When someone searches online for help, do they find you? Does your business even rank on the first page? Stephan Spencer is an internationally recognized SEO expert, with decades of experience and skill in the art and science of SEO. If you want to know what is working to get found online, do not miss this episode.
Josh Fonger: [00:00:00] Hi this is Josh Fonger and welcome to the work the system podcasts where we help business owners move from only a job to owning a business mastering their systems so they can simplify growth. And today I have a special guest I have Stephan Spencer. Stephan is the internationally recognized SEO expert and I'm very excited to have him on. He is the best selling author and sought after keynote speaker. His guests have included our clients I've included Zappos, Channel, Quicksilver, Bed Bath and Beyond BoGo, Sony, and many others. He is the co-author of The Art of SEO author of Google Power Search and co-author of Social E-commerce all published by O'Reilly. Stephan founded net concepts in 1995 and grew it into a multi national SEO agency before selling it to Camaro. Stephan is a frequent TV guest appearing on various ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW affiliates. He is a contributor to Harvard Business Review, Adweek, Founder magazine, and Search Engine Land. He hosts two popular podcast, Get Yourself Optimized and Marketing Speak. All right. So Stepahn let's start at the beginning. I'm excited to have you on here. How did you get into your line of work and become this SEO expert?
Stephan Spencer: [00:01:11] Thanks for having me and it all started when I was studying for PHD biochemistry and I decided to drop out of that PHD and start an agency. I was in the 90s even before SEO really existed and I started building Web sites for clients and then the search engines prior to Google were pretty easy to manipulate. Not that I'm a nefarious way but now. SEO is manipulation. Are you trying to gain an unfair advantage to get to the top of Google above your competitors. I saw us working on figuring out that black box and how it works and kind of reverse engineering everything and then Google came around and it really changed the game because it wasn't as easy to manipulate and it was so much better than the other competitor search engines. So I just wanted to dive in and become a real expert on google and have been able to achieve that. With multiple books and I speak a lot of conferences on the topic of Google and SEO and help clients. Like Chanel and so forth getting higher rankings for keywords that they care about not just the brand keywords and that's been a fun ride in between there I sold my agency and I started another consultancy when I lived in New Zealand for almost eight years because you can do the internet thing from anywhere. Pretty Fun.
Josh Fonger: [00:02:41] Wow there's a lot of a lot of different Tan is going to dive into it and we'll see how much ground we cover. Let me start with questions that matter the most to me. To my to my own business because I want to know. So with with SEO you've been doing it for decades now. What have been the big changes in the last let's say 5-10 years that maybe people aren't aware of maybe they had it dialed in five years ago but they just now they don't realize they're really far behind the games? What's changed?
Stephan Spencer: [00:03:05] Yeah, back in the day. Keywords were everything not the keywords aren't important now but it's really about entities Google so much smarter at figuring out things like relationships between words and phrases synonyms and so forth. So you don't have to get the exact phrase in your title and in your body copy and in an anchor text links pointing to the page. It's not that precise anymore. Google is way more sophisticated. So if you're trying to rank for a small business consultant Salt Lake City that's what you're trying to rank for you're not going to put that in your title. You're not gonna put that three times in your first paragraph you're not going to put links on other pages with that phrase that point to your home page. That doesn't work. That actually looks like spam to Google right. So you're you need to be more nuanced about it and it's going to become more and more nuanced over time because Google is evolving into more of an A.I. based system than anything else. Artificial intelligence is the future of SEO it's the future of everything. And if we can kind of get ahead of that and think more future focused instead of just in the moment what works today because what works today may not work in Six months or a year from now.
Josh Fonger: [00:04:38] That's really fascinating I remember just started to work the system. We had some SEO consultants telling us you know these words the other uses words again and again and again and I remember Sam's philosophy is I'm just gonna write what's true and however I want to and that's eventually going to work and it sounds like this strategy for maybe five 10 years ago is now becoming more accurate. That's interesting. So for a small business owner who does have a huge budget for SEO what should they be thinking of for their to say they've got a hair salon? I mean where did they begin?
