E-Commerce secrets to scale

003 - How Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Can Contribute To Business Growth

003 – How Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Can Contribute To Business Growth

E-Commerce Secrets To Scale is a marketing and entrepreneurship podcast that revolves around hearing the stories and strategies of successful entrepreneurs and e-commerce professionals to uncover scaling secrets that will impact your online store.

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Tanner:

This week on the show, I have Jared Carrizales, and he is the founder of Heroic Search. They are an SEO agency that specializes in link building. Jared and I talk all about how SEO can help businesses scale. Jared is a stand-up guy. I really hope you guys enjoy this week’s interview.

I’m super excited to have you on the show today. Jared, go ahead and introduce yourself to me.

Jared:

Absolutely. Yeah, I’m glad to be here. I’m Jared Carrizales. I run a Heroic Search, based here in Dallas, primarily, but also in New York. We specialize in link building and content marketing, for a variety of different industries, but we have a lot of SAS clients specifically and some bloggers and finance, things like that.

Tanner:

How’d you get started in this? Have you always been in marketing or did you kind of transition to it?

Jared:

I feel like I mostly fell into it, like probably a lot of people do, especially digital marketing. I started a website, it was terrible. It was so bad. I’m glad that it’s gone forever from the servers of the world – that kind of website. But I learned a ton. And so I started doing freelance work and then really fell into, you know, the consulting and got picked up by an agency and then eventually started my own agency, started Heroic Search. And so, you know, I learned a ton along the way. Not just about marketing, just entrepreneurship and how to run a business. I guess I got into it for the wrong reasons. Like everyone else, you know, 10-12 years ago, to set up a website and make a million dollars. Right? And then that’s it, it’s all over after that. Right? But I definitely learned a lot and use those skills and hone those skills in ways that brought me to where I am today.

I think it’s impossible to run a business and not experience an obstacle every day.

Tanner:

Yeah, you know, I think 12 years ago things were a lot different. I don’t think most people even knew what digital marketing even was. Right? So, I think that’s why we hear so many stories about all of these accidental agency owners. Everyone just falls into it. You know, I’m actually an exception to that. Because I actually graduated with a marketing degree and that’s what my plan was, but I am not like most people, apparently. I guess my story is just super unique. So, while you were in the process of growing your business, did you face any obstacles while you were growing that really taught you a lot?

Jared:

Yeah, I mean, so many. I think it’s impossible to run a business and not experience an obstacle every day. You’re talking about issues with clients obviously, with staff, with your software stack. I mean a million things that can go wrong at any given day – a pandemic. They all present your unique challenges. If I was to hone in on something specifically, I would say, maybe the biggest challenge and maybe this is a little philosophical, but I think sometimes the biggest challenge can come within oneself and having to recognize the perseverance and humility needed to continue to run a successful agency. It’s one thing to start one, but to be around in three years, four years or through a pandemic, or any kind of serious significant thing like that. You need to have an apparatus in place that can at least semi operate without you or have contingencies ready to go.

I think that understanding that and recognizing that you’re not a bullet-proof type of person or agency is really important and that can be a very, very difficult obstacle to overcome for a lot of individuals that own agencies. I see here all the time. I want to say, if you’re familiar with a Wil Reynolds, he runs Seer, one thing that he always says is, and a lot of people say this is not just him, but, the most intelligent business owners agency will always be the ones asking questions. They’re always going to be the ones that want to take in more information and understand because I do think that goes, that’s complete humility and being humble person, understanding that you don’t know everything. And it’s important to get information from all these different facets of life and the people that you’re around. I don’t think everyone comprehends that all the time. And it definitely could be a stumbling block if you don’t.

Tanner:

Yeah, I completely agree with you, Jared. I think we often get in our own way a lot of the times. You know, I think business owners that fail are business owners that think that they know everything, just like you said. If we’re not treating every day as a learning opportunity, then how are we growing as business owners and how are we going to get from point A to point B and really learn from our experiences? And I also think that the best way to learn is just to throw yourself in the fire, like going back to how you started your agency, I’m in the same boat. I mean, I had no experience prior to this. I was just like, you know I’m gonna sell websites, I guess I better figure out how to build one. So, I mean, just like you, I went to the drawing board and I built the first website, being my own, and it was horrible. But it was a great learning experience and it’s that trial and error and being able to fail and pick up those pieces and learn from it. I think that’s what sets a good business owner apart from a bad one.

Jared:

Among many things, but definitely.

Luck finds those who are working hard.

Tanner:

Yeah, I mean, you’re absolutely right. There’s a lot of things involved for sure. So, what would you attribute your success to over the years?

