Jon Hainstock (@jonhainstock) is co-founder of Zoomshift, an Online Employee Scheduling Software company. A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to grab lunch with both Jon and co-founder Ben Bartling (@benbartling). As a startup with a limited budget they have strategically used SEO and Inbound Marketing to build their traffic and more importantly drive leads and customers. They have a great product and story, hope you enjoy!!
Q: What is Zoomshift, who is it for?
A: ZoomShift is simple employee scheduling software for small businesses. We really focus on solving the scheduling problem for businesses with under 100 employees.
Q: What marketing/advertising have you done in the past?
A: We’ve tried cold calling, direct mail, Facebook ads, Google AdWords, PR and SEO to try to build awareness and increase leads.
Q: What marketing initiatives have worked the best?
A: SEO has been the best marketing channel for us. Interruption (outbound) marketing wasn’t working well for us, mostly because business owners were not ready to change their scheduling process, even if it was terrible. When someone is actively searching for a solution, they are usually fed up with their process, and are ready to try something new.
Q: How does content marketing play a role in your daily activities?
A: We spend a lot of time interacting with customers everyday via support and chat, and we are able to build better content based on their feedback. Our initial goals were to climb the SERP’s for a handful of keywords, but now we are really focusing on using the language of our customers to build better content.
Blogging gives us the ability to build trust and provide fresh insights on how small businesses can streamline their processes. We are also tweaking existing content and building new pages on a daily basis to test if they will be valuable for our SEO campaign.
Q: What tools do you use for your inbound marketing/seo efforts?
A: We use Juxseo, an on-page SEO grader, to optimize the content on our site. We have also used Scribe to make sure our content is valuable and readable for our target market. We use Positionly to track rankings on a day to day basis. We track domain authority and trust with Moz’s tools.
Q: What are the results so far?
A: We are always amazed at how well SEO works. While SEO is only one arm of the inbound game, it brings in over 60 signups every week, and converts into around 3-5 paid customers per week, all on it’s own. Some of these conversions had assists from social interactions or referrals, but a majority of them convert from a keyword.
Q: What advice would you give to help others with their SEO strategy?
A: Go for the low hanging fruit. Start by doing a lot of keyword research, using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, Google Suggestions, and Übersuggest to give you keyword ideas. Then find the keywords with the most search volume, highest buying intent and the lowest competition. Use those keywords as the main pages of your site and as categories for your blog.
About the Author: Steve James is a partner at Stream Creative, a certified HubSpot partner and full service digital marketing agency specializing in inbound marketing, web design and development, and social media.
All star inbound marketing agency, Adhere Creative, has a great post today about how 'content marketing' is the new SEO. I 100% agree that 'technical SEO' is all but irrelevant for everyone except high traffic sites and that most companies should just focus on creating lots of great content. Another steller inbound agency, Synecore, posted a great story about a company who built up traffic to 100k visits/month through content marketing and very little technical SEO. I'm seeing agency after agency and marketer after marketer embrace inbound marketing through content. Many are public about their successes. This is a marked difference with what I'm hearing from technical SEO experts. Technical SEO experts are very private about their successes and failures. But, if the recent horror stories I'm hearing from technical SEO experts keep at the current pace, we should all be ready to call it a game soon.
Both of these articles talk about the importance of keyword research and some link building as part of the content marketing strategy, which are certainly 2 SEO strategies. But, while many SEO companies still put a large emphasis on all forms of link building, content marketers seem to universally suggest 'guest posting' as the best form of link building.
In their list of 5 great tips, Adhere includes 'collaboration' as a suggestion for generating links as well as growing social media reach:
Even though the old days are over, the new SEO landscape is still competitive. You need allies who will partner with you and endorse your brand through guest-posting opportunities, social media promotion, and co-branded marketing campaigns. Partner with like-minded companies with complementary products or services. You have a similar target market, why not work together to reach them?
Sounds like inbound networking to me. Seeing all of these great marketing firms get it, makes me very excited about building an inbound networking group for inbound marketing agencies.
Brook Group is a client of mine. (Advice from Kara Brook.) They are also a great partner and we have a bunch of mutual clients. One of them is HaloPets. I've been advising Kara all along about how to help her clients generate more traffic, leads and sales from their online marketing.
We were talking about the Halo Pets Organic Pet Food blog the other day. Specifically, we were talking about the style of writing, as well as how to use the blog strategically to increase traffic from search engines.
A blog is a great SEO tool. Many people blog and just stuff their keywords in it. That doesn't quite do it, although as Rick Barnes mentions, traffic to a blog from SEO should justify the time spent on blogging. A successful blogger also engages with their audience. They spend as much time reading other blogs, leaving comments on other blogs, linking to other blogs, etc. This helps them grow their own readership faster, generate more comments from others on their own blog and get more links pointing to their site. All of these activities will help drive direct traffic, as well as increase the amount of traffic from search engines (because of the new inbound links).
