Are you frustrated about having brought your business online without anybody ever getting to visit your landing page? Search engine optimization makes it easier for potential clients to see you and helps to generate more leads online. A master of the craft, search engine marketing expert and the Founder of SEO National, Damon Burton, joins Terri Levine in this episode. Damon’s expertise is outranking your competition and dominating Google’s search results without ever paying for ads. Listen and get some incredibly ingenious tips on how to stay on top.
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Outranking Your Competition Through SEO With Damon Burton
I’m glad that you are here with us. We are excited to look at how we can continue to disrupt the way business is done and transform a business into being done with more integrity, more transparency, and more authenticity. That’s what Heartrepreneur stands for. We’re glad that you’re here. My guest is paying attention to the economy and how the world is shifting to digital. Damon Burton has the expertise that is important to you because if you haven’t yet taken your business online, this is your wake up call to do so. He is a search engine marketing expert. He’s worked with Shark Tank, Inc. 5000, NBA teams. He understands what he’s doing. He’s beat billion-dollar companies at their own game and has proven strategies to grow your business. Damon, welcome to the show.
Thanks so much, Terri.
I’m excited to have you and let me tell you why. Many years ago, I hired a search engine marketing company and I didn’t get anywhere. I hired a second one and paid a ton of money and I didn’t get anywhere. Yet I know how important that is. I know there’s got to be some systemized strategy and I want to dig into that, but first, I want to find out what took you on the path to get into this?
It was a couple of different opportunities that came up that I embraced, years ago, I often tell entrepreneurs to be comfortable exploring and figuring out what you like and don’t like. I followed my own advice and I dabbled in one career long enough to see what I like versus didn’t like. At one point, I started working on the design and then I started at a hobby site. That picked up traffic and I said, “How do I do more of this?” I became the guy that did websites for friends and family, and then I built up enough side hustle that I said, “I think this is what I want to do.” I delve in and committed. A lot of my entrepreneur friends juggle too many things and I say, “That’s pretty cool.” They said, “Now it’s not as cool and I wish I just stuck to one thing.” That’s the abbreviated version.
I love it and I love that you are staying in your lane and one focus, one goal. One of the biggest things that I see as a business strategist is entrepreneurs are all over the place. It seems like even more and more, they’re all of a sudden being jack of all trades. I keep advocating, “Stay in your lane.”
It’s hard. There are many shiny things nowadays. The Internet is great and it brings many opportunities. There’s a Mark Cuban quote that I heard him say on Shark Tank one time. He said something along the lines of, “Don’t drown in opportunity.” That’s what I see all the time everybody’s saying, “Look at all these cool things I can do but if you don’t do any of them good, then you’re not doing anything at all.”
I find myself with this shiny object syndrome. I’m looking at Instagram and then there’s all this image come up and the next thing I know, I’m not there doing what I meant to do. We get a business online and we get a website. I love this because I talked to a client and she said, “I’m so excited. It just redid my website. I spent all this money.” I’m like, “How are you going to get traffic to it?” It was like, “What?” What do we do here? People do have websites or they’re in the process of getting websites and they somehow think that’s going to bring them all this traffic and leads. What’s the root here?
That’s just the start of it. That’s the easy part. After that, we can maybe talk a little bit about the different opportunities, but my area of expertise is SEO. I’ve never been wanting to get on and say SEO is the only way. Your question is, what do you do next? There’s a lot of different opportunities with different industries. If paid ads work for you and SEO works for you and as long as they’re driving return, then do both. It’s not exclusive to one opportunity to the other. As far as SEO, you can condense it down into two buckets. The first bucket is, how efficiently your website was built? This is called on-page optimization. Does it load quickly? Is it mobile friendly? Does it have good content? It’s like building a house. When you build a house, you build your foundation. Once the foundation is done, nobody cares about it. You don’t look at it again. You don’t say, “Look how amazing my foundation is.” You look at the pretty wallpaper and the nice furniture. It’s like that because your bucket one is a solid foundation for your website. After that, the majority of how you increase your exposure comes from this second bucket, which is, “Are you showing up on other websites? Does Google look at you as an authority?” It’s this big popularity contest. Even though the majority of your gains come from that second bucket, it’s not going to work until you take care of that first bucket.