Jared:

Again, I don’t think I’m super special when it comes to this either. I think that a successful business will have a mixture of just hardcore tenacity and perseverance to get things done, but also have a decent amount of luck. I would say those both definitely played a huge part, still do. We definitely wouldn’t be here still right now if the entire team wasn’t constantly thinking about, okay, well, how can we do this a little bit better? You know, how can we service our clients better? How can we streamline, make things a little more automated or a better process for this or for that? And in the meantime, have a really huge, awesome sale that comes in and the sale cycle for that particular client is four days because it was a referral or something like that. Like that’s that luck part, right? You have to have a little bit of that, especially when things are hard, like they are right now for a lot of agencies. You definitely have to have some of that for sure. And I think the better you can build up your business, your agency, the more luck you will probably have. Simply because you are doing things right. You know, you’re building it up in a good way and people know about you.

Tanner:

Yeah. I completely agree with that. You know, I think that luck definitely plays a role, but I also think that luck finds those who are working hard. Like you said, doing the right thing, constantly looking for ways to improve your business from an external and internal perspective. I think just like you said, doing things the right way, always doing the right thing, having integrity.

We really do care about our clients and I think our team members respect that a lot.

Tanner:

Who was your first hire out of any partners that you brought on?

Jared:

Our first hire was actually, as an SEO agency, our first hire was a link builder. Well, I should say our first kind of major hire, you know, there were a couple other people that came before her that did some one-off jobs and some small stuff, but she was the first person that we really invested in. Went through an interview process that was a little more rigorous. I say a little more because back then we didn’t know what the hell we were doing when it comes to hiring. But you fast forward to today, and I want to say, it’s almost seven years later, she’s still with us.

Tanner:

Wow. You know, I commend you for that. That means that you’ve been able to build a culture or an environment that makes people want to stay. I don’t want to get too much into like culture in the workplace and stuff, but what do you do to keep them around?

Jared:

Honestly, the best answer is just, I mean, be genuine, you know, and treat people like they’re human. I think that it’s very easy to get caught up as a boss, you know, in that mentality. That really, eventually, is a huge turnoff to most people as an employee. And creating, I mean everyone says this, but we really do care about our clients, to the point of I will absolutely lose money on a job before it comes to sacrificing the quality and integrity of the product that we’re giving out. And I think that our team members respect that a lot. There are times that I have to turn down their work because, “Hey, you kinda missed the mark here.” That doesn’t mean that they’re not getting paid. I mean, everyone’s still gonna get paid every two weeks.

And they see that, you know, and it makes it like okay, well, this is how important that is. Right? Because at the end of the day, it’s me who’s eating cost to make sure that the quality is there. Whether someone is a returning client or not, it’s that important. There’s been times when we knew that a client was not going to come back for whatever reason, but we still take that mentality on and still eat costs sometimes to do a good job. Most every client that is not a client anymore we actually still have a good relationship with because of things just like that. I think our team members see that and they see the integrity that the company operates within. Our unofficial motto in fact is; our job is to make good digital marketing campaigns that provide positive ROI while also making the internet a better place. So that last part is the key that I think is often missed in a lot of companies.

Tanner:

Yeah. I mean, I definitely agree with you. It’s more than just taking money from clients and checking the boxes, right? If you want to build a good business, you need to focus on the customer. And if we’re not providing as much value as we can to the customer then you’ve got someone walking around telling everyone that you don’t have good work and it’s only going to hinder you on the flip side. It might cost you a little bit of money to deliver the work and the right sense. But then you have someone walking around telling everyone that you guys do a great job and you’re going to get referrals from that. And it’s not just about referrals, right? It’s about genuinely caring about them and doing a good job.

Jared:

I mean, it’s about sleeping at night.

Tanner:

Yeah. I mean, some of these companies might have a very small budget and they don’t get a second try. And if you do a bad job for them they just lose their money. And then they’re stuck where they started because you didn’t help them out. Like you said, you would.

You might be indexed in Google, but it’s still a complete loss.

Tanner:

Going back to what you said before, about how these agencies did a bunch of malicious stuff to ruin some companies’ reputations, are you referring to like Black Hat SEO? Did they get delisted or something?

Jared:

Yeah. A lot of things like that. So, you know, in the penguin update came out the plan to update, the 2012s. 2012 was a crazy year for updates. You saw a lot, especially with Penguin. The very first Penguin update, I want to say it hit like three percent of worldwide searches or something crazy. You had people that either were delisted completely, de-indexed overnight or that were knocked down so far that they may as well have been de-indexed. And it was solely because many times the link-building practices that said agency was putting into place knowingly, that they were violating Google’s terms of service, you know? That’s just unacceptable.

