In this episode, Stacy sits down with the founder and SEO director of Break The Web, Jason Berkowitz. The two discuss SEO best practices, old school SEO strategies to avoid, and how to recover from a bad SEO campaign

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Transcripts:

Stacy: 00:00

  • Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How To Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones, the founder of influencer marketing and branded content agency Hollywood Branded. This podcast provides brand marketers a learning platform for top experts to share their insights and knowledge on topics which make a direct impact on your business today. While it is impossible to be well versed on every topic and strategy that can improve bottom line results, my goal is to help you avoid making costly mistakes of time, energy or money, whether you’re doing a DIY approach or hiring an expert to help. Let’s begin today’s discussion.

Speaker 2:00:31

  • Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How To Avoid Them. Here’s your host, Stacy Jones.

Stacy: 00:35

  • I’m so happy to be here with you all today. I want to give a very warm welcome to Jason Berkowitz of Break the Web, who’s joining us to discuss his over 10 years of experience working in digital marketing. Jason is the founder and SEO director of Break the Web, a boutique inbound marketing agency based out of New York City. While the foundation of Break the Web starts with SEO, Jason has grown their core service offering to handle a variety of inbound marketing verticals. Today we’re going to talk about SEO best practices, including general red flags, things to watch out for with some agencies who practice SEO and may be still executing old school SEO practices and how to recover from a bad SEO campaign. We’ll learn what has worked from Jason’s experience, but maybe could be avoided if you’re doing this yourself and where other brands are missing the mark. Jason, welcome.

Jason: 01:18

  • Thank you so much for having me, Stacey. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Stacy: 01:20

  • I am super excited to have you on today, Jason. I cannot tell you, I think SEO is fascinating. It is the thing that makes your website tick, your digital content tick. And without it, even if you produce awesome content, no one gets to see it. So really looking forward to learning more about some best practices that you suggest. And what I’ll get, start it off by having you tell us a little bit more about yourself, how you got started in this field and what led you to where you’re at today.

Jason: 01:49

  • Yeah, absolutely. So I am New York City based as well as the primary hub of our agency. And it started when I was, like many other business owners, trying to get that digital awareness online. I was lacking that digital awareness, I was looking for, oh, how to rank on Google, how to get more visibility on Google and I kind of fell into SEO by accident. I ranked our website for our previous business at the top, it was a personal training company. So we were able to rank for our Personal Training NYC, which is super competitive at the time. And kind of a paradigm shift took place, and I became more obsessed with SEO than I was about fitness. I still like fitness, on a personal side. But, yeah, just the way SEO works, kind of trying to debug and reverse engineer what was working in the search engines really kind of mystified me and got me really into it. And started freelancing on the side and before you know it, over the course of a couple years, when you start delegating tasks, you don’t even realize you have kind of a mini agency. And it kind of took a natural growth from there.

Stacy:02:47

  • That’s awesome. So, can you give people, I mean, everyone might have an idea, everyone’s heard of SEO.

Jason: 02:54

  • Yeah.

Stacy: 02:54

  • But what is SEO, at it’s essence?

Jason: 02:58

  • SEO, I don’t want to use the word gaming, because that’s just very taboo. But essentially, the way I see SEO is sending your website metrics that Google sees as being relevant, trustworthy and authoritative. Of course, having relevancy on your website is the starting point, but essentially it’s continuously sending trust metrics to Google so they see you as being the optimal search result for a specific query.

Stacy: 03:23

  • And Google has a few tricks up their sleeve, however, with SEO because they keep changing the game.

Jason: 03:28

  • Yeah, yeah. 2012 was a fun year. 2012 kind of, 2011, 2012 kind of shifted the way the industry executed on SEO strategies, where we were able to get awesome results for some crazy competitive terms at the click of a button. It was super easy and even SEO campaigns for businesses were just super cheap because it was all push button automation through platforms. And then they fought spam. They fought these companies that are really trying to take advantage of them. And it kind of really shifted the industry as a whole. And now it’s continuously evolving. I think we all have a pretty good idea of what Google wants to be and what they’re looking for in the long run, so it allows you to hone in on your practices nowadays, which is beneficial. But yeah, things are constantly changing and evolving.

Stacy: 04:15

  • So one of the things that, you know, the terms that pop up and have popped up over the years that get referred to our white hat and black hat practices, right. Can you explain those a little bit more?

Jason: 04:26

  • Yeah, it’s definitely a touchy subject and I’ll say this is my point of view. At the end of the day, I think there’s only one classification of hat, aside from black hat. And by black hat I mean going to the efforts of hacking a website to game a system. That’s the only time I’ll consider black hat black hat. If you’re intentionally trying to do something for the purpose of increasing your search positions, technically, and if you’re not going out of the realm of just building great content as Google says, they say, “Oh, you just have to build great content and then people will find it and people will link to it,” sometimes it doesn’t always work like that. So, if you go out of that initial standard, technically, you’re out of white hat. I have air quotes right now.

