Starting out in SEO

All Things SEO

Welcome to the very first edition of the Social Media Marvels. I’m your host Jagruti, a low key fitness enthusiast and an avid digital marketer. Firstly wishing all our viewers a very happy social media day. This social media day we shall embark on a journey deep into the realm of social media influencers. Influencers are the people you follow, you know, and you eagerly await for their updates. So come join me in saluting these shining marvels for their work in the digital marketing agency. Our very first guest today is a UK SEO expert with more than 18 years of experience in the industry. He started off his work from home as a freelancer, and then moved up to building up his own agency. He gets regularly featured in SEMrush webinars, as well as other digital marketing conferences across the world. So come join me in welcoming our very own Craig Campbell.

Jagruti Bhargav:
Welcome to our podcast Craig.

Craig Campbell:
Thanks.

Jagruti Bhargav:

The first question that I have with you is regarding, we know that content and SEO are like two sides of the same coin, but why should one focus more on SEO?

Craig Campbell:

SEO is essentially what brings in the revenue. So, loads of people can concentrate on content, but if the content’s not engaging enough, or it’s well written enough, then you’re not going to make any money, and there is no point in doing a business or spending the time making content, if you’re not there to monetize it. So, SEO has to come in to play, regardless of whether you’re building content, or simply just building a website. There’s a lot of guys out there, not SEO guys, just random guys that have a business, and they feel that just putting up a website instantly brings in all this money and business, and that’s not the case obviously. SEO is a strategy and a technique that you need to implement to get to the right place, and obviously content goes hand in hand with SEO, it’s a very big part of it, but it’s not the only part of it, and you can’t really solely focus on it. You’re only going to get so far with content, so [crosstalk 00:03:01].

Jagruti Bhargav:

Are you saying SEO has the ability to take you that extra mile, even though you can have great content, but if your SEO is not perfect, you might just miss the mark?

Craig Campbell:
Yeah, exactly. We all know that the difference in traffic from being in position one to, say, position five is massive. So the SEO will get you into the top slots, and whether that’s technical SEO, whether that’s speeding up your website, or something like that, that could be the deciding factor between position one and position five. So, these are all things that you have to follow as part of the process and top off having good content. But, content people will argue that content is the most important thing, but it’s not the be all and end all. It’s like having a chicken sandwich without the chicken, it’s just not going to taste the same. So, yeah, you’ve got to do a bit of everything to make sure you’ve got the best campaign going.

Jagruti Bhargav:
Okay. So, if I have a client right now with me, and the client has both an online store as well as an offline store, what do you as an SEO expert differentiate between attracting local clients on his physical store, as well as attracting nationwide clients so that they shop from his online store as well?

Craig Campbell:
I think, obviously ranking well locally is still part of an SEO strategy anyway. Obviously ranking well on the Google My Business positions, on the map list is where you would want to rank well if you wanted to drive people into your shop, for example, and that’s a different strategy. That’s not about releasing blog posts, it’s not about link building. To manipulate your Google My Business listing it’s all about citations and having a consistent name, address and postcode across a whole bunch of online assets. Whether that’s directories, or wherever you may list your website. So, it’s a different strategy altogether, but that’s something I would implement at the start of anyone’s SEO campaign anyway, because you can pick up some good local business, regardless of who you are or where you are, and whether you’ve got a shop or not, I think it always pays well to rank locally anyway.

Craig Campbell:
So, that would always be something I would do and then going on to implement building content, whether you set up outreach campaigns, hiring content writers, or doing your technical SEO audits and all that kind of stuff would all go towards ranking nationally, but I think ranking locally is a good starting point, and just making sure that you’ve got the citations and everything else to rank well in the Google My Business listings can certainly get you, depending on your niche, a fair chunk of traffic.

Jagruti Bhargav:
True. So, now that we’ve come on the word of traffic, we do know that SEO like any other part has paid and organic traffic on a website. So, within your SEO strategy,

What is the ratio of the percentage of SEO that you would assign to organic SEO, or ranking the website organically, or getting paid ads, which features your website on the top three or the top four results of the search engine page?

Craig Campbell:
Obviously paid traffic and Google AdWords is taking up more of the landscape when you do a normal Google search. That said, organic search still probably converts a hell of a lot better, and for me, in terms of strategy and budget implementation personally, I would probably do 80% SEO, 20% paid. But, when you’re working for clients it’s really up to the clients. I’ve done SEO for clients in the past where they’ve spent $2000 on SEO and they’ve spent $10,000 on paid advertising, and what you’ll probably find, that even doing $2000 worth of SEO will outweigh and convert better than $10,000 worth of paid advertising, because paid advertising doesn’t always convert that well. There’s a lot of testing, a lot of keywords you need to try and test, and there’s a lot of budget spent on stuff that may not convert because although you pay to be up there, it doesn’t mean you’re going to automatically get tons of leads. And sometimes I think with paid advertising as well, the budgets are going through the roof, especially in very competitive niches. So those costs per click are sometimes just unaffordable.