I can give a couple of free tools. One is GTmetrics.com. You can get on there and it’ll tell you how quickly is your website loading and what’s delaying that? Fix those things. You can get into building up content, which a whole other long discussion. It’s about making Google look good because, at the end of the day, Google wants to make money, so they want to send people to good websites. If your website isn’t loading quickly and doesn’t answer the question, then people are going to say, “That wasn’t a good result,” and then not be a fan of Google and start trying alternatives.
A lot of times, I see people build a website and they get excited about it. they send me, “Go to my website,” and I look at it and it’s beautiful. It doesn’t necessarily have great content. A lot of times, the homepage has a big logo and a headshot of the person. Can we talk to getting the basics of a home page or anything about a website that maybe we should know?
The example you gave is perfect, where it’s just a logo and an image. It may look appealing but you can only rank for what Google can read. If you have just this big full-width image, there’s nothing there for Google to read. Google will pay attention and say, “Damon, I have all the content below my picture.” Google’s going to say, “Exactly.” The further down it is, and you must not care about it that much. The more that you can have some valuable information or value propositions, your who, what, when, where, and why about what you offer, try and put that what’s called above the fold. Before you have to scroll, put some good information there. Because you can only rank for what Google can read, then you need to showcase your authority because that’s what Google is looking for. “Is Terri the best at her industry? Because if she is, then she would share her expertise.”
Likewise, for the audience, the easiest place you can start is if you are an expert or you’re a business owner, you’re an expert in something, ideally, your product or service. Get on there and talk about those things. You can’t lose by giving away free advice because maybe they take your advice and run, which is great because then you help somebody, you’re going to build up your audience. Maybe they send you a referral or they turn into a customer. The easiest way you can start is to get on there and just give away the farm, showcase your expertise. That also brings down the sales walls too because as people come in and build trust with you, then it makes the whole transition easier to bring them from a reader into a customer.The best time to take your business online was a few years ago. The second best time is now. Click To Tweet
I’m glad that you talked about that. I find that the more I give away, educate, value, serve, and don’t come from wanting something in return and no attachment to any outcome. I just serve to serve. People either raise their hands and say, “Help me implement,” or they at least say, “That was interesting, thank you.” They may just move along and I feel like I’m still giving them something of value. Why do you think people are so afraid to put good content out there?
The common hesitation that I hear is, “If I put that out, what if they take my advice and run?” We’ve already addressed that. You don’t have the opportunity to lose because you have 2 or 3 readers. They either don’t take your content and run because they’re not your customer. They’re not your customer anyway, so it doesn’t matter, or they take your advice and run, which is great because then they help you or you help them, you build up a loyal following. They take your advice and tell their friend who becomes a customer or they become a customer. You don’t have an opportunity to lose out on that. It’s human nature to say, “Why would I just give this away for free without anything in exchange?” As you pointed out, it’s counterintuitive for many people but that is actually what attracts the sales because you qualify the leads and you attract the people. The part that I like best about it is you attract the people that you want to work with because now they trust you. They’ve already been exposed to you. You don’t have those awkward sales dance conversations. By the time they reach out to you, they just want to go, “Terri, here’s my money.”
My philosophy is so similar. I share to share and give away to give away. There’s a lot of things I do where I don’t even require an opt-in and people go, “You need an opt-in.” I’m like, “Why? Just to send people emails that they don’t necessarily want?” What do you think about doing away with opt-ins?
I’m the same way. It’s back to one of my earlier comments where there’s not a singular path that you need to pick. In some cases, an opt-in might make sense, but I’m the same. A lot of times, I get on these types of conversations and at the end, they say, “Where do you want to send people?” I usually send them to a free page. You click a button and download your thing and I don’t do opt-ins either. There’s nothing wrong with opt-ins, sometimes you have to monetize whatever you’re giving away, but I’m largely on the same boat. The majority of the stuff that I give away, I just give away because they either want to do business with me or they don’t. I don’t want to coerce them into it.
