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[Below is a transcript of the podcast]
Cheri Landin: Hello and welcome to our Community Partner Podcast Series. My name is Cheri Landin. I am the community development director with The Mortgage Company and we have a whole list of community partners on our website and we are going to be interviewing one of them today. So I am here this afternoon with Erik Wolf from estound. Erik if you can introduce yourself. That would be awesome.
Erik Wolf:I feel like you just did it.
Cheri Landin: Tell me. OK. So tell me what estound is, how about that.
Erik Wolf: We are a digital marketing agency. We work with small and mid-sized companies. We’ve been doing it for close to 12 years now and we help small and mid-sized businesses with websites, search engine optimization, email marketing, marketing automation, Google Ad Words all that kind of stuff. If it happens on the internet it’s probably within our scope.
Cheri Landin: Cool. Alright. And so all of that stuff that everybody needs and is thoroughly confused about.
Erik Wolf: We try to make it our quest to unconfuse people sometimes. Sometimes it’s difficult but we do our best.
Cheri Landin: Good. Alright. So I just have to ask before we get into some of the basics of what you do. estound. Where did that name come from?
Erik Wolf: Well we liked the idea of, in the traditional spelling of the word, astounding people and we threw an “e” at the front of it because electronic, e-mail, e-everything and so we made it estound and we spelled it funny and we like it.
Cheri Landin: Good but I like it too but I just thought that was an interesting story. So thanks for sharing.
Erik Wolf: No worries.
Cheri Landin: Alright. So you just said this big word: search engine optimization. So that’s SEO in our world of acronyms. I mean we hear about all the time what exactly is SEO?
Erik Wolf: So search engine optimization is actually a very interesting thing and it’s something that people fundamentally look at backward. Most of us hear search engine optimization and basically what they’re thinking is, “OK how do I beat Google to get my company on top?” And I’ve been telling folks for a very long time, but they tend to not believe me, that any business strategy that’s fundamentally based on being smarter than Google is probably going to fail. So the question then becomes, “OK well how do we work with Google and how do we do what Google wants us to do and get better rankings and all that in the process?” And so the cool thing about search engine optimization that I think that a lot of folks overlook is that it’s not just about, “OK how do I get better rankings?” Really what Google is doing is Google is telling us what’s good on the Web. That’s really what their role has become. Because it’s not just about, “OK where do I find a pizza near me?” It’s about asking Google questions and we trust the things that Google says back when we asked questions. So with Google, it’s not just about what’s relevant but it’s about what’s the best content. And so really what search engine optimization is about is making your website better.
Cheri Landin: Okay that makes sense. So that being said how would you put that strategy in play?
Erik Wolf: So there are a lot of things that go into the mix. There are certain fundamental things like having an SSL certificate on your website. So when it comes up it says HTTPS and not just HTTP. That’s something that Google looks for. Is your website fast? Is it responsive for mobile devices? Is it easy to navigate? There are a lot of things like that that go into the mix and of course, things like security and speed and all that are relatively easy to solve for. Then the other questions become things like well what’s your focus? How do we train Google’s virtual eye on the area of your business that’s most profitable? How do we structure the site? What do we name things? What’s the content on the site? Those are all things that Google very fundamentally cares about. And so those are the first things that we look at super carefully is what is the content on that site and how can we polish it in a way that we can teach google how to, basically teach them how to better rank you.
Cheri Landin: Ok so I guess first and foremost you have to make sure your website is up and functioning
Erik Wolf: Having a website that is live is actually very helpful in search engine optimization.
Cheri Landin: You know easy to navigate and all of those things
Erik Wolf: Yeah easy to navigate. You know, does it have a good focus? Focus is really super super important because if you’ve ever been to like a chamber of commerce meeting or something like that and you shake somebody’s hand and you say, “Hey what do you do?” And they tell you 30 things and you walk away thoroughly confused. It’s the same thing with your website. When your website says that you do six different things, that’s confusing especially to Google and sometimes Google doesn’t fundamentally see. Maybe you see how all these things go together. But they may not be organized in such a way that it makes sense for Google and so. So we tend to look at things like what are things on this website that are unnecessary? If you have a service that is say a very small percentage of your business or relatively unpopular or unprofitable. Sometimes we advocate actually removing that from website. Or hiding it from Google or putting it somewhere else so that Google is only seeing the 80 percent of your business as opposed to the little stuff that makes up the 20 percent.