Stephan Spencer: [00:05:09] Yeah but it all starts with thinking different and coming up with something that is remarkable and I'm using that word deliberately worthy of remark is really what you're after. And that concept comes from Seth Godin from his book The Purple Cow. I love Seth Godin. He's like the marketing legend of all time. I had him on my marketing speak podcast recent.
Josh Fonger: [00:05:36] Awe Nice
Stephan Spencer: [00:05:37] Great episode. I definitely recommend listening to that one. But the idea here is that if let's say you're driving down a country road with your family and you see cows in the past year and so forth nobody's gonna want to stop the car and check out the cows. But if there's a purple cow in the pasture and one of the people in the car notice you're all going to want to get out of the car take photos selfies with the with the purple cow, so forth. That is worthy of remark. That's what you need to be online and whatever you do whether you're a hair salon or your consultant or coach or an author speaker, whatever it is you need to get attention in a way that adds value for the people that are. Being reached whether they're viewers or visitors or readers or whatever. And that Purple Cow idea is going to be a game changer for you because when you create content that's worthy of remark it's an idea worth spreading to steal the tagline from Ted. Ted talks it's worthy of getting links and that's the currency of SEO, the currency of Google is still links has been since the beginning but it's not just any old links. This isn't a democracy with Google it's a meritocracy it's a link from CNN is worth infinitely more than a link from Jim Bob's personal home page. So we need to be very specific in who we target in the linkati site the Illuminati. But for those with higher authority and trust as far as Google's concerned. So if they're linking to us that's really something that's going to pop us to the top of Google. And if we're just writing boring stuff about you know these are my services or these are my products. This is my about me page. This is how to contact me. It's basically a brochure. You've killed it. You've destroyed your chances of ranking at the top of Google you've destroyed your chances frankly of people coming back to your site. It's brochure-ware what do people do with a brochure that they get in the mail goes right into the trash before they even bring it into the house. Right. So that needs to be a mantra is like I'm going to add value and be remarkable in everything I do online and add value first and then ask for something after is going to need to frame everything that you do with your online marketing and SEO.
Josh Fonger: [00:08:16] So for let's do it in a really practical situation so let's say I have a podiatrist client who's got several offices and he wants to compete. He wants people to come visit his clinic for foot issues. How is he gonna go about getting people linking to. I mean because there are I guess I don't really know what's black and grey hat or White hat any more but there are different techniques to get getting links. What should he do? I mean he is going to spend a lot time creating content or he's going to start doing YouTube videos or is he gonna start. How would he go about getting this kind of authority and getting people to search for his page.
Stephan Spencer: [00:08:51] Yeah. Well I read an article recently on search engine land all about authority and what that means and why you need it. So I'll share that URL with you. Put in the show notes or whatever but the idea here is if you're adding enough value that it's remarkable to be the best most interesting most useful most helpful most controversial most humorous or anything just has to have something about it that's worthy of remark. And let's say for your podiatrist it's the 10 most common foot ailments and the most unconventional kind of solutions or fixes to these ailments and they're pretty wild out there sort of things that people do and maybe that would be an interesting angle to take. It's not medical advice it's not helpful because it's like crazy out there sorts of interventions that maybe aren't even done anymore but it makes for entertaining an entertaining read and here's. Where people can get their mind blown by how different this is from what they're used to doing with marketing. You're not necessarily writing this piece of content for your customers for your prospects. I think what no I referred to the Illuminati of the internet being the linkati. They have all the link authority. They're the CNN of the world not the Jim Bob's. How do we create something that appeals to them? Right. We were writing for that target audience which means we kind of temporarily set aside our traditional target audience of our customers and prospects and we're writing something maybe controversial or contentious or that has some sort of intrigue or surprise about it some something that is maybe counter-intuitive and that is going to do well for the Linkati and it may not appeal at all to our traditional customer base. And that's OK because we're trying to get the link equity flowing into our site and that's like the rising tide lifts all boats. If we get one article that does really well because it's just so out there and amazing and remarkable and it gets great lengths high authority high trust links pointing to it and you have landing pages, sales pages, product and service pages, your home page, and so forth every one of those pages you care about ranking in Google is going to rise in the rankings. It's the rising tide lifts all boats because of this awesome article that you created that isn't even meant for your customers. It's not that article that's going to dominate in Google it's all these other pages. It's the rising tide lifts all boats.