Where does blogging fit in all of this? I hear people talking about vlogging and doing the video. I hear people talking about writing blogs, and then people talk about how long a blog should be and how often they should update it. Do you have some pointers on blogging?
I would say where you don’t start is focusing on the length because the problem that happens with that is then you deviate from the main message you want to present or the value that you want to give to your readers. Let’s say you’re aiming for 1,000 words and you come in at 750, then you’re just cramming garbage in for the last 250 words. One very clear example is a couple of years ago, where we shifted our copywriters. We didn’t have a fixed length, but we probably average somewhere between 600 and 900 words on a piece of content. For our clients, we would average one a week.
We said, “Let’s start testing more long-form.” What we ended up doing is instead of one a week, we would do two per month. We still invest the same amount of time, but it was more research, longer-form of copy. Now we’re averaging somewhere between 1,200 and 2,000 words and the results have been significantly better. We moved all of our fulfillment model and content to longer-form. The key is you got to focus on what you are presenting to the reader. When we come up with topics to write about, we’ll still research a handful of options, but we’re going to pick the two per month that we can provide the most long-form value in. We throw the word count out the window and focus on getting the right message and education out.
That was one of the best tips I’ve ever heard on blogging. Where do you want people to go to find out more or to get maybe a free gift and know more about how they can get their website found? Because many people have a website that no one comes to?
I wrote a book that got published, which was exciting. It took a couple of years to write. I have a whole new appreciation for writers and authors. I’m putting up a free download on FreeSEOBook.com so you can find out more about what we’ve talked about and get a free copy of the book there.
I love where you come from, which I can tell is creating value, helping people, and putting things out there. I have another question for you. I have a client who was told by the person designing their website that their website should be 99% video and I never heard of that before. What would you say?
I’ve never heard that before either, so there’s your answer. There’s nothing wrong with video but this approach is wrong because the problem with video is you can only rank for what you can read. Video, as well as images, is a rich media. Google can’t read it. It can digest the audio waves and make assumptions on what the content is. The other problem, which is super ironic because if you load a video to YouTube, which Google owns, you would think Google would follow their practices of quick speed. The majority of the time that I audit a website, two of the biggest factors that slow the website are YouTube videos and Google Maps. Here’s the advice I would give the person that’s following the video path. If their industry justifies having good video content, then the way I would do it is, instead of embedding the YouTube video, embed it temporarily, take a screenshot of it because then it looks like a video. Embed the picture of the video so it doesn’t delay the page load and then when they click on it, then it pops the video.It may be counterintuitive, but giving away free content is what attracts people and sales. Click To Tweet
That’s a great tip. I’m going to share that with my team.
It makes the craziest difference. I’ll see websites that are taking 10 to 15 seconds to load because of a couple of videos and then you cut out the video and have it only pop on click, and then they’re down to 2 or 3 seconds.
I didn’t realize it could make that big of a difference. I’m also a little bit curious. When should somebody bring somebody on to help them with SEO? Is it when their website’s being built? Is it after? Where in the process would you prefer a client to come in and work with you?
The sooner, the better with the exception of the cache. SEO is a little bit of a slower play. You don’t want to do it if you’re trying to save a sinking ship because it’s going to take too long to salvage. If that makes sense to invest in SEO, then the sooner the better because what happens is if you come in after the website’s built, I’m going to come in and say, “It looks great. I need to reverse engineer half of that.” Now you’re going to have to pay twice as much because I’m going to come in and take a website that looks great, but I need to make it load quicker. A lot of times, we don’t need to redesign it, but we need to recode it so it loads quicker.