Cheri Landin: Right. That makes sense. All right. So I suppose just like in any industry there are misconceptions out there and there’s got to be about SEO too. Just based on our conversation so far I’m guessing that one would be too much always isn’t the best. Right. Just having everything in a sloppy manner like everyone just wants to say I do this like your chamber analogy. So I’m guessing, what are some of the misconceptions with SEO.
Erik Wolf: So there are actually a lot of misconceptions about how SEO works and so number one, the biggest one by far is the idea that you’re going to trick Google into making you number one. People say things like, “Oh I’ve got my secret sauce. I’m not going to tell you how it works but you as the business owner are going to pay me and things are going to happen and it’s going to be great.” And generally speaking just like with anything else, when people won’t tell you what they’re doing. You know, “Hey, hey just trust me on this.” We don’t we don’t accept that in other areas of our business and so why do we accept it here? If you are interviewing a salesperson and they said hey listen I’m going to increase your business by 30 percent. You’re going to pay me money but I’m not going to tell you what I’m doing or how I’m doing it. You’re just going to trust that everything is great. You tell him not to let the door hit him on the way out. And this is the same thing so there really aren’t secrets and things that people shouldn’t be telling you. It’s just like anything else that happens in your business you have the right to understand that as a business owner. So that would be one thing. Another thing that we still hear, even though it hasn’t been a thing for a very very long time, is people think that SEO is just you stick secret keywords into my site and then Google sees them and they make me number one. And obviously, I mean even when you just say it out loud, that doesn’t make a darn bit of sense.
Cheri Landin: I’ve heard that though right.
Erik Wolf: But that’s something that people still think and it’s not true Everything on your site that impacts Search Engine Optimization are things that are visible to people. There are no invisible buttons to push and things like that. What Google wants to look at what the actual people who use your site are looking at.
Cheri Landin: All right. So I know that when you were first starting too, you said that you specialize in kind of your primary target customers are small to midsize businesses. Why is SEO important to that size business.
Erik Wolf: Well it’s like anything else. It’s a tool that you can use to help you compete. And the wonderful thing about the Internet now, it’s not quite as democratic as it used to be, for lack of a better word but it is still very merit-based. And so when we can be, when we are willing to invest in good content and put ourselves out there, we can reap results. And Google doesn’t actually care what size of a business you are. What Google cares about is how great your site is and how great your content is. And so really it’s an area where a small business can compete actually very very effectively when they do and say the right things. As an example, we have a teeny tiny law firm client in a teeny tiny corner of western Georgia. They have a very small two-lawyer law firm and they rank nationally on the first page for a lot of questions about how veterans benefits work because they take a lot of veterans cases and they work on a lot of appeals and things like that and now they’re in a position where they’re experts because they put together good content. They cared about it, they maintained it and it actually didn’t take a lot of help from us in order to really get them that credit where they’re ranked nationally for a lot of important stuff where they’re getting a ton of traffic. And so even very small businesses can succeed online. And so it becomes a very important thing and the other reason that it’s important that a lot of folks miss is that people will say, “Well it doesn’t matter if you can find me on Google because I don’t get my leads from online. I get my leads the referrals and things like that. And so it’s so search engine optimization isn’t important.” But the fact is that it is still important because even if people aren’t googling for you generically, they’re probably googling for you specifically because when you’re about to go into business with somebody, you Google them.
Cheri Landin: They’re going to check you out. Absolutely.
Erik Wolf: And so there’s a whole other reason to do this that we don’t think about very often because well it’s not about lead generation. Well, it doesn’t matter. If it’s about qualification. You should really be thinking good and hard about what happens when people google you or people google your company. You should consider influencing that conversation. So that’s part of it too.