Tanner:

I completely agree. You know, it’s interesting. I still see agencies to this day using Black Hat techniques and I see it. I’m just thinking to myself, man, do their clients know that they’re doing this? It’s going to come back to haunt them.

Jared:

Yeah. Yeah. At the very least the client is wasting money, right. Google has come a long way in terms of de-indexing for malicious links, for example. But they don’t count it either. So those links, whatever you’re using as the client, whatever agency you’re using that’s doing that, it’s just completely a waste of money. So it’s still a loss. You might be indexed in Google, but it’s still a complete loss.

The whole client doesn’t want a pretty website and rankings –  they want money. We focus on the money.

Tanner:

And they’re doing them a disservice obviously, but we’ve been talking about SEO a lot and I’d like to just take a minute and ask you, how do you define a SEO? And maybe could you put it in layman terms if anyone listening doesn’t know what SEO is?

Jared:

Yeah, so SEO is search engine optimization, in terms of, you know, the acronym. I’ll give you two different definitions, one kind of practical one, and one that’s a little more Jared philosophical, if you will. On a practical level it is making a website that is search engine friendly, right? So it is able to be digested by the search engines in a manner that helps the engines understand how to rank a specific website or page in their index. Depending on which engine you’re talking about, you have hundreds, if not thousands of different parameters that they look at and variations of those parameters that they look all to help give the user the best experience and the best result at the top.

I think the more philosophical approach is, you want to do those things, right? I mean, that is our job as SEOs. That is our job to make that website in that manner. But the only reason that a client wants that at all is more revenue. So, I think that if you miss out on the latter portion of that formula, if you only do “Hey, this website is awesome. It can rank, maybe.” But it’s not going to make you a single red cent, it doesn’t really matter. So I think that you have to have both as, you know, a requirement of being in the business and saying that you’re an SEO. Because otherwise you just have a really nice looking website that doesn’t do a damn thing and no business owner wants that. No, one’s going to, if they knew that was the end game, they wouldn’t pay for it in the first place. You know? So I think that we are obligated as a SEOs. As a professional in the digital marketing industry that has to be part of the equation. It’s very easy to just give a line item type of invoice at the end of the month. It’s a lot harder and much more rewarding to actually make the client money, which is what they’re wanting in the first place.

Tanner:

Right. So, I mean, you’ve got to be tracking conversions of some sort and tracking if they came from organic search and not just the positions. Because even an SEO that doesn’t know what they’re doing can get a website to rank at the top for a keyword that doesn’t matter. So, there’s a lot of controversy about SEO and whether or not it’s really worth the investment. It’s super competitive to get to those top spots depending on the keyword and industry. What do you say in response to concerns like that?

Jared:

That’s actually super, super easy for us. Because we base all our ongoing monthly campaigns, not all our campaigns are monthly, but we base all our monthly ongoing campaigns to directly correlate with the ROI that a client is getting. So at the end of the day, again going back to the whole client doesn’t want pretty website and rankings –  they want money. We focus on the money. So the argument becomes kind of a moot point as long as we’re doing a good job. The argument becomes some moot point, that question becomes a moot point. Where, you know, client XYZ, we control organic search and maybe referral traffic somewhat. So here’s the difference from September to August and you hired us in March, here’s the increase. And this increase is worth X amount of dollars because every conversion is worth an estimated $125 or whatever. And we prove it out like that. And you know, your investment is in us at whatever X amount of dollars per month is now 10 times, per Google analytics or whatever software you’re using.

I mean, when you approach it like that, the client doesn’t really care where the leads are or what the blog post was that you posted. Like, all right, 10-X on my spins. Cool.

Tanner:

All they’re going to say is good job, I don’t know what you’re doing but it’s working.

Jared:

We get that. It’s not always like it’s ideal, but it’s not ideal. I do want them to know what we’re doing. There is an element obviously of client education, but yeah that happens a lot. Like, “Hey, this is awesome. Okay. Let’s keep going. I don’t know what you’re doing, but let’s do it again next month.”

SEO is all about creating a good experience for the person searching for what you’re selling.

Tanner:

So let me ask you this Jared, how well do you think Google has done at being able to weed out these SEO agencies that aren’t approaching SEO in the right way?