In addition to saving money, a lot of times we can do the same things during the build. A lot of times, we can come in and say, “If you build it standalone, it’s going to be X and then the SEO later is Y.” If we do it together while we’re already in there, then we can optimize a lot of the things that need to be touched on while we’re already in the areas that we can touch them. You can save yourself a lot of money, which also brings a quicker return because you’re knocking those things out sooner instead of finishing the website waiting than having SEO waiting. You can knock them all out earlier, the sooner, the better.
Who are the best clients for you? Is there a particular industry or something that qualifies them?It may be counterintuitive, but giving away free content is what attracts people and sales. Click To Tweet
Not so much for me. We have built out our processes, so they’re all documented. We can roll them out very seamlessly to different industries. Our clients are all across the board. It’s interesting you say that. I would say the opposite. For your readers, I would avoid the specialty agencies. Let me elaborate a little bit. Avoid the attorney and the dentist SEOs because what I see with a lot of those types of agencies, and I’m sure there are some good ones out there. The trend that I see is they repurpose the same content over and over for all their clients. There’s a huge value in unique content. If you have the only dentist guys, then what they usually do is they say, “Go to Damon’s dentist shop in Salt Lake City.” Their other client is like, “Go to Damon’s dentist shop in New York City.” They just swap out these little tiny things, which brings no value to Google and no value to your readers. You’re paying for nothing. I would say watch out for that. A good agency should have a good core set of processes that they can apply to just about any industry.
It’s funny you pick the dental industry. Many years ago, I worked with a lot of dentists and they came through my talks with dental study groups and people would, “Here’s my website.” I would think, “That just opened the wrong website. That looked like the other dentist’s website.” I caught on, they all were using the same company. The company was just dropping in the photo of this one and the Google Maps of this one. It was the same template and nobody looked any different. I couldn’t even say who I would choose because they all look like the same dentist. That’s a good point. How did you get to work with these big groups like Shark Tank and NBA teams?
The clients that we’ve worked with that have been featured on Shark Tank, back to the core of our message that we’ve talked about is just providing value. I’ve never been a very salesy person. I come in and let the results speak for themselves. As you accomplish certain results, then you get referrals, and then the more referrals you get, you level up over time. We’ve been fortunate to drive those results where you get one higher-profile client and then they have higher-profile friends, and they bring you into their inner circle. We’ve been fortunate to get a lot of referrals. Working with the team store or the retail division of the Utah Jazz is a great example of how we talked about giving away value. A short story on how we work with them was I was doing content on LinkedIn, giving away free SEO advice. We got a lead. The lead came in and said, “We’re actually local. Can we meet?”
I went and met and didn’t sell, but I educated. Probably less than an hour later, they reached out and said, “Do you know what was great about you coming in? Very rarely do you have a marketing person come in and when you’re done, you’re not left more confused.” He says, “You came in and not only said, ‘Here are the pros of SEO but also here are the cons,’ and let us decide” That person signed up. We worked with them for only two weeks before they referred another person and this other person became a client and we worked with them for one week before they said, “Can I introduce you to the Utah Jazz?” I said, “Yes.” Who does this guy know at the Utah Jazz? What ended up being cool is he was the person at the Utah Jazz. He was the exiting vice president of the retail division. He was transitioning into a different job. He was facilitating building up the new marketing team. That just goes to emphasize the value in giving away free advice and sharing your expertise.
I heard in there over and over again, just no attachment to the outcome, create education, share value, and that is to me, the basis of building our referral-based business. How you get the referrals is not coming in and being pushy. It’s literally coming in educating and you creating value. One more time, if you would tell people where they can get this wonderful free download. I’m excited to get this. I’m going to grab it myself.
It’s FreeSEOBook.com, and depending on what my team does with it, don’t kick me if I contradicted myself and there’s an opt-in on it.
Let me ask you this question because that is such a brilliant name. It says exactly what we’re getting. It’s a free SEO book. Do you think it’s very important to create long-tailed names like that when coming up with landing pages?