Josh Fonger: [00:11:50] Hmm. Now I ask a specific question so how about me. I as you know work the system right. So we do business coaching consulting help companies make more work less here come the entrepreneurs. So if you were consulting me you'd say hey what pick a pick a celebrity pick certain things that are popular and just write some controversial article about Donald Trump or something like that?
Stephan Spencer: [00:12:11] I'm sure you could certainly do that. That's one angle. When I say angle I mean like it's a hook. It's it's it's an approach that helps you rise above all the noise because there were a wash in just good information good helpful information about time management, productivity, process improvement. Like I would drown with all the information if I were to print it out and put it in this room with me. I couldn't get out of the room. So there's so much good information on this. We're not going to add more good information we're going to take a stand we're going to maybe not even be controversial just be different and valuable in a unique way. So if that is a celebrity hook that we take like I don't know let's say 10 counterintuitive time management strategies that I've learned from Donald Trump. Yeah. And it's not actually taking a political angle like you would get value from that article whether you love or hate him and some things are really kind of counterintuitive and could be considered controversial like. You want to spend as much time on the golf course as possible because that's going to free your mind up from the day to day you're not going to be working in the business so much as able to work on the business. So take more time going to the golf course or whatever your thing is that allows you to disconnect and decompress and think bigger picture. Right.
Josh Fonger: [00:13:48] Yeah great. A great hook that I might use that article. So what about different types of businesses? So you know some companies they just get words do they get leads through AdWords or Facebook as they just have a clear simple funnel. Are there some companies that really should focus a lot of attention on SEO and the ones that you know just SEO is not going to be the way that they attract their traffic?
Stephan Spencer: [00:14:13] I think every business and I know I'm biased but every business needs to focus on SEO because it is an asset that you build. If you think of your business as an asset and everybody should it's a business that is going to eventually be sold hopefully because assets get sold. I mean there's an exit strategy there at some point whether it means you eventually die and then the business goes out of business because you didn't plan for an exit strategy. I mean that's that is still an exit not the one that you proactively wanted necessarily right. So you need to think through what's my exit strategy. How is this business an asset and when you're overreliant on Google ads or Facebook ads it's a problem because it's not an asset that you've built up. It's almost like a business addiction right. It's a it's a monster that has to be fed. And the moment you stop feeding at the moment then is when you stop receiving the traffic. Whereas with ESO let's say that you build really high quality links you do this content creation that's remarkable you do outreach to influencers to linkati you collaborate with them you give before you get and do all the stuff that I've. Been alluding to. You have an asset and let's say that you take six months off and do nothing but play golf your business is still going to your Web site. The online portion of your business is still going to do well in terms of its rankings in google and traffic even though you've stopped building links you stopped creating and so forth. And why is that. Because it was an asset that you worked on for X number of months beforehand. All those great links that you acquired from sites that have authority and trust they don't just drop their links from their site to that point to you because you know it's been two weeks or two months. You write a blog post and you mentioned some great resource an app that you you have installed on your phone or on a useful book that you've enjoyed reading. You're not going to go back and remove the link six months later. Right. So those links stay. That is an asset that you have built just like the asset of your email list. The asset of your retargeting audience if you're doing Facebook ads appropriately and you actually are following people over time and doing retargeting on Facebook or Google or both you know those ads that keep following you. Why is it keep. Harassing me on the all these different Web sites with their. Their ad. How did they know about it? It's with the retargeting. So if you're building your retargeting audience that's an asset. So those sorts of things that are assets are going to make your business more saleable. And every business I think needs to be more saleable and more asset focused.
Josh Fonger: [00:17:08] So what is this is this is going to be overwhelming for a lot of folks when they're thinking about in their law firm or wherever they have and thinking What have I. And where do I begin now? They just had a Web site. They put the shingle up and they're doing the legal services they're having people through bankruptcy or whatever like where where do they begin? So I'm looking at your bio and you've got your TV appearances and magazines and podcasts and videos. So you're everywhere. What is the where how does someone decide where to start? Like what assets, what assets payback can be quicker in which assets are more like long term plans but you should still do?
