My guest today is John Doherty from GetCredo.com, a marketplace to find the best SEO experts. John is very transparent in his business and in today’s episode he candidly shares his background in marketing and journey launching Credo. Do you want to know how to market your business online? Then listen in as we discuss what makes a good marketing strategy and specific tactics for using SEO in your business.
listen to this episode
- John’s background and launching Credo
- Transparency in business and writing
- Why good marketing takes time
- Quality vs. Quantity in content marketing
- Knowing when to outsource tasks
- Marketing and SEO strategy advice
- Tactics for customer and influencer research
- John Doherty – Website and Blog
- Thinking Through Entrepreneur Growth by John Doherty
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
- Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares
- SEO tools: SEMrush, Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs, Screaming Frog
- Influencer research tools: Followerwonk, Intellifluence
- Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO
- DistilledU SEO 101
Louis: Bonjour, bonjour. Welcome to everyonehatesmarketers.com. I’m your host, Louis Grenier. everyonehatesmarketers.com is a podcast for digital marketers who are sick of shady, aggressive marketers. I interview no nonsense marketers who are not afraid to cut through the bullshit and say things as they are. During this show, we learn how to get more visitors, more leads, more customers, more long term profit by using good marketing, by treating people the way we like to be treated. Head over to everyonehatesmarketers.com to subscribe to the email list. We’ll notify you before anybody else of our future guests. You’ll also help us to come up with great questions for the future guests, you’ll also get access to telephone numbers, listens, and downloads of the podcast and quite simply to have great one to one conversation if you need any help.
In episode number four of everyonehatesmarketers.com, I interview John Doherty from GetCredo.com. Credo is a marketplace to find SEO experts. If you’re a business and you’re looking for a very good SEO consultant, you should really go to GetCredo.com. John actually select all of those people manually. He actually interviews them one by one to find the best SEO experts in the world that you can have and work for your business. Rand Fishkin actually says that this was one of the best place to find an SEO guy online or SEO girl online. It’s pretty cool.
I interviewed John. I had a lot of fun. He’s a very transparent guy so you’ll learn his story and you’ll learn a few things about himself that not all people would like to share, but he did. You’re going to learn how he learned his craft using different resources, you’re going to learn why good marketing takes time and when to outsource and when not to outsource. He explained several things. I don’t want to spoil the fun. Have a listen and let me know what you think.
John: Hey Louis, how is it going?
Louis: Pretty good. Thanks for coming and thanks for taking your time to speak with me today. The first question I wanted to ask you, is it better to lead a team of growth marketers or is it better to hike with your wife Courtney and dog Butterbean?
John: That’s a great question. It depends on the mood that I’m in, no, I’m kidding. I love both. I definitely had the chance to build awesome teams and work with some very smart people at Distilled and HotPads and places like that that I’ve work but I very much believe in work life I call integration. I enjoy being able to travel and go hiking and camping with my wife and my dog at the same time being able to run my company.
Right now, it’s November 2nd when we’re recording this, I’m actually in Prague. I’m on a three and a half week around the world trip with my wife, going to a bunch of cities in Europe and then go to Japan for a week and working as I go as well. I love being able to do both at the same time when possible.
Louis: I have a burning question for you. How did you come up with the name Butterbean?
John: It’s a great question. It’s an inside joke between my wife and I. Very early on, my wife saw a tumblr called my [00:03:39] boyfriend where it had photos of men wearing clads saying things that every girlfriend wants to hear, there is one where there is a reference to their dog named Butter. My wife and I thought that was absolutely hilarious. When we got our dog, we named him Butterbean but we call him Butter, it’s an inside joke.
Louis: Is it a she or he?
John: It’s a he. He’s 100 pound Labrador mix so he’s huge.
Louis: For the listeners, we will show pictures in the notes, anyway, of the dog because it’s a beautiful dog. I’ve seen it on Instagram.
John: Thank you. He’s fun.
Louis: He has his own social media account, doesn’t he?
John: He doesn’t have social media accounts, he does have his own hashtag on Instagram, #beancam, because I call bean a lot of the time.
Louis: You can recognize a growth marketer when he does this kind of thing, nobody else does that. Talking about growth marketing, you’ve been a growth marketer for quite a few years now, you have quite a lot of experience, SEO in particular. You are in companies like Distilled, Zillow, Trulia, lately, the last full time position you had was in San Francisco. As you mentioned, you just moved to Credo. I want to know more of what happened just before you launched Credo in November 2015. You showed that on the blog but I think the listeners were interested in hearing this side of the story.
John: I’d been working within Zillow group which is kind of the parent company for other different brands, they have about 10 brands, both consumer and B2B. I’ve been running marketing and growth for a couple of their brands. First on HotPads for about 18 months, built the team there and we saw great traction and their traffic is just absolutely incredible now at the back of that work. Ran growth on Trulia Rentals, overseeing SEO and email for about five months, basically, I got laid off.
