How to Use SEO & Processes to Build, Scale & Sell Your Agency or Business

Ryan Stewart, is a marketing entrepreneur with over a decade of experience building and selling online businesses. He worked as a consultant for Deloitte and SapientNitro helping large brands like Target and Best Buy improve online acquisition. He built and scaled an eCommerce site called Laces Out with a 1.2 million organic business per month and sold the business in 2017. He built and scaled an online SEO agency called WEBRIS to 1.1 million in annual recurring revenue in 16 months, and sold the business in 2018. Ryan is now a partner and board member at From the Future, a technical digital agency with 40 employees and offices in Miami and Philadelphia.

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Meet Ryan Stewart

Phil Singleton: Ryan, welcome to the show.

Ryan Stewart: Thank you for having me, Phil. I appreciate it.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, this is going to be awesome. I’m so psyched. It’s so cool to have people that are in the business that you can talk shop a little bit. And some of this is going to fly over some our small business owners’ heads, I’m sure, but the SEO and marketing folks are going really love this. So tell us a little about your story, those first steps out of college or university or what have you, into the business world, and what got you to where you are today.

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, so I graduated undergrad in 2009 and was super lucky. The school that I went to had a really good alumni network, and I was able to get a job in consulting. And I kind of bounced around that for like two years between Accenture and Deloitte and really did not like it. Wasn’t for me for a whole number of reasons. Great company, just not for me. And so I started looking for other ways to make money, and I stumbled across Instagram. This was back in like 2011. This was before Facebook bought it, back before it has anywhere near the mass adoption that it has. And I knew, I saw a lot of my friends using it. I saw a lot of people moving over from Facebook. So I wanted to figure out a way that I could maybe make some money off that. And I ended up getting into something that didn’t work out, but after going through that process of trying to do something and then making a little bit of money and getting a taste of what being an entrepreneur is like, I couldn’t go back.

Phil Singleton: Did you jump out into the cold or did you quit or were you kind of doing this-

Ryan Stewart: No, I didn’t … I was super lucky that I wasn’t doing much at my job. It was big corporate America. I had it down to I would come in, do an hour worth of work, sit in a couple of meetings, and then I had basically had four hours of time on my hands to be on the internet. So it was the perfect time to do things on the internet.

Ryan Stewart: But anyways, so I was doing that, and I was in a coffee shop talking to this kid I was working with. Some guy next to me overheard me, and he did SEO. I didn’t know what it was at the time. It was back in 2011. And he started talking about it and introduced it to me and I was like, “That’s where I need to be,” you know what I’m saying? To be able to control what people are searching for and all that stuff.

Ryan Stewart: So got into it, just became obsessed with it. At that point, I ended up quitting my job at Accenture. I picked it up pretty quickly within like six months. Actually lied on my resume, and then went, took a job as a contractor at SapientNitro, which is a huge digital agency. And through that, I was able to learn a lot about analytics, how websites are built, how the internet works, all that different stuff, client communications, all those things.

Phil Singleton: Let’s take a step back here because one of the things that blows me away about you is there’s a lot of different things that you’re really talented, you’re obviously really smart, you’re an SEO genius, but the one thing that I notice is that you are … And obviously, I follow you, we don’t know each other personally up until like now, this interview, is that you’re a master of execution.

Ryan Stewart: Sure.

Phil Singleton: All the stuff that you’re doing, you’ve got all these things going in different directions, and I’m just wondering is that some of the stuff that you think came … Did some of that come from Deloitte and training and stuff like that, are you just naturally wired that way? Did SapientNitro … Somewhere in that, you just learned how to execute, man. You’re a killer.

Ryan Stewart: I appreciate that, Phil. First of all, I was an athlete my whole life. I was a scholarship football player in college, D1. I was always undersized. I just had work ethic beaten into me from when I was a young age, so I had that going for me, which was one thing. But going to Deloitte, I was actually a business process re-engineer. So what my job was, I hated it, but my job was to look at massive enterprise software and then build the human processes for that. So I developed a feel for process driven thinking. And that process driven thinking plus my wanting to work hard and succeed, I think when I combined those two things, I found a nice niche in the space. Because a lot of people talk, especially in this industry, but results are what matter. And more importantly too is execution.

Ryan Stewart: So having that process mindset, I was able to build processes to help me scale my time. By having a process, I can then go out and hire somebody with a lot less money, a lot lower cost, that’s not an expert in the field. I can just follow that process. So pretty much everything I’ve done from the agency to the eCommerce to The Blueprint, everything is built on these processes that I’m able to get people underneath me at 4, 5 bucks an hour just doing the busy work that takes stuff off my plate that allows me to be hyper-productive and execute at a very high level as well.

Phil Singleton: Yes. Now it’s coming together. Because I can see, obviously, the competition with SEO, people are really competitive, right? That definitely probably fuels a lot into what drives you.

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, I love it. I have a love/hate … Off topic now, but that’s fine. I have a love/hate with the industry because I love it because it’s so competitive, how passionate it is. The people are super amazing too. When you go to a conference and meet people, they’re all genuine, nice people and we all share this kind of bond and passion about something as stupid as SEO, right?

Phil Singleton: Right.

Ryan Stewart: But my hate kind of comes from the fact, for the same thing, people can be very condescending. People always think they’re right. And at the end of the day, nobody knows the answer.

Phil Singleton: But your bank account knows the answer is the way I look at it.

Ryan Stewart: And that’s all relative too. I have this debate with my business partner at the agency because he sees things one way in terms of promotion and money and how things should be done. I look at the other side. So we’re in SEO, which is the very white hot side of internet marketing, but you get into like the advertisers, the true internet marketers, like the Frank Kerns of the world, who are just selling info products over and over again, you look at their bank accounts, and if you use that justification, you can get, I don’t want to say unethical, but you can cross some lines in that space. Whole other topic for conversation. But yes, bank accounts really do matter.

Phil Singleton: Right. You mentioned something, I know we’re kind of going through … I’m going to reel it back here in a second, but because this is a little bit talking shop too.

Ryan Stewart: Sure.

SEO Experts vs SEO Journalist and SEO Bloggers

Phil Singleton: I think in our industry there are a ton of people that are perceived to be SEO experts, or I don’t know what have you, I actually wrote about this in the book I wrote with John Jantsch, but a lot of them are actually like journalists or reporters or they’re regurgitating top level stuff. But they’re not actually the grunts that are on the ground that are having to make money for themselves and for their clients. And I think that’s where a lot of SEO expertise comes in.

Phil Singleton: That’s why for people that have been doing it for a long time, I know you’re an expert. I read your stuff. I know that on the side of being an influencer and having great content and helping to educate people, you’ve actually, through your track record, been able to build businesses and make money for other people, make businesses and sell them and done it multiple times and stuff like that. That’s actually a huge difference. Do you agree with me on that? I think it’s a little harsh to come out and say, hey, there are SEO experts out there, but are they really experts or are they just reporters or bloggers that couldn’t rank themselves out of a wet paper bag? That might be a little bit harsh, but I mean seriously…

SEO is so legitimate now …you can go and get a job, and work at a job as an SEO making 100 grand.

– Ryan Stewart

Ryan Stewart: Yes and yes. And this is, again, another debate I that I have with people is that when I got into SEO it was to be an entrepreneur. It was to make my own money. But what SEO’s become, it’s become such a legitimate, it’s a legitimate industry, you know what I’m saying? You can go and get a job, and work at a job as an SEO making 100 grand. So there’s different levels to SEO. There’s people who have built their own websites. There’s people who have done Black Hat. There’s people who do local SEO, big enterprise, technical SEO, and all those different … There’s link builders, there’s content marketers, there’s all these different people that have different view of what a result is. You know what I mean?

Ryan Stewart: When I was at Sapient, the big technical SEO stuff, smartest SEOs I ever worked with, but they didn’t know the first thing about content or creativity or … Not that they weren’t creative people, they just looked at things, they were working on Target.com, so of course, Target.com, it’s a technical campaign. And the way that they approached SEO was very different than I was used to approaching SEO building my own WordPress sites and hitting with back links.

Ryan Stewart: So I think it’s all relative. I’m not trying to give a political answer here. I think everyone can be an expert in their own right. But at the end of the day, yes, it’s about what you’ve ranked. It’s about what you’ve monetized. It’s about who you’ve helped. And it’s so much more than that too. I tell people all the time that SEO is a microcosm of marketing which is a microcosm of running a business. And you running a business know after you get to a certain point, SEO doesn’t even really matter to your business anymore. It’s important, but it’s like, what’s more important is hiring, building company, all these different things come up.

