with how accessible things are, with how social media is geared to where you can not only have a presence on social media, but you can run a business off of social media and have a strong presence on, let’s say Instagram, and run an Instagram Shop. How has the industry changed since you got first involved with it?

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Evaluating change in the industry

Eric: Well, it’s like night and day. Everybody is… I think all of us are more comfortable putting our private life online, and I saw a picture of a friend that posted their two-year-old just at the beach and things like that, and I think 10, 15 years ago, they wouldn’t have done it. We just feel more comfortable now, just posting more about ourselves and sharing our experiences and things like that online, and especially with politics, sharing politics used to be more of a private subject, and now with social media, I think it’s… Everybody has an opinion and they’re not shy about it. And I think that it’s changed our culture a little bit in mostly in good ways and some maybe in not so good, but I feel like as time goes on, we’re seeing where the comfort zone is for people, and definitely when it comes to purchasing online, when things first started up online, I know with jewelry, people were not comfortable. And when we first were selling online, we had a lot of fraudulent charges, the shipping address is somewhere in Philippines or China, or the credit card company would say the name matches the credit card number but doesn’t match the address and all kinds of things that you had to go through to get approval on the purchase. And I just think that they’ve been ironing out, there’s still things happening, but it’s nowhere near as much as what it was in the beginning.

Pierson: For sure. I think that one of the things that I… And please correct me if I’m wrong, but one of the things that stands out to me about it is, with what you’re saying, SEO also seems to help with the reputation of your small business and building that reputation that you’re reliable, you’re trustworthy, this is something that… You Google mechanics in the area and you see someone ranked highly on Google, you can say, “Okay, they’re a trustworthy business, I can trust them, the algorithm has them up really high in the rankings, I can trust that they are a safe, reputable company, that I can put my money into.”

Eric: Exactly. There are studies done on conversion rates from ads versus organic, and so when it’s organic, Google is finding that website that fits that searcher, fits that keyword. So, it’s almost putting the two together, and in a way it’s… For me, when I see something organic, I feel like, Okay, Google is kind of giving a stamp of approval for this website, they’ve done the research, they’ve spidered the site, they’ve crawled it, they’ve looked at the reputation management, they’ve looked at everything, and they think that this is a solid site to a certain degree that I can take it from there, but it makes me more comfortable. Sometimes I’ll skip the sponsored and go directly to the top 10 search results and just kinda look through those and… Yeah, it’s great for reputation, because when you see that website listed organically for that keyword, you’re gonna get a higher ROI on that.

Eric: And if I can, going back to the other question before, I feel like another way that the industry has changed is maybe 20 years ago, I was advertising in the LA Times, and if I was still doing jewelry, I wouldn’t be advertising as much on print, and I feel like the… There’s a lot of data on showing that a lot of the money that was being spent on mailers and print and billboards and things like that kinda went online, and that money went into websites and website marketing and Google ads and Facebook ads and SEO and all that good stuff.

Brandon: Absolutely. And one thing that I’ve noticed is that some of these forms of legacy advertising, you’re actually finding new ways to be compatible with a more online world, like you can buy billboards online at least the electronic ones, and you can actually track how well they perform. So it’s interesting to see things kind of coming full circle. Another good example, you take podcast advertising, you give people a special landing page and you can track how well the podcast ads are performing, so old techniques finding a new purpose.

Eric: Exactly. I love that about digital marketing is you can track it very well and you can target it almost like a laser beam, so you’re not… In Los Angeles, we live in a city of 25 million. It’s so expensive to get in front of 25 million people, but most businesses, they don’t need to get in front of all those people, they need to get in front of their target market, and so if they can identify their target market and we figure out a way to reach out to them, then it’s gonna… The cost is not gonna be as much as trying to just… Back in the day, people would advertise in LA Times and USA Today and things like that, and just get in front of everybody, and then figure if they get one in a million or one in a 100,000 that respond, then they’re good. And that’s just not how it’s done anymore, especially online.

Brandon: Yeah, there’s just no reason to do that. And I found that a lot of the companies that still advertise on Billboard, there’ll be things that everybody needs or that… Or they’re extremely high margin or something, you still see mattresses advertised super publicly to a very general audience, ’cause everybody needs a mattress, right? You also see law firms, you see law firms, they advertise the same way, they’re like, you never know who’s gonna need that injury lawyer, so…

Eric: Yeah. I feel like with certain things, it’s almost like a branding exercise, and so kind of like, “We’re here if you need us.” And with search engines, I’ve always felt like we’re towards the end of the funnel, something happened, or we wanna go out somewhere, we’re looking for a restaurant or my plumbing burst and I need a plumber, and I’m… Where am I gonna go? And I’m gonna probably go to a search engine and take a look and see who’s near me that is qualified and get them in there right away. So we’re towards the end of the decision funnel, and that’s the exciting thing about search engines and search engine optimization is if you can get in front of those people that are looking to purchase, then that changes the trajectory of a business.

