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On Episode 86 of The Edge of Innovation, we’re talking with Jeremiah Smith, CEO & founder of Simple Tiger, an SEO & marketing agency. He’s sharing with us an excellent introduction to Search Engine Optimization!

Sections

Introduction
What is the Promise of SEO?
Push and Pull Marketing
Is SEO like the Old Yellow Pages?
Searcher Intent
Marketing BPM Software: Why Keywords Matter
Should You Be Paying Google to Display Your Result?
Paperclip Ads
Organic SEO Versus Google Ads
SEO & Google: The Game of Cat and Mouse
Producing Content: SEO is Never Done
Writing Blog Articles: How To Get Ideas
Breaking Down Your Audience: Creating Personas
Who Is Your Target Customer?
Closing
More Episodes
Show Notes

An Introduction to SEO With Jeremiah Smith

Introduction

Paul: Welcome to another edition of The Edge of Innovation. Today we’re talking with Jeremiah Smith with Simple Tiger. He’s the founder and CEO.
So, you’re an SEO company. Are you responsible for all the emails that I get asking me about SEO in broken English?

Jeremiah: No comment

Paul: Okay, okay.

Jeremiah: No, we definitely aren’t responsible for those, but I know a lot of companies in our industry are and it’s kind of the bad side of this whole industry. I find myself kind of having to be the ambassador of the search engine optimization industry to companies and people all the time, letting them know the truth about search and things like that. So yeah. I will apologize for those offenders in my industry that send those mass spam emails.

Paul: But I think we get a lot of emails and in the past, you’ve gotten emails for all sorts of different things whether it be for certain medicines or whatever. But there must be a tremendous appetite out there out there if people are sending spam emails for it. You don’t send out spam, if you’re a spammer, on something that nobody’s going to buy. I’m trying to think of a good example of something stupid to send spam about. But just about anything is going to be something that there’s going to be a huge desire for and a need for.

So, you’re an expert in SEO and you’ve been doing this awhile. We’ll have contact information in the Show Notes so you can get in contact with Jeremiah’s company.

What is the Promise of SEO?

Paul: But I wanted to get your opinion. We’ll talk about what SEO is, in a detailed way, and your unique approach to that. Before we get into all those details, and how you’ve built your organization to help people manage that, what is the promise of SEO?

SEO for people that are listening, just to remind you, is Search Engine Optimization. If I go off the rails here, stop me, but let’s start here. So, search engine optimization. Google is a search engine, Bing… are there any others? Yes, there are a few more, excreta, but those are the ones that people primarily use. And they search. There’s an engine that goes out and helps you find things on the internet.

So, if I want to find what’s the best food for my hamster, I can type that query into a search engine and then get a response back. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of power in the people who own or run the search engine because they can bring up this pet food or this pet food or generic pet food that you can make in your own kitchen for your hamster. So, we want to optimize the experience but that doesn’t sound like it’s optimizing it for google, it doesn’t sound like it’s making it better on behalf of Google or it’s making it better on behalf of Bing but it’s making it better on what I want people to find. So, if I make the best hamster food in the world, I’d come to you and say, “Can you help me with my search engine optimization?” And I know you don’t focus on hamsters or even animals and we’ll talk about that in a minute, but really what’s sort of the core of what are we trying to do? What are we trying to optimize?

Push and Pull Marketing

Jeremiah: Sure. So, I think a really good explanation for search engine optimization and why it’s valuable is this: Years ago, I heard marketing broken down into two camps and it was really cool to see this. One camp is called Push Marketing and the other camp is called Pull Marketing. Push versus Pull. So, the idea with Push Marketing is that you’ve got to go out there and you’ve got to get into peoples’ faces. You’ve got to get in their way. You’ve got to interrupt them, so think of interruption marketing. It’s another way of saying Push Marketing is interruption. You’re interrupting the flow of something. You have billboards on the highway, commercials on television, radio announcements. Things like that. Those are all interruption type marketing. Now, that carries a negative connotation with it, interruption or push, that kind of sounds a little rough but it works. So, I’m not hating it, I just want you to understand that’s a connotation.