I had been at Trulia for about five months and went on vacation and some things moved around while I was there and came back, was informed the next day that my position had been eliminated. It was a little out of the blue but at the same time, I was not super happy there at that time, I love the Zillow team. Zillow execs are incredible, incredible people, an incredible organization to work inside of but me personally, I wasn’t super happy and was ready to go and do something different, had been thinking of what that was.
I was getting a little bit of a push out the nest and I just been on vacation, had been rereading The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss which is one of my favorite books. I think a lot of entrepreneurs and people who travel and do their own thing, it’s their bible. That book has changed my life a couple different times. First, when I read it in 2008 and then again last year and then I started putting together my plan for going out and doing my own thing.
I had this business going at that time, it’s called HireGun, I rebranded it this past January for some other reasons that we can get into. I’ve been wanting to double down on it and I got laid off on Monday, the 28th of September. The next day, my wife was like, she asked me straight up, she’s like, “What are you going to do?” I said, “I think I want to do my own thing, I think I want to give this business a go.” She basically said, “Okay, make it work.” That what I did, I doubled down. I signed a couple consulting clients within a couple weeks and started working on the software platform.
A little over a year on, now, I’ve been supporting myself and built a successful software business. It’s the early days but it’s paying the bills and I’m happy doing it and it’s making a difference in the industry. I wrote pretty in depth about it back in January on my own personal site, johnfdoherty.com. You can read the full story there.
Louis: We’ll obviously link this article and all the stuff you mentioned in the notes so people can check that. First of all, I want to thank you for sharing that. I know you’ve been sharing that on the blog so it’s not the first time you’re sharing that but I think it’s important for people out there to understand that even if they get laid off, it’s not the end of the world and they will be able to bounce off and do their own thing if it’s really what they want. To clarify the timeline, the idea of Credo came before you got laid off, correct?
John: Yeah, totally. I actually started the business in its first very simple incarnation. Beginning of 2013, I was working at Distilled. Let’s back up a few months, in 2012, I’ve been doing some of my own consulting on the side for my consulting clients at Distilled just to make some extra money and all that. Had basically gotten to the point where my position, my income, my salary from Distilled that I didn’t need to make any extra and basically realized I was single living in New York City spending two weekends a month doing freelance work.
I wouldn’t leave my apartment, I was like this is ridiculous, I’d much rather be out meeting people and living in New York City. I started getting rid of my freelance clients. Starting in November 2012, I started doing that and it actually worked out very well because in January of 2013, I met my now wife. I was actually starting to get some time to hang out with her. I much preferred hanging out with her than sitting on my computer doing freelance work.
My clients started asking me, “Who should we work with?” I had other people coming to me through my personal website saying, “Hey, I’d like to work with you.” I was like, “I’m not taking on work.” They started asking me, “Who should I work with?” I pinged my friend Brenda Doyle, I was like, “Hey, I have this lead for this person looking to do this, would you be willing to pay $50 for it?” He goes, “Sure, what’s your PayPal?” Literally, three minutes later, I had $50 in my PayPal account, sent him the intro and was like, “Maybe there’s something here.”
I went and bought a domain name, HireGun.co was the original domain name, threw up a super bad looking in retrospect WordPress site and started it from there. When I went in-house, I just let it go but always thought that there could be something more there. It’s sitting there in the back of my mind for a while and then when I no longer had a job I was like, “This is what I’m going to do.”
Louis: How did you get your first 10 customers?
John: It was actually fairly easy for HireGun to get my first which is what Credo was called at first to get my first 10 customers because the way the business worked, it was on a commission basis. Basically, when I sent a lead to an agency and then they close it in the business, I would get paid a percentage of that, of what they are getting paid. It’s pretty easy. I basically tell people like, “Hey, I have this lead. Would you want to talk to them?” If and only if you signed them then you’re paying me this. They’re like, “Yeah, great. Sounds like a no brainer.” It was pretty easy to find people to send work to in that way.
I think it might be more useful to talk about this past May. This past May, I switched the business model to a subscription model as opposed to just a peer commission model. Now, agencies, consultants, etcetera pay a monthly subscription to be listed on the platform. They’re still vetted by me, everyone has to do a phone call beforehand before they’re even allowed to sign up and subscribe and pay.
They do a phone call with me, I also find out who a couple of their clients are, go and look at the data, they tell me what they’re doing. They’ve been doing SEO and link building per client for 12 months, I go and I look at SEMrush and Open Side Explorer and different tools like that to actually verify that they’re good at what they do. There are also reviews, public reviews on their profile, etcetera. I get both the qualitative and the quantitative that they’re good.