Cheri Landin: Yeah that’s good to know. I mean it’s good to know that small businesses then can compete with businesses that have been around forever. They could be just as good at what they do if not better. But through this process, it can really give them a chance.
Erik Wolf: That focuses is critical because even with, so given this one example of veterans benefits just being an abstract sort of thing but it’s very niche. There aren’t a ton of lawyers that do it. There’s a lot of information out there, not a lot of people that you can talk to and it’s one of these places where between all these huge companies, there are these gaps and small businesses with really good niches are in a position and especially when there’s a local focus as well, you can find those gaps sometimes and you can sneak through and all of a sudden find yourself in a really nice place.
Cheri Landin: All right. Cool. All right. So I understand how all of this is important really for a lot of different businesses and you talked a minute ago too about traffic right because a lot of this is driving traffic hopefully to your website, however you structure it. So how can the SEO be tracked?
Erik Wolf: So there are a number of ways. So one of the ways is through Google Analytics which is a free tool you install on your website and you can see what your traffic, is you can see how your traffic changes over time, you can see where it comes from. Google also gives us access to a tool called Search console, which was previously also known as Webmasters tools. And basically what they do is they will allow you to see the last 90 days of search data. So how many times you came up on searches, where on average you were positioned in those searches. So if have an average position of 18, well that means that on average you come up on the second page of Google search and they’ll tell you how many times that you came up and for what keywords and they’ll tell you how many times you were clicked and for what keywords and where those clicks went. And so you can see how things change over time and you can see how you’re influencing your position on Google. You can see how you’re influencing how much exposure you’re getting on Google. You can see where those clicks are going and so, therefore, consider what you should be doing on those pages to make the most of those clicks. So those are all things that you can track. One of the things though that we like to caution against in talking about search engine optimization is that a lot of people say and a lot of SEO companies will sell it as, “Hey you want more leads, buy SEO.” And that’s not necessarily exactly a one to one because just because people come to your site, that doesn’t make them a lead, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to buy something from you or that you’re ever even going to talk to them. And so there’s a difference between growing traffic and converting more leads and obviously the more traffic you have the more opportunities for that that you also have. But optimizing a website for lead conversions is actually different than optimizing for search traffic. And so there’s a little bit of both that you have to do when the end result is I want more business. SEO isn’t leads and leads aren’t traffic. So it’s all related but and it’s all part of the same machine. But you have to work on different parts of the machine in order to get the result. It’s not just about more traffic means more leads. That’s not always true. Right.
Cheri Landin: Exactly. All right well. So it sounds like the process, there’s a lot to it. I’m sure there’s a lot of business owners out there listening right now that probably are not doing this at all, are doing it on their own, not taking charge of it. So if someone is listening to this and saying, “Oh my god I have more questions. I think I might need some help on this.” How can they get a hold of you?
Erik Wolf: I suppose they can. They can reach us on our website: estound.com. And we’ve got information on there and of course, folks can reach out and schedule an appointment. You can actually schedule an appointment right from our website. And folks can talk to us if they have questions, we’re happy to answer them.
Cheri Landin: All right well good. Well, I appreciate your time today, Erik. It’s a lot of information and I know that we here at The Mortgage Company are using your services and we appreciate all the help in our marketing efforts as well.
Erik Wolf: Thank you so much for having me.
Cheri Landin: Alrighty.
About Erik Wolf
Erik Wolf loves efficiency. He can cook a 30-minute meal in just 16 and he can run a five-minute mile faster than you can. So with well over a quarter century of experience in website development and online marketing gathered over the last 20 years, Erik thought, “Why not make marketing more efficient too?” As the founder of the digital marketing agency estound, he is known as a trailblazer in the realm of small business sales and marketing automation. He has been featured by NYTimes.com, The Huffington Post, and Entrepreneur magazine and has presented at SXSW, Ignite Denver, Digital Atlanta, WordCamp Chicago, and many other events not named for the cities they were held in.
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