Brandon: Absolutely. So one thing that I’m curious about is, so a lot of times you’ll find people, they’ll get their SEO all figured out and they’ll find that their traffic just starts to taper off and sometimes really, really quickly, and oftentimes, the explanation for this is, well, they change the algorithm. What exactly does that mean when somebody says the algorithm changed?

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What does it mean when someone means “the algorithm changed”

Eric: Well, what Google is constantly doing is trying to figure out ways that the user is gonna be happy and not even their search engine, and so when they come up with certain tactics to protect that, marketers will try to go around that and still try to get optimized. For example, back in the day, if you had the keyword that you’re ranking, that you wanted to rank for it, if you had it mentioned enough times on your landing page, Google thought of that as a great thing. So if you had a page that had 5000 words and 1000 of them were the particular keyword, it was a positive thing, so… But if you saw the same word over and over again, on that page as the reader, you wouldn’t be crazy about it, so they would do this practice called cloaking where it was there in the white background, but you couldn’t read it, but when Google spider the site and crawl the site, their search engine was able to read it. And so it was like keyword stuffing, cloaking and things like that. So what happened was when Google changes algorithms, it would figure it out that people are trying to do this to get around it, and so they penalize those websites for doing those practices, and so there are certain things that marketers will do to try to get around and game the system, and then things go south. There was…

Brandon: This is also an explanation for a keyword clouds that used to be on websites.

Eric: Yes, keyword clouds, stuffing, cloaking, everything. So they had… There’s something called link building online, where let’s say, for example, on my website, I write an article about you and I give a clickable link from my website pointing to your website, that’s called an incoming link to your website. So what a lot of people would do was they would exchange links, and so you don’t have anything to lose. I would give… You would write something about me, I would write something about you, and so to Google that looked like you were getting a link, so in time, that turned into link exchange, and it was fine for a while, and then after that, Google frowned upon that because they thought it should be a one-way link, either you link to them or they link to you. If you’re doing it both way, then that cancels each other out, and so that affected the ranking of a website where let’s say they had 100 links coming in and 90 of them were link exchange. So every so often, Google is making algorithm changes to tighten up the search results.

Brandon: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So are there some situations where link exchanges still makes sense, or is it just generally something that doesn’t work very well anymore?

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Importance of reviews

Eric: I always think that’s… To have a mixed bag of things is always good, it always weirds me out when I go to someone’s Yelp page and they have 100 reviews and all hundred of them are five star. It doesn’t look organic to me, or let’s say I have links coming in and all the links are follow links, that doesn’t look… It doesn’t look right to me. So it’s okay to have some link exchange, but just not majority, and it’s normal that once in a while you have a link that you think highly of their website and they think highly of your website, and it turns out that you gave each other links, but if it’s the majority of the links that are coming in like that, then that’s frowned upon.

Brandon: And back to what you had said about reviews I do find it very strange, if you go to a website and there’s like a hundred five star reviews. In order for you to be confident that the company is legitimate, there probably needs to be a one-star review in there somewhere, because at some point you’re gonna make somebody mad. It’s inevitable. So like a one star review needs to be in there for it to be legit. You see too many reviews without a one-star, it makes people start wondering is the company, protesting, every one-star. What’s going on here?

Eric: Yeah.

Brandon: Some threes and fours are good to have to.

Eric: And I always go to the lower review scores. I wanna see what they’re complaining about. And usually for me, when I’m maintaining someone’s reputation management, I wanna see… What we wanna do is we wanna acknowledge what the client is complaining about, that had a problem about, and see if we can make things right. “Okay, so you had a bad experience at our med spa, we understand that… It wasn’t to you’re liking? How can we make it right? Can we give you another session for free? Can we give you a refund?” That kind of conversation.

Eric: And so for us, when we’re doing reputation management, we feel like when a prospect goes to the website, sees that they’re interested and they’re like, “Okay, let me check out their social media and let me check out their Yelp reviews.” And they stumble upon the one star and they see that the brand is making an effort, they’re more comfortable. Rather than they see the one star and the brand is not responding or insulting the client or blaming the client or something like that, where it’s a confrontational thing. So that way we feel like the user, the prospect is more comfortable when they read the one start seeing that the brand is standing behind their service and saying, “Hey, we’re sorry that you didn’t like the service. How can we… Make you feel better about the situation?”

Brandon: Yeah, and I found that you can even… You can sometimes even get some of those one star reviews to come back if you give them a sincere reply and you make a real effort to make it better.

Eric: Absolutely. Nobody’s perfect. And it could be that something happened or something went wrong and we’re here. What can we do to move forward?

Brandon: So now on that note, I wanna ask a more general question. What can a business owner do today to rank better in search engines?