Humans have this strange interest in connecting with humans through common interests. Yeah. I know. It's not that strange. I'm being sarcastic. But, most new business bloggers don't realize that blogging is about a conversation.
Not every blogger is great at this. It takes a knack for storytelling, relating and listening that few souls have. One of those souls who has it, is one of my best friends, Amy Breton. I've blogged about her before. But, I also connected Amy and Kara and Kara recruited her to write for the HaloPets blog. Amy has a great knack for storytelling and an amazing knack for connecting to animals and humans, alike.
Here's a video that the Boston Globe recently produced about Amy and her husband owning the oldest living rabbit, Guinness approved.
Chris Johnson is a colleauge of mine at HubSpot.
Here's a rough transcript of a recent call:
CJ: Hello Mr. X. You recently did a search at Google for "The Best Search Engine Marketing Program Available 2008". It looks like you found us. Are you trying to optimize something?
Prospect: blah blah blah.
Two things that made this blogworthy, atleast in my opinion.
- That's Long Tail. We certainly didn't set out to rank for that "search phrase". It happened, though. I'd imagine that noone will ever type that phrase again. But, when we add up all of the 1 time relevant phrases that people type, it starts to add up to a lot of visitors and leads.
- Google Delivers "the Best". It's interesting how people ask Google, a computer that crunches our links to determine quality, for the "best" solutions. During Mark Roberge's presentation on SEO yesterday at the WBJ Sales Summit (his slides), he used the example of searching for "best plumber". Sam Wildt raised his hand and made the point that the person that ranks at the top isn't necessarily the "best". Mark agreed and explained that Google makes their best estimation. The crazy apart about it... is that many people start their search with "best" in front of their search term. They must believe that Google brings back "the best" or atleast some approximation of it that helps them start their buying process.
I found this article, "Why SEO Industry Needs Small Business
", written by Matt McGee of Marchex
Here are the reasons why he thinks the SEO Industry needs SMBs, according to the article:
- Your big clients will eventually disappear. (Meaning they will have in-house SEO talent.)
- Small businesses are/will be increasingly interested in search marketing.
- Finding accurate information about SEO and search marketing is tough.
I agree with all of his points.
Unfortunately, Matt is looking at this from the angle.
Small businesses need Search Engine Optimization. They are now educated enough to know they need it.
Unfortunately, large SEO firms will never serve small businesses.
What IS happening is that most small businesses rely on local web design and development firms to do SEO for them.
This isn't good either because most of these firms aren't that good. Or the good ones are too expensive. And worse, most do it in isolation without their clients involvement and treat SEO like a one time activity.
That's fakin bacon. Not SEO.
SEO should be done by the people that invent, make and sell the products at the company. They will need to learn the basics and manage the process internally. After they learn the basics and have the right SEO tools and systems in place to track leads and sales generated from their activities, they should should hire a full time blogger and social media marketing coordinator who is responsible for teaching the entire organization how to leverage the web to generate interest, website traffic, leads and sales. Outsourcing this task is like outsourcing your face to face networking or all of your customer service. It's core to the business.
The most time consuming task required - in order to do SEO successfully - is content creation. Should you really fully outsource the voice of your company? If you're going to outsource it, shouldn't it be to a writer or a messaging person?
Further, in the very near future, even GOOD SEO skills will ultimately be like html writing skills. Many more people know how to write html now than in the 90s. Now, you wouldn't pay someone $150/hour to write html like people did in the 90s. In a few years, we'll look back at the $150-$300/hour pay that good SEO firms receive and think that was pretty silly too.
I have never spoken with someone who has been happy with their experience buying SEO services from Network Solutions. I have not hired them myself. So, I have no first hand experience. And I welcome them to defend themselves in my comments. However, I've had a handful of clients who had negative experiences with them.
This is from a colleague:
They hired Network Solutions to do some SEO work and it did not yield more traffic and leads.
This is from a client:
"Network Solutions and [my business] were not a good match. Their communications were not timely and their reports were not user friendly."
The interesting part is that I am sure Network Solutions knows what they're doing. Here's a video with an exec at Network Solutions. She knows SEO and has good advice:
Here's the problems I have with Network Solutions:
- SEO is rarely successful, where success is defined by a measurable marketing ROI, if it is a one time outsourced task. Network Solutions sells it as a one time outsourced task. SEO requires a collaborative effort between an SEO expert and the subject matter expert who is creating compelling content. In house subject matter experts can be trained to do the basics and be successful if they're blogging and doing keyword research. But, if you're going to outsource SEO, you need a long term partner. It's not like buying advertising. It's more like hiring a salesperson who focusses on lead generation/lead qualification.