 

  • So there really is no classification of hats. It all comes down to, I think, the type of link building you might be doing if you are doing a link building campaign. If you’re doing what appears natural, what is natural, what mimics the natural approach a website might get links, or if you’re spamming. And then again on that other side is what could be black hat, if you’re hacking into websites and placing in links and cloaking and a bunch of other technical mumbo jumbo, then yeah, that could probably fall under black hat. I personally don’t really classify with hats, probably white hat, gray hat, if I would pick one.

Stacy:05:38

  • Okay. And back in the day, people used to literally type in words because it was like okay, if you type in words enough times for whatever the key word is that you have and then you turn your lettering white and you’re on a white background and you hide it and you’ve separated the bottom, it’s size one point SRS font, that would be considered something that would be kind of a black hat.

Jason:06:03

  • Yeah, so, to touch and get a little bit technical here, a lot of the black hat networks and strategies that exists are doing what I was mentioning about hacking. And the way these will work well is because they will hack into everyday websites and then just go on the footer and just throw a bunch of text links right in the footer that blends in with the background. So, while that is black hat, surprisingly, from what I understand, it still works, which is never a good thing. But yeah, it’s spam, it’s black hat, it’s kind of misleading. Again, Google is really big on focusing on the end user. And what value is the user going to get if they just see white text with white background, they’re probably not going to see it.

Stacy: 06:42

  • Right. And the whole idea is that Google gives higher authority to websites that have more links from outside sources. That’s the idea behind that, right?

Jason: 06:53

  • Yeah, it’s kind of like mimicking the real world word of mouth, you know, like, “Hey, I’m looking for a plumber. You know a plumber, John?” He says, “Yeah, use ABC Plumbing.” John’s gonna like ABC Plumbing because they’re coming from your recommendation and that’s how Google sees it. So if someone’s willing to link to you, it’s kind of like they’re willing to put their reputation on the line to refer someone to a third party website. And that’s the trust metrics that get passed from one website to another. Now, if that origin website is super relevant to yours, then you get a lot of relevancy being passed as well. And just a lot of good SEO value.

Stacy: 07:25

  • So really, as an SEO expert and as agency practitioner, one of the things that you almost do, you’re almost basically a PR agency for companies’ websites.

Jason: 07:36

  • It’s funny because we also do PR. We say we do SEO PR style SEO and PR style link building, because we have a PR girl that works with us on our team and that’s only what she knows, is PR. But she has a little bit of an SEO knowledge where she can work in links as well naturally. And even with a PR campaign, I know a lot of PR companies don’t 100% focus on that link, they just want that mention and traffic and brand visibility, but if you can get that link too, even if it is just a branded link, it’ll do really well on a good publication.

Stacy: 08:05

  • Yeah. And what’s interesting because we do a lot of PR for our own agency, is when you give interviews to media outlets and reporters, even if they don’t publish on the first time that link, so often they are so nice if you just kindly request if they’ll go back and they’ll update the article and include your company’s link in there, a backlink to it. And it’s so much more powerful, it makes the whole thing worthwhile, more worthwhile.

Jason: 08:34

  • Yeah, we actually do that for companies that are already established and have engaged in big PR campaigns, we’ll do those, we’ll reach out to them, the publications, the editors on their behalf, if they don’t have a current relationship and say, “Hey, you know, pretty simply, I know you’re linking to our company. I think it might be valuable for the users to quickly find us by having a link,” you know, again, there’s many different angles you can go about that approach. I’m sure you can probably speak on that better than we cam. But yeah, just simply saying, “Hey, do you mind if we make it easy for the readers to link out to us.” And hopefully, they say yes.

Stacy: 09:04

  • So, when we were talking earlier and when I was reading your bio, one of the things that you were going to talk about today with us is one of my favorite topics of marketing mistakes because that’s what this podcast is named after and how to avoid them. Can you share some of the general mistakes often made with SEO?

Jason: 09:24

  • I can speak to one that happened last week and it’s something so simple that most people forget. And it’s not specific to SEO, but I think comes down to web development. So we had a new client that just had a brand new website developed and built and migrated over, and then everything started tanking. And when they reached out to us, say “Hey, we need you to debug this quickly,” it was simply they removed what’s called the no index tag from the source code. So it basically said to Google bots and all the search engine crawlers, “Do not crawl this website.” It’s called a no index tag, that was still placed on the website. And simply Google, every time they tried to visit the website, was kind of pushed away.

Stacy:09:24

  • Right.

Jason: 10:03

  • And it’s something as simple as removing one little line of code. We do this in the development stage so Google doesn’t crawl a staging website and their website under development. But when you migrate the website over to the live domain, that code would typically need to be removed and it’s something so simple. And we’ve actually, since then, we made that into our standard operating procedures, to check for that no index code, to ensure that, yeah, of course, it’s very simple but it should be removed. So that’s one of them.