Jared:

You know, going back to the Penguin reference and Panda too, for that example. Those algorithm updates wiped a massive amount of agencies off the board because they don’t really know how to practice SEO. They are not a practitioner in the first place. They are a turn and burn agency that was very good at sales. And even the agencies that did survive that were like that, they focus maybe on software instead of actual consulting and figuring out solutions to problems and generating more leads. Because at the end of the day, Google made it so hard to do anything of any kind of automated-ness that they couldn’t survive. God forbid you should actually do a good job of marketing your client’s websites. And so those algorithmic changes really, really shook up the SEO world, the agency world in 2012 and 2013, and continues to as well. Which I feel like it is a great thing. I think that’s just the cream of the crop rising and I am fine with that. You know, more super cheap competitors are going by the wayside. That’s totally fine. I’m okay with that.

Tanner:

Yeah. I mean, no question, if anything those algorithm updates just put everyone on the right path. And then just got rid of the people that weren’t doing it. Right. I think if anyone listening has a good takeaway from this interview, I think it’s that SEO is all about creating a good experience for the person searching for what you’re selling. If you keep the user or the person searching in mind, that’s all that matters. That’s all Google looks for. That’s all they care about.

Jared:

That’s right. I mean, the search engine is Google’s product. I know they’re very often used synonymously but they’re not exactly. That is a product: the engine. I mean, it’s called an engine for a reason. So if the searcher thinks the results are so good that they come back and come back and constantly use Google exclusively, okay, well, that’s a win for Google. The only way Google can do that is if they constantly deliver the best result. You know? So again, going back to your main takeaway, if you focus on just giving the best for someone. If you can genuinely look at the other nine websites in the top 10 can say that you’re the best? Alright, there may be still a little tweaking here and there, but you’re probably going to be okay. You’re probably going to be okay if you’re giving the best information in the best manner. You’re probably all right. And that’s what I think a lot of people miss trying to take the shortcuts or alright, well, how can I gain this so I don’t have to build links there? So I don’t have to create a 4,000 word post, right? Like that’s, that’s a lot of effort.

Tanner:

Yeah. I mean, unfortunately SEO is a lot of work, creating a good environment for your visitors is a lot of work. Right, but it’s something that needs to be done. And if it’s not something you’re doing then Google is going to weed you out very, very quickly. Because if you’re in the top three and you got two websites below you and everyone prefers their content over yours, then you just lost two spots, just like that.

Jared:

That’s right and that’s a lot of revenue, a lot of money from those two spots, like a lot, but depending on the niche.

Tanner:

Oh yeah, no question. I mean, being in the top three is a big deal. It doesn’t matter what keyword it is as long as it gets searched.

Having the right people in place is probably the most important.

Tanner:

This has all been really great, Jared, I really appreciate you coming on. What would you say are your secrets to scale?

Jared:

Well, I think, speaking as an agency owner, I think you have to have a team behind you that is naturally curious and competent. Both are equally important. People that, having those two qualities, manifest into a team member that wants to genuinely find the right best answer and pursue it. To pursue that want and desire. That’s huge, especially for us, we are not a handholding organization, you know, for all the processes that we do have. I tell our team members all the time, when I get in my moods, “look I don’t know what to tell you.” Like you were hired on as a link builder or whatever. I mean, we’ll help you brainstorm. We’ll help you do whatever else, but at the end of the day, you need to deliver and it’s up to you if you’re not delivering figure out why. You know, we’ll help, but it’s ultimately on you. So yeah, I mean, figure it out. Right.

It’s super important for again, especially for us to hire people that are like, “yeah, you know, I have that drive, I’m ready to go.” I want to make sure that I figured out the best way to do my email templates and to manage the links that I’m getting or not getting and figure out why and AB test, things like that. I mean, that’s super important. I don’t want to have to write a process for all of those things. So having a good hiring process is a huge, huge piece of scale. You know, if you hire two amazing employees, even if your third one is a little subpar, they’re going to be picked up by the other two, you know? So I think it’s super important to have that type of culture, like you mentioned, to be able to scale very, very much so. Along with your standard, everyone needs processes in place and documentation of course. But yeah, having the right people in place is probably the most important.

Tanner:

I mean, I agree with you, especially for us as agency owners, like our people are everything. And our ability to hire the right people is going to make an impact on our bottom line or ultimately decide our fate of our business.

Jared:

They’re our products, they truly are. And if they don’t have passion for what they’re doing, then they’re not going to be successful. I mean, if, if all they care about is getting a paycheck, they’re going to last what – a month?

 What’s a good way for anyone listening to get in contact with you?

Jared:

So you can send me an email. It’s [email protected].  

Tanner:

Cool, we’ll also link that up in the show notes. Anyways, I really appreciate you taking the time Jared, ‘til we meet again.

Jared:

All right. Cool. Thanks a lot Tanner, I appreciate it. Thank you.

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