It depends on what you’re going to use it for. As far as SEO, it’s not so much anymore. There was an algorithm update years ago that was called EMD, Exact Match Domain. It leveled the playing fields on domains because before that, you used to be able to buy whatever your exact target dot-com is and rank very easily for it. It’s been neutralized but the importance in it is the ability to interpret what you’re walking into. It’s valuable for either online where you’re sharing a link or on a business card. It can be valuable for memorability, but specific on the SEO side, it doesn’t carry as much weight as it used to.If you want to jump into SEO, be patient. It takes time, but if you are willing to wait, it drives the biggest return. Click To Tweet
If someone says, “I may want to be involved with getting SEO for my website, I’m not getting people there. I’m not getting necessarily people taking any action on my website.” When they come to you and they raise their hand, what’s the process look like of seeing if someone is a good fit?
The first thing we do is to audit their website. A lot of other agencies will charge for these audits. We do them for free because I want to know what I’m getting into. That way I can also get a real clear picture and say, “Here are the hurdles that you have to overcome.” More importantly, so I can give an accurate price because I’m not a big fan of these packages. Because then either a client gets oversold or they understandably pick the cheaper one when I know that that’s not going to drive the results that they need. It creates a very clear picture of what we’re getting into.
Assuming we move forward after that, we go into that bucket one, bucket two mode that we talked about. We fixed the structure, make sure it loads quickly and mobile-friendly, and running parallel to that, I have all my copywriters and research part of the team. They start looking into the competition and saying, “This is what the competition is doing good. Here are the opportunities and weaknesses.” Ideally by the time we’re done fixing the website structure, then we’re ready to rock on that content side and just hit the ground running.
I am going to download my free SEO book at FreeSEOBook.com. I’m also going to bring our website to you, which has just been relaunched and I’m thinking we probably should have done before we relaunch. We’re going to take you up on that free audit. Any final words of wisdom that you’d like to leave the readers with?
If you jump into SEO, just be patient. If you want to do it right, it’s a slow play. It’s just the logistics behind doing things the right way takes time, but if you’re willing to put in the patience, then it tends to drive the biggest return. I appreciate the chat, Terri. As I said, I give away free content. My platform of choice is LinkedIn. Add me on LinkedIn and we’ll stay in touch.
I’ll just speak to that quick. I used Facebook a lot over the years and I’ve certainly met a lot of my target audience there. We’ve done business together and for the last few months, I’ve put a lot more focus on LinkedIn. I have found the quality of the conversations are very different than they are on Facebook.
The audience all have different intent there. You can engage and share your expertise without people thinking you’re pitching when you’re genuinely just sharing your expertise.
I’ve shared an article on LinkedIn and I could not believe how many people inbox me not trying to sell me anything, not asking for virtual coffee, but thanking me or telling me something they got from the article and I thought, “Who knew?” Damon, you have been a delight. Thank you for being here. For our audience, I’m going to mention something that we’re doing on LinkedIn. If you go to my LinkedIn profile, which is Terri Levine, you will see an article that I wrote where I do what Damon’s talking about. I give everything away for free. I share The Seven Deviations in Business and How to Overcome Them. I give all the strategies and tools away. Go over to my LinkedIn and that’s a gift for all of you. Don’t forget to make sure that you connect with Damon Burton on LinkedIn and also FreeSEOBook.com. Thank you very much for reading. We’ll see you next time.
About Damon Burton
Never before has there been so many people needing something to focus their attention on… AND the time to do it. Your customers on either their phone, tablet, or computer 24/7. Simply having a website isn’t enough, and no one knows this better than search engine marketing expert Damon Burton.
Since founding his company SEO National in 2007, he writes for Forbes, has been featured in publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, BuzzFeed and USA Weekly, and has helped high-profile clients make more in a month than they used to in a year.
Not only does Burton bring an easy-to-follow approach to increasing your revenue and online visibility, he’s a trusted educator on the subject and has literally written the book on how to “Outrank” your competition. His new book Outrank serves as a guide to those who want to dominate Google’s search results without paying for ads.
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