 

  • And then with SEO is, like you said, you know, people are still following a lot of old school information in regards to what used to work and thinking that it still my work today and going on that. There’s a lot of free information out there online. The problem is you don’t really know what’s accurate and what’s not.

Stacy: 10:03

  • Right.

Jason: 10:46

  • So that’s a big mistake that a lot of people when they’re trying to do SEO or get started with SEO, they read Joe Schmoes blog.

Stacy: 10:54

  • Okay, that’s fair enough. I will tell you one of my favorite ways that we ended up getting first page ranking. Pretty much on any keyword that we were looking for was something that no longer exists, and I’m really sad about it, and it’s Google Plus. Right? And it was this fantastic magic sauce, hidden trick that we created a Google Plus page, we never expected anyone to ever go to it, and we would post all of the content we wrote to it and Google would automatically give it higher authority because it was on Google Plus, their own platform. And so we would spin it up, put it on first page, it’d have this little bold statement, all these things. That’s gone. Google Plus has gone away.

Jason: 11:37

  • In two days.

Stacy: 11:38

  • Right.

Jason:11:39

  • Two days.

Stacy: 11:40

  • I have had to admit defeat. It no longer works at all. Plus, they rolled that little part back, so they stopped doing it about a year ago. But, what are some of the tricks that aren’t just SEO that people can use to accomplish success?

Jason: 11:55

  • Essentially, yeah, content is king, content is probably the number one thing. After content is just going out and doing outreach, kind of like you would with PR. You know, try to get the word out. If someone is linking to one of your competitors, for example, in a piece, and you can reverse engineer competitors, I can name drop a software, Ahrefs.com, A-H-R-E-F-S.com. And if they’re linking to a competitor, simply emailing them and say, “Hey, I have this great piece also that might be a value to your readers. Do you think it would be worth it to have it added to your piece on this?” Or simply doing self PR, you know, reaching out to blogs and saying, “Hey, are you looking for guest contributors?” There’s a lot of good blogs that are good for starting points with PR and trying to PR your own business. And saying, “Hey, I’m willing to write a topic on this. Do you approve? I’d love to contribute to your blog.” So those are good starting points, especially to get some good links. And Google will also have an entity created for your brand and your name. So even if you don’t directly have that link or if you have a link in your footer bio about your posts, then it would still have value.

Stacy: 13:01

  • So, you’re really saying that what your agency does is a lot of times, like we mentioned before, very PR driven. You’re going out, you’re looking at ways to position the website for the company so that they’re getting more pickup on other digital platforms.

Jason: 13:19

  • Yeah, that’s what typically takes place on an ongoing monthly basis. Of course, it all starts with the website itself, making sure that the website is pretty much giving clarity as to what the thematic relevancy is.

Stacy: 13:19

  • Okay.

Jason: 13:31

  • Trying to make it easy for Google to understand if you’re local business, what areas you serve, who you serve, what you do, what is your service offering, if you’re national, what products you might sell. So it all starts with making that on page, SEO aspects exactly where it needs to be in a natural way. And then, yeah, on a monthly basis, essentially, getting the word out, telling Google that these pages are relevant because they’re linked to from this other relevant page. And again, it all comes down to doing what would appear national and what would make sense and not crossing those boundaries of what could be, air quotes, “black hat” essentially.

Stacy: 14:06

  • Okay. And so does that also include companies who write blogs and making sure that they are using the right long tail keywords and phrases so that Google picks those up?

Jason:14:21

  • Yeah. With blogging, here’s my take on it, and this is another one of those controversial topics in our industry. I would say for a, you have to have blogs focused on different other type of keywords, but only if it makes sense for your business to have blogs. If you’re writing just for the purpose of trying to throw content out there because you think that’s what Google wants, you’re probably wasting your time. If it’s a marketing blog, for example, that has a good readership, then yeah, it makes sense to continue to publish because you might get more links back to your website, social engagements and your readers are actively looking on your website for new content. If you’re a local plumber, what value does one new blog post a week bring to your readers? They just want your phone number, to be honest. They’re just going to read your phone number, look at your reviews, look at maybe your About Us page and that’s all they want to know. So only if it’s relevant.

 

  • Also with long tail keywords, there’s something you want to avoid, is that you don’t want to create so many pages on your website about one specific topic. That could create what’s called keyword cannibalization and essentially make competing pages on your domain. And Google just will simply say, “I don’t know which ones to rank, so we’re not going to rank any of them.” And that’s actually a big issue that a lot of websites deal with, is when they’ll create supplemental content for a hub content piece or a hub topic and it doesn’t really go anywhere because there’s just cannibalization.

Stacy: 15:39

  • Okay. And is that why with blogs there’s a practice now to build pillar pages where you are creating a master page and then you’re linking all of the content that’s relevant to that so that you have kind of a higher domain ranking authority page?

Jason: 15:56

  • Nailed it. Yeah, that works really well.

Stacy: 15:58

  • I’ve done some reading. We really, really try to do this with our agency. Okay, so I’m reading some of the right stuff.