The first 10 subscription subscribers apart from the people that are already on the platform that then chose to remain on, which many of them did, it was all from all of marketing that I’ve already been doing. I’ve been working on it full time for six, seven months at that point so people knew what I was doing. I just did it yesterday on Twitter, I do an update for what has traffic done, what have leads done, bounce rate, time on site, all of that so people can see how it’s growing every month.
There are people that are literally banging down my door like, “Let me be on the platform.” I’m like, “I have something for you. Hang on.” Once I opened it up, there are a bunch of people that were like, “I can finally be on Credo.” It’s all the advance marketing that I’ve been doing that really got me the first 10 subscribers apart from the people that I’d already been sending work to on a commission basis.
Louis: I guess we’ll really discuss those tactics in more detail in the second part of the podcast. But one thing I wanted to know in particular, that’s a question I ask when I hire people. I had a few jobs before I created my own business, this was a question I’ve always asked and I find the most insightful. Outside of this event, we discussed a few times already during this podcast, was there any particular event in your life that made you who you are today?
John: I would say there were a couple of times in life that made me who I am today. The most influential periods in life that I’ve had, I actually lived in Switzerland for a couple of years. Basically, it’s Evangel Co-Christian Hippy community, it’s the best way I can describe it. Up in the Swiss Alps, I spent two years there in total. It during that time that I really learned how to think about the world and also how to think about who I am and what I’m supposed to do or want to do while I’m here, while I’m alive.
That really started me down the path of thinking about who I am, I enjoy working with people, I enjoy being transparent, I really enjoy writing. During that time, I had a lot of time to write. The second year that I was there, I actually helped to run a company. I was young, I was 25, 26, I was working directly with the founder of this book publishing company. He really taught me a lot about business. I just learned how to get to know new industries.
Through that work, I came into digital marketing because I was living in Switzerland, French speaking in Switzerland publishing English language books. It was a bootstrap company and I had no budget to go to book conventions and that sort of things. Basically it was, “How do I get eyeballs on these books?” I found SEO and content marketing and all that. I found Moz and I found the Distilled blog and different names like that, I had a web developer background.
All these different skills came together to allow me to learn marketing but also, in a way I was an entrepreneur at that time. I got bitten by that bug to be able to work on what mattered. 2009, 2010 was really the time in life that set me on this path that I’m on now.
Louis: How did you learn development?
John: I was actually trained as one during my university days. I went to James Madison University in Virginia and I was part of this super small major there called Technical In Scientific Communication. I actually went to that school at first because I wanted to do video production. I didn’t get into that program, which is a long story, but basically, I went there because I’d been almost guaranteed by the director of that program that I would get in and I didn’t get in. He was a friend of my father, my father has worked at that university for 30 years now.
Louis: I think in today’s world, marketers who have knowledge in development and a little bit of coding or programming who have or at least understand the technical side of digital marketing have an edge, have an advantage. You have an advantage, the ability to develop stuff and as well market them is quite interesting.
Louis: Can you recommend one resource in particular to learn the basics of those languages for marketers?
Louis: We touched on this subject before, I know what happened to you with your full time job because you wrote about it. You didn’t tell me. The key thing that I liked about you is that you’re being very transparent online, you are sharing, as you mentioned, numbers from Credo in terms of metrics and stuff. But you’re also sharing the dark side innocence of entrepreneurship or life in general. You’re not scared of sharing your weaknesses, of sharing the mistakes you’ve made in the past. Why are you transparent?
John: That’s a great question. I think some of that goes back to my time in Switzerland where I really learned who I am, I got comfortable with who I am as a person. I’m not defined by any one thing that I do, or that I say, or anything like that, I don’t justify myself as a marketer or a full time employee, that went away then all of a sudden I have a big crisis of who am I. I think that’s part of it, I’m securing who I am.
I definitely did have challenges when I went out of my own, just getting used to the entrepreneurial roller coaster because there are extreme highs, results to other extreme highs and extreme lows. Those happen multiple times a day when you’re working full time. You might have a low day and a up day. But as an entrepreneur, it’s like you’re up at 9:00 AM and you’re down at 10:00AM. This is awesome, oh wait, I’m going to fail, 30 minutes later, oh my gosh this is awesome.
Getting used to that was definitely one thing. I think at the end of the day, I’m a teacher. My parents are both educators. I enjoy teaching as well. I enjoy sharing lessons and helping people be successful as well. Being transparent with what I’m learning has always just been a way that I’ve operated. I’ve just become a lot more comfortable over the years, just sharing everything that I know. Part of me can’t help but do it.
There have definitely been times that I’ve shared too much and people in my life have gotten angry at me but I learned how to temper that and at least make sure that if I’m talking about something that involves someone else, making sure that they’re okay with me sharing that and trying to be, as Rand Fishkin says, tacky and being empathetic to other people and what they’re comfortable with. But if it’s just me and stuff that I’m learning, I’m an open book and I’m willing to share anything because it helps other people know that they’re not alone.