Ryan Stewart: I think that if you’ve been doing the same thing for ten years and haven’t necessarily progressed … If that’s what you want to do of course, if you haven’t progressed in the field or with your business then I would have to agree with what you’re saying. You know what I mean? So if you’re still talking about the same things ten years later, it’s like are you building a business or you’re building … You know what I’m saying? There’s different levels to it, you know what I mean?

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Well, let’s jump back because I totally cut you off to go on a tangent.

Ryan Stewart: No, that’s fine.

Phil Singleton: At some point, you jumped out and you actually had your own business because you were able to quit a full-time job.

Ryan Stewart: Yes.

Phil Singleton: You went to Deloitte, and then it was SapientNitro, and then it basically was out on your own?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, so when I was at Sapient is when I really started like blogging, doing YouTube videos. This was like 2013-ish when I was in the kitchen of my old apartment doing videos and stuff. And then I was getting traction, especially with like link building, I built the process for link building. I was getting a lot of clients. And at that point, because I was a contractor, I went part-time. And then I just eventually left Sapient after about a year, year-and-a-half. And then WEBRIS was launched. And then I did that and then, well, actually before WEBRIS, there was something else, which we’ll talk about later, with my failure. I had another partner, failed, then I picked myself back up, started WEBRIS, grew it really fast, sold it. And have a whole bunch of…

Phil Singleton: And was that pretty much you? Was there a partner involved with that pretty much your own gig?

Ryan Stewart: WEBRIS was all me. Yeah, that was all me. And now I’ve been with From the Future for about a year and a quarter now, and just a whole bunch of other projects in between as well.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. That’s awesome. So okay, we’ll get to some of this other stuff, but I’d really like to talk about … Well, let’s talk a little bit about how … Because WEBRIS, when you started that, at some point you just jumped onto the scene, the SEO scene where you started, you have great … I was thinking about this before we started the show and it was like a couple things struck me. One is, as I mentioned, you’re a master of execution. The other thing that really strikes me that I remember about your sites, is some of your blog posts, dude, are like entire websites. They’re like web apps. I mean, they’re sick. The amount of stuff you put into them, they’re so good and they’re so detailed, and they have so many features into them. That really stuck me. For anybody, I wanted to add a couple of links to the show notes of some of the post I am talking about.

Blogging & Becoming an SEO Influencer

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, I appreciate that.

Phil Singleton: Did that help draw people in, that kind of stuff?  You were all over the place. You’re pitching. One day I see you’re doing a whiteboard video on Moz. You just kind of blew up. Was there a big break there when that happened, and all of a sudden it took off?

Ryan Stewart: Again, it depends how you’re looking at it, but it was years of hard work that was leading up to me….

Phil Singleton:  Becoming an overnight success, yeah.

Ryan Stewart: If the first time you saw me on Moz Whiteboard Friday, it would seem that way, but yeah, that was years and years of blogging, of outreach, of begging people for links, of guest posts. And that’s another thing I did a lot of. I would spend a lot of time guest posting. And I would give my best content to other websites because of the reach. And then when I had it, felt like I had enough authority and clout, I started blogging a lot more on my website.

Phil Singleton: Gotcha.

 

 

Leveraging YouTube

Ryan Stewart: But yeah, I mean, the blogging definitely helped me. It’s still, even on From the Future now, when we release a really good blog stuff, it’s tough in the SEO space because everything’s been covered, there’s no new tactics. But if we can come up with something kind of unique, it always draws clients, still a thing. But for me, it’s been video. Video’s been much better for me. And it’s more scalable for me too. I can put together a deck in like an hour and then talk in the microphone and then give it to a writer to write up. So I’ll do a lot more of that now. Plus it gives me different mediums to attack. It allows me to satisfy two different parts of the audience. Some people like to read, some people like to watch and listen, as you know. And YouTube, for me, has really been my biggest driver.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Ryan Stewart: YouTube grows on itself. You don’t have to promote it nearly as hard as a blog post. You don’t have to wait for it to rank. There’s a whole other algorithm in place on YouTube.

Phil Singleton: Brian Dean is huge on there.

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, he crushes it. He crushes it.

Phil Singleton: And you mentioned … The one thing I’ve never done, I’ve never been to one of the industry conferences. Is that something you started? Have you always done it?

Ryan Stewart: A little bit more and more. I’m a little bit bougie in the fact that I don’t like to go and just sit and spectate. I like to go and speak.

Phil Singleton: Great, okay. So you’re doing it more as a speaker then?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: That’s makes a lot of sense.

Ryan Stewart: Because I’m a huge introvert. You see me on camera and this and that, and it’s for the business. But you put me in a room full of people I don’t know and I will just sit there and awkwardly stand there.

Phil Singleton: That’s why I got into SEO man. All of a sudden Google chased me out of my hole…

Ryan Stewart: But when I speak, people will come up to you and interact just naturally. So I’ve been a little bit more speaking. I actually was at a conference … And if it’s a cool place too and they pay me to travel, I’ll travel there for free too. But I live in Miami, it’s tough for me … I work at home all the day, all the time. And it’s difficult to get me out of here. I’m not going to go to some random place that I’ve already been to.

Phil Singleton: Has to be worth it, right?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, exactly. So the point is that I was in Austin in September with Brian Dean at a conference, and we talked a lot. Super nice dude, super smart, amazing business model too. Doesn’t work with clients, he just makes seven figures a year from launching one course every year. And then it’s all from his blog and YouTube. He’s really smart dude.

Phil Singleton: So on that note, was there a point when you started to get actually clients off of people knowing who you are and doing the speaking versus … I do a little bit of it, but still the vast majority of our stuff comes in from referrals, our own SEO, and maybe podcast. A lot of people that go, “Oh, I heard you speak somewhere.” But obviously for you that must work because you’re out there all over the place. You’ve got a huge, highly engaged audience. A lot of people know you in the industry. What percentage of clients come just from that?

Ryan Stewart: I would say 100% between my partner Nick, Nick Eubanks, he’s also really well known in the SEO space, brilliant technical SEO, really smart businessman too. But conferences are a little bit saturated now. It’s usually the same people up there talking to the same people. It’s really more for networking purposes. I don’t really get clients from when I speak at a marketing or SEO conference.

Phil Singleton: The YouTube stuff out there, people are coming in, that kind of thing?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, so that’s the thing is it’s my opinion that with this much … Most of the ROPs that we get now are almost sole sourced from people because they know me or my partner and they want to work with us as long as the price and the pitch is right. So I would say probably like 90% of our clients come through that. 90% of our leads anyways come through that. So yeah, its really powerful stuff.

Starting, Building and Selling an eCommerce Business

Phil Singleton: All right, let’s jump in … I could literally just go on and on with you, but I do want to talk about … Because I think for me the one thing that really struck and I was like, “Holy cow, this guy is a genius,” for lots of different reasons, but the Laces Out project was awesome. Because on so many different levels, I mean one, it’s like, first obviously, things that went on the internet now is you got clients that come to you that want to be the Amazon of something. No, it’s the niches that win. That was a highly niche-based product. I loved it because I’m just thinking in my mind, “Here’s something that people will pay for. It’s really light.” To me, the margins have got to be good.

laces out shoelaces

Phil Singleton: Then, what the coolest thing was, you’re actually using it as a case study that people are linking back to, and it’s probably helping that business out because you are using it as a case study. And I was like, “This was blowing my mind how many angles you were playing on it.” And I’m sure it was all intentional, but for me I was like, “Okay, now I gotta really start paying attention to what this guy is doing because that was brilliant.” So talk a little bit about how that came about, why you picked it.

Phil Singleton: And then I want to ask you something almost as free consulting. Because I see some things at the local level, and it’s like geez, should I start buying? I’m almost thinking of buying into some local businesses. You’ve got a platform to do some stuff on, you could literally probably rank number one for anybody. But it makes sense to buy into another business for that reason. You could use it as a case study. You could make it another source of income, that type of thing. But before we get to that piece, I want to talk about Laces Out happened, and how did you turn it into so many wins like that?

Ryan Stewart: That was probably within my first few months of being, so we’ll talk about my failure in the future, but I had my own agency experience a little bit before WEBRIS, so I knew dealing with clients wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing. And I wanted a new challenge for myself. I wanted a new project. I’m somebody who has to be … I can’t be working on one thing. I need at least two businesses to focus my attention, at least two, to keep me motivated.

Ryan Stewart: So I had been seeing a lot of stuff about Amazon FBA, and I wanted to start something on Amazon, fulfilled by Amazon, more of an eCommerce play, something different than working with clients. So I did a lot of research and I came across, I really like sneakers, like I said, I’ve been athlete my whole life.