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What can a business owner do today to rank better in search engines

Eric: I think it goes in levels. For me, I wanna make sure that the website is “optimizable” first of all. And so that being… You wanna make sure that the website doesn’t have any broken links. That it has a good user experience. So if let’s say they come to your website and they click on… I don’t know, contact us, and it takes 10 seconds to load that page, that’s not gonna be a good user experience. And so at some point, we have a short attention span when it comes to online, we’re gonna get frustrated and we’re just gonna move on to the next website.

Eric: So we wanna make sure that the website is functioning as what Google would feel comfortable ranking and vouching for. And so there are certain tools that you can use to run your website through that, and it’ll give you suggestions. One of them that I’ve been using lately is called GTmetrix with a X at the end. And you can put in the website address and it’ll come back with, “Hey, these pages are heavy with pictures.” Or these pages are not good on mobile, etcetera. So you can literally lock in on the pages that are getting negative scores.

Eric: And definitely, you wanna make sure that’s not the home page, before you do any kind of optimization. ‘Cause you’ll have pages that fall outside of the lines over time, but just not the homepage. And you can constantly be tweaking those. Something that a lot of IT, or webmasters forget, is that when you’re building a website, generally what you do is Google comes into your website and spiders and crawls your site in order to get what it needs to put it on the search engines. But in the beginning, when you’re building out the site, you do a noindex, nofollow, basically telling Google, thank you for stopping by, but if you don’t mind don’t put anything from my website on your search engine. Thank you very much, have a good day. And so that’s because the website’s not done. And so you don’t want the website that has broken links and has incomplete content and everything to be ranked yet. You don’t wanna make that first impression.

Eric: And so when the website is built and it’s ready to go, a lot of times, the webmaster will forget to turn that off to make it a follow in an index website. And so we’ve run into that a lot with… People are like, “I have this great site and I’m not able to get ranked.” And sometimes it’s something as easy as that to get it rolling.

Eric: And so let’s say you have the website that’s ready to launch and the pages are working and the load time is good and it’s able to index and everything. And then after that, you need to have prepared your target keywords that you wanna go after. And if it’s a hyper-local business, it could be the keyword and then the city. And it doesn’t have to be like, let’s say real estates in Beverly Hills… I’m sorry instead of saying real estate in Los Angeles, you could be more specific and say, real estate in Beverly Hills or Santa Monica or whatever. You could be going down to the suburb, and once you start doing that, then you need to… A lot of people that they don’t realize that Google is looking at your social media as a metric on how to rank you. And so you need to make sure that you have a social media campaign. It doesn’t have to be something that you’re posting five times a day, but whatever it is, it should be consistent. If you post once a week, have it be every Monday or every Friday, or something that’s consistent… Or three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. However you decide it, have it, have some kind of flow to it. Because what Google is looking at is consistency, whether you’re doing content creation for your blog or for your social media it’s looking for some sort of consistency.

Eric: And so also it’s looking for a direction that things are going in. So let’s say last month I had 10,000 followers on my social media, and this month I have 9500 and the next month I have 8700 there’s a trend going on there. And so that’s gonna be a negative metric. So if you flip that and you see that the chart is going up and I have a lot of people commenting and following and sharing and liking my posts on different platforms, then that’s gonna be a positive metric, and it’s gonna… Google is gonna look in there and be like, okay, this person is a hairdresser in this suburb of this state, and they seem to be doing well with these hashtags and these keywords… Okay, let me keep that in mind when I’m ranking them. It’s not one thing that they’re looking at. They’re not just looking at Facebook or just Twitter or just Yelp or just your blog, it’s a combination of things that it’s playing detective and figuring out, do I vouch for this company, for this website, for this keyword.

Eric: And so you wanna just be consistent with what you’re doing. Again, the same thing with content creation, whether you’re doing videos or blog posts and things. If you’re gonna do four a month do it weekly. Don’t do… If you’re gonna do 50 blog posts a year, don’t do everything in the first week of January and think you’re done. It has to be something that Google is digesting consistently.

Brandon: That makes a lot of sense. And it seems like Google’s general priority here is just to push people to companies that are following general business best practices anyway. Who people… Google wants to push company… Or push searchers to companies that have a real community, are getting real reviews, are actually getting community engagement on their social… Who are consistent in what they do. It’s very interesting that it’s gone from being really technical stuff, like keywords back in the day, to being, just making sure that companies are behaving well and performing well.

Eric: Absolutely. I have a friend that’s an accountant, and he spun up a site probably 10 years ago, and it’s the same location, the same phone number, the same everything. He doesn’t blog, there’s no new services that he offers, it’s the same thing. And he wonders why he doesn’t get ranked. And so I try to explain to him we need to… I would do blogs and videos and some link building, some reviews… There’s a lot of things we can do to get Google’s attention. But that’s not what he’s comfortable with. And he’s surprised that he’s not getting ranked, but all his competitors down the street, they’re able to do that and get Google’s attention. You’re not gonna be able to get Google’s attention anymore by just having a website. Those days are long gone.