Jason: 16:07

  • Yeah, I think that’s, wherever you read from, yeah. Share it. That’s a great place to get resource information. It’s kind of like this one plugin on WordPress, Yoast, he likes to call it Cornerstone Content, so he kind of coined that term with an article pieces, Cornerstone Content. And, yeah, it works really well, creating a hub page and then kind of a sub topics to feed back up to that, as long as, again, it’s not competing and it’s just thematically relevant from a niche standpoint maybe.

Stacy: 16:31

  • Okay, so if there’s a company out there and they’ve written 50 articles on one of the service offerings they have and a hundred articles on another one of their service article offerings that they have and 10 articles on yet another service offering, each of those would need to have their own page, but how would you choose of the 50 of the hundred of the 10 to include on your pillar page or your content page?

Jason: 16:57

  • So we’ll call this a content gap analysis. We do this by going into Google Analytics, seeing over the course of, you can do 60 days, 90 days or sometimes there’ll be a bigger sites, over the course of a year, see which pages got less than 10 visits over the course of that time period. If they got less than 10 visits overall, again, it could be from search, it could be from emails, could be from anything, it’s a waste of your crawl budget, the amount of time Google’s going to spend on your website and it probably could be keyword cannibalization. So what you can do is either delete it, combine it with another page or just improve the content to try to make it better. Those are typically the three go tos we have when it comes to kind of fixing all these content gaps we might have.

 

  • So a lot of people, again, it comes down to we want to raise our index count, have more pages indexed by Google, have more blog content, but if you have a fairly large website and have that crawl budget which will just be eaten up by all these crappy pages and low value pages, I think Google may want them to really be frequently crawling your pillar pages and your hub pages. Yeah, focus on improving content, if it’s not competing with another piece. If you have a few pieces that might be competing with each other, just combine them, combine the content pieces and have a great informative piece of content, and then just have all the URLs redirect to that one back, that one new created piece. Does that make sense?

Stacy: 18:17

  • It does. And when you’re saying to improve the content, besides maybe adding blogs to blogs to make a single blog from three blogs that were shorter, what else do you mean by that?

Jason: 18:30

  • Making it better, I know it’s very hard and it’s very ambiguous to say, “Yeah, just keep making you better, keep making it better.” But one of the first things you can do is just go to Google, Google’s probably the best place to see what they want. And just type in your search term. See what is ranking on page one of Google and that’ll give you an idea on the type of content that Google wants to display for that search term. Then you can take that and probably find a writer, find a writer that’s specific to that industry you’re in. If you’re the writer yourself and you really know everything there is to know about the industry, that may be good and all, but a writer can help you put your thoughts into words. So that might be a good option. And you just try to make it better. Look through your competitors, of pages that are ranking on Google, see if there’s any pieces or informative content that might be missing, data, statistics. It’s very ambiguous to say just make it better because in theory, yeah, just make it better. You know, going to Grammarly, making sure that you got your grammar right, simple things like that, I would say.

Stacy: 19:27

  • So does grammar matter? Does it if you have misspellings and you have grammar issues, is Google like an English teacher and coming after you and being like, “You get a C.”

Jason: 19:37

  • Google definitely understands semantics and language, linguistics. You could even go to Google and type in Google NLP, natural language processing, it’s very creepy, but their goal is trying to improve understanding words in context, words and pairings and how that all kind of formulate a meaning or an idea behind a sentence. If you type in, and I do this almost every day, is go to Google and type in synonym for blah blah blah and Google will give me just a giant list of synonyms that are relevant. So they definitely understand words. You know, it’s probably not to the extent as a company that’s dedicated on grammar, like Grammarly. But if it’s easy and technology is where it needs to be that Grammarly can do it, who’s to say Google can’t do it. Who’s to say Google is not paying Grammarly. Who knows. API access, you never know.

Stacy: 20:24

  • You never know at all or who they’re going to buy. Plus there’s like this futuristic AI technology that you are hearing about here and there right now where, ultimately, there is going to be the ability for platforms to create your content and write your content without you actually chiming in and doing anything. So it’ll all be robotically created and optimized without you having a human writing that blog.

Jason: 20:54

  • It’s creepy. It’s creepy.

Stacy: 20:56

  • So creepy.

Jason: 20:59

  • I’ve done tests with IBM Watson before and that’s creepy. So from like learning, from what they see, as word pairings and the syntax and the semantically relevant words. It’s all creepy.

Stacy: 21:12

  • So where does video play into this? Because we’re talking a lot about words right now. How do videos translate into your content and what do you do about optimizing videos for SEO content?