Phil Singleton: So this was, at the beginning, it was more an intellectual, “I just want to try this and learn it,” type of thing to satisfy your brain power? You can’t focus on one thing, gotta have a couple things. So that’s kind of how it started, am I hearing that right?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, exactly. I’m a firm believer that we have a very unique skill set that, again, kind of what we talked about in the beginning is that a lot of people just use it as a job, but I see it as an opportunity to do something that I love and to free up my time and get paid for it.

Phil Singleton: Awesome, so Amazon FBA, so you started that, and you started looking into it.

Ryan Stewart: Yep. And I did a lot of research. I buy a lot of courses. I’m a firm believer, buying courses from people, because I’ll just listen to videos and fast forward and consume a whole new business plan in a matter of weeks. It’s pretty awesome what we can do now. But anyway, so I started researching a lot about what works and how the algorithm there works. And I came across shoe laces because it was something that is light, it’s cheap, people never complain about. And if you can angle it and position it the right way, they’re all selling the same thing, it’s more about the package that you put on it and the feeling that people get from that.

Ryan Stewart: So I started Laces Out, just started a website on WordPress. Ended up not doing Amazon FBA for a lot of reasons, mainly because of the fact that I’m a marketer, and it’s hard to build a brand on Amazon. Although, in hindsight, seeing what’s happening on Amazon now and where we’re going, I wish I would have stuck with Amazon or put more effort into it. But I just had so much success with content marketing for Laces Out, just building likes and viral content.

Ryan Stewart: As an expert marketer, when you walk into a space where there’s not a lot of marketing taking place, you can grow something very quickly. And it happened again, actually, I was interim CMO of this cannabis product company like eight months ago, and the same thing. There’s not a lot of marketing knowledge in that space, it’s still blossoming, but a ton of online volume.

Ryan Stewart: But anyways, with Laces Out, just a lot of content marketing outreach, not even like the craziest type of stuff. I was building infographics and submitting them and they were going viral on like the biggest sneaker websites, which have a tremendous reach, an unimaginable reach and how viral that culture is, and Instagram and all that stuff. So it was a fun project, but I was sourcing my own products from China. I had to dedicate one of my employees to do all the shipping and stuff. It was just burning up too much resource. It was making good money.

Phil Singleton: That’s the type of business starts to be like, “Okay….”

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, exactly. I didn’t want to deal with the logistics of it. It was great because it was making me like $5,000 to $10,000 of pure profit, passive income a month. But it just got to the point where I was like, “You know what, it’s still taking too much of my time and attention, and I don’t want to be dealing with stuff that …” That’s what it would cap out at. I couldn’t get that to be a million dollar business. It would never happen. And I realize now, the older I get, the less time that I have to do these things, I want to be focused on projects that have a much higher return, much higher cap rate. So I ended up selling that just on Empire Flippers, made a good amount of money off it. But I just unloaded that, and then a case study.

website business brokers

Phil Singleton: Ultimate, exactly. That’s so awesome to have that and just be like. This gets kind of to the question I was going to ask. I literally had a client come in here the other day. He’s not actually a client yet, but he’s thinking that he’s here. He’s thinking about moving to another state, taking the business and rebuilding it. So he’s thinking about selling this business that he has. He ranks really well. It’s kind of a home services of thing. He has tons of leads, so many that he can’t even do them all. So his business is limited by his ability to scale. So he thinks the business is worth about what I think it is. He had somebody offer him 30 or 50 grand for it. And I was like, “Dude, I will pay you 50 grand right now for this business.”

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, for sure.

Phil Singleton: I’ll pay you 100 grand for it. I’ll write you a check right now. That got me thinking, “Gosh, it is awesome to do what you’ve done.” One is because I feel like I’m in, you probably feel the same way, I feel more so because I’m older than you, but I feel like I’m in my prime earning years, and I’ve got this ability to help folks out. There’s got to be a different way to scale out some knowledge. If I can do it passively and spend a little bit of time and get a big chunk of the upside and really help these businesses grow.

Phil Singleton: But then on the flip side, I’m like, “I don’t really know anything about window treatments and blinds and stuff like that. How am I going to find somebody to run it. Maybe I get 50%. Am I going to go down a black hole and start pulling me away from the 60 plus clients that I got right now that I’m responsible for lead generation for and all?” So what are your thoughts on that? Because I think it would be cool to say, “Hey, I’m a business owner just like you. I bought this company. And now I’ve had it grow four or five times because we put a proper marketing and digital plan in.” How awesome is that and then you get more leads on top of that? On the other hand, is this is something where I’m just like, “Man, you step into something, maybe you get pulled into it and it starts hurting your main business.” Thoughts on that? This is the counsel because I’m literally thinking about this right now, and I want somebody to either talk me into it or talk me out of it.

Ryan Stewart: I’m always the type of person that’s going to talk you into it. I truly believe that we, like I said and like you just said, we have a skill set that when you really break it down of who really knows what they’re doing and not just can talk about it, but can put in a plan to execute and then build a business on the back of it. We’re in a small percentage of people. So yes, I think you should highly consider it depending on pricing obviously.

Ryan Stewart: And I think at the very least what you could do is, forget the business, you could just sell the leads. You could sell those leads for 250 a pop. I sell a lot of my SEO leads, to be honest with you, to people because I get a lot of them that are just not qualified for. So I just push them off, and I make more money off that. Lead selling is a very legitimate … Especially if you have control over all the advertising, all the marketing, you could even set up like a chat bot to pre-qualify them all, you know what I’m saying? Sell them for even more.

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

Ryan Stewart: That’s a true passive play. And then of course you could obviously set up a business on the back of it too, which can then take off and grow in its own right because you’re going to get its. It’s just going to grow aside from just the SEO play that you have going on with it. So I think yes to both.

Phil Singleton: You have so many things to hang your hat on that it’s not really … Like the Laces Out thing is really cool. But I could just see from a local play being able to say, “I own. I bought it. Of course I can do this for you. Look at this business.”

Ryan Stewart: Absolutely. So I say yes.

The $10,000 Question

Phil Singleton: Awesome. All right, so then let’s get into the final question here, the $10,000 question, tomorrow you wake up, you got all your knowledge, but nobody knows who you are, you’ve got none of the digital assets that you have right now, but all your knowledge and skill set. What would you literally start doing tomorrow? Because you’re in Miami, you got bills to pay, to start using the $10,000 that we give you to start rebuild your empire. Would you the website, would you start … Where would you start?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, I mean, I would start, if I’m selling anything, I can sell whatever I want, or just doesn’t matter ?

Phil Singleton: Yes, anything.

Ryan Stewart: Okay. I would just throw up a landing page. I would do a couple of videos and just advertise on them. I would do like a webinar video that really shows in-depth process of whatever it is that I’m selling. This is, of course, assuming it’s still SEO or consulting or….

Phil Singleton: Could be any of that.

Ryan Stewart: Anything, whatever it may be. The webinar model still works, and just with video. You don’t even need a website. That’s kind of the thing. I would spend 90% of the money on (digital) advertising, just promotion, promotion, promotion, promotion.

Phil Singleton: You’d get something nice and clean up and start promoting and you would.

Ryan Stewart: Yes, just capturing leads and then just giving them a phone and closing it. You know what I mean? It’s still something that not enough … Especially the SEO community, I think that’s one of the reasons why you see me so much is because nobody advertises, man. People publish a blog post and expect it to … They’ll do manual outreach to people to get them to promote it, but it’s like that’s such a waste of time. It’s so much effort time wise that it’s still money coming out of your pocket as opposed to just like put it on Facebook.

Phil Singleton: Was that a big step for you? You say you’re an introvert, but you’re awesome. You’re very charismatic. You got a lot of stuff. You’re very articulate. You get a lot of information out. Was there a point where you’re just like, “Uh.” Because I’m okay at speaking, I’m not great, I’m good enough to get the knowledge out, but it drains the hell … I got to take a nap after I do like. Just physically drains me.

Ryan Stewart: I 100% agree. After I speak, I have to go up to the hotel room and lay down, no joke, for like 45 minutes.

Phil Singleton: That’s an introvert. You can’t help it. It’s just physical.

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, dude, it’s exhausting. And yes, I feel the same way now, but I look at it this way, and it’s still painful. I am really trying to push myself to do more on Instagram because even that is a wide open playing field for people in the business space. The influencers and fitness people had their day, it’s kind of spammed out, but it’s just now people are swinging, everyone’s on Instagram, and everyone’s checking it. Not so much Facebook anymore. But Instagram is different than Twitter. It’s different than YouTube. YouTube is more informational. Instagram is a lot more personal. And I have a lot of trouble showing that side of my life just because it makes me super uncomfortable.