Stephan Spencer: [00:17:42] I think everybody should start with their Web site because their Web site is their digital presence online. Yes they can have a presence on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and all that. But as one of my mentors James Cramco says you want to own the race course. If you don't own the race course. But Facebook does say its a Facebook group that is very active or you have a Facebook page that's doing well for you. And then Facebook changes the rules. You're out of luck. Let's say they shut down your account. Yikes. You didn't own the race course. They just put you out of business. So you want to own the race course and what's the race course online. It's your Web site. That's the primary and remember I gave this analogy of an online brochures like the worst thing that you want to have. Because it doesn't even make it into the house. The brochure comes in the mail. It goes right into the trash. The opposite of that is a Web site that's an experience. A Web site is something that you do, not something that you view and that's going to be a game changer for folks if they're thinking well this is the place where I published my about me and my about my business, my history, like how I started the business and my credentials and my team members and my contact information. You've created a brochure and that is the exact opposite of an experience. So start there create an experience make it remarkable and you have some traffic already. So that's going to be a better experience for those folks who are already coming to your site. So you'll get better conversion converting more people from visitors into buyers or into leads because you have a more effective web site and then you can do social media marketing you can do SEO you can do Google ads or whatever other strategies for getting your message out there. But if you don't have a powerful message and it's not contained within your Web site it's not it's not a differentiating value proposition. You're dead in the water.
Josh Fonger: [00:20:00] Yeah. And things are obviously getting more, more competitive as or more sites go online and are getting sharper and sharper. So what about someone who's listening this and I think you know what I should do this but I'm just so busy doing my my thing? You know maybe they're a rougher kinder do they do their own thing or they build software. What should they outsource this kind of help me should they get someone help them or should they just go on a binge and learn all they can about it and just try to do it themselves because it sounds like this is not a one time thing once you determine that SEO is important authorities important something you have to do for the rest of your business. So is it better to outsource this kind of a skill set or learn it and do it yourself on an ongoing basis?
Stephan Spencer: [00:20:42] I think it's a hybrid strategy that works the best where you're not taking your eye off the ball of what you do the best. Your core business your core of your zone of genius is probably not a it's probably not online marketing. And if that's the case then stay in your lane focus on what you're really good at. Don't try and become an expert in something that's not part of your unique ability. Now if you just completely delegate or outsource everything related to your Web site and your online presence and SEO and everything then you're probably going to open yourself up to a world of hurt because you haven't just delegated tasks you've. Delegated. Your future, you're not the driver of your own bus anymore you're not the captain of your own ship nobody cares as much about your business and your financial freedom. As you do. So you need to care and and strategically choose the right solution providers to help you on this journey. You don't have to do the SEO yourself but you have to care enough to know what's happening and kind of steer that ship. So I would start with a consultant who is a subject matter expert not just an SEO but online marketing generally. So they can help steer you in the right directions it might be that you actually start with Google ads or Facebook ads or maybe email marketing to your existing customer base because that's a faster path to our why. SEO takes time it can take six months a year longer pending on where you start from. Got a brand new Web site expect that this is at least a year long initiative before you start getting significant hour away from it. On the other hand if you do this in a way that you're already getting some audience interaction you're already getting some traction from your email list from your other channels online. Then this work that you're doing to advance your SEO also helps the conversion of existing traffic and existing e-mail subscribers and so forth. That's fantastic. Kill two birds with one stone. So that's what I'm looking for for my clients I coach clients on how to do this sort of thing and it means finding them potentially in solution providers or agencies that do different aspects of online marketing but also keeping an eye on what they're up to. Making sure that they're doing the right things and the right people are in the right seats on the bus.
Josh Fonger: [00:23:35] So how do small companies compete with some of the larger companies? So let's say you produce clothing or jewelry or something like that. How are you going to compete with some of the bigger names in terms of SEO or is it just totally you're not competing with them? It's apples to oranges.