Now, on the same time, on the other end of things, we have Pull Marketing and with Pull Marketing, you actually have an audience that is actively seeking out something. They’re trying to find something. So, with Pull Marketing you have things like, well, search engines are probably the single, easiest example for me to make. But I would say maybe phone books are another example. People actively go into phone books to look up a plumber or something like that back in the day. And there are other types of Pull Marketing. If people are interested in receiving emails from you and want to get more content or they want to learn more from you and so they sign up to receive emails from you on your website. That’s permission-based pull marketing.Seth Godin wrote a book years ago called “Permission Marketing” and it’s all about that pull side of marketing.

So, I liked SEO right away because it falls into that second camp of Pull Marketing. I like it because it just made sense to me. If I need to go buy something or I’m really interested in something and I go Google it, I am very engaged in learning more about it and I’m a self-directed type person when it comes to making a lot of buying decisions and education and stuff like that and I’ve quickly realized that I’m not alone in that. A lot of people, and as a matter of fact, the masses at large, are moving more toward that self-directed research and buying decision mentality which is a shift from the old way of things. SEO stuck out to me because its promise, you asked earlier “What’s the promise of SEO?” Its promise is to deliver highly targeted audience directly to your door, directly to your product or your service offering or your business. And I just saw that as extremely valuable and thought every business ought to be doing something with SEO and working with Google in some way.

Now I’d love to get into the mechanics of SEO in a moment if that makes sense to you but I’m going to let you decide that.

Is SEO like the Old Yellow Pages?

Paul: Yeah, I think it does. But I do want to draw out that example you gave that 30 years ago if you needed hamster food, to beat the analogy to death, you would go to the yellow pages and look up pet food. But you wouldn’t necessarily be able to look under a category called hamster food. It might have pets or then rodents or whatever it is. So, what’s evolved with, and I’m asking this to get your confirmation here, is that now we have infinite yellow pages that can have as many sections as it wants. I remember in the yellow pages, way back in a galaxy far far away, that people would list their company under multiple headings because let’s say you were a cleaner and you do business cleaning and housecleaning, you would be in both sections of the phonebook and they would charge you for each one of those listings.

Now the world has changed. The disruption has occurred with the internet, is that now there aren’t any headings. There were directories early on but now those are gone and now I can search organically to very specific things. I want a house cleaner that cleans a certain brand of windows and they’re the experts on that and could actually ask that question. So, what is your thought on that? Is that right or is that a good analogy so that our listeners can latch onto that and say “Okay, that’s what I’m thinking about.” Is SEO is just lists on the end of the headings? Or is it like the old yellow pages? Or is it something more than that?

Searcher Intent

Jeremiah: Yeah, it’s something significantly more than that in my opinion. What we’re getting into now is what we call, in the SEO industry, Searcher Intent. As an SEO person, I try to deduce what it is that a searcher wants by what they’re searching. For example, if I look up the word “men’s suit”, you know very little about me except that maybe either:

A. I’m a man looking for a suit or B. I’m a woman looking for a suit for a man.

Paul: Or you’re a woman that wants to be a man and wants to have a men’s suit.

Jeremiah: Sure, but you can see how the lines are blurred around what my intent might be.

Paul: Sure.

Jeremiah: And then, if I’m looking up a black pinstripe Hugo Boss men’s suit, size 42 long. That’s a very specific search and at least now we have a much better idea that this person is likely in the transactional phase. Now there’s an assumption there but the assumption is strong based on the amount of data in the keyword search, that that person is looking for a very specific suit and so its likely that when they find that, they are likely going to purchase it because of how specific it is.

So, I think with Searchers Intent, what we find is that some people are online to learn. Some people are still in the awareness phase of something. Or maybe they’re not quite in the awareness phase.