Ryan Stewart: I am not the type of person that’s going to have my cell phone out, my food everywhere. I can’t do it. It’s just not who I am, and it goes against how I feel. But it’s the same thing when I started doing the YouTube stuff, blogging, all this stuff. Because you do have to put yourself out there and people are going to criticize you. They’re going to talk. They’re going to … It’s just what happens when you put yourself out there.

Just ask yourself: If I do this, is it going to help the business?

– Ryan Stewart

Ryan Stewart: And it’s not even the whole, “Don’t worry what other people think, you shouldn’t.” It’s more about a very simple choice. Just ask yourself, “If I do this, is it going to help the business?” Absolutely, then if not, then I’m standing in my own way. So it becomes a very simple decision for me to just dive all in and do it.

Phil Singleton: Then you get used to it, you get a little bit numb to it. It’s kind of like just doing your routine, I guess.

Ryan Stewart: Of course.

Phil Singleton: Get it over with.

Ryan Stewart: I can film a video like nothing, but still when I try to do something on Instagram … Like I have this video filmed that I want to promote on Instagram, but I’m not comfortable posting it. I’m just not.

Phil Singleton: Wow.

Ryan Stewart: It’s just too personal for me there. But I have it on YouTube and Facebook and I couldn’t care less. There’s something … So yeah, in that sense, it’s yeah.

Ryan Stewart’s New Projects

Phil Singleton: Okay, sweet man. All right, let’s wrap it up here. Just let us know what your hot on, where we can find you. Obviously, you just talked about Instagram, so that’s a great place. We’ll make sure that we get those links up. But what else, what are your projects? Where can we follow you? What else are you promoting right now?

Ryan Stewart: Yep. So just really two things right now, the agency From the Future. We pretty much only do enterprise SEO in U.S. projects, so big eCom websites, massive B to B, SaaS companies, stuff like that. And then Theblueprint.Training, that’s basically where I’m funneling all of my advanced knowledge, really more SEO … It’s an SEO agency in a box is what I’m calling it. It’s everything from client onboarding to technical SEO to monthly reporting all done for you, videos, templates, everything that you need. So that’s kind of what I just launched last two weeks ago now, and I’m pushing that really hard.

Phil Singleton: Oh, yeah. You got obviously, your audience is probably dying for that…

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, it’s been going well.

seo course

Phil Singleton: Especially that process, a lot of the guys are probably like myself who have been able to build up decent sized business without embarrassingly enough having decent processes in house. A lot of us are flying by the seat of our pants. We do really well, we start choking on whatever the number of clients is you start choking on. Then you have to be able to come back and be able to scale it to get bigger. And that’s painful. Obviously came natural to you for a lot of reasons, but I think that’s a big weakness in SEO in general, especially with the ones that have raw talent to see some of this stuff. But definitely, definitely check that one out.

Phil Singleton: The other thing I was going to … I’m going a little bit off topic there. Oh, on the SEO front, the people that are ideal for this program, what are they? Are they more enterprise play? Is this guys local, that are shooting local? Is it all over the place? What’s the typical-

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, it’s SEO agencies and consultants. I really am broad that way, pretty broad. If you’re doing over like five million a year as an agency, you don’t really need it. You could definitely use it. Basically what I’m trying to position as is like internal training for agencies. So our agency goes through it all the time. We hire someone new and then we have to rely on our existing staff to pull them off billable work to train someone. We’re literally burning money. And then the SEO processes training. And it’s pretty advanced too. You walk into it like I’m not going to tell you what a canonical tag, you have to know what it is. It’s not an intro course.

Phil Singleton: I saw the tools that were up there. It was like all the ones that I use, SEMRush, Ahrefs, Google Search Console, and some other ones….Screaming Frog.

Ryan Stewart: So it’s really great, that’s true, exactly. It’s built for people that are doing five to ten K a month all the way up to like 100K a month, but are having trouble, just like you said, getting to that next step. A lot of people just hit natural plateaus when they get to certain points of the business. I did. Everyone does. So it’s meant for those people to kind of like guide them through that process and get to that three to five to ten million as an agency.

Phil Singleton: So cool, dude. We could go on and on. I love talking shop and especially if somebody’s been through it and still is in. We’re going to put all of this great stuff up in the show notes. You’ve been an awesome guest. This is already one of my all-time favorites. We’re going to put a couple links summary. You can send me a couple of your favorite blog posts up on WEBRIS and a couple other ones that I’m thinking of right now, From the Future, whatever else. Send us a couple things that you got, and we’ll make sure we include those in the show notes too. Really appreciate, this has been awesome.

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, happy to be here.

Lead Generation Tactics for SEO & Internet Marketing Agencies

Tom is an SEO strategist and the host of The Sure Oak Podcast. Go check out his podcast, like I have. He is the founder of Sure Oak an SEO agency in New York City that grows companies with search engine optimization to get businesses more traffic and drive their revenue growth. Tom has been published in many well-known publications, such as The Huffington Post, Search Engine Watch and SEMrush.

Episode Resources

Meet Tom Casano of Sure Oak

Phil Singleton: Tom Casano, welcome to the show.

Tom Casano: Thanks for having me Phil. I’m psyched to be here. It’s going to be fun.

Phil Singleton: Oh, yeah. This is going to be … These are my favorite ones, and talking to somebody of your caliber is always going to be really fun. Who knows what directions we’re going to go on, but I would love to know, just for myself, little bit of your path about when you got out of school or wherever your last stop was, and got into the business world, what got you to where you are to today and got you into SEO and digital marketing.

Tom Casano: Yeah, it’s a great question. I studied philosophy in school. When I graduated, I wanted to be a rock star. Tried doing that for about a year and, after making $30 for playing at a bar, and no one cared too much, in giving me music lessons, I traded on Wall Street for 10 years. And then once that got pretty meaningless and unfulfilling, then about four, no, six years ago, I started a business. I went through a program to develop a SaaS. I had never developed a SaaS, but I created a lead generation website for life coaches, and that’s called Life Coach Spotter. That’s kind of where I started cutting my teeth in digital marketing, and ultimately, SEO.

Tom Casano: So initially, I struggled like crazy to get traffic to the site to generate leads, because here I am supposed to be the marketer for the life coaches who don’t know how to do marketing. It took me a long time to get to two, three, four, five thousand organic visitors per month. Then we could talk about this. I did link building strategy. You might be familiar with that scholarship. And then the traffic to the site went up literally 500%, 5X in two months, which I’m usually afraid to say because it just sounds too good to be true, and I don’t want people to have the wrong expectations. Also did a lot of Skyscraper pages on there and a lot of cured research and optimization.

Tom Casano: So like the onsite stuff was just like ready to go. And then the link building happened and then it went to like 25,000 organic visitors per month. And then I was like, “You know what, I’ve spent so much time grinding away at SEO and doing tons of stuff that doesn’t work.” I have to bring this to other people. The businesses that are making millions a year and we moved their organic traffic by 10% or 20% as meaningful for their business. So then I started the SEO Agency Sure Oak. And that’s what I’m deeply involved in and focusing in today, which is doing SEO as a consultant, as an agency, and helping businesses to grow their traffic.

Phil Singleton: That’s so awesome. So when you were at the Search Engine Spotter, is that the name?

Tom Casano: Life Coach Spotter.

Phil Singleton: Life Coach Spotter.

Tom Casano: It’s for life coaches. Yeah.

Phil Singleton: That’s right. Okay. That sounds like when the fire was lit a little bit, right? Cause you kind of self studied your way. It sounds like I’m hearing also some people that you may have studied from skyscraper it was reminding me of Brian Dean, and some of these other guys. Did you kind of dive in self study? And some of these … you take some courses and you just test some things out. How does that get rolled in for you?

Tom Casano: Yeah, totally. Totally self education. I’ve always loved to read and learn and teach myself new things. And that’s the funny thing about SEO. I mean, I would hope today there is a college class like search engine optimization 101….

Phil Singleton: I doubt it…

Tom Casano: It’s one of these things, right? Like if you’re in college right now, where are you taking a class in Chatbots, it’s cool that some of those things might be evolving. So yeah, basically as you know yourself and then the worst part is everything you can possibly read and learn. You could pay for courses and classes and mentorship, but then you go and do yourself a practice and it’s like not even driving the results that you know. And part of that I think is not out of someone trying to mislead you.