Brandon: Absolutely. So with that in mind, when does it make sense for someone running a business to pull in an SEO expert?

Eric: I think… There are a couple of ways to do this. There are… It depends. Some people have more time than they have money in the beginning. It could be a start-up, it could be a company that’s just starting off. They may be able to do some things on their own in the beginning. I have a couple of clients that I just do mentoring for. And we meet half an hour every week and we look at their reports, we look at what they’ve done, and we give homework assignments on what to do for the following week. And they have things ready. We tell them, you need to have two blog posts created or you need to do this video or whatever.

Eric: And that way they’re a little bit more tech savvy and they have more of a curious mind and they’re able to grow the business to a certain point, and then possibly hire a SEO consultant. There are other businesses that have a budget and they’re able to do that. I think you have to have the website up and running before you bring in the marketing department. So you have to have a website that’s… ‘Cause a lot of times they bring in the SEO consultant before there’s a website. And that doesn’t really make sense. That you have to have the website… You have to have the domain name and you have to have launched the website at least with five, 10, 20 pages on the website, before you can consider trying to get Google’s attention.

Brandon: Absolutely, that makes a lot of sense.

Pierson: So Eric, one of the things that we like to do towards the end of the show is pivoting completely away from business for a minute, and asking a little bit about you on a personal level. So, taking away business what are some things that you’re passionate about? What would you be found doing if you have, let’s say, two days off? What do you choose to fill your time with?

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What Eric is passionate about

Eric: Well, I think one of the things… There are a lot of good things about living in a big city, but also you’re dealing with traffic and there’s just a lot of people in a confined space. And I like nature. And so something that really relaxes me is being at the beach. I live probably about a five-10 minutes walking distance from the beach. And so I find that that kind of centers me. I feel… It’s something that when I’m working and I need to get away, I’ll just kinda walk down from my office to the beach and just kinda re-center myself and re-energize. And if… Hopefully with the weather warming up in the next couple of weeks here, maybe even just take a quick dip and go back on with my life.

Eric: I’m at the beach a lot, that I feel like I… It’s volleyball season again, so I play some volleyball at beach. So pretty much anything to do with the beach, I feel like I’m in heaven.

Brandon: That’s cool.

Pierson: I love that. If I was in California…

Brandon: We don’t have a lot of beach in Tennessee…

[laughter]

Eric: Or a lake or a river, or something.

Pierson: Yeah.

Eric: I don’t know… A body of water.

Brandon: Yeah.

Pierson: If I was in LA or around the ocean I would be there all the time. All of the time.

Brandon: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, we got the lakes and the rivers and the mountains, but we don’t have the beach.

Eric: Yeah. The only thing is… The beaches here, it’s cold.

Pierson: Yeah…

Brandon: That’s so strange…

Pierson: I’ve been to San Diego and LA a couple of times, and every time… The first time I went, I was so surprised at how freezing the water was… Not expecting it. Especially having gone around the Gulf and the Atlantic… Substantially warmer than the Pacific.

Eric: Yeah. There’s a trick to it. I can’t seem to convince my wife, but what I do is I start running around, get my heart rate up, and then it’s not like I go… I tip my toe and take my time going. I just run in.

Brandon: Nice. That’s the way to do it. Yeah. That’s fun.

Eric: Yeah, I look like a maniac from a distance, I guess, where I’m just kinda running around…

Pierson: Doing burpees and then sprinting full speed into the surf. Or they think you’re a navy seal. That or the other.

Eric: I think the first of the two.

Brandon: Oh… You should tell yourself it’s a navy seal on that.

Pierson: I love it. Well, Eric where can people find out more info about you?

Final thoughts

Eric: Sure. They could go to my website, thisismysouthbay.com. And if anyone is interested, they can click on the “book now” button, book a 15-minute consultation. If they have any questions on strategies that they have for search engine optimization, or if they are any questions, they’re welcome to book a appointment.

Brandon: And this is all in the show notes for anybody who wants a easy way to get to the website.

Pierson: Yup, everything will be included in the show notes and with that… I don’t have any other questions. Brandon, do you have anything else you’d like to ask? Well, guys, thank you so much for tuning into this episode. If you like give us a comment, leave us a like, subscribe, leave us a review, the whole nine yards. You can find us on Spotify, iTunes, Google podcasts… Wherever you stream your podcasts, we are there. Check us out. And once more for Eric Seropyan, I’m Pierson Hibbs, and here with Brandon Rollins. This is the Marketing is the Product Podcast, and we’ll see you guys again soon.

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