Marketing BPM Software: Why Keywords Matter

For example, I didn’t know about this whole terminology around this whole business process management software until we started working with a lot of SaaS companies and we stumbled across a company that offers BPM software – Business Process Management Software. Well, I looked into that terminology and it had very low search. Very few people are actively searching for BPM or Business Process Management software. However, after many, many conversations with this particular client and trying to figure out “What is it that your software does? What is it that you’re offering? What’s the value that your end users getting?” They said, “Well ultimately we build web flows or mind maps or diagrams.” So, it’s kind of like a diagramming software to help you visualize or see business processes.

And I was like, “Wow! That actually gives me a whole lot of other keywords to play with! So, I started playing with those keywords and found massive amounts of search volume and I realized that people were looking for Business Process Management software, they just didn’t know they were looking for that. They were using other keywords and they were not quite in the awareness phase of BPM software yet. So, we had a challenge. We had to go out there and we had to actually target them with the keywords they’re using and help them bridge the gap to understanding that, “Hey, what you’re looking for is BPM software.”

And so, I think Searcher Intent is a very interesting thing. It’s fun to play around with. But I think that that comes down to how users interact with the search engine. And we have to keep an eye on that if we want to do a good job in business doing SEO because we ultimately have to follow the users and try to provide for them what they’re looking for.

Should You Be Paying Google to Display Your Result?

Paul: We could go very technical very quickly here and I want to avoid that initially, but I do think some of that would be interesting. So, the success of SEO is for you to bargain with Google that when someone types in – I’ll use the business process management example – they type in “business process management” and are you going to pay Google to display your result?

Jeremiah: alright, so your bringing up a very good point here. I’ve got to differentiate what that is, from what SEO is. Because with SEO, we are not paying Google anything, we’re not affiliating with Google in any way. What we’re attempting to do, and I know you were setting that up for me, because a lot of people have that question, “How much does it cost to get into Google and stuff like that.” Well that’s not exactly how it works.

Paperclip Ads

The idea with paying Google, is to run ads in Google. So, whenever you do a search in Google the ads run across the top there and they say “ad” in tiny text underneath. Those are what we call PPC or Paperclip Ads. When I refer to doing that type of marketing, I call it generally “paid search.” The whole idea with paid search is that you can grab a handful of keywords, you can create some ads, you can set up some targeting like “I want to target users in the U.S.” for example. And then you have an account in Google Ads and you say “Google, here’s the deal. I’ve got three hundred bucks a week and I would like to target users in the U.S. for this handful of keywords and I want to show them these ads.”

And then Google comes back and says “Okay you’re probably going to pay about this many dollars per click or this much cents per click in order to display that ad. And every time somebody clicks on the ad you’ve going to pay a click fee. And so, ultimately what that does is that it helps you to force your website in front of your target audience that is actively searching your keywords, but in an advertising way.

So, this is kind of like at the gray zone of Push and Pull Marketing, in my opinion, because you’re still running this advertisement that is somewhat interruptive in terms of its process but at the same time, it wouldn’t be there if the person didn’t search for something through kind of a pull technique. So, I don’t know exactly how to categorize that. I’m sure somebody else out there can fix that for me. But I think it’s right in that gray area.

Organic SEO Versus Google Ads

Jeremiah: Whereas with SEO, your listing shows up organically. And we call it organic because there is an algorithm, there is a process for determining where your site ought to rank and that process is not something that we directly control. It’s something that we indirectly allow to happen. So, Google is going to crawl your website, it’s going to index it, and then it’s going to compare your website to a bunch of other domains that also say they do the same kind of thing, that use the same kind of keywords, that talk about the same kind of stuff on their sites. Google has to decide, “Well, which one of these makes the most sense for this keyword?” And Google makes the decision organically on their own and therefore you can’t completely control how you show up in Google for certain keywords organically, but you can strongly influence how you show up in Google and so that’s the idea with SEO.