Stephan Spencer: [00:23:50] Well you're not going to compete with them on a highly competitive high volume keywords so you're not going to out rank let's say Chanel for jewelry or handbags or fragrances. It's not going to happen but what might be an opportunity for you is in Micronesia is keywords that are not highly sought after and work your way up as you build your authority. So when my daughter started my my oldest daughter started doing SEO when she was 14 years old she's 27 now. She was 14 playing a game on online called Neopets constantly. It was a thing back then. And she saw that I had Web sites that made money in passive income money while I slept. I want that. And I explained how it worked. You know it's Google Ad Sense and you have to get high rankings and Google organically to get the free traffic and then you turn that into money through a Google ad ad sense ad units that you place on your site. When people click on the ads you make money and then you get paid. And just like I want that. And then her passion at the time was Neopets so she created a blog all about Neopets. Well she started small with keywords that were not really highly sought after weren't ultra competitive like Neopet cheats but even the plural Neopets the singular not very popular at all. And she got on page one for that. She got a little bit of traffic from that. And then as she started being more visible with getting speaking appearances she started speaking at conferences at 16 years old. Pretty cool. Then bloggers in the audience would write about her and then she'd get links from that pretty cool and then she was able to go after Neopets sheets which was a much more popular keyword. Eventually after getting written up in newspapers and getting TV appearances and everything all this while she was still a teenager she was able to get on page one for Neopets all by itself not out ranking Neopets dot com but pretty closely underneath Neopets dot com like position three or four pretty darn good. Right. But she didn't start there. She knew that she had to work her way up just like if you want to get on TV you don't start by going after. Good morning America or the Today show. Nobody gonna nobody is going to take you on as a big risk. Oh you've never done TV you'll probably freeze up. That's really that's not not a good. It's not a win win. You start with small local markets your work your way up. That's when I started doing TV appearances. I started in Reno, Albuquerque, Tuson and then as I got more experience and finesse by my message and my presentation and I was able to get on to bigger markets Phoenix for example the top 20 market know eventually I'll make it onto Good morning America the Today show. That's my that's one of my goals. But you got a start small and work your way up .
Josh Fonger: [00:27:06] Very Cool. Well this time I want to get a couple more interesting questions mainly for me. So with so with the advent of a video and A.I. and translating like what we're doing now into trance automatically Google can take all the words. Well how does that play into future of search future of SEO? Should be doing more video? Should it be live video? Where should they put their video content and what is that going to mean for your online businesses in the future?
Stephan Spencer: [00:27:34] `Yes. So yes. Yes. And YouTube. OK. Now let me unpack that a little bit. So it's the future of search. There's so much to that. I mean we don't have enough time to go into that in any depth but we're gonna be talking to our computers a lot more than than we. Are. Our devices and getting voice answers back. So that's already happening with Google Home and Amazon Echo as examples. But if you want to leverage video the best place to leverage that is on YouTube as a long term play you can leverage that short term on Facebook but it's a flash in the pan So I'm not saying don't upload Facebook video to Facebook natively. You should. It's a it's a great opportunity. But don't expect that anybody is going to watch that video in a week or a month from now. Right. It's a flash in the pan. And same thing with live streaming on Facebook. So Facebook Live is great and nobody's going to watch those videos in a week unless you're driving traffic to those videos through Facebook ads. But with YouTube Live you can get people watching those replays for a very long time. So it's it's you get a nice boost while you're live. So that's great on YouTube and you get ongoing benefit you get visibility and then. When. The YouTube algorithm translates and translates a. Transcribes that text out of the video that is something that you can even download. It's called an SRT file and you can re upload that video to other platforms. I mentioned Facebook. Well what about LinkedIn LinkedIn is a fabulous opportunity and they're going after Facebook with their own news feed and everything. It's a ripe opportunity so you upload your video to LinkedIn natively with the SRT file that YouTube created for you for free. Just make sure that it didn't make any mistakes. Sometimes there are mistakes and the transcription. So you fix that and fix that on on YouTube. So that's correct. On YouTube that's all searchable content. By the way some people type in keywords into the YouTube search box. Incidentally YouTube is the number two search engine. So if you're not on YouTube you're invisible in the number two search engine. So people type in keywords into the YouTube search box. And if you said something in the video you're going to be a match. You might not rank well but you are a match in the search results because you said those words in your video even if you didn't put it in the title you didn't put in your description. It's just in. The words that you spoke. That's how sophisticated and awesome YouTube algorithm is. So you. Take advantage of LinkedIn as well upload that video natively upload it with the SRT file and now you're going to do better in LinkedIn than if you just uploaded the video without the SRT file. And here's another nuance if you want to start ranking in that number two search engine of YouTube for foreign language search queries that relate to the services or or products that you offer. Get your transcription file that SRT file translated into foreign languages. Right let's say Spanish for example you get that translated in Spanish you upload out as a foreign language translation you didn't have to do anything with the video itself. You don't have to learn Spanish. You don't have to reshoot the video you just upload this foreign language translation file in addition to the transcript that was already created in English. If you're speaking in English and now. Folks can. Do a search in their native language. In this case Spanish find your video and watch your video in English but with Spanish subtitles and isn't that awesome.