Craig Campbell:
But what I would say is if you’re starting out with a brand new SEO campaign, it will certainly not do you any harm to instantly get some traffic in through some paid advertising. It gets people onto your website, it gets click-through rate, and various other SEO ranking factors to start to move. So, I’m not discounting pay per click at all, I just feel that it doesn’t convert anywhere close to organic search, and although Google are warding us all to essentially do paid search, that’s why their taking over all the space there and everything else that they do, it looks like they just want everyone to forget about SEO and do a paid search, but what I would say is people keep saying SEO’s dead and it’s not going to last much longer. People have been saying that for five years and it’s still going strong. So, make sure that you’re ranking well for your long tail keywords and everything else, because those will still bring in a huge amount of traffic.

Doing SEO For Clients?

Jagruti Bhargav:
True. So, we do know that SEO takes a lot longer time than paid advertising, the results that you get or the testing that you have to do, it takes months together sometimes, and the gestation period differs for different industries. So, in your article on the real truth on the way SEO for clients, you mentioned that sometimes it’s a nightmare trying to explain the timeframe, the time scale that it takes for a client’s website to be ranked. So, do you draw some similarities between the ones who were a little irate, and that’s how you learned? Was it a learning curve? Or did you just put your foot down and started saying no, that, “No, this person seems a little bit icky. I don’t like him. Maybe I won’t work with him.”?

Craig Campbell:
I think it’s a bit of both. Obviously when I was starting out doing SEO and I had a digital agency, I had to take on clients because that’s what provided the revenue for the staff, and that agency provided me with the funds to go on and do affiliate marketing and everything else that I currently do. So, it was through experience that you deal with clients, and sometimes I took on clients purely because I needed the money to be able to pay staff, and certainly what I found was that I was taking on people for all the wrong reasons, in terms of clients. I wasn’t working with people who I actually believed would make money online. I was taking the guy on because I needed the £1000 a month retainer, and the guy could’ve had the worst website in the world, and deep in my heart I knew that that guy, when he was spending £1000, wasn’t really going to get a return on investment, which led to ongoing arguments, and debate, and justification.

Craig Campbell:
However, on the flip side of that what I have experienced as well is a lot of guys who come to SEOs expecting the earth for very little budget, and they have very little understanding. So you’ve got the two sides of the coin, where your business model isn’t going to work well for clients because you’ve got staff to pay and you’re not spending money in the right places, but you’ve also got clients who are just unrealistic in the expectations.

Craig Campbell:
That’s very hard to deal with because what I found I was doing at some points with that type of client was spending more time making reports, phone calls, Skype calls and trying to educate the client that I was doing any SEO work. And I had to draw the line and say, “I don’t particularly like sitting on the phone talking rubbish and repeating myself time and time again.” Trying to buy the time to rank the guy’s website, so I started being more honest and just saying to people, “Listen, it’s going to take this long and you’re going to need that money. If you don’t like it, you have to go away and go somewhere else, and maybe someone can do something that I can’t, I’m not sure.”

Craig Campbell:
But I think the lesson I always avoid certain type of clients, because they will become a drain on your time, and also on your stress levels and stuff like that, and these guys are not paying anywhere close to the amount of money to put you out of business. So I think client education is really important, and you have to make sure that you don’t set off on the wrong foot by leading a client to believe they’re going to rank well in two or three months. I think you would always tell them the process, how long it takes, and what clients don’t understand is even putting a piece of content out there, it can take Google a couple of weeks to crawl and index that content.

Craig Campbell:
So, it’s not us that are holding the work back, and we’ve got a process. So, you guys have probably got a process when you do keyword research, get the content written, wait for it to get crawled and indexed, start building links to it, sharing it out in social media, and whatever your process is going to be, and that whole process can take six weeks until you get the full thing in place, and then obviously it’s ongoing links to rank well thereafter.

Craig Campbell:
So, clients who think that we all push a button and we’ve got some secret trick are delusional, and for me, I just found that working with clients wasn’t the best thing for me personally because I wanted to just dive into SEO and try different stuff, and do testing, and get my head in about everything that actually works, and make my own money, rather than a guy paying me to make him lots of money. I think there came a point where I said to myself, “Why would I do it for this online shop and make him £100,000 a month?” Or whatever his turnover was, “When I could find something myself.” Yeah, so I’m a lot happier, and a lot less stressed as a result.