Tom Casano: But this, the context and the situation is different. So someone might say like, you need to get all the technical stuff on your site, really good. The 404s and a 301s and the, I don’t know, the image all tags, image all tags like those ones drive me crazy cause it drives in results. But that might be very true for a site that has like a hundred thousand pages. But for your little site with like 20 pages that hasn’t even done keyword research and has two backlinks, you really need to focus on your backlinks and the content. So it’s tough like to learn this stuff. But actually, I think all that failure along the way makes you stronger and you realize like, okay, this is what actually works and moves the needle.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. So, that’s really cool. Coz I mean, for some of this stuff it’s like, this is kind of my world where I live. So it’s you get talking to somebody else who’s kind of taking their own path. It’s really exciting to talk about. But how about just getting the agency started doing that kind of thing? I mean like I know for me, deciding when to maybe get some physical office space, or taking that first plunge, or maybe actually hiring somebody, whether it’s a full time contract or even an actual W-2 employee, that kind of thing. It’s a big step. Right? Can you maybe explain how you got started with that, did you get the same feelings? And we are trying to build a team, whether it was a remote team or a local team, whatever it was and … because at some point you’re making money for yourself and all of a sudden you’re starting to feed other mouths to feed type of thing and the kind of … the responsibility becomes I think a little bit gross.

Tom Casano: Yeah, now it’s a great question. So I guess in some ways I’m an entrepreneur at heart and I learned along the way with that first business, the life coaching one that is using Upwork to hire freelancers and writers. And we created like 10,000 words of content and like I’ve realized that it wasn’t the best use of my time to sit and write this content. I was outsourcing and finding freelancers to help. And then, when I decided to start the SEO agency, I mean it’s just … and the thing I learned, I did a program called the foundation from being Maxwell, Andy, Trish, and learned a ton about business and a lot of mindset, like these limiting beliefs and these emotional blocks. If you’re afraid to kind of take those first steps on what’s holding you … a lot of it is like the inner game.

Tom Casano: But then … I lost my train of thought. Oh, basically I knew it’s just about getting the first clients, right? Once you get that first client, even if it’s like 500 bucks or a thousand whatever, it doesn’t matter what it is. Now you start to build a little momentum. Like a first little testimonial, you get some experience, you figure out how to create a proposal. And then for me, again, it’s just a matter of like finding a freelancer, finding someone that can … I think like a subcontractor. Like, “Hey, can you help me with Keyword Research?” “Hey, can you help me with … do a technical audit?” And I’m slowly starting to get one or two or three or four clients and starting to pass off some of that work.

Tom Casano: And first I’m doing all the work myself, right? So first I’m just a consultant, then I’m passing that work off. And over time it grows and grows. So now as there’s more clients, then there’s more freelancers. All of a sudden the freelancers are full time people. Our team is all remote. So it’s pretty interesting. Yeah, it’s been really a-
Phil Singleton: Everybody’s moving the nuts. I love it. I love to hear more about that and how you kind of manage it. But that’s-

Tom Casano: You know, exactly, that’s it. Someone was asking me recently, and what’s really been the most helpful is we have this like one half hour meeting once a week, and we just have this vibe and attitude of being like a family and helping each other, loving each other, just being open and honest.

Phil Singleton: How do you…

Tom Casano: That’s a Skype call with no video. I don’t know why, but it’s just the idea of like, just being honest and caring for each other and loving each other and somehow it just brings us more close together. And even though we’re remote, people love it, they work from home or wherever and it hasn’t really been a problem. So yeah, now we have like a full team. There’s over a dozen full time people, I don’t know how many people…

Phil Singleton: I think in my experience it seems like that’s a huge perk for one, to get the best people, and the best people that are really good at what they do. They want to be able to work from home. They don’t want to come into an office or work in a cubicle. That’s the main reason why I got into this business in the first place I was … I got a soul crushing cubicle job my first four years out of college. “I Don’t want to do it anymore.” But yeah, it seems like the best people, seem like they want to work from home or remote cause they can. Do you feel if or not the same way here?

Tom Casano: 100%. And I think also you find such quality and talent and people like if you’re living in the middle of nowhere in Montana, you can’t like commute to a city to get some SEO strategist job. But you know, we got one for you. And you know, I live in New York City in Manhattan, and if I want to hire an SEO strategist here, it’s going to cost me a fortune. But when I find people in other places of the country, so I think there’s just all these benefits, and then there’s also challenges. Like there’s time I wish … so many times I wish I could just give someone a big hug and I can’t. So we need to have yeah, like a get together. But yeah. It sounds like you understand this stuff. Your team has is remote or local?

Phil Singleton: I’ve got local, we have some W-2 employees that are here, but, we also have remote people and like basically full time contractors so. I actually have an office. The only reason I have an office really is for local clients to come in and come to our conference room, have a meeting, know that there’s kind of that investment kind of here locally. But then it’s really just all for them. Because then most of the work’s not done in the office. So I’ve got me, then I’m here with … as I’ve trained my boys were talking about before the show, and the summertime, I kind of have to be here. But other than that, I’m at home when I can be and then my sales guy is in here, we have meetings. Other than that, there’s no reason to have like a physical office, you know what I mean? So.

Tom Casano: Yeah, now that’s a cool thing about the online world nowadays.

Leveraging Upwork

Phil Singleton: Love it. Let’s get into something that’s near and dear to my heart because at the end of the day, it almost all comes down to lead generation for quality clients. Whether it’s for our own agencies or what we’re trying to do for our own companies. All sorts of other things can help people manage and scale and do this all kind of stuff. But at the end of the day, I mean really doesn’t it all come down to lead generation in some shape or form?

Phil Singleton: So you’ve had some successes generating leads in different ways. I’d love to kind of dig into it. And some of the ones that you mentioned before, I think in this call right now even before we started recording. Upwork, Linkedin, you’re a great podcaster you do a lot of video, good video content that goes along that as well. So those kind of things that are kind of working for you in terms of like drawing in ideal clients.

Tom Casano: Yeah, I’ll tell you honestly, 90% or so of our clients and business and revenue and everything is from Upwork. And it’s still kind of surprising to me to hear my own story, but I used Upwork to outsource work. To offshore it, maybe someone in India or the Philippines can do something for a few bucks an hour-

Phil Singleton: First to get help basically is that right?

Tom Casano: Exactly, yes. So, they call it the client and the freelancer. So I’d be the client, and I’m putting in whatever, a hundred bucks to get some work done and I get the work back. But then, I don’t know why or how, but I became a freelancer. So now I’m the consultant or the person looking for the work. And honestly, like that’s, I can’t tell, like I think in the last, 12 trailing months, over $100,000 of transactions have happened through Upwork, but that’s not counting everything that’s happened off of Upwork, off of their platform. Because they take a fee and all that stuff. So I’ve really scaled that up and I spent enough time as an SEO, like you understand, you just want to optimize the heck out of something once you start understanding the mechanics of it.

Tom Casano: So I can walk through that, but we’re maybe getting, I don’t know if it’s 10 or 20 leads per week? And then it’s a matter of filtering, because a lot of people when they’re on Upwork, they’re looking to like outsource, sometimes they’re looking to do it cheap. And so there’s a lot of people that are not the right kind of client for us, but those ones that are, where you go that extra mile to show how much you … how smart you are, how much you care or your experience and your skills and you make your profile awesome and you make your pitch awesome. And you filter out for those bigger projects. But it takes time cause day one you’ve got no reviews, and you’ve got no profiles either build it up over time. But it’s like anything, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

Phil Singleton: Are talking about sampling from your first a little bit? Or did they kind of come in and be like, “Hey, we love what we hear. We’ve done some research, let’s sign you up for like a retainer based thing for the rest of them.”

Tom Casano: No. Yeah they started like small terrible projects and to be honest, I have had like zero sales experience I’m like, “What do I know about pitching them and making it compelling and proposals and stuff?” So yeah, I started $500 or whatever I could get to get those little projects and building stuff out.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. And was that to build like reviews and things? A smaller transaction or those turn into bigger projects from the people that bought the smaller project from you?

Tom Casano: Yeah. The way it worked for me was just getting that traction of some reviews, so you have like a score, and I figured that it’s called, a Top Rated Freelancer. And then once you have that credibility, and they have their own algorithm. So it’s just like SEO all over again, like how do I rank higher when someone’s ranking SEO on the platform. So yeah, that actually wasn’t from those same client, cause those initial clients were smaller projects. And I could never a upsell them cause I never had the budget. I was like a little local printer in Australia and his budget was $1,000 a month. I could never upsell him to $2,000 a month cause it was just out of his budget. But having that experience and credibility in the platform then, would allow me to get the 2000 a month to 3000 a month.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. So Upwork’s one another’s contract it under some degree or some shape or form. Which one do I want to hit on these next? I mean we did talk a little bit about cold calling before the show started. I know in your team you’re not the person responsible for that, but to the extent that you can, love to hear more about it, cause I’m always intrigued about that piece of it was always believed that if there’s a way you can reach somebody on a phone, if you’re good at it, there’s just always going to be an element of timing. We were just thinking about doing and you show yourself, you get that ability. That’s just almost like a numbers game type of thing too. But I also know there’s a lot more noise these days and it’s just so much you’ve got like a really big give or a good angle is hard to get anybody’s attention.