Jason: 21:25

  • So I think video comes in really well within content pieces because it’s rich media that also, first of all, on a very broad granular level, it breaks up the content. When you first schedule in a new content piece, you’re likely just going to scroll really all the way down to the bottom first to see what you’re going to be in for. Are you gonna just be in for long paragraphs or are you going to be using broken up images, quotes, maybe embedded tweets, whatever it might be, it helps break it up. If you have a video at the top that kind of gives a summary or recap of that article or that content piece, it makes it easy for someone to say, “I’m not in the mood to read, I just rather watch and listen.” So, I think rich media and video definitely has a good hand, hand in hand with SEO directly. That’s another ballgame.

 

  • YouTube is in fact a search engine itself. So if you are optimizing a video for the purpose of YouTube and if you’re lucky to be one of those videos that might appear in Google search on page one, then there’s definitely something there. Try to get the search terms and the keywords in the title, int the descriptions, take advantage of your own custom captions, your closed captions, get those keywords in, those closed captions, see that as early as possible in the video. And yeah, just make it appear natural and really on topic and make it really the best video on that topic.

Stacy: 22:41

  • Okay, so you just said get your words and closed captions. So are you saying to add your transcript to your videos, basically?

Jason:22:51

  • Yeah. Yeah, Google has the option where they can try to auto detect it. And it doesn’t seem to always work, at least, I haven’t done like wheel video marketing in probably almost a year, but it wasn’t where it was that it would hit every single word perfectly. So by uploading your own transcript, you know that you have transcripts that has your keywords in it and you’re talking about those keywords frequently within your video then, yeah, it’ll help. Help Google understand what that video is about. It can even go to another level by naming the file that gets uploaded to Google, your primary keyword. That’s actually an old school thing that surprisingly still works today and it is standard best practices with YouTube SEO and Video SEO.

Stacy: 23:31

  • Okay. I am learning something right now, this moment, because we don’t actually have our full transcripts attached to our podcasts. Right. And so, Google’s not necessarily able to actually see what we’re talking about beyond the brief intro that we’re putting in there, so we should be actually adding in transcripts to that.

Jason: 23:50

  • Yeah, it’ll help just create that, again, I keep using this word, thematic relevancy about the podcast or the page. Google has to rely on the information given to them. If they can’t 100% code everything you’re saying on a video, then, yeah, that transcript, if it’s mentioned in the transcript of the video, Google will know that, it hears the exact transcript of what that video is about, and it’ll just help them, just understand everything.

Stacy: 24:13

  • Interesting. Okay. So does this, we’re talking Google, we’re like Google, Google Google, what about YouTube, which has nothing to do with Google, right?

Jason: 24:24

  • Right.

Stacy: 24:26

  • I’m kidding. Google buys everything. So how does YouTube kind of catalog this? How is it presented differently, or is it really the same?

Jason: 24:36

  • I actually saw something very interesting on YouTube the other day. It was some big news item that was in the news, frequently, and I went to YouTube because I wanted to see a video on it. And I actually saw news article snippets right in the YouTube search on my phone. It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. I didn’t expect that. And I was quite intrigued. I couldn’t find anyone talk about it online, so maybe that they were testing and I happened to be one of those test subjects. I found a news article directly on the top of the search results in YouTube.

Stacy: 25:05

  • Really?

Jason: 25:07

  • It was weird. I was mind blown.

Stacy:25:08

  • It like blended the video experience with a text experience?

Jason: 25:12

  • Yes. It wasn’t full articles, it was just article titles.

Stacy: 25:16

  • Okay. Where is it fall into the good and the bad practices of taking content you have already written and publishing it on other sites like LinkedIn or Medium or even just ripping off what you wrote and giving it to someone else because it’s yours, you own it, how can that hurt you or how can that benefit you?

Jason: 25:37

  • I think it will hurt you if you don’t attribute the original source. It happens every day with the millions of news publications that are out there, is they will syndicate content. Nine times out of 10 is they will cite their original source, especially if they’re quoting a specific giant paragraph of text, they very likely would say, “According to NBC News,” just for example, and site the original source. So that is best practice.

 

  • Now, being the original author and somebody steals your content, you really don’t have much to worry about, being the original author, Google’s been pretty good at getting that. But if you’re the one taking other content and you’re not naturally the source, you probably won’t get any benefit at all. I don’t think it’s going to be bad for you, you just won’t get any benefit because you’re not siting the original source.

Stacy: 26:20

  • Okay. On outlets like Medium, so Medium is it allows you basically to write and they share your content and they act as your own blog to their own followers, they suggest using something, am I saying it right, Canonical?

Jason: 26:41

  • Canonical.

Stacy: 26:42

  • Canonical. Canonical? Is that it?

Jason: 26:42

  • Yes, you got it right.

Stacy: 26:44

  • Finally, so what is that?

Jason:26:46

  • So, pretty much there’s a lot of various purposes for Canonical, which I can go into much lengthier discussion about, but essentially this is another piece of code that is read by the search engine bots to tell them what is the real URL of this page. So, for example, medium.com, you have the option to use that canonical and medium.com slash whatever post URL [inaudible 00:27:11] URL. And in the code it’ll say rel=canonicals, rel equals canonical and the real URL, telling Google there’s not duplicate content, this is the real source, this is who you should give value to. If we get any links, all that link juice will actually get passed to your site if your site is the one in the Canonical. So that’s how Canonicals work.