Do you look at Customer Intent for SEO?

Jagruti Bhargav:
That’s good. So, since we’re talking about clients and ranking, and also basically for all attention is only going to be on the end consumer, the end user and enhancing their experience. So, some of the experts this year mention in one of the blogs that one of the strategies for SEO would move towards more intent focused SEO. So, they would check out the intent of the customer, what part of the sales funnel the customer is on, and that’s how they’ll strategize their SEO techniques. So, what do you think about that? Do you think that is something you would implement, or you have already implemented this year?

Craig Campbell:
Yeah, of course. You’ve got to … it’s one thing ranking well and getting traffic to your website, it’s another converting them and stuff like that. So, getting people into a sales funnel, improving your user experience, and trying to implement conversion rate optimization are all things that are going to massively improve your time on your website, your click through rate, and all of that stuff, and those things are ranking factors. Click through rate, time on site, and engagement, and everything else are all things that Google are looking for when they’re serving your page for a particular search term. So, it would be absolutely ludicrous to ignore it.

Craig Campbell:
I think we’ve all seen websites out there that ranked really well, and you go, “Oh, this is a real ugly looking website.” Or it’s really hard to navigate. So, these guys could improve a great deal by implementing some of that stuff, and I think everything goes hand in hand. I think a lot of people lay a lot of focus on creating the funnel, and doing the user experience, and the conversion rate optimization before they get traffic, and that’s something that I do see as pointless. I think you have to get the traffic first to then implement all of that stuff. So, it’s very, very important to do it, but I know there are a lot of people out there who do that, but they forget to do the link building, or try and increase their rankings, and they focus purely on the users, but I think you have to get the mix right for everything. You have to get the right content, the right calls to action, the right product, right fast loading website, and obviously the right SEO strategy behind that.

Craig Campbell:
But I would always encourage other people to look at everything you can to then fully take advantage of most people who are on your website, and whether that’s getting them into a sales funnel, getting them signing up for a newsletter because not everyone buys in an instant. Someone may land on my website that’s never heard of me, and they might not like the look of me on the first instance, because I’ve got tattoos, or whatever it may be, and they may need to see a few videos, or a few email marketing campaigns before they start to like what I’ve got to say. So, I think you have to think of that as well, and it’s not just about me, but obviously, whether you’re selling clothes, or you’re selling services or software. Someone might look at it and go, “I don’t like that logo” or, “I don’t like that name.” There are loads of small reasons. Or a lot of people will instantly dismiss you because they’ve never heard of you as well. So, I think getting people into that funnel is vital for that.

Which SEO Bloggers Should You Follow?

Jagruti Bhargav:
So, along with getting in touch with bloggers or content creators who give us updates, or give us what trends digital marketing or SEO could go under. What are some of the blogs or content creators that you follow, so that you are up to date with even when Google changes its algorithm or something like that?

Craig Campbell:
There are a few who would be Matthew Woodward, matthewwoodward.co.uk. You’ve got Daryl Rosser at Lion Zeal, you’ve got Matt Diggity that we network together with, so we go to conferences, we meet up the day before the conference, have some food, a couple of beers and we exchange ideas, exchange testing data and stuff like that. We have private masterminds and stuff as well where we select 10 of who we believe are the best SEOs and we all sit round a table and bounce ideas off each other, and talk to each other, and I think that by doing that it helps us as SEO’s learn a lot.

Craig Campbell:
I think one thing I would always say to people is, and I’ve done this myself, when I started out in SEO I didn’t want to share anything with anyone. I was always scared that people were [inaudible 00:20:01] to steal [inaudible 00:20:03] or whatever it may be. The reality is no one really cares what you’re doing, and in most cases tend not to steal your clients. So I think you can be a lot more open. I think it’s really strange, but in the SEO world the more open you are, the more information and the more help you’ll get from like minded people. It’s fairly new for me. Over the last three or four years I’ve done a lot more of that. [inaudible 00:20:42] as they go along.

Craig Campbell:
So, when you’re looking to keep on top of things, one; check out the blogger actually knows what they’re doing, check out their rankings and check everything else, and two; don’t believe everything you see and take it as the gospel truth, because what works for one guy, or what one guy’s perception is, isn’t necessarily your own.

Craig Campbell:
So I would always encourage people to do their own testing, for example, I wrote an article and it was shared on social media,  and it wasn’t the social media sharing that moved the needle once we’d done the testing and once I spoke to a few other people they said, “Nah, nah, nah, nah. It’s not the fact that you’re sharing on social media, it’s the traffic and the click through rate that is actually helping that page rank.”