I don’t really consider myself successful yet but I’d say I’m on my way there. But people view me as successful, therefore, if I’m sharing what I’m learning and sharing my struggles, then they also realize that, “Oh, it’s actually natural to show that everyone struggles, everyone has the things that they’re working through themselves.” That really helps them continue on their own path.
Louis: Do you think there is any limit to being transparent?
John: Yeah, especially when it involves other people, I think that is my personal limit. I believe in being gracious to other people and basically giving other people the benefit of the doubt. I never want to throw anyone under the bus. Even the whole situation of me getting laid off, there are certain people that I can just publicly blast. There’s no reason for me to do that. I want to allow people to say things. Trying to be, as I said, empathetic to other people and good to other people because I want people to be good at me.
If I deserve to get thrown under the bus, I’m sure people throw me under the bus. People do it before but it doesn’t feel good to be thrown under the bus or honestly, to me, to throw other people under the bus because it kills relationships. I think that’s the limit for me.
John: In one of your other blog posts, you mentioned that when you were in charge of a team, one of the mistakes you thought you made was to be too transparent. You mentioned that you were being too transparent and therefore you weren’t protecting your team too much. Can you tell me more about this?
Louis: That one, as a manager, as a business owner or something like that, when you have employees, when you have people that are directly reporting to you, I think you have to learn what each individual person is able to process and bare themselves. I eventually realized that they basically couldn’t handle the ups and downs of what the brand that I was currently with was going through and the struggles that the teams were having or different people were having working together. Really, I should’ve kept that to myself or just talked about it with my manager or something like that.
I think that that was what I was really referring to there. When it comes to people reporting to you, being very careful about what you share, the different challenges that are going on. I think when it comes to your own peers and people that are, if you’re a director, people that are other directors within the company, they can really empathize and to put it bluntly handle it and be able to deal with it personally and emotionally, that sort of thing. I learned a lot about not communicating struggles down but just communicating struggles up.
People that are bugging you and the company organization, they’re there for a reason, especially your boss. I was reporting to the C-Suite, my boss, she was incredible. She is an incredible professional and she’s been through alot and is where she is for a reason. That’s really the only place I should’ve been going with the struggles going on.
Louis: That’s an interesting aspect because transparency is a buzz word at the minute, a lot of people are starting to talk about it but I think there are limits to it. In our own team, I’ve noticed many times that sometimes it’s better to actually digest information you get, it makes sense, all of it and then share it in a constructive manner instead of just being transparent every time for everything.
John: I think one thing that I’ve learned is that junior employees need to feel very secure. If they’re not used to business and how a business is run, business is messy. But when you first get into it, it doesn’t feel like it’s messy, it feels like, “Oh wait, everything just works well.” You look at that company from the outside when you’re a young employee and you’re like, “Wow, that company is everything you figured out.” Then you get inside then you find out the skeletons. Every company has his own problems. I think part of it is maturity.
If you have a junior associate, they shouldn’t know all the just on the tin struggles or revenue struggles or whatever that’s going on. You should take the time, as you said, as the owner or whatever. Take the time to step back, what does this really mean for the company and then communicating. You don’t have to go into the ins and outs of like, “Oh, we lost this client or this customer quit because they’re not happy with blah, blah, blah.” That should be communicated to the right people but that doesn’t have to be communicated to everyone. But really saying, “Okay, this event happened and this is what it means and this is what we’re doing moving forward.” Giving that clear vision.
Louis: Let’s close on this subject of transparency and now move on to the meat of this episode which is really about digital marketing and helping those marketers to be better on their job, to help their company grow whether it’s a small business or a large organization. Is there any conventional wisdom about marketing and digital marketing in particular that you think is just plain wrong and we need to stop doing?
John: That’s a great question. I think one of the biggest struggles I have with digital marketing, the digital marketing ecosystem. This has actually gotten better over the last couple of years but there’s still a lot of talk out there about simple tricks or simple hacks to do things better. There definitely are individual things that you can do to move the needle but those are very far between. The thing that I like to impress upon people and the thing that I want people to know is it takes time, good marketing takes time and it’s doing a lot of little things again and again and again over time. It’s those things that you do over time that really add up and move the needle for you.
I’m guilty of doing this as well. You can find it on my company blog and all that as well. Three simple tips to build an email list, those are great to get you started but throwing up a form on your blog and having a popup that shows up 75% of the way down the page of people who have scrolled that far like, okay, those are a place to start but you have to keep measuring, keep optimizing all that. This stuff takes time and you’re not going to get it right on the first try. You have to keep going with it.