 

  • They could also be used to avoid duplicate content on your website itself. You know, a big one is like in e commerce space is that we have faceted navigation, which is you can add filters to categories and colors and sizes and all that and it will change the long form URL, like question mark, equals, all these weird parameters. And to avoid duplicate content issues, there he goes.

Stacy: 27:52

  • Got one.

Jason: 27:53

  • Actually having your rel=canonical point back to the main category page is what’s most valuable.

Stacy: 27:59

  • Okay, so that makes sense. And so is that important to use, is that something that people really need to kind of become better versed in on how to use canonicals in their writing and blogs and sharing?

Jason: 28:13

  • If you’re using a regular CMS like WordPress or one that’s built up by default, typically, they will have their rel=canonical in there, in which it’s a self canonical and that it says that this is the canonical but this is also the same URL, perfect. If you are duplicating content on your website, if you are, again, maybe stages of the funnel, wherever it might be, if you’re duplicating content, if you’re attributing like Medium does where most of their content is user generated content from other people’s blog then that’s where it comes to be beneficial for them. And where medium won’t take a big hit from an SEO platform or an SEO standpoint because they’re not giving some bad juju, essentially.

Stacy: 28:50

  • And is Medium, are platforms like Medium beneficial to companies? I mean, is there a point to repurpose your content in other places? Because basically what they’re doing is they’re trying to serve you up to their audience, right?

Jason: 29:04

  • Yeah, from a direct SEO standpoint, probably not.

Stacy: 29:07

  • Okay.

Jason: 29:07

  • But from a branding and messaging standpoint, it actually works really well. And I’ve been into Medium maybe more so over the last six to seven months, I heard about it for many years, I wasn’t too involved. But it’s actually a really big following on Medium, and the people that give the claps and sharing Medium posts and Medium posts can actually rank very well themselves in Google search if that Medium post is just not taken from another website and its unique and original on Medium. They actually do rank really well.

Stacy: 29:39

  • Okay. And then what about LinkedIn? Because LinkedIn has been trying to build themselves up as, “We are a content platform. Make your videos, make your blogs, use us.” How’s that fall into it?

Jason: 29:48

  • I think it would probably be along the same lines, is you can use, I think it’s the LinkedIn Pulse, I actually, I’m really bad with social media, from a personal standpoint. I have all these profiles and I know that I need to be doing it and I don’t do it as much as I should, but I know LinkedIn Pulse, for example, you can post original content on LinkedIn, which has the potential to rank as well. I’m not too familiar if LinkedIn gives you the option to change canonicals. If you do, syndicate your content on their platform. I’m not too sure about that. But I know that, from a business standpoint, maybe it be that’s where the place is and that’s where your consumers probably are, are on LinkedIn. So having your content where people are.

Stacy: 30:25

  • Okay. Are there any other sources that you can think that might be valuable for people to know about where they should look? Besides Medium and besides the LinkedIn, that just come to mind. Are those the two top ones right now?

Jason: 30:38

  • Yeah, I think from a social media platform standpoint, those are probably the big ones, Facebook, of course, Google Plus has been out since like 2014. But yeah, those are probably the big ones. There’s probably also private social media companies for specific industries that I might not be aware of, we all might not be aware of. So it’s about, like I said, trying to be where your consumers are. If your consumers and your audience is going to be on Medium, post on Medium. If they’re going to be on LinkedIn, if they’re marketing directors or business associates or wherever it might be, post to LinkedIn, get the message out there, build up your following on LinkedIn.

Stacy: 31:13

  • Okay. What are some more things that our listeners should be watching out for which might be mistakes or not great SEO practices?

Jason: 31:24

  • Yeah, this is like so many. I was like, “Oh, no. What am I gonna say right now?” Then I just have like an internal portfolio, I guess, of what I can talk about. I know we talked a lot about links, so I think diving back into the website itself might be a good starting point. Like you said, not black hat with the text being transparent with the background, but just over optimization. Does it make sense for, I know for a lot of local businesses out here in New York City, they just are severely over optimized because personal injury lawyer NYC, if you’re looking for the best personal injury lawyer NYC has to offer, our NYC personal injury lawyers, that just doesn’t make sense. And it kind of falls back into what we spoke about grammar, is make the content on your page awesome, make it natural. Yeah, throw in personal injury lawyer NYC, in NYC, just have it makes sense. Don’t overdo it. If it makes sense to have it there, then yeah. Try not to over optimize.

 

  • And surprisingly I still see, I think you mentioned this earlier, is people are still bolting their keywords on content pieces, and that’s super old, it doesn’t make sense, it’s super ugly to see too. Maybe it’s because I’m SEO aware, when I see that, I automatically hit the back button, you don’t even deserve my engagement on this page. Yeah, just trying to keep things natural. Make thematic relevancy nice and clean and provide that great user experience.