Phil Singleton: Love to hear if that’s working for you or something you guys continue to do now, is it still kind of one, this is up in the air? Is it a core part of kind of like your sales and marketing efforts? How’s that going for you?

Tom Casano: Yeah. Honestly we haven’t even started it yet. And we have two guys that were hiring and we have sales training and I’m not a huge believer in it. It’s not that it can’t work and it won’t work. And I have a friend Ed who’s over in Brooklyn and he’s been doing a lot of it. And when I think of the types of leads, there’s, I think at the top you have like referrals or networking and then layered, like the next level down second level would be like inbound or someone’s found you through content marketing or saw you somewhere on social media.

Tom Casano: And then the third one is outbound. And I tend to think that outbound is the one you can have control over and you can be very proactive in. Because if no one’s coming to your website or you are going to have to pay. But I just think that it’s like a needle in a haystack. And if you call a hundred people, maybe one to five of them or one to ten … It’s a numbers game. And I’m not a huge fan. I’m not a huge believer but I know it’s possible. I know whole businesses built on it.

Phil Singleton: Yeah. Well it’s also funny, it seems like some of the clients that we end up getting seemed like they maybe if they were unhappy from their last digital marketing company, nine times out of 10 they were cold calls. How they kind of got on the hook for them. It worked for the company even though maybe they didn’t have their sales and marketing work. So always interested in talking about anybody that’s got a way. Cause there’s other people that swear by it and I’ve interviewed a ton of entrepreneurs where it seems like no matter what at some part of their early career they kind of had to roll up the sleeves either to like save their business or to get it going or just to try and generate something. Lots of them, nine times out of 10 hit the phones, but one time I guess in their life.

Phil Singleton: And maybe that’s a little bit different now because for us trying to do it, we don’t hit the phones. We’d go to another place where we’d try and start off with small gig or something like that to get better clients I don’t know how that works, but I’m definitely still interested in cold call. Cause I told you before that we failed miserably at it, but there’s some tenacity there to see like see how there’s other ways to make it work. I just know the way that we initially tried it didn’t work very well for us.

Tom Casano: No, I know exactly. And it’s like anything, if we try to do too many marketing initiatives, then we’re not giving anything enough attention to like really make it work. And then if you really have conviction on something you can double down on, You start to see the inklings of it. Like working and you get a lead out of it. I mean, like I’m telling you, I think 80-90% of our business is from Upwork. There might be a couple of referrals or partners has been working with those take time to build those relationships. Like if you’re just starting out, even for us to build relationships with potential partners, it’s a process, which I’m okay, I love longterm things, but at the same time I have like an urgency and I always want to see the growth chart to be as vertical as possible, even though it’s ridiculous.

Tom Casano: Another thing I’ve experimented with this clarity about us, have you heard of that Phil?

Phil Singleton: Yes.

Tom Casano: And that works well, no, it doesn’t work right. I guess some phone calls, but none of them really become retainer clients. Maybe like one or two have you could do get hourly work out of that. You could build relationships, you can actually optimize your profile. I’ll be frank with you, the algorithm all these platforms of algorithms, clarity’s algorithm. It’s like you can just keyword stuff your profile and your rank higher. I think for SEO I’m ranked number two, you want to get more reviews and more calls that’ll help you-

Phil Singleton: That’s another, I mean I’ve heard of it. I’ve never like actually used it, Is that’s a kind of another gig based kind of-

Tom Casano: It’s a cool platform. I wish they would market it. I want to help them because you can just hire any consultant on a minute by minute basis, you could talk to someone for a dollar a minute who is an expert in Facebook ads and just like boom, start talking. I think it’s a great idea. And so I’m on there as an SEO consultant. Anyone could be on, there’s any kind of consultant. So it’s another way to get potential leads. But that one doesn’t really drive us retainer leads or retainer clients-

Phil Singleton: Doing that now a while or is it still kinda up in the air is it still?

Tom Casano: Yeah, I’ve been doing that maybe six months or a year-

Phil Singleton: Are you getting like the engagement and starting the conversation, but it hasn’t like-

Tom Casano: Well, what will happen is these people want to pay by the minute, so they want to do a 30 minute call, great. They got what they needed. Maybe they’re doing it themselves for doing it in house and then they’re gone. And it’s like, hey, you want to spend $3,000 a month with me, It’s like not in their budget is not in their mindset. It’s not really the right targeting.

Phil Singleton: Gotcha.

3rd Party Webinars ie “Webinar Guesting”

Tom Casano: And then, oh, I did a Webinar for SEM Rush and I think I got four or five leads at that and two of them I think closed and became pretty good, retainers. And then I got another lead from a podcast I was interviewed on. I know this is your thing, so you can-

Phil Singleton: That’s great. I mean, I know that somebody else to like, confirmed that it’s actually working and it wasn’t just luck for me, but that’s awesome. Because a webinars almost to me, almost a very similar type of idea. Where you get exposure and other audience through being a guest somewhere, sharing knowledge bit-

Tom Casano: I think a topic matters too because the one that worked so well for me. It was all about the ROI of SEO. I think that can speak to like a CMO or a business owner. I did another Webinar with SEM Rush and it was all about how to be a great freelancer on Upwork and I think that’s going to get all the freelancers on Upwork it’s not gonna be targeted to my ideal prospect.
Phil Singleton: There’s value in that too though, right? Because all of a sudden you’re getting your name out there more than personal branding and authority and stuff that hopefully will come back-

Tom Casano: Yeah. I think it’s not as much, but yeah, and then we didn’t touch on yet, but I think, I mean I’m working on this now so it’s still too early for me to be like, “I’m getting leads and it’s growing my business.” But, Linkedin we could talk about, we seem to already be aware of….what’s that?

LinkedIn Lead Generation

Phil Singleton: The Cherry on top, let’s get it to Linkedin is something we’re excited about and I think you’ve got much more of a head start than most of us there. So tell us about how that’s working for you and what’s working for you.

Tom Casano: Yeah, for sure. So Linkedin, Microsoft bought them two years ago and change a lot of platform and now people probably notice it’s more like Facebook. There’s the news feed that’s on the homepage and so-

Phil Singleton: Some people were a little bit afraid they (Microsoft) were going to mess it up. It’s just like they actually like hit a home run with it.

Tom Casano: Yeah, exactly. I was like, why is Microsoft buying this? This makes no sense. But the challenge is if you look at Facebook, not only is it like saturated and every marketer kind of knows about it, but also, you get like basically almost zero organic reach through your company page. It’s like basically if you want to be seen, you have to pay for it. Linkedin is still kind of a baby and oh my God, Linkedin is every, in the first of all, the targeting is amazing, right? Like you could basically find anyone you want to find, you want to find the CMOs, you can find them and everyone is on there and it’s much more one to one.

Tom Casano: And it’s also like, it’s not a one way street, like with, Facebook, you’d get followers, but with Linkedin I connect with you and once we’re connected, we’re both automatically following each other unless we unfollow. But there’s like no content. It’s like if you look at your Linkedin feed, it’s terrible. Typically for most people’s feed, it’s like someone share something that gets zero to one likes and it’s like people are promoting it. It’s like garbage.

Tom Casano: There’s this opportunity of all these content creators that are coming on now and it’s an algorithm like, other social media algorithms that if you start getting engagement with your posts, like within the first hour, I don’t even know. I need to study the algorithm. I don’t fully understand. Within the first day or so, the algorithm starts to think like, “Wow, everyone’s liking this to commenting on it. It must be really good. We’ll share it across more, give it more visibility.” And there’s so many fascinating things in this. You could tell getting passionate about it because they’ll show your stuff the second and third degree connections. And you’ve probably seen it like it’ll say the topic, someone commented or someone like such a such a thing. All of a sudden your network just starts like moving further and further out of people that are not directly connected to you.

Tom Casano: And a creative video a week ago, as of the time we’re recording this now and it’s gotten 12,000 views and I think like 200 comments and 200 likes. And it was a very transparent, vulnerable video about spike own self worth, which has nothing to do with business or Linkedin. But if it can resonate and if I can get that initial … I tell the guys in my team like, “Hey, like, or comment on my thing.” That’ll tell the algorithm that this is a good piece of content.