Craig Campbell:
So, I did a test and I could’ve quite easily told everyone out there, “Buy social signals, share, get all your friends to share all your stuff online.” And that would have been wrong. So, you have to drill a bit deeper, and now we understand the click-through rate and engagement and stuff does help pages move, and that’s a test that I had to go through a few other people and get their ideas and their testing data, and that’s what we came out with in the end.

Craig Campbell:
So, I think even though some guys, bloggers believe they’re telling the truth, it isn’t always accurate either, and that’s the thing. None of us has the right, 100% right answers here. We can only really be as successful as we currently are, and I think keeping your ‘who you follow’ to a smaller scale, because my first five years of doing SEO I used to believe everyone, and I would always get confused as to, “That guy said this so I need to do that,” and then this guy over here would say something completely different, and I wasted five years going round in circles and I was none the wiser. I wasted five years calling myself an SEO when I was really bad and doing all the wrong stuff. So again, just be careful, do your research. Don’t take everything that everyone says as the truth, and I don’t think you’ll go far long, as long as you keep doing your research and follow a handful of people who you believe from your own research are doing good stuff.

How important is Voice Search?

Jagruti Bhargav:
So my last question regarding SEO and SEO techniques would be, now we know that Alexa and Google Home have become regular household products, everybody has it. So, how do you think voice search, because now people focus either on short tail, or medium tail, or long tail words, but they don’t know with voice search what kind of keywords would work for them, because normally when you talk to somebody you are much more precise, you know exactly what you want, rather than typing it all out. So, how do you think SEO and its strategies would change after voice search is being so predominantly used?

Craig Campbell:
I think voice search is just another new technology that we all have to embrace, and again there are people out there like Aleyda Solis and various other SEO speakers talking about it at conferences, the importance of it, and technology evolves constantly and I think it’s something you just simply have to embrace. You hear people saying to their Alexa, “Play this song on Spotify,” or, “Where is the best Indian restaurant to eat at in London,” or wherever you may be. And I think you just have to follow the guidelines as to … I think for me, it’s something you have to implement. It’s not something I’ve hugely implemented at the moment, because I don’t think voice search is quite there yet, but it is coming and probably something I should hurry up and start to look at.

Craig Campbell:
But for me, I think you would just have to go in for very, very specific search terms, make sure your content’s optimized for everything, and as you say, people are very, very specific when they’re asking a question. So, it’s not going to be places to eat in London, people are going to say, “Where is the best takeaway? Where is the best Chinese takeaway? Where is the best Indian takeaway? Or where is the best designer men’s clothing store in this area?” Or whatever. So I think that’s something that you have to then optimize your website for to ensure that the voice search does pick that up.

Craig Campbell:
So I think just becoming a lot of long tail and very specific with your keywords is where I think you should go, and obviously listening to some of the other people talking at conferences it seems to be the case as well. But, it’s one of things, I don’t always implement things straight away, purely because I like to see what’s going on and understand it a bit better before I start implementing [inaudible 00:26:15] but voice is one of those things, it’s not going to be some new thing that’s going to go away any time soon. As you say, everyone’s got Alexa or Google Home, or whatever the hell they’ve got in their house, and there’s going to be new gadgets that come out as well. What we want to do is make sure that …

Craig Campbell:
Everyone, the general public are becoming lazier, and they are basically going to be sitting there ordering stuff online just by speaking into a gadget. I think that’s going to be a longterm goal, but I’m not an expert on voice search. I think you would have to look at the likes of Aleyda Solis and whatnot to get the ins and outs of how it all works, and they’ve all got slides all over the place that you can see, and it’s still something I’m trying to learn, but it’s something I do plan on implementing over the next few months. I do see it coming later this year, into next year and then going forward, it’s just going to continually increase.

Craig Campbell:
That said, I think there’s still a lot of people out there who can barely write an email, let alone use voice search. So, there’s still going to be a lot of people who are just doing generic search, so I don’t think it’s something we have to quickly 100% focus on. I think that’s certainly something that’s coming out in the coming years, but as I say, the older generation and even people like me, I’ll probably not speak into a gadget, I’d rather just search for something on my phone, or on my laptop.

Jagruti Bhargav:
That’s nice. Actually, even from voice search, I had this other idea, or question rather. So I was thinking about how Apple products are really user-friendly towards visually impaired people as well. So, according to that, do you think that is some of the audience that SEO experts can capture, or they’re being able to capture so far with their website? Or you haven’t delved into that?