The major difference in terms of the output and the outcome in terms of you, the business or the company engaging in either one of these tactics, is that users commonly understand when they’re clicking on an ad that they are clicking on an advertisement and they carry a bias that “I cant trust someone who is trying to sell me” and so that comes with clicking on an ad. Whereas users inherently trust the results that are coming up organically and Google because they don’t think about them: A. being manipulated or influenced in any way or B. definitely not being paid to be there. They trust those results a little bit more and so your conversions tend to be a lot better on those organic clicks. So that’s another attractive element in SEO.

Paul: So, you bring to light that – let me see if I summarize this right – that SEO and your job, is to influence the ranking as much as you can. So, when Google reads your website, or the website you’re working on, you want to – I’ll use the crass words – you want to trick Google, you want to manipulate them, whatever those words are, to ranking your site higher than somebody else that has the same product interest.

Jeremiah: Yes, that’s ultimately it. You can use the word “trick.” But I really like the term “influence” because influence can be negative or positive depending on what you’re doing and your intention.

SEO & Google: The Game of Cat and Mouse

Paul: But that is a constant ongoing battle. It’s not something you can do today and then tomorrow have that same influence, because it’s a cat and mouse game in a lot of ways because Google changes the way they judge things.

Jeremiah: You’re right. You’re totally right on that. It is an ongoing effort. There are some elements and some things you can do. I don’t want to say plateau because it doesn’t do Google justice to what’s happening here but once you get to a certain step – maybe think of a staircase – once you get to a certain step that was difficult to get to, sometimes you can kind of just relax and hang out on that step fairly easily with minimal input. And then in order to continue up the staircase, you’ve got to put in more effort, and you’ve got to keep climbing. But also, you have to remember the competitors are walking up that staircase at the same time and so sometimes they’re going to walk in front of you and if they’re standing in front of you, what that means is that you’re going to have to take a step back down to get out of their way.

And so, with Google, if there are ten listings on the search results page, there are only ten listings there and so if you’re number three and then some competitor moves up to number three, guess what? You’re either number two or, you know, either number four which is bad because it means you fell down, or you’re working really hard and you outpace them so you’re number two and now you’re in front of them. But there’s this shuffle that happens, that’s natural and its very competitive depending on the industry you’re in. So yeah.

Producing Content: SEO is Never Done

Paul: I agree with that and the point I want to highlight to our listeners is the fact that this is not a one and done kind of solution, ever, regardless of whether you get Jerimiah to do the work or you get one of those spam emails to do the work. I think one of the things that the spam emails on SEO make you feel like, is that it’s something I can buy. It’s not like buying a jar of peanut butter. “Okay, I got it. Now I’m done.”

Jeremiah: Right, right. Yeah that’s the thing. Companies can do SEO in-house. I run an agency, we sell this full time, but I’m very open and honest about talking to people about the fact that if you’re a small company, or even a large company, if you’re any size company, there are powerful things you can do in-house to actually impact your rankings organically. I think that producing content is probably one of the most important things.

Writing Blog Articles: How To Get Ideas

Jeremiah: Types of content that you can produce today if you run a business, is if you deal with anyone in the sales process where you’re trying to sell your product or service or offering of any type, and you deal with objections or questions in the sales process. The next time you get a good question where you think “Oh that’s a good question. I’m going to have to explain that and it’s probably going to take me longer that a sentence or a few more words to explain. It’s probably going to take me a paragraph or two to explain it.” Write that question down and go ahead and answer the question for that person. When you get off the phone write that question down and write a blog article answering that question.

Paul: That’s good advice.

Jeremiah: Just go through those kinds of questions and just write blog articles because then what happens is, believe it or not, people are actively Googling those same questions all over the place. And they’re Googling that question and then you’ve got that question answered on your blog. It’s very likely you might show up in Google and that you might be able to answer the question for someone where that was their final objection and after answering it, they’re like “Hmmm, this person has it figured out. I think I’m going to give them a shout and go ahead.” And guess what, you’ve already answered their questions so they’re going to be really easy to close.