Tom Casano: And so basically I’m very hyper aware now people that have grown, tens of thousands or a hundred thousand plus followers and they put out a piece of content. It gets all these likes and views, and I was telling you in the green room right before this, that if I would have be on YouTube, it might be lucky to get five years right and put the VR on Linkedin, it got 12,000. But that’s because I’m really optimizing the crap out of it. I’m scaling my connection. I’m connected with a hundred people a day. I’ve grown from like 2000 to 4,000 connections in the last month. There, there’s a lot and I’ve been putting a lot of too much time and energy into learning about it, but I just think the opportunity is just amazing.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, that’s awesome. I mean, that’s so good. There’s other ones, I don’t use it, yes ave looked at at all, but it seems that there’s a lot of Linkedin lead generation services where you’ve got people that are, I’m not exactly sure how it is they’re doing it but I guess they’re targeting people helping to do the outreach stuff, setting up meetings and calls and that kind of stuff. Is that something you’ve tried or looked at? Have you done any kind of your own outreach or that kind of thing?

Tom Casano: That’s something I’m starting like literally next week for, we’re moving into the fourth quarter because I don’t know exactly the best process, but I do know a few things. I do know that templated or like copy and pasting and junk just I don’t think works so well. I think it has to be personalized and I think it has to start from a place of like, “How can I help you?” or “What’s in your world-?”

Phil Singleton: All the time, I’m sure right now, I get it like, all of a sudden somebody can do it. It’s like, now, you know?

Tom Casano: Yeah, exactly. It’s like spam. It’s a cold email. Like we talked about cold calling. There’s cold email, it’s the same concept, right? Just copy and paste as junk and then the person’s like, “I don’t … who are you?”

Phil Singleton: We’ll do a followup with you on that to see how it kind of works I know there’s something, I mean I even tried to think about the ways that people have actually … that I’ve actually ended up buying from. Because they get pitched all the time. Sure you do. And the ones that really only works when then the gift has been pretty good. Like, “Hey, some people say I want to guest post.” Or when somebody comes and says, “I read this post, it was really awesome. We actually linked from it from our side.” and I said. “Oh Wow. Okay. Well that’s cool.” they already starting to give me something. Now I feel obligated to come back and do that.

Tom Casano: So now all your listeners now they just need to send you a backlink.

Phil Singleton: I guess we’re doing that right now, but anything, yeah, another guy said that, their posting or their blogger outreach was so good that he was willing to give me three of them to like, “Hell yeah, I got to try that.” And then all of a sudden it was good. So we tried them out and that kind of stuff. That stuff really works right? Cause they’re investing in themselves, to do that kind of thing versus “Hey, we just connected with you. I want to tell you about how I can make your company more money. You’re saving money.” It’s like never, it has never worked once for me. I don’t think it will ever work. Has it worked for you? Has it worked for some people? Because it’s a numbers game for em but-

Tom Casano: No, I have the same philosophy you got to give first. You have to add value, create value. I’ve been also tracking this as I connect with more people. I get more of these things and I’m actually starting to record there’s like four of them that got me to engage. And I was almost intrigued. I was like, “Ooh.” And one of them was just an open question of like, it’s a personalized message. So it can be templated it’s like, “Hey Tom, thanks. We’re going actionable.” And they’re like, “What’s new in your world?” And I feel like I have to respond to that. I don’t know why and two of those guys said. And I was like, “I wonder if this is like a thing that people are doing this?” Like, “What’s new in your” … it doesn’t have to be that phrase, but I was just like … or they say, “What can I do to help you?”

Tom Casano: And I usually say that and then like, “Oh, do you know anyone who needs help with SEO?” I’d love to …. But you are not adding value, and this is now … we could talk about it for a second like … cause I want to actually you to teach me when you’re in my podcast about how you’re becoming a guest on podcasts. So there’s been some … I have a podcast as well as fill in and some people have pitched me like, “Hey, I want to be a guest on your podcast?” And it’s just like you’re saying, and I heard you say this in the Larry Kim episode, like, “What’s in it for me?” Like, “What’s the value?” Like, “If I get 10 pitches, why would I pick you? I don’t have all the time in the world.”

Tom Casano: And, so I watched another agency like pitch me in to be a guest. On their podcast, I took the guest, it was the guy who’s the founder of Manychat, the chat-

Phil Singleton: Okay. Yeah, sure.

Tom Casano: And what she said, it was a great email and I copied the whole thing. I was like, “This is beautiful.” It was like she left her review, and then she talked honestly.
Phil Singleton: Wow that’s good.

Tom Casano: Yeah. And she said like something very specific, like I could tell she must have listened to an episode for at least 10 minutes. Oftentimes people will say that when they’re doing outreach for link building, like, “I liked your post about it.” and then insert title and then you’re like, “No, you didn’t.”

Tom Casano: Who Cares? Right? So it’s adding value. It’s giving first building a relationship and then finding that synergy and connection. But, so that’s what we’ve been doing. So for me to become a guest on podcasts on it, I need to hear your strategy. We’ve been doing that and just being methodical or having a list of podcasts and creating a rela … a lot of it is building relationships like you and I met through a relationship through my colleague, who’s been a guest on your podcast, and on mine too. So it just becomes a small world where people want to help each other and all that.

Phil Singleton: Exactly. And it’s so genuine stuff like that. I’d love to kind of dig into that a bit more. But yeah, the Linkedin things very exciting and I think it’s going … it seems like it’s getting, it’s almost like early, it’s getting better.

Phil Singleton: I mean, I don’t wanna spend any time on. The only place I ever spent anytime right now is Linkedin because it’s cleaner content. It’s more interesting. It’s more focused on stuff that I like. I just not never have really been into Facebook. I am there because you know, clients and customers need to be there, that kind of stuff and there’s some group things that work. But I love Linkedin but I also feel like I’m leaving money on the table.

Tom Casano: Well I think-

Phil Singleton: Only participating and not doing it with enough strategy.

Tom Casano: Yeah, I mean I think it’s like anything, it’s like to really make it work for you, you really have to invest time or energy or money. You have to give it some focus. Right? And I’ve struggled with this too, because I’m too focused on too many things I’m not. But I think the other big thing is to, when we talk, like Gary Vaynerchuk talks about like optimizing to the platform or like being native within that platform.

Tom Casano: And so with Linkedin you can’t put an external link in your post because Linkedin’s algorithm will not give it as much visibility coz Linkedin doesn’t want people to leave the platform. So you really have to create content for Linkedin. Like specifically, you can’t take your blog post and just paste it in the link and say something about it. You’ve got to, craft that Linkedin post in the same way that if you’re writing a blog post for your blog, you’re just making it just for that blog. So does that make sense? I think a lot of people like doing that.

Phil Singleton: Totally. And that’s something I’m probably doing you no wrong too, coz I’m always wanting people to come back to our site so I can tag them now with Linkedin’s got their own remarketing tag too, so I can see how people would do it the old fashioned way.

Phil Singleton: But I totally get what you’re saying it’s like, well you’re also, it’s a little give and take there. They want you to put your best con … you want your best content on your site. They want the best content on their platform and they’re going to reward you more for it. So-

Tom Casano: Exactly. And it just takes more time and effort. And the other thing is like they give you like the preview, like if it’s a text post, you see like the first. I should know the number of characters are down that need’s to click see more. And so the real, it’s almost like the headline or the Clickbait and you have to have something in there emotional that will grab people. And the other thing is like transparency or vulnerability, which people, I think there’s fear because on Linkedin you feel like you have to be professional.

Tom Casano: It’s your professional network. But I think once you start to just say something like raw and honest and the other thing that’s really amazing, is like when you go on Instagram or Facebook, you know everyone’s posting like their vacation pictures and this perfect life, life like the filters on. But like, then it makes all the rest of us kind of feel crappy like, “Man, these people have awesome lives.” Like, “Mine sucks.” But then when you go on Linkedin and no one’s doing anything like remarkable, and then you start to say something that’s like, “My client just fired me yesterday.” Period. It’s like, well, you want to start your … see more. Or like, “I just had the worst day of my life yesterday and I cried for two hours.” Well like you can click see more and your students are reading it and getting the engagement. So it’s like marketing and other platforms as well.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. Let’s let them wrap up here and then kind of also just tell our listeners where they can find you and that kind of stuff. Before I do that, I want to ask one more question. One of the things I noticed in after we made a connection, of course I checked your website. That’s great. I checked out your podcast with some episodes. You’ve done a fantastic job of being able to start a podcast in your niche and be able to invite and get people on your show that are pretty much the Who’s who in the SEO, like kind of in the inbound marketing world in particular in SEO. How does that … how did you do that? What? Did you do direct outreach? Did you engage with these people first? What … you saw one of the tricks Larry used again when he came on my show. Did you do … was it that extravagant or did you use something else? Spill it man. Tell em how you do it.