[00:31:37] It is awesome. Hopefully my marketing team is listening to this because we've been doing more and more live on on Facebook and then taking the videos and then putting them on to Linkin but I don't know what they are doing with the SRT files better that's that's not my brain is anything in terms of that. So I'll check with them. This is great fun to watch.
Stephan Spencer: [00:31:56] So video is the future along with voice. So definitely leverage that put as much as you can out on your YouTube channel. And I guess that's the number two search engine. Don't neglect.
Josh Fonger: [00:32:08] So final question then. So what's one thing that you would leave the audience with knowing that we've got small business owners here maybe half online companies have traditional companies. What kind of one piece of advice you want to leave them with? And then we'll let them,. you can tell them where to find you as well.
Stephan Spencer: [00:32:22] Yeah I would say the best thing they can do is to be smart in the hiring process because they're there they're not experts on online marketing and SEO probably and they need some guidance. And the person or. Or firm that they hire to guide them will make or break their success path. So if they utilize some trick questions in the interview process that will help suss out whether this is a charlatan or snake oil salesperson in front of them or not. That's going to be very very helpful. So that would be my advice for the listener the viewer is get a cheat sheet of these trick questions. And I actually have one on my Web site. It's called the SEO B.S. detector.
Josh Fonger: [00:33:10] Love it.
Stephan Spencer: [00:33:11] And there are a half dozen different questions in there like for example. What's your process from optimizing meta keywords? And it's a trick question because there's only one right answer and that is Meta Keywords What are you serious? Those never counted in Google because they never did count and Google ever not on day one certainly not now. Never. And if they say something like oh they're not as important now as they used to be we don't spend much time on those or they answer with some something other than are you kidding. Then you know to kick him to the curb. They're not. They're not going to be a good hire whether they're a potential employee or contractor or agency for.
Josh Fonger: [00:33:51] That's great. OK. The Cheat Sheet.
Stephan Spencer: [00:33:54] That's on Stefan Spencer dot com, resources area under guides and white papers. Yes.
Josh Fonger: [00:34:00] Ok cool. All right. And then if they want to find you find your podcast. I'm assuming that Stefan Spencer dot com where they want to go?
Stephan Spencer: [00:34:06] Yeah. So that's the main site. That's where I have a whole learning center about SEO and everything. I also have my two podcasts; Marketing Speak is the marketing related show and that's at marketing speaker dot com. And then Get Yourself Optimized that Web site is get yourself optimized dot com and that's all about productivity and life hacking that's the show you are on. Yeah. Everything that will. Take you to the next level in terms of your life in your business that's on. Get yourself optimized podcast.
Josh Fonger: [00:34:36] Awesome. Oh very good. Well Stephan I really want to thank you and appreciate all the information I've got a whole page of notes. This has been very useful to me. Hopefully you do sort of those of you watching this who want to get their business found and have authority and use SEO tactics and certainly Stefan is the expert at that. Thanks somebody tuned in today to the work the system podcast. I look forward to sharing on the podcast with you next week. Helping you grow your business with systems so you can work less and make more. Thanks everybody.