In this episode, Stacy sits down with John Vuong, who is a seasoned sales professional and Internet marketer, as well as the founder of Local SEO Search. The two discuss John’s experience in SEO and digital marketing, and offer listeners some tips and tricks.
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Transcript For This Episode:
Stacy Jones (00:01):
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 topics for us 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 are doing a DIY approach or hiring an expert to help. Let’s begin today’s discussion.
Speaker 1 (00:31):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. Here’s your host, Stacy Jones.
Stacy Jones (00:36):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones. I’m so happy to be here with you all today and I want to give a very warm welcome to John Vuong. John is a seasoned sales professional and internet marketer with an exceptional track record helping companies grow their clientele and profits. Working with more than 5,000 local business owners inspired him to start his own company, Local SEO Search, back in 2013. With 15 years of experience working with CEOs, business owners, and marketing leaders, and some of Canada’s most successful corporations, John has developed a deep understanding of local marketing dynamics and consumer behavior. Today, John’s going to share the insights he’s learned from his own experience in the world of SEO, and digital marketing. We’ll learn what’s worked from his perspective, what should be avoided, and how some businesses just miss the mark. John, welcome. So happy to have you here joining us today.
John Vuong (01:29):
I’m excited to be on your show. Thank you for the intro Stacy.
Stacy Jones (01:30):
Of course. Well, I love SEO. Well, I don’t love SEO but I think I love SEO in the fact that it helps people find my business, find my agency. Can you share with us a little bit about how you got into this whole world of SEO today and just your backstory of why this charges you up so much to do it on a day-to-day basis.
John Vuong (01:53):
Yeah. Definitely. I started my career back after college actually. So after college, I took on advertising sales role and I worked in traditional media. Before the internet existed, this was back in 2003, I was really focused on just understanding sales and really getting to perfect that profession. I was reading and listening to a lot of audio tapes and really just understanding the whole behavior of what triggers business owners or people to buy ads. I learned from a lot of mentors and people within that field, and I moved around from traditional print directories to digital affiliate online marketing, and then I went back. The longest stint before I started this agency was working at Yellow Pages Group. I was there for five years and that’s where I really learned how to be a true sales professional because their training was intensive. Seven weeks of really hardcore sales training, as well as I’m working alongside 3,000 top sales professionals across Canada.
I was able to garnish a lot, learned a lot, and really absorb and get a lot of day-to-day interactions on to their behaviors. So that’s where I learned about sales. Then why did I pivot towards SEO? Well, at Yellow Pages, at advertising sales, I actually learned that a lot of these business owners were just frustrated. They were not getting the same ROI that they traditionally once did get and people were moving away from traditional ads to more digital ads, and users were preferring to be real time searching for things. This is before, so back in, I would say 2010’ish, the internet was not as fast as it is today, it was still 3G. 4G started taking off last couple years but you saw there was a trend because technology was advancing. Smartphones were really much more easy to access, email, search apps, and now social media at your fingertips and GPS and everything else, so there was a trend moving away from traditional to now digital.
I knew that just from talking to business owners because they were not spending as much as they were once spending in print ads and they wanted a better presence and being in front of more eyeballs who were actively looking at that time. So that’s why I started SEO. I didn’t really know much about SEO. I’m not technically inclined, that’s not my background, I was more of a sales rep. I started this agency just because I knew there was a need and demand from my existing clients that wanted to shift to more of a digital presence.
Stacy Jones (05:03):
Well, I will say that I think it was the perfect switch for you. I mean you were working at Yellow Pages where the whole thing is about being found, and now you’re in SEO which is the whole thing about optimizing to be found just digitally. You just bridged that in just this weird universal’s way of connections.
John Vuong (05:21):
Yeah. It’s funny because advertising, per say, is pushing people at things like messaging, content, et cetera, but at Yellow Pages it was very interesting because the usage was so high before internet existed because it was the only game in town. If you needed a business or any plumbing issue or dental issue, you would consult that because you knew it was the most comprehensive, accurate directory that you can find once a year and then now, it’s like Google. Everyone trusts Google. It’s vetted to have business owners because you believe they’ve already done their job to match the best websites and results for your personalized search query. So yes, I think it makes sense but it’s a lot harder than it sounds to get you ranked on the first page.
Stacy Jones (06:13):
Yeah. Yellow Pages and any sort of phone book as well as encyclopedias, not the best business to be in anymore today. Thanks to Google.
John Vuong (06:21):
Stacy Jones (06:22):
What can SEO do for a business? Why does it actually matter?