I think that’s the biggest thing that I like to persuade people from is thinking that, “Okay, I can do a one time SEO audit and then my SEO is done.” Absolutely not. You can do a one time SEO audit, it’ll fly up the biggest thing so you can fix those things but then there are so much more that you have to keep doing over time to really see success.
Louis: Talking about internet in general because it’s a common place for all of us to be on, we spend most of our days on internet and it seems normal but a few years ago, two decades ago or three decades ago, it wasn’t here. Anyway, I think personally that internet is quite polluted with a lot of things actually been on there like with a lot of ads, annoying ads and popups and interruptions and stuff. What do you think marketers could be doing to make internet a better place for people to hangout on?
John: Fantastic question. I think one of the biggest things is when it comes to talking about content marketing specifically is not ascribing to the more is better mantra and basically saying, “Okay, I need to get out. I need to publish new content.” First of all, people are talking about fresh content in content marketing, I think it’s ridiculous. Some people go and refresh their homepage content every three month because “Google likes fresh content” that’s absolutely ridiculous.
It doesn’t work but people saying, “Okay, I need to have fresh content on my site, therefore, I need to publish three blog posts a week but I only have time to write three 500-word blog posts a week, that’s good enough. I would actually prefer and I think if more people ascribe to this internet would be a better place. If you’re writing a piece of content, make it be the single best piece of content for that topic on the internet. That’s what going to rank, that’s what people are going to get value from.
Instead of writing three 500-word blog posts a week, why not sit back and pick one of those topics and write 1,500 words on it and publish that. I think that’s one of the things that people can do best, going for high quality over just the quantity and breadth of content go deep.
Louis: I made this point at a conference recently, one of the question that I had from the audience was, I tried that but it didn’t work after two months so we stopped and now we keep doing small articles. What would you say to this person?
John: I would ask them why they decided to test doing longer content because if they were doing short content and they’re like, “This isn’t really working for me, let’s do this other thing.” Why did you go back to what wasn’t working? Two months is a decent amount of time, that’s 60 sleeps, 50 workdays, something like that, 45 workdays. I think that it’s not that much time.
I would also ask them, “What were you expecting to see within the 60 days?” It takes a lot of effort to create a really good 1,500 word blog post or 2,500 word blog post. There’s obviously something in their process that isn’t working for them like were they not saying their expectations correctly for how long it’s going to take to write it, edit it, promote it, all of those things. Were they expecting to write, number one, for all these thing within a week? They probably need to recalibrate their expectations.
It’s an issue with the process or with their expectations. I would actually dig further into that and really try to understand what were they actually expecting to see within this timeline was that and was that correct.
Louis: That’s a good insight. Let’s do some role play, let’s imagine that you are a marketer, a digital marketer in a small business. Let’s say 5 to 10 people. You have, obviously, a limited budget, let’s say probably $2,000 or $1,000 maximum for marketing. You are selling something online, it could be a software, it could be a product, it could an incomer site. You are tasked to promote this business, what would you do starting today?
John: That’s a great question. If you’re in a small business like that, 5 to 10 people, you’re probably the only marketer, you don’t have a marketing team. You have a bunch of different things that you can do. As the individual marketer, figure out what are two or three different channels that you can test, that you’re also good at, that are also within your wheelhouse. For example, I am not, historically, had not been a paid acquisition marketer like AdWords, Facebook Ads, that sort of thing. It’s not something that I did, it’s something I’ve been learning but it’s not something that I did. I understand SEO, I understand content, I understand promotion.
I will figure out what are the things that are really worth my time to do and then what are the things that I should actually pay someone else to do? I would look at it that way. I’m a good content creator but I hate editing. It’s not worth my time to go back through and spend time editing the stuff that I’ve written. I’d rather pay someone $50 to edit a piece of content or something like that which $50 is a really low amount to pay someone to edit a really long piece of content. I would go back to that, what am I good at and then what are the things that I’m not doing or the things that I hate doing, that I can pay someone else to do for fairly cheap.
I just saw a blog post yesterday written by Dan Martell who founded Clarity and a couple of other business. He wrote about lessons that he learned spending a week with Richard Branson in Switzerland a couple years ago. Basically, Richard and his team are really good at outsourcing the things that aren’t worth Richard’s time or his assistant’s time or something like that. Basically, Dan operates now, if he can get someone else to do something for $5 or $10 that he could do but he can get someone else to do for very cheap, that’s virtual assistants out of Asia or somewhere like that. He has learned how to delegate those sorts of tasks.
I think at the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to. What is worth your time, what is not worth your time, if you can get someone to do something just as well as you can do it, for cheaper than you can do it, then it’s worth paying for.