Stacy: 32:43

  • Okay. And one of the topics we wanted to talk about today is how can listeners know how to choose the right SEO agency for them? Besides, of course, working with Break the Web, right, besides your company.

Jason: 32:58

  • Of course.

Stacy: 32:59

  • Yeah, right. But I mean, I know we get slammed on a daily basis by 10/15 plus, “I looked at your website and I think we can help you optimize and blah, blah, blah,” and most of them actually are coming from overseas, very often, it’s big blasts, but sometimes not as well. So there’s a lot of LeadGen because, you know, SEO people like LeadGen, that’s good, they figured it out. But how can someone know who’s the real deal, who’s not the real deal? What should they be looking for in an SEO agency to know if it’s going to be an actual good fit for them and a good experience?

Jason: 33:34

  • One thing I could say is, there’s many different things you can say but one of them, is if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. One of the biggest things with these cold spam emails from overseas is like, “We promise you, we guarantee you, $99 a month.” That probably seems a little bit too good to be true. I actually recorded a video a couple months ago on SEO guarantees, I haven’t really done much my own practice what you preach on it, but I have a video dedicated on SEO guarantees and why it’s a sham and why people should avoid it. Proof is in the numbers, if they have case studies. You know, everyone could take logos and just place them on their website. Only a certain amount of people can actually have screenshots from Google Analytics, has screenshots from the deep inner workings of the strategies that were executed on. So case studies. Case studies, testimonials.

 

  • It’s a very cutthroat industry, the SEO agency industry, very cutthroat and people, unfortunately, do go the mistake of trying to fake it until they make it. And maybe there’s some goodness to that, you know, you got to start somewhere, but if you’re willing to, if you want do things right way, you want to invest in a company that is going to give you the long term results and not have any issues. A, make sure they’re fully transparent in what they do, understand what type of execution strategy they’re doing, what’s going to be involved, what is communication like, how many keywords are we targeting. If they say, “Okay, we’ll do your SEO campaign for $2,000 a month and target hundred keywords,” Wait, what? That doesn’t really make sense. If these keywords are not relevant, 100% with or without NYC, for example, it’s gonna be very hard and very unrealistic.

 

  • And also, just be mindful of expectations. SEO is not a cheap marketing vertical as it used to be. And just because, at least in our agency, we’ve switched since 2012, thinking things what was platform to having things be more manual, to be frank, as we’re all business people here, hours need to be allocated and more man hours need to be put into SEO execution and SEO strategy and a lot of that happens behind the scenes. So yeah, make sure they have proof, proof in what they say, If somebody gives you a weird feeling, go with it and maybe inquire further from somebody else. Call me up or send me an email saying, “Hey Jason, we’re speaking with this SEO company, they’re saying this. Would that be a good option?” I’m not going to try to steal business, but I’m happy to help if somebody has a question like that just because it is very cutthroat. And also, if they’re going to keep you on a long term contract and not give you any flexibility, like a year, I would be wary of that too. They want to guarantee revenue over the course of a year.

Stacy: 36:00

  • Right. Okay. So you’re saying not a long term contract? You’re saying shy away from a long term contract?

Jason: 36:08

  • I’m saying don’t hire an SEO company.

Stacy: 36:09

  • Wait, wait, wait. Yeah, like, “No hiring have any SEO company.” No, I’m kidding. But so realistically, how long do you need to give an SEO company some time? Because Google, while they’re going through your content all the time, it takes a while to actually update some things, it’s not like every single second it’s updating. So if someone is working with you or they’re doing some initiatives themselves or another agency or whomever, how long do they need to give it to see if it’s actually working?

Jason: 36:40

  • So given that they have a healthy online presence, by healthy can be page six, there’s nothing wrong with that, given that they’re not heavily penalized and have a bad rep with Google, then we tell our clients that they will start seeing some great noticeable improvements within three months. Now that could be broad. Again, three months and noticeable improvements could be from page six to page three or four, but that’s on the right track.

 

  • The average SEO campaign, a lot of it depends on the complexities within the campaign as well as the competition. So the closer you are the first page, the closer you are to the top five and the closer you are to number one, makes the competitive level a whole nother ballgame. And to get to number one, you’re really going at the top dogs. So, it does take time. And SEO, you know, we see on a broad, broad level, depending on the complexity of the campaign, if we haven’t gone to the specifics of the strategy, eight to 12 months. You know, we’ve even given SEO proposals that said, “You need to prepare for a two year campaign because there’s no way you’re going to hit it for these targets in this timeframe. And let’s be realistic here.” That’s what we thought, we want to make sure that your expectations are met. And we have to deliver because our success is dependent on your success.

Stacy: 37:52

  • Sure.

Jason: 37:53

  • So, yeah, it’s a tough ballgame to get those estimations and how long it might take to get results, but you should see something within a few months, some good positive movements, things on the right track. Google actually has a video, in which it will tell you how to hire an SEO, and I don’t believe everything that they say there, truthfully, but they do have one good point, which they say that you should prepare for a 12 month campaign when you engage in a new SEO firm.

Stacy: 38:16

  • Okay.

Jason: 38:17

  • At least they set the standard and they set those expectations.

Stacy:38:21

  • And they’re supporting those that actually matter to Google because they want the best content, they want the most optimization, and they obviously recognize that some people need, okay, not some people, so everyone needs a little bit of help sometimes.

Jason: 38:35

  • Actually, as of now, Google Cloud Service is looking for an SEO manager.

Stacy: 38:40

  • Look at that.

Jason: 38:40

  • Yeah.

Stacy: 38:41

  • Because Google needs to be more top of mind and more top of tongue and more word of mouth.

Jason: 38:47

  • Yeah, they can’t just say, “Okay, we’re going to make ourselves number one automatically.”

Stacy: 38:51

  • Right.

Jason: 38:51

  • I don’t think legally they can do that. But yeah, they themselves look for SEO specialists in their different departments and their different platforms, 100%.

Stacy: 39:00

  • Where do you think the future of all of this is going?

Jason:39:04

  • Looks like Google right now is getting to where I think the original goal of search engines were, to be just to give an answer to a question someone might have, for non bottom of the funnel type searches or need to buy whatever for cheap. Essentially is just having the information right there and then. And Google’s gonna be continuously making more use of their feature snippets and their knowledge boxes. So if you type in, for example, how old is Tom Cruise, you will see the answer right there. And Google doesn’t have to run the risk of, A, somebody going off of google.com because they want to keep people on their platform as much as possible, and also running the risk of not having to send somebody to a third party possible crappy spamming site that will give a bad experience.

 

  • So I think Google is going to be making those feature snippets more prevalent and you can optimize for those feature snippets by having your organic search positioning probably within the top five. It’s very unlikely you’ll see a website that has that feature snippet, that quick two sentences of text, that is not in the top five. But yeah, that’s probably what we see is just becoming more and more relevant.

Stacy: 40:07

  • Plus, down the line, Google is going to be all voice, right?

Jason: 40:13

  • I knew you were going to say that.

Stacy: 40:13

  • So we’re not going to be typing that, you know, right?

Jason: 40:16

  • Yeah, I get asked this question quite frequently and I always say voice. I’m like let me switch it up. So they are tied in 100%.

Stacy: 40:16

  • Okay.

Jason: 40:22

  • I think you were kind of going into this before I started like getting all [crosstalk 00:40:25].

Stacy: 40:25

  • Uh huh.

Jason: 40:27

  • Yeah. They’re going to be taking their voice answers from that feature snippet.

Stacy: 40:31

  • Yeah. And then, I mean, there’s even talk that it’s not many years down the line. I mean, this is in short term, we’re going to get computers that don’t have keyboards, where we’re literally, that’s what they’re talking about, the technology is going to move in where we’re not typing, where everything is being voice. And coming back and forth with that where the input’s voice and the output is voice, which is going to be a whole new level of learning for everyone.

Jason:40:58

  • I hope it’s sooner than later because I was trying to do the voice to text with Apple on Mac and it was really bad. And this was even like two days ago, I’m not even joking, it just didn’t work right. So I’m excited for that.

Stacy: 41:10

  • See, and I like, actually, writing helps me, I think, streamline my thought process. And I am long winded when I type, so I can’t even imagine how long winded I will end up having emails be if I’m just chatting about it.

Jason: 41:26

  • Yeah.

Stacy: 41:27

  • Well, today has been fantastic. And is there any additional information that you want to give our listeners as well as let them know how they can contact you?

Jason: 41:39

  • Absolutely. So again, a lot of what I said earlier kind of has to get recapped and said over and over again, just be careful where you’re hearing information from in regards to SEO. If you’re looking to hire an SEO company, just make sure you hit them with the nitty gritty details about some of the numbers that they might be showing you in a case study or their execution strategy, “What are you doing in a month to month basis? Are you just signing me up for directories? I heard that was so 2007. Or are you actually going out and doing outreach to publications in the hopes of trying to get some links back to us? And what are you gonna do for our website, are you just gonna to leave our website the way it is and go on to just off page SEO and link?” So doing due diligence and taking that extra step to properly vet the SEO company is the big one.

 

  • And if you decide that you want to properly vet my SEO company, you can find us at breaktheweb.agency or shoot me an email at [email protected]

Stacy: 42:32

  • Well, Jason, that is fantastic. I want to thank Jason again for putting and sharing in, I can’t even talk, I want to thank Jason again for sharing today all of his valuable advice. I know I and our listeners really have gotten a tremendous value out of it. So thank you. And tune in to our next podcast where will be deep diving into more marketing mistakes and how you should avoid them.

Jason: 42:54

  • Thank you so much, Stacy.

Stacy: 42:55

  • Thank you, Jason.

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