- It is extremely difficult to guarantee results. I've helped 50+ clients rank for their keywords and I rarely ever guarantee a ranking for a specific keyword. In other words, I know what it takes, but I don't make specific guarantees. My guarantee is that if you do what we tell you, you will generate more traffic and leads within a few months. Network Solutions guarantees top 10 results in one of a few top search engines. This is sneaky and doesn't necessarily translate into results. Surprisingly, or not, many small business owners fall for the guarantee. I'm reminded of the scene from Tommy Boy when he suggests crapping in a box and putting a guarantee on it - in order to battle a sales objection. I might start using that line.
I'm fine with Network Solutions selling SEO services. They just need to start doing it right. There are enough fly-by-night operations selling SEO shams, that make it harder for the good guys doing the right things for their clients.
Not only do they have a reputation to protect of their own. They shouldn't be doing the internet marketing industry a disservice.
Network Solutions should be taking the high road. They should be selling SEO results and delivering an iterative SEO process. Not selling a few promises and a few hours of "SEO work".
Michael Putnam and I met a month or so ago when he needed to figure out SEO for his awesome new startup, Zeer. He hadn't launched yet, but knew that he need to plan his internet marketing strategy before launching. We helped him round it out a bit.
But, he and his team deserve all the credit for being named to Time's 50 Best Websites in 2008.
And go check out his site. It's an awesome community site that helps consumers help each other make healther decisions about their diet.
In October, I blogged about a woman suffering from Post-Partum depression, who was missing. A fellow father and buddy of mine, Eric Sagalyn, blogged about her missing too.
I was looking at my inbound links today and saw that Eric had linked to me. In his comments, he linked to an article about how the mother was found in November:
A huge reward and massive search failed to find 35-year-old Katie Corcoran of Lincoln, R.I., but when a Baltimore shopkeeper did a simple Internet search all was revealed.
"Recently, [the shopkeeper] noticed a woman who appeared out of character," said deputy chief Brian Sullivan, of the Lincoln Police Department. After she approached her, the shopkeeper was only able to get her first name.
"The shop owner then got online and Googled missing Katies," Sullivan said.
She stumbled upon a Web site created by Katie's husband, Rob Corcoran, who flew to Baltimore to pick up his wife after she was found. He had posted her picture online along with a letter calling her a dedicated mother. He pleaded for her return.
The article makes a few poor conclusions. The journalist obviously doesn't know about the importance of On Page SEO and Off Page SEO. A big reason that Katie was found was because the Title tag of the home page on the site her hubsband built said, "Missing - Katie Corcoran" (on page SEO) and because people like me and Eric linked to the site (off page SEO). If those two things didn't happen, the shopkeeper, when he did a search for "missing Katie's" would not have been directed to the site her hubsand constructed to help find her. Her website would not be #1 in google for a search for "missing Katie's". The guy might have tried something else, like report it to the police, and she might have been found that way too. Of course, the reason she was found is because the shopkeeper cared. But, SEO and the fact that the family did a great job of getting the word out about her missing - played an important role.
Of course, this isn't that important in the scheme of things. Of paramount importance is that she was found and has returned to her family and to get help. I'm hopeful she's doing well, now that it's 6 months later.
When I am qualifying whether someone is qualified to do business with HubSpot, I ask them how much time they will have to dedicate to their online marketing, specifically to creating content.
They are usually the same people that think SEO stops when you tweak your title tags. Actually, they usually think it's about tweaking "meta tags", which we all know is not that critical anymore.
They usually ask what would I need time to do? So, I say, "To really succeed at online marketing, especially SEO, you need to create content. The more pages you have on your site, the more keywords you can target. The more keywords you can target, the more traffic you can get from search engines. Also, when you create great content, people are compelled to link to it. Links increase your search rankings and send direct traffic."
Then, I ask, depending on how difficult it is to rank for their keywords and how much traffic they need to generate to hit their lead and sales generation goals, "Do you have x hours/week to dedicate to writing content?" where x is usually 2-10 hours.
About 1/3rd of the people I speak with, say something like, "I Don't Have Time To Do That. I Need to Run My Business."
To which I respond, "Ok. Is there anything else I can help you with today?"
One guy said to me today, "Is that the end of your pitch?".
To which I responded, "Do you want me to blow smoke up your butt about how I can get your website out of invisible-land for $3500 and a wave of my magic wand?"
He laughed and said, "I appreciate the honesty. I guess I'll call you when I have more time to spend."
I said, "I'm here when this is important for you to do right."
Content & links are critical to internet marketing success.
Just so you guys know I'm not making this up, here's some very smart and successful people saying the same thing.
This is the most important stuff if you want to increase your organic search rankings. And if you're doing it right, compelling content creates links.