Louis: First step, pick two or three channels. If I understand well what you said, you need to pick channels that one, you have experience or that you’re comfortable with and two, that are good bets for your business in the industry you’re in to invest in. I think there’s a good book called Traction, that actually helps you to choose the channels, I think there’s like 19 channels in total you can pick from. There’s a finite number of channels you can use and this book Traction is from the founder of DuckDuckGo, the ultimate search engine from Google. I think that’s one of the resource some people can use as you mentioned. First step, you pick the channel that you’re the most comfortable with. Second step.
John: Just start doing things. If you’re picking a channel that you’re comfortable with, then you understand not only the tactics, but you understand the strategy. Step two is put together the strategy. Basically, you figure out, what are my hypothesis and what do I think is going to move the needle? Also looking at your KPI, your Key Performance Indicators. That is contained within the strategy. What are we going to do, why are we going to do it and how are we going to know that it’s successful or not?
If SEO is one of the channels, then putting together the strategy of, okay, we’re a pretty new site, we’re a pretty small site, pretty new site, do we have the necessary pages that we need on the site to rank for the keywords that we need to rank for? That Google’s Ad Planner tells us people are willing to pay to get clicks for. Do we have pages for those that can rank organically? What sort of link building are our competitors doing? What sort of link building strategy do we need to put together? At the end of the day, how do we know that we’re being successful?
At the end of the day, with SEO, directional indicators are is our domain authority increasing, are we getting more links to domains? Are we launching more pages? But then really, at the end of the day, are we getting more traffic and are we getting more revenue from this channel? That would be step two, put together your strategy and then decide on some of the tactics that you’re going to do and know what numbers you’re going to measure in order to know if you’re on the right track.
Louis: Let’s talk about SEO in all details. I think this is the channel or the marketing activity you’re the most expert in. Let’s say that we’ve decided that SEO is the number one channel we’re going to use to help our business grow as I’m the only marketer. You touched on the steps you would take. Let’s drill down into those steps. The first one is, you said, to basically audit your current assets, your current pages to know whether you can rank for those. Do you have any tools that you could recommend for people to use for this particular task?
John: The best tool that I use for this when it comes to clients, there are other people that would recommend some other different tools but the tool that I go to is SEMrush. You can basically put in your website into there, it’s a page where you can get some data for free, I bought subscription to it but you can put in your website and it’ll tell you the keywords that you’re currently ranking for, keywords that are relevant to your site.
You can also go and you can look at your competitors as well and say, “Okay, I’m running X site with this plumber website but what are other plumbers in my area currently ranking for?” You can download the data and do magical things in Excel and say, “I’m ranking for these 20 keywords. This competitor of mine is ranking for these 250 keywords, how are they doing that?” That’s where I really start right there.
That gives you an idea of overall like what is the opportunity for you within that vertical and then you can put together the strategy from there of what pages do we need to launch? Do we need new section of our site? Do we need to reoptimize the pages that we currently have? You can use tools like Open Site Explorer or HREFS or something like that, looking at your competitors, what pages are they getting links to, what assets have they been creating, what assets do you have here on your own website which you can get via Screaming Frog or different crawler tools like that.
Especially if you’re coming into a site that’s already been going for a while and there have been other marketers working on it and they’ve created their other assets. You’re going to assets you don’t even know existed. To give a real world example, when I started at HotPads, I was the first marketer there in about two and a half years. They had a product team, there are phenomenal engineers over there, some of the best engineers I’ve ever worked with my life. But they haven’t had any marketing for quite a while, they’ve had marketers beforehand that have created different monthly reports and that sort of things.
By doing a crawler Screaming Frog and discovering different content assets they had and also looking at Open Side Explorer ,their top linked two pages, I was able to discover what they’ve done in the past that worked. I wasn’t reinventing the wheel, “Okay, this has worked in the past. What can we do current day and looking forward that’s going to replicate the success needed to take it to the next level?”
Louis: When you say what worked, what indicators do you use to see whether those pages worked?
John: For that, I’m getting links to the sites. We’re thinking about link building, the apartment rental space, house rental space is a very competitive industry. We knew that we needed more links in order to be able to rank. We’re doing a lot of technical changes and that sort of thing. I got into the technical audit off the bat but we’re thinking about link building, what have we done in the past that’s worked to get links for the site, or even better, what’s gotten links in the past that currently, we’re not using that link equity to help our other pages rank. What internal links can we build to use the link equity that we already have but then also moving forward, how can we get new links to our website as well?
Louis: That’s a good SEO blueprint to start with and to really have a good understanding of your website on what to do next. I think you touched on that briefly and I think that’s something we could discuss now. Let’s say that you’re not the only marketer in the team, let’s say that you’re working for a bigger company and you have a team of marketers with you, let’s say five to ten people. One of the tactics you’ve chosen to really leverage is content marketing, the issue is you guys have a lot of good content but nobody seems to care, nobody seems to read. What would you do if you were in this situation?
John: I would question if you actually have good content. If you think that you have good content and no one cares about it, no one wants to share it, no one wants to link to it then obviously you’re not putting out what your audience needs. I would actually go back to the drawing board and go and do customer research and say, “What do people in the apartment rental space, for example, really care about?” Going and doing your keyword research and all those sorts of things. What sorts of question are people asking?
At the heart of it, when I went in HotPads, what does our audience really care about? What are they really thinking when they’re looking to rent a place, not just how many bedrooms does it have and how much does it cost and that sort of things. What we found is that a lot of those people are loose. They say that they can pay $2,000 a month to rent a house, they can probably make $2,100 to $2,200 work. If they say they want a one bedroom, if they can find a two bedroom for the same price or $100 more than what they said they can pay, they’re probably going to do that. Those sorts of things don’t really matter.
But what they really care about is it might be entertaining, a space to entertain their friends or having a backyard for their dog because they are pet owners and they love eating outdoors or accessibility to the outdoors. For a lot people, actually finding a place to rent is pretty emotional, how it makes them feel and does it fit their needs as opposed to here’s a one bedroom for under $2,000. But that second one is a very static one, the first one is much different. Actually getting into those emotional needs of what they’re really looking for and then you can crack content around that.
We did things like is it cheaper? How much money are you going to save in the major metros if you get a one bedroom apartment with your significant other as opposed to having two separate studio apartments. We launched that around Valentine’s Day, it wasn’t a typical [00:43:09] on Valentine’s Day. Money is emotional at the end of the day for a lot of people, oh wow, I can actually save a lot of money and that makes me feel good by moving in with my significant other. We’re getting married or whatever as opposed to having your own place, having “Independence.”
I’d actually go back to your original question. I would go back and rethink your concept of what is good content or quality content within your own industry if those are the sorts of things that you’re running into.
Louis: You mentioned customer research and you mentioned one tactic within customer research to really understand those people, you mentioned keyword research. Any other tactics that people should use?
John: One big one that not enough marketers, especially digital marketers who are very data driven, is surveys. A lot of people don’t go and survey their audience and figure out the things that they really care about, and just asking open ended questions like, “When you’re looking for an apartment, what are the things that come to mind other than price and number of bedrooms?” People will say, “What I really care about is this.” You can ask open ended questions like, “What do you enjoy doing?” That can really help and that gives you more of the qualitative stuff.
Surveys, but then if we even go a step broader than that, actually talking to your customers. One of the best things that I do with my own business, Credo, is when someone new signs up to the platform, after they’ve been on for about a month, what I like to do is I actually like to hop on the phone with them again and say, “You’ve been on for a month, give me your completely open feedback. I want criticism, I welcome criticism, I want to make this the best platform for you to get new business, new digital marketing business. What are the things that the platform currently does that you hate that I need to fix and what are the things that it does and do that would make your life better?” That always flags up different things.
Just last week, I had a conversation with a guy that had been on for about a month. He flagged up a couple things I hadn’t even considered. Some of that is in the messaging and some of that is also product changes that I need to make. Just getting that customer feedback, it helps you get into their psyche, it can also give you very actionable things to go and do to quickly make an impact for people.
Louis: Customer research, as you mentioned, number one, talking to people on the phone, on Skype or in real life, sending surveys, earn keyword research. Those are three great stuff. One of the last things I want you to touch on in content marketing is let’s consider that you created good content, content is good, you know from research that people will connect with it. Let’s say the company is quite new and you don’t have a lot of emails connected, you don’t have a lot of people following you on social media. How would go about promoting this content out there?
John: What I would do then is kind of a buzzword but I think that the tennis that will hold true is finding the influencers within your space, who currently owns big email lists within your space, who’s talking about the stuff that you do? If you’re a new social media tool, you’re a social media agency and you’re putting out stuff, you’re going to go and you’re going to find people like Buffer or you’re going to find Michael Hyatt, you’re going to find Ramit Sethi. People like that that own huge email lists, they’re committed to putting out quality stuff.
If you’re putting out quality stuff as well, they’re going to want to share it because it’s going to add value to their audience. You can piggyback on their success, not doing it in a spammy way at all but genuinely adding value to them, getting to know them. Who are the Buffer founders? What do they care about? Then actually engaging with them and building that relationship because overtime, relationships are what matter. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small business that no one knows about yet or if you’re a huge business, huge publicly trading company, relationships are what matter in business at the end of the day.
Very tactical and very actionable is who owns those big email lists, who is the most authoritative website that get a lot of traffic and has your ideal audience. Strategically, how can you go about building a relationship not with the website but with the people that actually do the stuff? That might not be the chief operating officer or who’s the face of the company, it might the content manager who’s the one actually producing the content.
You don’t need to get to know Leo or Joel at Buffer because they’re super busy, they are operating the business, they’re not in the business working on at writing content for the most, you need to get to know Kevan Lee who is their blog editor or their content manager, I think it’s his title, for example. He would be the best one for you to get to know. If you want to, for example, get a guest post on the Buffer blog.
Louis: What tools would you recommend, at least one, to find those people?
John: Followerwonk, I think is still best, the best tool, currently owned by Moz. I know they’re looking to sell it to someone who wants to keep it going as they’re refocusing back on SEO but that’s a great one. I’m going to plug my friend’s tool here, I haven’t actually used this one but I know that it’s very useful for influencer marketing, it’s called Intellifluence, intelligence and influence put together intellifluence.com run by Joe Sinkwitz who’s a fantastic marketer. They launched that a couple of months ago and I think they’re having some really good success with that. If you’re looking for influencer marketing, finding people to help you promote your brand, I would definitely check that tool out as well.
Louis: Nice one. I’ve never heard of this so I’ll definitely check it out. We will add it to the notes, anyway. Last question I wanted to ask you around marketing and SEO in particular, what resources did you use to learn your craft, to learn SEO?
John: If someone is looking to get in the SEO now, there are two resources that I would recommend they check out. One of them is one that help me get started, the other one is actually one that helped create. The first one, it’s still the Moz’ Beginner’s Guide to SEO, it’s still the best place to start. When I started my first job, full time job in SEO in 2010 in Philadelphia, my manager there had a printed out copy of the Beginner’s Guide to SEO sitting on my desk. I carried that around in my backpack for the next year, I think I still have it somewhere, it’s still written and marked up.
I remember sitting in the laundromat doing my laundry in Philadelphia reading the Beginner’s Guide to SEO. Definitely reading that. That’s a great place to give you a base and get started and go from there.
The second one, it’s a paid course, the DistilledU, distilled.net/u. The letter U, it’s a course that I helped create when I was at Distilled. They kept it going, they keep adding new content to it, changing things as the world of SEO changes. But it’s $40 a month and I just learned recently that it’s $360 paid upfront for the year. You get access to it for a full year and they’ll teach you technical SEO and outreach and link building and all these sorts of things.
I know a lot of agencies that one of the first thing that they do, first they have their new SEOs go and read Beginner’s Guide to SEO and then they give my DistilledU subscription and say, “Go through this.” You can also mark off, you can take quizzes and pass the different modules and then managers can see how well their people are doing on this, they know where they need to do more training. Those are the two, Moz’ Beginner’s Guide to SEO and DistilledU.
Louis: Thanks for that. Thank you for taking the time to go through those tactics in marketing because I think it will be really helpful for a lot of people listening. I think I know who you’re going to say and we’ll see, who else do you think I should interview next?
John: That’s a great question. I’m super glad that you’re going to interview Jason Fried and Rand Fishkin and people like that, he is super busy and I don’t know if he’s actually doing interviews and such right now but Tim Ferriss is someone that I greatly respect in the entrepreneurship world and he shares so much of what he is doing. He’s a teacher and he is super open and he shares his struggles and he creates everything in public.
Actually, increasingly, Dan Martell who I’ve mentioned before, founder of Clarity, now he’s helping entrepreneurs build their businesses. Dan is a great guy, I know his wife Renee pretty well. I think Dan would be a great one for you to get on. He’s super high energy, super tactical, really fun person to listen to and to learn from.
Louis: Great. I’ll definitely check them out. I do listen to Tim Ferriss podcast most mornings. He’s a character. He changed a lot of lives which is probably one of the key metric of success in life is you’ve influenced that many people, you know you’ve done something right. Where can listeners connect with you and find your websites, your blog, etcetera?
John: There are three main places that you can find me doing stuff these days, I’m most active on Twitter, twitter.com/dohertyjf. I’m super transparent on there, a combination of sharing useful links and then also what I’m eating for dinner which is what Twitter was initially supposed to be. There’s my personal blog, johnfdoherty.com which used to be super tactical marketing, now it’s more entrepreneurship focused just like things I’m learning. The final one is my company website, Credo, it’s GetCredo.com, Twitter account is twitter.com/getcredo.
The Credo blog, I try to polish on there about once a week. I also have my own podcast going there, wrapping up season one right now. I call it Credo Cast, basically I interview agency founders and entrepreneurs, asking them about their entrepreneurial journeys and how they got their start running their own business. That’s not on iTunes and SoundCloud and such yet but that is on my to do list for the near future. Check that out as well. You can find that on the Credo blog as well.
Louis: Great stuff. I want to thank the listeners first to have spent the last 50 minutes with us. Obviously, we shared all the nuts and all the things that John shared and all the tools he mentioned, all the people he mentioned because he mentioned a lot of very interesting resources. John, thank you once again for your time.
John: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Louis: Talk to you soon.
John: Alright. Take care.