John Vuong (06:27):
Stacy Jones (07:40):
All of it really comes down to with the Google and the other search engines, it is language-based because Google sees words and it understands words so it’s looking at what’s called long tail keywords when you’re typing it in. That’s the crux of SEO of how to figure out, how to make your content shine with words in many cases.
John Vuong (08:01):
Yeah. So search engines, primary Google is keyword based, however, content can come from audio, video, and images as well. On Google, there’s podcasts, there’s video, YouTube, which is owned by Google, and then images as well. There’s different ways people consume content and there’s different ways to optimize different pieces of content. With snippets to keyword rich, long tail keywords, to images with all tags to podcasts, making sure you have your different ways to optimize from title to everything. So the hope purpose is to easily sort your information so that Google or ultimately the user, because ultimately what you want to satisfy is that user behavior to match what exactly they’re searching for with your website. But you have to position yourself long-term typically. It’s not like I do it once and forget it thing, it’s an ongoing battle between you and the hundreds of maybe thousands other competitors trying to compete with that same keyword that you want to go after.
Stacy Jones (09:09):
Right. Because Google is basically looking at all the content that’s out there and it wants to make you happy, the user. It wants to make the user happy and serve up the best answer to their question. You might one day have the best answer up there and then three months later, someone else comes up with a better answer to that question. So Google is going to give them preferences over you, right?
John Vuong (09:31):
Exactly. There’s informational content and then there’s navigational and transactional content. For a business owner, like I deal with a lot of service-based type of clients who are higher ticket items, but all they care about is lead sales, revenue, and profit. Ultimately that’s what majority of the business owners care about. Unless you are like an influencer that wants more subscribers or likes and shares. So that’s a different space altogether, but as a business owner, what you care about is, I’m paying you money to optimize, let me get results, let me get calls and sales and I’ll continue paying you. So my job is really positioning them as thought leaders in their domain like that niche, their service, and that area that they want to target. So that’s what we do for a lot of our clients in terms of SEO, but it’s full service because there’s so many different aspects and pillars within SEO, from content to back links, to engagement, to reputation, to technical, to graphics, to dev, there’s so many, it’s hard to just do one and expect to have really good incremental results.
Stacy Jones (10:44):
You just named, I think probably your answer’s going to be what you just said. But what are some of the top most important things you need to concentrate on with your website, with your content, with your overall digital platform that actually is going to make a big difference in the world of SEO?
John Vuong (11:06):
This is going to be a very hard answer for a lot of people, but SEO is more people who want to establish them for a long-term as opposed to they don’t know if it’s a business yet. What I mean by that is if you have a side hustle or if you’re not serious in terms of committing to your business and you don’t really have revenue yet, it’s very hard for you to know who your ideal customers are, who you want to go after, how do you want to serve your content in the market? But if you already have some business experience and understand who you want to go after, like that avatar that person, then you can create a campaign to target more of that ideal customer viewers and it’s more longterm. So, yes.
Understand your people, writing good content, and then understanding that what content do they like consuming and hit them with a message that they can’t live without. Keep it consistent, keep them wanting more constantly because what Google is after is fresh information, position yourself as an expert and leader so that they will serve you up. But there’s other variables that are important such as reputation management, like getting good reviews and testimonials, a lot of back links or people actually writing about you as a thought leader, and then you serving up constant new information, well researched content. So there’s so many other variables that you can not just focus on one, if that makes sense.
Stacy Jones (12:43):
It does. Two of the things that you just said were one and the same, but just to call them out, you said fresh content, you said new content, they’re one and the same, but that’s something that’s super, super important in the world of SEO. it’s keeping things that actually are updated because Google is rewarding you and the search engines are rewarding you for not having stagnant content. Right?
John Vuong (13:09):
Exactly. So not only do you need to write a blog once in a while, but make sure it’s in-depth well researched new information that either comes from yourself or from a third party, and make sure you citation it, make sure everything is properly referenced, but the key is positioning yourself because if people want to use you as a product or service, they want to know that you know your stuff, that you’re an expert. Just like if I use a plumber, I want to make sure that they have been doing it for five, 10, 20 years, and I’m going to pay a premium because I can try to do it myself on a YouTube video, but I’m paying them to do it right the first time. So it’s very similar to any product or service that people want to pay for your product service, they want and they expect more than what they can find and do themselves.
Stacy Jones (14:05):
Another thing that you mentioned a little bit ago is you keep on saying the word long-term, like the long haul, that all of these things with SEO, none of it’s like an overnighter because not only do you have to spend the time to fix it and update it and stay on it, but it also takes the algorithms within all of the surgeon’s time to actually map your updates, and actually see that changes have happened.
John Vuong (14:29):
Exactly. Google refreshes their algorithm a couple of times a day. However, it doesn’t index your website daily. Even though you’re updating with site maps and you’re pinging them and you’re letting them know you have new information, they’re not going to crawl your website because they’ve got billions of websites that are way more important than you are. Therefore, what you have to do is consistently is understand what’s going on in your immediate space and who your major competitors are and control what you can control, and don’t worry about everything else.
So figure out where you want to compete with, who are your major competitors, what are they doing in the local landscape or marketplace, and how you want to be positioned with the right messaging and content pieces. Because you can spend tons of hours writing great content, but no one is going to read it. With great messaging but no one in your audience is actually consuming that information because you’re putting in a wrong platform or you’re not even amplifying it, no one is reading it, sharing it, there’s nothing behind it. It’s challenging, especially for people that have been doing running a business for 20 years, they’re like, I have way more experience in all my competitors yet why am I not found online? Because you haven’t been doing and letting other people know that you’ve been alive for 20 years, right?
Stacy Jones (15:54):
Right. Now we started writing as an agency our blog back in 2012. We have well over a thousand blogs now because we write about five blogs a week, we started off writing one blog a week. It is the number one reason why people know about our agency, is how people find us. Some of our blogs gets very, very, very, very, very, very, very few views, and some of them just blow it out of the water and we never really know what’s going to happen on it but when they blow it out of the water, we’re always trying to figure out why so that we can try to replicate that.
John Vuong (16:30):
Yeah, exactly. So keeping constant content and communicate it on a frequent basis. Expect it and make sure you own your list which is very important as well. What’s the funnel? A lot of people do a lot of stuff and expect that once you build it, they will all come. Well, it doesn’t happen like that. It’s like running a bricks and mortar store. You put a signage and you expect, I just invested a hundred thousand dollars in all this furniture, signage, product, but no one comes. Well, you forgot to market it properly and that’s where SEO and marketing comes in because if no one knows about you, good luck trying to even sell your product or widget, all right?
Stacy Jones (17:16):
Yeah. I think and I totally could be wrong on this, so please correct me if I’m wrong. But Google or the search engines are also rewarding you because of your site traffic. That you’re getting that’s organic, and that organic that you might be getting could be because you’re driving it from your email newsletters, or you’re driving it through Facebook advertising, or you’re driving it because the more people that Google seeing that actually like what the content is that you’re putting up there, they’re not bouncing off from where your site is, Google is like, this is a good source, they obviously are legit people coming to them, we should send more people to them.
John Vuong (17:52):
Exactly. So there’s a lot of signals and there’s over 200 signals that Google is always constantly checking on and every variable will make a big significant move in terms of traffic and results where your place. So time spent on a website, of course that’s one of the signals. If someone is pressing that back button right away, it’s not relevant to them and that’s why people are leaving going to another page or another result. So the best source is direct traffic. If you have an email newsletter and that list is very impactful where people stay and trust you and you’re already a thought leader and they read two, three, five minutes and they stay on your site, that’s where Google can say, well, this person actually gets a lot of people and people are staying so they’re going to reward you for that being the trusted source of content versus while you’re new, you don’t really have a list, you don’t know what you’re talking about, and no one is reading it. So how can we reward someone like that?
Stacy Jones (18:54):
Okay. Another thing that you touched on which I think people don’t really think about a lot of times when they think SEO and they should, is that whole reputation management because you get a bad digital reputation, you’re going to just suffer. Isn’t that right?
John Vuong (19:11):
Yeah. So reputation management is just third-party reviews. Anyone to write a testimony on their own website but when someone gets a third-party review like Google reviews or Yellow Pages or Yelp or Facebook, it’s more personalized and you can actually see who’s writing it and you can actually read behind the lines if it’s a fake review or if it’s a genuine review, you should actually comment all positive and negative reviews. So the whole point of reputation management is people trust third-party reviews more than they trust themselves. That’s the first thing I do when I travel or go to a restaurant, I always check the reviews, not just the star rating but I sort by negative first and how they manage the negative because I feel like everyone is going for five star reviews.
It’s more like, whenever something bad happens, how does the ownership manage that situation? So I’m a little bit different than the average person that would look at reviews, but it’s the whole purpose of getting good reviews. So make it a habit within your business to start asking in terms of a process to get more reviews. No matter whether it’s positive or negative, just make sure you get more so that you make it a constant process moving forward.
Stacy Jones (20:36):
That’s hard for a lot of people. It’s hard to go out, especially for business owners because they’re like, this is my baby and I have to go out into the world and say, do you like my baby or is my baby ugly? That’s a really hard thing for people to do so but you’re saying, just do it, just go ahead, do it, and then respond accordingly to the good, to the bad so that you show who your personality is and how you actually face adversity.
John Vuong (21:01):
Yes. If you think about traditional, like bricks and mortar stores before Google existed, the Yellow Pages type clients, how did they survive before the internet existed? They took over their customers, they understood who they were and they rewarded them being loyal. They take care and personalize as much as possible and and they relied on referral and word of mouth. So if you think about the digital landscape, is very similar to how bricks and mortar old school businesses operated. If you take care of your business, your core clients, you serve them well, you price it well, everything in terms of running a good business, if you do that, and then you replicate the same things online, you’re going to be in good shape. But if you don’t know how to run a good business, SEO will never transition you to be a good business owner because they’ll see right through you when they see all these five-star reviews yet when you call them up, you’re not treated right. There’s gaps and people will know. So make it consistent.
Stacy Jones (22:12):
Are there any big mistakes that you just see people make all the time besides lack of consistency?
John Vuong (22:20):
I would say like the website piece, there is things that people expect today. Secure website, having an SSL so to give it fast loading mobile friendly, the user engagement UX design, like if you wouldn’t go to a website longer than five seconds, so say in your own shoe as a user to your clients, your business, and then would you consult them after looking that first impression because you have three seconds? A lot of people forget about that, they forget about their own business and taking a step back from a third party review like the perspective of a user. If you can really humanize yourself and be real with real people and having a team or whatever, that’s where you can actually elevate your whole website, your whole system and process because there’s going to be gaps. Every business can get better at every aspect, from customer service, answering the phone, processes, accounting, bookkeeping, sales, whatever it is. So understanding the different gaps and then working on it and changing it slowly, that’s how you can actually get better as a business. So I always look at like the big picture versus the smaller things.
Stacy Jones (23:45):
I love how you mentioned, showing your employees, showing who you are, showing inside who your business is because so many times I think that people go out there and they’re like, this is my bright, shiny object business and you just need to see the surface, and they forget that we’re still people, we all connect and there’s a reason why social platforms are so popular. We like going in and seeing behind the curtain and seeing who the people are, who are doing things, and seeing that they’re cool, they’re hip, they’re whatever they are so that we can relate better to them as customers too.
John Vuong (24:19):
Humanize and personalize. Exactly what you said because everyone has their own story and journey. Let people in on it, especially if you want them to buy your product or service, you have to let them know what’s going on and what’s the purpose. So, yeah. Definitely resonate as much as possible.
Stacy Jones (24:43):
Any other wheels off the bus type of moments that you encounter or the business owners should really be more aware of?
John Vuong (24:51):
I always get, can you give me a timeline on when I’m going to rank, and how much will it cost? I always get these a couple of times a day.
Stacy Jones (25:02):
Give me the proof, give me the fact that you’re going to make a result happen.
John Vuong (25:06):
Yeah. So my answer to that is no guarantee, no timeline, but I’ll do my best because SEO is a challenge. It’s more of a partnership and it’s more of a relationship that I’m getting into because I need to know your business, I need to want to work with someone that is trustworthy enough to want to position them as an expert. So it’s a two way street more than anything, and there’s a lot of companies that will guarantee everything. Do you really understand what’s going on behind the scenes because if they guarantee it, we have a lot of tools and software to detect a lot of the fraudulent stuff and that’s probably what’s happening because they’re tricking the system or hacking them to guarantee a result and that’s short lived. Anything that is immediate, well, as a business owner you know nothing happens right away.
It takes time. There’s a lot of challenges, there’s ups and downs, and it’s a learning process. That’s what SEO is about as well, but there is tools and software, if done right we’ll be able to position you with better authority, better relevancy, and become more of an expert in your field.
Stacy Jones (26:24):
I think that touch that you just said, the authenticity, it’s the same thing again going into social media, going into any advertising, going into the world of PR. You’re looking at ways that you can make your site be authentic and you’re not using black hat, white hat, all of these whatever. The SEO term is of the moment of, you’re doing bad things and you’re doing a thousand words so that you can get that keyword in your page and it’s the size of a pinhead that no one could see which is what people used to do to rank their websites, but you’re actually using the blogs, your socials, your videos, your imagery, and what’s going to be so interesting is all of this voice that we’re doing now, all the AI is learning that and it’s taking the voice and turning it again into words so that it can serve up through the video like Google is doing now where you can get even more insights. So there’s so much
John Vuong (27:23):
Yeah. Analytics, right?
Stacy Jones (27:23):
John Vuong (27:25):
It’s all about understanding data, but also understanding your customers ultimately because they’re the ones that are consuming your content and eventually will be a client of yours. So what are they looking for? What information can you serve up to them and who care about anyone else? Take care of your base, take care of your clients and really understand who they are first, create good content to serve them and take care of your customers and that’s running a good business. If you can check all those boxes out, then you’re in good shape.
Stacy Jones (27:57):
Yeah. I think when we are teaching new team members or interns on how to write blogs, because we have a pretty active blog, the best practices are, make sure you embed long tail keywords here and here, this many times somewhere, and I’ve always gone on to check of write where you’re trying to actually educate. Write to someone, think of someone, I write blogs thinking of a customer that has a problem that I need to solve and I try to write to educate them. All of our website copy is exact same way and our social copy is the same way because we’re trying to actually envision not a persona, but actual person that we’re just actually legitimately trying to solve their problem or enlighten them in some way and it served us really, really well. Google responds well to it because it’s authentic.
John Vuong (28:45):
Exactly. So make sure you write for people, real people and not Google. Yes, there’s trends or software that actually detect which keywords are trending at the moment, so maybe use some of that but personalize as much as possible to your audience members so that you can get the best of both worlds, but variations are very important, long keyword research is very important, but just taking care of good content, well research and have your own voice. Keep it consistent.
Stacy Jones (29:20):
Asking, when you talk to someone who’s a new customer asking them how they found out about you, that shows so much it’s like, what do you think you were typing when you were looking for us? It shed so many, it just pulls back the curtains as far as what real people are doing. So it’s not in your head and you’re not projecting what you would be typing, but you actually find out what legitimately people are typing about you.
John Vuong (29:43):
That’s a little bit more challenging today because most people are savvier than you think. They know so much by the time they reach out to you, that all they care about is price typically. They usually check out all your assets from social assets to website assets, to testimonials, they know so much, it’s crazy. They know your life pretty much. They’re ready warm enough that they want to work with you or else why would they reach out? So it’s great if you already have that consistency and that different asset pieces has the same messages.
Stacy Jones (30:21):
John, how can people find you? How can our listeners learn where to get their own ability to hunt you down and research you and find out before they pick up the phone besides this podcast obviously?
John Vuong (30:34):
Yeah. We own an agency here in Canada, it’s called Local SEO Search.ca, we service clients all throughout North America, UK, Australia as well, but we typically work with service-based type of clients and we help them position themselves as experts leaders in the field. Then we also have a podcast that really talks about my personal experience on working with so many local business owners, it’s called Local SEO Today. So you can check that out as well.
Stacy Jones (31:05):
Awesome. Well, look at you. You are leveraging one of the powers of out there of creating your own content. That’s super authentic for people to find you.
John Vuong (31:13):
Awesome. Well, thanks a lot, Stacy. I really had a lot of fun. If anybody has any questions, you can actually reach out to me on a more personal level at Linkedin as well. So you can find John Vuong, I’m the owner of Local SEO Search.
Stacy Jones (31:25):
Perfect. John, any last words of parting advice for our listeners today?
John Vuong (31:30):
Don’t be scared, go do something. I’m always like, the worst thing that will happen is you all make mistake, you’ll lose some money but that’s the way of learning. As a business owner, I make mistakes on a daily basis. As long as you progress, you learn from it. It’s not going to be the end of the world. I have a thicker skin than ever now because as a sales rep, but now as a business owner I know failures are not the end of the world. You make mistakes, you learn from it, and you evolve, and try not to make them again. So as a fellow entrepreneur, just keep doing what you’re doing because it’s a lot of fun and be passionate, continue killing it, Stacy.
Stacy Jones (32:21):
Well, I will say, I think a lot of the reasons why people find you and other professionals have value is because all of us have made so many mistakes that we’re basically sure proofing that they don’t make the same ones and that’s the value a lot of times even more so I’m like, what can you do to make this a win for me? What can you do to make sure I don’t go down a rabbit hole that is just going to mess everything up? How can I learn from your experience?
John Vuong (32:47):
Stacy Jones (32:49):
John, thank you so much for coming on today. Really appreciate it.
John Vuong (32:53):
Thank you so much for having me Stacy, I had a lot of fun.
Stacy Jones (32:55):
Of course. To our listeners, thank you for joining marketing mistakes and how to avoid them. I look forward to chatting with you this next week. Have a great one.
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