Tom Casano: Oh you know I didn’t finish Larry King episode, and he told to listen to the rest of it. Yeah, so, I have kind of like a template, and you have to, like we talked about adding value and giving you have to position that so that like, “Hey, would you like to be featured as a guest on my podcast for all my listener?” It has to be of extreme value to them, but the relationship building is even first and foremost. And even with any templated email, I’m always personalize in the beginning. If you have an existing relationship, you have to have that human connection that they like you and they want to be on.

Tom Casano: But if they’ve never heard from me, I might cold email them or I might try to like get some kind of referral or some kind of like connections was not direct. So like for instance, Brian Dean, I think I first emailed him in like September of last year. And I replied to one of his like automated marketing messages, and then he went on Hunter.io. I tried to find … he had like three email addresses like, “I don’t know what or it he’s even going to reply. So and then I replied to one of his automated marketing messages, and then he said something, he was taking like a podcast holiday for two months and he was busy. Okay. So I marked it on my calendar and I followed up again and then he was busy. Okay. And then … Sometimes the opportunity just presents itself. Like there’s a, a company I mentioned to you called conductor, which is … you’re not that familiar with them and probably a lot of people aren’t.

Tom Casano: But I want to interview the CEO, his name Seth. And so I’d emailed him in the past and then the opportunity presented himself. I just randomly … Sorry shared on Linkedin that he was interviewed in some podcast and shared. And then I liked it and I commented, I said, “Oh great. I’ve had Pat from your team, from your company on the show and I’d love to interview you and … sorry the guy too.” And then he responded and then I emailed them and they emailed me back to set up a time. It’s like … and the other thing is having the credibility. So what I’m asking someone that I want to interview on my podcast, I have a landing page and I could share with you and it’s like, I’ve got the most credible figures I could think of, at least in my or in our world of SEO and stuff like that.  Eric Su, you know, maybe I’ll change things or add people if I have some of those types of people or internet famous. What’s that?

Phil Singleton: If they click on it and they are of that caliber, then all of a sudden they see everybody else to it. Now it’s kind of like snowballing on itself, right?

Tom Casano: Exactly. Yeah. It’s like street cred, right? And you build your way up. And then, but then what I’ve learned, Phil, I’ll be very honest, is I thought that like, what’s cool is one, it’s influencer marketing. So you’re building relationships, right? Like now I feel like I can email Rand Fishkin or Brian Dean and then I’m not going to be some stranger weirdo guy. But the other thing is I thought that these people would kind of like share it. And he even got Brian Dean’s tweet it, but like did nothing, I don’t really think it had any impact. So even my concept and what I heard and thought about influencer marketing, it’s not really driving results for the podcast, which makes me realize Mm-hmm (affirmative)- okay. That’s not really the best strategy for me. What other strategy should I do?

Phil Singleton: Awesome. It’s great stuff. Gosh, we have to have you back again to once now that we’ve had this kind of initial one to kind of really maybe drill down on one or two things the next time if you’re willing to come back on the show. But for now I just want to thank you and I’d like for you to tell us where people can reach you in terms of your website, and I’m assuming Linkedin’s going to be one of the places that we’ve got to make sure that we are link to because you’re active on. What any other social channels that you spend time on too?

Tom Casano: I spend a lot of time on twitter, but it doesn’t really do anything. You thinking like a con. I don’t know. People don’t really engage or maybe I’m just too late to the platform. I Dunno. But yeah, and it’s been a pleasure. I-

Phil Singleton: You do it just to … so it will include that link, but that’s one of the ones that you just kind of-

Tom Casano: Well it’s, yes. Some people say it’s a ghost town, or it’s overly bullish on Linkedin.

Phil Singleton: I just … Yeah Linkedin seems like it’s more for like the people out there that are actually getting the work done. Twitter just seems like such an … just like a major influencer platform.

Tom Casano: It’s too noisy. That’s the other thing, like you could-

Phil Singleton: Unless you are a Celebrity, and I mean the rest of us, is it really the best place for them now?

Tom Casano: But it’s too competitive. It’s too noisy and competitive, like maybe there’s … in someone’s feed, they might have like a thousand tweets an hour or 200. Like how are we going to stand out in that? You’re not.

Phil Singleton: Once I was talking to some other guy, I was saying, yeah, like the twitter or something … twitter’s the shelf life’s like minutes?

Tom Casano: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: Facebook, It’s like maybe six hours or so I don’t know what it is on Linkedin, but at least on some of those-

Tom Casano: Linkedin is like, oh, it’s like a week, it’s two weeks. Like you look in your feed and you might see like something from four days ago.

Phil Singleton: It’s still in…

Tom Casano: It can still show it because they’re so hungry for content. There’s nothing better that happened in the la … I mean that video is still getting views. It’s still increasing cause it’s, yeah. So people can find me anywhere. Google my name Tom Casano or connecting with me on-

Phil Singleton: Can you spell it out for us?

Tom Casano: Sure Oak. Yeah, for sure it’s Sure Oak Yeah. It’s S-U-R-E like you are “sure” about something and O-A-K like an Oaktree.

Tom Casano: So yeah, connect with me. Follow me, reach out. I’d love to say hello and see what I can do to help you. And thanks so much for having me, Phil. It has been a pleasure.

Phil Singleton: Awesome I also got so excited about this too. So and Tom Casano tell me I’m saying it the right way hope I didn’t say it … mispronounce it. I didn’t, I just rolled the dice and said, I think I can get this one. But thanks a ton of time.

Tom Casano: Yeah. I’ve had a blast Phil you are awesome and we’re kindred spirits, so thanks for having me.

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

eReleases Reviews – Press Release Distribution: Exceptional. Creative. Inspiring.

Searching for reviews about eRelease?

Although this article is highly favorable about eReleases, it’s less about providing a positive review, and more about highlighting things the company does really well and how we may be able to learn and apply some of these things to my / our own businesses. Continue reading “eReleases Reviews – Press Release Distribution: Exceptional. Creative. Inspiring.”

Why You Need A Know-Like-Trust Web Design

Inbound marketing is a digital marketing buzzword and one you may seen on marketing websites, or if you’ve been pitched recently by a marketing firm or digital marketing agency.

In a nutshell, the ROI for traditional marketing and advertising is deteriorating.   Today’s consumers don’t buy directly from mass market advertising.  They like to search and find the best choices online.  This trend is forcing change in the web design industry.

Websites are no longer digital brochures – they are publishing platforms and marketing hubs.  Very few customers will buy from you without looking you up online first.  Even word-of-mouth and referral marketing are no longer immune from the Internet.

One of the leaders of the inbound marketing revolution is John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing.  In his best-selling book, John details his Marketing Hourglass concept which breaks down the cycle into the following 7 stages: Know-Like-Trust-Try-Buy-Repeat-Refer. Continue reading “Why You Need A Know-Like-Trust Web Design”

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how-to-hire-web-designersIn the old days of the Internet, business owners shopped for web design services the same way they shopped for print advertising.  All that really mattered back then were graphic design and pricing.

Today, your website is no longer just a site on the web.  It’s REQUIRED to be lead generator, a profit center and a content marketing platform.

If you are looking for bid on a website, you are viewing your site the wrong way – you need to focus on results shopping, not price shopping.

Remember, its not about winning design awards, its about winning new customers.

So here we go, these are the questions that you absolutely must ask before choosing any web designer.

Continue reading “10 Questions You Must Ask Before Hiring A Web Designer”

Unique Epoxy Designs

The Kansas City epoxy flooring contractors at www.UEpoxy.com offer custom epoxy designs for residential, industrial and commercial clients, creating floors that are as tough and durable as they are beautiful and elegant. Acid stained and polished concrete are other specialties of the company; Glen Smith, owner operator at Unique Epoxy Designs, takes particular pride in the residential floors the company has designed over the years. Continue reading “Unique Epoxy Designs”

I Pity The Fools That Say SEO Is Dead

How many blog and article headlines have you read in recent years proclaiming that SEO is Dead? You’ll probably see more of these headlines in 2017 and 2018. It seems that virtually everyone on the planet thinks that SEO is the same as link building. If your definition of SEO is volume based link building and link scheming, then you may be right, SEO is dead. Continue reading “I Pity The Fools That Say SEO Is Dead”

Why Freelance Writers Like Writing for Small Businesses

As an SEO and Internet marketing company here in Kansas City, we struggle sometimes getting our clients to create blog content on a regular business.  They know how important blogging is for SEO, but writing content can challenging for a business owner.  Many do not have the time, and some people do not like to write.  Yet as a search engine marketing company, we MUST get quality content onto our clients blogs on a regular basis. Continue reading “Why Freelance Writers Like Writing for Small Businesses”