Breaking Down Your Audience: Creating Personas

Paul: Let’s go back to the example of business process management. So, on that website, if I search for “business process management”, and that’s off target from what people are searching for, do you still rank in that for SEO?

Jeremiah: Yeah, we do still try to rank in that because it turns out that this particular client, they were trying to – and this is where we get kind of higher up into the realm of thorium marketing – they were trying to appeal, I think, to to broad of an audience. What they needed to do was actually personify their audience which means break their audience down into individual personas and say, “This type of person here, were going to call him Engineer Eric. And he’s going to be the engineer at companies like IBM or Oracle and something like that. And then we have Small Business Sam over here. He actually is just running a small business and he wants to create nice processes and replicate them.”

And so those are two good personas. Well, Small Business Sam was the one that’s using the terminology around like visual diagramming or visual web mats. The real simple kind of more board terms around what he’s trying to get. Whereas Engineer Eric was definitely the business process management type of guy even though only, maybe, fifty to a hundred people a month are searching business process management. These are total here, say numbers. I’m not giving actual numbers out here. Even though very few people were searching business process management compared to diagramming software, something like that. The conversion value of an IBM or Oracle buying from this particular software company was worth potentially millions for one conversion. So, the volume was not as important. It is okay that there are only a hundred searches per month because if they can sell one of those, they’re going to get a huge, huge amount of revenue.

Whereas on the other end, the Small Business Sam, he’s going to pay five bucks a month for some web diagramming software so you’re going to need ten thousand conversions a month from that guy in order to see the same kind of value. So, that’s the idea there.

Who Is Your Target Customer?

Paul: Okay, so let’s put a comma here and ask the question who is your target customer? Is it the ones that have a high value conversion? Or is it the ones that have many small low value conversions, dollar wise.

Jeremiah: That depends entirely on the business and the business model that you seek to secure. For example, my company, we’re an agency. We do SEO and we do it specifically for SaaS companies or Software As A Service companies. Now, there are so many different types of SaaS companies out there but we’ve found that for our target niche, we like to go after companies that typically have been established for longer than a year, typically a few years. They’ve done other types of marketing as well and they’re really just trying to broaden their scope or their horizon of marketing techniques. So, they have more faith in marketing, but they are not in that speculative phase, necessarily, of trying to find what works. They believe SEO will work, they’ve seen some value in it, but they’d like to make a focused effort on it. Typically, they’re funded with five million or above in annual revenue. Something along those lines. So, that’s our typical target audience. A conversion of that is very valuable for that.

Where, at the same time, a lot of people are starting software companies or creating startups and tech boards and trying to learn about SEO and they’re not valuable as a customer, but they have valuable concerns. They could eventually turn into the type of client that we want to work with. So, for us, those aren’t as important for us to get on the phone with, but at the same time I do still want to offer up some sort of product offering to them. So, we’re working on an online course to help small software companies get from brand new funded, no marketing, no experience under their belt, to a year into business, with some strong marketing growth so that we can build them, through education, into the type of client that we actively want to then work with. And so that kind of gives you an idea of how to personify your target audience. And different businesses have different targets. For some industries the volume is key. You have to have a high volume of customers. For some businesses, you only need a few conversions per year in order to make your budget.

Paul: Cool!

Closing

Paul: Well, we’ve been speaking with Jeremiah Smith of Simple Tiger. He’s an SEO expert, and they’re an SEO agency. As you can tell, there’s a lot of value here in what he said. As you’ve been listening, we’ve been throwing out book names and different things you should go and look at. All of that will be in the Show Notes so I encourage you to look there. You’ll find links to Simple Tiger and a way to actually contact Jeremiah.

Well I want to thank you, thank you for spending the time with us and who knows, maybe we’ll have you back soon.

Jeremiah: That would be awesome! I’d be happy to come back! Thank you so much for everything, Paul. It was an honor to be here.

Paul: Alright, thank you!

More Episodes:

This is Part 1 of our interview with Jeremiah Smith. Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon! We’ll be talking about SEO, Google, and Artificial Intelligence!

Show Notes: