Social Media Marvels | October 01, 2019

All Things SEO - Craig Campbell

Picture of Jagruti Bhargav

by Jagruti Bhargav

The Social Media Marvels talks to the UK-based SEO expert, Craig Campbell. Craig has 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.

Find the summarized  transcript from the interview down below.

What Do I Expect from the Video :

As a digital marketer, one needs to maximize their presence on search engines.

  • What aspects of SEO should one focus on? 
  • Can we produce readable content and rise up the search rankings?
  • What are the common misconceptions about SEO that a client has? 
  • Why should we update our SEO strategy to include voice-search and appliances like Google Home and Alexa? 

If you have similar questions that needs to be answered, then let Craig help you out. Follow the podcast.

Importance of SEO in a Marketing strategy

SEO is essentially what brings in revenue. Lots of people can concentrate on the content. But if the content is not engaging enough or is well written enough, then you're not gonna make any money and there is no point in doing business or spending the time making content if you're not there to monetize it. So SEO has to come into 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 put up a website instantly brings in all this money and business and that's not the case, obviously. 

SEO is a strategy and 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 gonna get so far with content.

Co-Dependence of Website Traffic and SEO Strategy

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 kind of 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. 

These are all things that you have to follow as part of the process on top of having good 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. You know, it's just not gonna taste the same. You've got to do a bit of everything to make sure you get the best campaign going.

Attracting Local Audience v/s Attracting Global Audience

Ranking well on Google My Business positions on the map listings is what you would prioritize, if you wanted to take 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 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 all together 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 always pays well to rank locally anyway. 

After gaining local traction, shift the focus on ranking nationally. I get on to implement building content whether you set up outreach campaigns, you're hiring content writers or doing your technical SEO audits. 

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.

Efforts towards SEO v/s SEA

Paid traffic and Google ad words is taking up more of the landscape when you do a normal Google search. Still, organic search conversions trumps paid traffic conversions. In terms of strategy and budget implementation, personally I would probably do 80% SEO 20% paids. 

But when you're working for clients, it is really up to the clients you have. I've done SEO for clients in the past that have spent $2,000 on an SEO and have spent $10,000 on paid advertising. And what you'll probably think that even doing 2,000 pounds worth of SEO will outweigh and convert better than 10,000 pounds worth of paid advertising because paid advertising doesn't always convert that well. 

It involves a lot of testing. Many keywords are manipulated, budgets are set. Because although you paid to be up there, that doesn't mean you're gonna 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 not affordable.

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 coming 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. 

Google wants us all to essentially do a paid search. That's why they're 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.

People keep saying SEO is dead. It's been five years that I have been hearing it. But SEO is far from dead, it's going strong. So make sure that you're ranking well for your long tail keywords because those will still bring in a huge amount of traffic.

Dealing with Irate Clients

When I starting out doing SEO, I had a digital agency. I have taken clients because that's what got me the revenue for the staff, I took up affiliate marketing too, and helped me get to what I do today. Hence, you learn through experience. And, sometimes you need to take on clients just because they pay. Eventually, I found that I was doing it all for 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 1,000 pounds a month retainer. And you know, the guy could have had the worst website in the world. And deep in my heart, I knew that that guy, when he was spending the 1,000 pounds, wasn't really gonna get a return on investment which led to ongoing arguments and justification. 

I have also worked with 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. Your business model. As in, gonna work well for clients because you've got staff to pay and you're not spending money in the right places. 

SEO is a time-consuming activity! How should one explain it to the clients?

You've got clients who are just unrealistic. That's very hard to deal with because what I found that 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 than 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 gonna take this long. "You're gonna need that money. "If you don't like it, "you have to go away and go somewhere else. "Maybe someone can do something that I can't. "I'm not sure." To certain types 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. 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. 

The clients don't understand that even putting a piece of content out there, it can take Google a couple of weeks to crawl and index that content. So you know, it's not us that are holding the work back. 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 on social media. And you know, whatever your process is gonna be. That whole process can take six weeks to get the full thing in place. 

That’s when the ongoing links start ranking better. So, clients who think that we all push a button and we've got some secret trick are disillusion. 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 a test and get my head and about everything that actually works, and making more 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 pounds a month, or whatever his turnover was, when I could find something myself? So, I'm a lot happier and a lot less stressed as a result.

Incorporating the Intent-Funnel in Your SEO Strategy

It's one thing ranking well and getting traffic to your website. It's another converting them. So getting people into a sales funnel, improving your user experience and time to implement conversion re-optimization are all things that are gonna massively improve your time on your website, your click through rate, and all of that kind of stuff.

The ranking factors like click through rate, time on site, and engagement and everything else are all things that Google are looking for when they are serving your page for a particular search term. So it would be absolutely ludicrous to ignore that. I think we've all seen websites out there that ranked really well and you go, this is a real ugly looking website or it's really hard to navigate. 

Everything goes hand in hand. I think a lot of people lay a lot of focus on creating a funnel and doing the user experience and the conversion rate optimization before they get traffic. And that's something that I do see is pointless. I think you have to get the traffic first to then implement all of that stuff.

I know there are a lot of people out there who do that but you forget to do the link building or try and increase the rankings and they focus purely on the users. But I think you have to get the max rate for everything. You have to get the right content, the right call stack, and the right speediest rate fast loading website, and obviously the right SEO strategy behind that. 

But I don't always encourage other people to look at everything. Get the traffic first and then you can fully take advantage of most people who are on your website. Whether that's getting them into a sales funnel or 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 you have to think of that as well. 

It's not just about me but obviously whether you're selling clothes, or you're selling services, or software. You know, someone may look at it and go, "I don't like that logo" or "I don't like that name". There's loads of small reasons. A lot of people instantly dismiss you because they've never heard of you as well. So I think getting people into that funnel is vital for that.

Stay up-to-date with SEO-related topics

People that I follow would be Matthew Woodward, matthewwoodward.co.uk,Matt Diggity. We network together with. So we go to conferences. We meet up the day before the conference, we have some food, a couple of beers, and we exchange ideas, exchange test and data and stuff like that. 

We have private master lines and stuff as well. We select 10 of, who we believe are the best SEOs and we all sit around the table and bounce ideas off each other and talk to each other.

It’s a good idea to network, share one’s findings. It’s not easy for part ways with information they’ve gathered themselves. 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 wanted to steal. The reality is no one really cares what you're doing and people, in most cases, tend not to steal your clients. 

So, I think you can be a lot more open. In the SEO world, the more open you are the more information and the more help you get from like-minded people. So when you're looking to keep on top of things one, check out the blog that actually knows what they're doing. Check 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. So I would always encourage people to do their own because for example. And it wasn't the social media sharing. You know, once we'd done the test and once I spoke to a few other people, they said, "It's not the fact that you're sharing social media. "It's the traffic and the click through rate "that is actually helping that page rank." 

You need to test things on your own like I did. Share your content on social with your fans. You have to delve a bit deeper. And now, we understand the click through rate and engagement and stuff does help. And pages move and that's a test that I had to go through a few other people and get their ideas and their test and data and that's what we came out with in the end. 

So I think even though some bloggers believe they're telling the truth, it isn't always accurate either and that's the thing. None of us have the right that you know 100% right answers here and we can only really be as successful as we currently are. I think keeping your who you follow to a kinda smaller scale. 

Because in 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 this guy over here would say something completely different and I wasted five years going around in circles and I was none the wiser. 

So again just be careful, do your research. Don't take everything that everyone says as the truth. And I don't think you go far wrong as long as you keep doing your research and follow a handful of people who you believe, from your own research of doing good stuff.

Effects of Voice-search on SEO

Voice search is just another new technology that we all have to embrace. And again, those people out there like Aleyda Solis and , SEO speakers talking about it at conferences, the importance of it. Technology evolves constantly and I think it's something you just simply have to embrace. 

You hear people saying to their Alexa, "Play that song on Spotify" or "where is the best place?" "Where is the best Indian restaurant "to eat at in London?" Or wherever you may be. And I think that you just have to follow the guidelines as to, I think for me, 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. 

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 see, people are very specific when they're asking a question so it's not gonna be, "places to eat London". People are gonna see, "where is the best take away?" "Where is the best Chinese take away?" "Where is the best Indian takeaway?" Or "where is the best designer men's clothes 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. So I think just becoming a lot and very specific would be 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 those things. I don't always implement things straight away and purely because I like to see what's going on and understand it a bit better before I start implementing the website. 

But voice, one of those things that's not gonna be some new thing that's gonna go away anytime soon. As you see, everyone's got Alexa or Google Home or whatever the hell they've got in their house and there's gotta be new gadgets that come out as well. And what we want to do is make sure that everyone, the general public have become lazier and they are increasingly going to be stuff online just by speaking into a gadget and I think that's gonna be a long term goal. 

I'm not an expert in voice search. I think you would have to look at the likes of Aleyda Solis and what not to get the ins and outs of how it all works and there’s 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 because I do see it coming later this year into next year and then going forward it's just gonna continually increase. 

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 gonna 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 said, the older generation and even people like me are probably not speaking into a gadget. I'd rather just search for something on my phone or on my laptop.

Role of Voice-search expanding Target Audience

With technological advancements, newer audiences like the visually-impaired are also able to navigate the web with ease. What changes can a business make to become more inclusive towards them?

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 include them. So, it's certainly an angle to go in and on. 

And as I said, I don't want to say taking advantage of a situation 'cause that's not what I mean. But certainly taking advantage of technology and the equipment that these guys are using which is gonna then be voice related as something that if you had that, the sooner the better. If you can start diving some of that traffic into your website, make more sales. Then you're winning at the end of the day if that's the end goal.

Digging a little deeper into the life of “The Craig Campbell”..

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, that the story that made everything sink home for me was I'd done SEO for a dentist guy. It's actually an Indian fellow based in Glasgow. And he'd done SEO for five or six years with myself and he built up a number of different practices. 

He sold all of his practices at the age of 31 because he wanted to spend more time with his family and children. And he turned around to me and he said to me, "Craig, you're one of the most stupid guys I've ever met." And I says, "Why are you saying that?" And he said, "Because you have made me a multi-millionaire "over the last five or six years. "Yet you're gonna have to continue working." 

And he says, "I don't think you're doing the right stuff. "You're not making money for yourself." 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 you should be looking at for yourself." 

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 I flipped back to it.

I had to figure out what my skills were and it was my experience in SEO. So, that's when I started selling training courses and consultancy. Because I've been in SEO for a long time and it is all I really know. I don't know anything about cooking or selling clothes online. So, I started to sell courses and training online. That's the truth behind everything that I do now because that guy, what that guy said to me obviously gave me a wake up call saying, "He's right, exactly 100% right in what he was 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 said, I've 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. 

But that's a true story, the guy that said I was the biggest idiot that he'd 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 and for someone to say that to you for you to wake up and you then do something about it. So that's why I'm now in the position where I tell clients, "go away, I don't want to work with you." 

People see that as ignorant, it's not ignorant I've just not got enough time limit. I just want to focus on my own projects. And that's working very well for me. I wouldn't certainly say running a digital agency was a bad thing. It taught me a lot about managing people, clients, money and a whole lot of other skills 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.

The #SocialMediaMarvels is a podcast series that invites digital marketing influencers from across the world to celebrate their journey and get a glimpse of their contributions to the field. Get actionable tips, learn directly from the practitioners, and imbibe it to help your business.

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