Craig Campbell:
It’s not something that I’ve personally delved into, to be honest, but why not? There are a huge amount of people out there who are visually impaired, and I don’t want to say take advantage of the visually impaired because that’s not the right choice of words. But if these guys have to use voice search or whatever, or other gadgets to be able to conduct their search, then I think it’s something you definitely should implement because these guys still need clothes and everything else that we all need. So it’s certainly an angle to go in on, and as I say, I don’t want to say taking advantage of a situation, because that’s not what I mean, but certainly taking advantage of technology and the equipment that these guys are using, which is going to then be voice related is something that if you add that, the sooner the better, and if you can start driving some of that traffic into your website and make more sales, then you’re winning at the end of the day because that’s the end goal.

Jagruti Bhargav:
We have a USP that we are going to be sharing on this video interview, that is something call Behind The Scenes, which an untold story that Craig Campbell has not shared with the internet yet, and this is the first place that the world will get to know about it.

Craig Campbell:
Right okay. So, a lot of people ask me why I’ve started off building a digital agency, and why do I now do what I’m doing now. So, an untold story, the reason for it is, or the story that made everything sink home for me was, I did SEO for a dentist guy, it’s actually an Indian fellow based in Glasgow, and he did SEO for five or six years with myself and he built up a number of different practices, and he sold all of his practices at the age of 31, because he wanted to spend more time with his family and children.

Craig Campbell:
And he turned round to me and he said to me, “Craig, you’re one of the most stupid guys I’ve ever met.” And I says, “Why? Why are you saying that?” And he said, “Because you have made me a multimillionaire over the last five or six years, yet you’re going to have to continue working.” He says, “I don’t think you’re doing the right stuff. You’re not making money for yourself.” Well, I was making money, don’t get me wrong, but he says, “Guys that are doing well online should not be making guys like me a millionaire. It’s something that you should be looking at for yourself.”

Craig Campbell:
And that day was the day that I decided to one; look at affiliate marketing, and two; the guy said to me, he said, “Craig, you need to find something to sell.” He says, “I’m a dentist.” So he’s selling teeth, and fillings, and everything else. I didn’t have any skills as such, other than SEO. So, I had tried a few different things, selling clothes online and selling all that stuff, but then what I flipped back to, I had to figure out what my skills were, and it was my knowledge and experience in SEO. So that’s where I started selling training courses and consultancy, because I’ve been an SEO for a long time, and it is all I really know. I don’t know anything about cooking, or selling [inaudible 00:32:08] online, I don’t know anything about these things. So I had to then flip it back and start to sell courses and training online.

Craig Campbell:
So, that was a story that … That’s the truth behind everything that I do now, because what that guy said to me obviously gave me a wake up call saying, “Oh, he’s right, exactly 100% right in what he’s saying. You have to take yourself serious here. Why are you making everyone else a lot of money and not doing it yourself?” And that’s where I changed. As I say, I done training, I’ve got my own affiliate marketing businesses, I’ve got my own eCommerce businesses, and I do still have a small agency as well, but the small agency is only a very small percentage of my overall business, and I think that’s a smart way to work is just have your eggs in a number of different baskets, because running a digital agency is very dangerous and very tedious.

Craig Campbell:
But that’s a true story, the guy did say that I was the biggest idiot that he had ever met because I hadn’t realized that I had such a good skill to be able to just make money for myself, and get away from all the client stuff. It’s just sometimes you have to be in there and someone to say that to you for you to wake up and then do something about it.

Craig Campbell:
So, that’s why I’m now in the position where I tell clients, “Go away, I don’t want to work with you.” And people see that as ignorant, it’s not ignorant, I’ve just not got enough time now. I just want to focus on my own projects, and that’s working very well for me, and I wouldn’t sit and say running a digital agency was a bad thing. It taught me a lot about managing people, clients, money and a whole load of other things as well. So I think it was something good for me to do, but if I was telling someone a story I would always say that story, because it gave me the wake up call I needed.

Jagruti Bhargav:
So, would you like to wish our viewers something for Social Media Day as well?

Craig Campbell:
Yeah. It’s good. Thank you for allowing me to be part of Social Media Day, it’s been a pleasure speaking to a different audience, and Social Pilot have given me that opportunity. So, thank you very much for listening to what I’ve got to say. I’m looking to build up my brand and share knowledge and advice across the world, and India is just one of those, and I will be in India in December this year with SEMrush speaking at a conference. But yeah, I do hope to speak to more people and I’m always open to answering questions or giving people advice as well. So feel free, if there’s anything you feel I can help you with or point you in the right direction, just give me a shout. But, have a good Social Media Day.

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Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 17 years.

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