A4U Expo Interview with Richard Baxter |
Posted by jordan On November - 25 - 2011 0 Comment

I grabbed fellow SEO Richard Baxter from SEO Gadget after his excellent presentation on keyword research. We talked about all things SEO, and the challenges of being an affiliate doing SEO, along with some more discussion on attribution!

Mark Cann: Hi. We’ve got Richard here from SEO Gadget.

Richard Baxter: Hi.

Mark Cann: You’ve just had your presentation haven’t you? I have to say I was very impressed with the keyword research, and level of insight that you got at the presentation. Tell me a little bit about, you know, for those, the viewers that are watching at home that don’t know about what you guys do at SEO Gadget.

Richard Baxter: Sure, right. Introduction to SEO gadget. Yeah, uh, SEO gadget is a SEO and CRO agency.

Mark Cann: Okay.

Richard Baxter: Our mantra is really… We exist to help people, and webmasters, and site owners make more money out of their websites. So, we do that with, you know, obviously SEO, keyword research, link building, social media, and conversion rate optimization.

Mark Cann: Yeah.

Richard Baxter: And it’s been awesome. The company is two years and one month old.

Mark Cann: Okay.

Richard Baxter: So we celebrated our second birthday not long ago at all. And, yeah. It’s just been awesome. We’re just growing and having a good time. We’ve got a great team and, yeah, that’s pretty much it. That’s the company.

Mark Cann: Brilliant, so I mean, there’s been talks on like gamification, and I know that’s you recently  did a talk about, um, can you tell me a bit about, how you think some of these theories and practices can be, I suppose, applied to affiliate marketing, and also the merchants themselves really.

Richard Baxter: Yeah, for sure. So, well, I guess it comes from a couple of different angles. I mean, it’s tough, in affiliate marketing to generate unique content, as an example of one of the challenges that you might face. And so, for example, in gamification, you could use game mechanics to motivate people to perform the actions that are most important to the growth of your website. So, in the case of unique content, you might want to come up with a point and a badge scoring system, to encourage people to write reviews. Or to return to the site and participate, comment, to engage. And, you know, it’s great to have game mechanics as a tool to encourage users to do that. The trick is finding an appropriate reward for that level of participation. And, that’s really, what gamification means. Its rewarding users appropriately for performing the actions, that are most important to the growth of your business. Doing stuff on your site. So, um, yeah.

Mark Cann: Oh, good stuff. So, obviously the market is kind of moving at a quite rapid pace at the moment.

Richard Baxter: Yeah.

Mark Cann: We’ve got specialist like yourselves opening up, and then you’ve got, kind of, the full service agencies out there as well. Other companies kind of merging together. Like, where do you see, in terms of a kind of direct response, kind of things, which is obviously what we’re all here talking about. Where do you see the market moving over the next twelve months, really?

Richard Baxter: Well, um. I guess, first of all, the challenge for us being, you know, a small to medium size, I guess, SEO agency. We’re growing at the rate of not, and one of our biggest challenges is, finding good people, putting them in the right seat. You know, obviously, we’re going to keep developing our products and services, because we’ve got a lot of much, much bigger competitors. People who have just been around the block a few more times than us so far. So, that’s generally how we try to differentiate, is we challenge ourselves to build better stuff for our clients. So keywords research is a really good example of that. In terms of where we’re headed. So, we’re scaling rapidly, and when I get back from my holidays at the end of the year, I’m going to be looking at how we accelerate that with a couple of different options. So I’m excited about next year, from that perspective. In terms of the industry itself, right, that’s tough. Twelve months is, for most other industries, like, that’s a relativity short period of time. For us it’s eons.

Mark Cann: Yeah.

Richard Baxter: I think that, smart marketers will be doing quite a few different things. Compared to how they have been doing those things, practically affiliate marketing right now. Focusing on how to reward users. How to engage their users to actually do things on their own site. So, we’re very good at driving traffic to a site, and you know, we’re always getting better at understanding how to convert that traffic into sales, or clicks, or revenue, or whatever that’s most important to the business module. But there’s this missing link in the middle, which is, I guess, user behavior optimization. So, how do we absolute… You know. How do we get people doing important stuff on our site? How do we encourage them to return? How do we help from a SEO industry point of view? How do we help our clients differentiate from all of their competitors? And I really feel that if SEO’s in this industry, or any other industry, are still doing the same style of, you know, caring out the same style, of link building, and basic on page SEO, hoping that that’s going to get the ranking higher. It’s just not. We really have to focus more on the user. More on the customer experience. We gotta learn which buttons to press to make them do more of that stuff. And obviously social media is going to have a really big, well continues to have, a really big impact on that. But, I think that we’ve got consider… just, such a long way to go with how we use social media. So, I’m really bullish about, using API data from different social media platforms, like, Foursquare, to actually enhance the quality of the contents and the product on our own sites rather than, necessarily, always working toward building a profile on those platforms. They give us a lot of tools to play with.  And, I just don’t really, always see them being executed as well as they possibly could be.

Mark Cann: Sure, sure. So you talked a little bit there about keywords research based on kind of Q & A like How do you see actually creating and tailoring content based on more query based searches than just kind of I suppose the instant guess short searches as it were.

Richard Baxter: So we did, we’ve done a few QA systems now for our clients. But one really stuck out in my mind, because it was the simplest piece of work that that development team could do to get a live product. Really simple QA system in finance, specifically loans. And what we found was that with a really simple system, so ask a question get and answer people can respond. We just saw all these metrics start flying around so quickly within two weeks we’d increased the average time on the site as a whole, not just in that section, by eighty-six percent.

Mark Cann: Right.

Richard Baxter: And yeah, that section had something like, eight and a half thousand unique page views in two weeks. Right? And actually it was a really, really simple system. It was just, ask a question, get an answer. Behind the scenes what we are doing, is that, we’re gamifying the response rate, so the official staff at that particular company, all will have a back end that shows who’s answered the most questions. Their earning points, and actually, there’s an actual little rewards system in place, to motivate them to do more of that kind of thing. Right? So, we’re using gamification, sort of, almost internally rather than externally. But, it’s great for users as well. It’s capturing. It’s getting users the right answers to their questions. They can rate those answers as well. They can respond. They can drill down. Get more information. It’s driving a ton of traffic and it’s so simple.

Mark Cann: Sure, sure.

Richard Baxter: So, I think the best type of QA system, the best type of that methodology runs itself.

Mark Cann: Sure, sure.

Richard Baxter: And you don’t necessarily go off and do the research to go off and build that piece of kit. The research is almost doing itself. The users are telling you what they want, which is incredibly important.

Mark Cann: Brilliant. Well, um, obviously there’s a lot of conversation going on about tagging, an attribution. You know, there’s been some tests revealed, as SEO is a great entry point as a whole multi-channel mix, before people actually get to the conversion point.

Richard Baxter: Yeah.

Mark Cann: What’s your thoughts on how SEO and affiliates plays into that whole conversion?

Richard Baxter: Sure.  I just, kind of, agree with what you say. That, I believe personally, that SEO is a great discovering mechanism. I think that, aside from the mechanics of actually tracking the data itself, which is a challenge all in it’s own right, having that understanding of how people are using search engines to discover, sort of, research, and ultimately to purchases. Really, really key to just an understanding of how to model your attribution in the first place. So, I’m always really interested in the secrets of keywords, that you see people using to get to the end goal, which is the conversion right. Or the click. And just, understanding how people are using the search engines, or what types of queries they start off with; so, you know, from best laptop to buy, to Samsung laptop reviews, all the way to buy Samsung laptop. Right? Even in SEO alone, it’s such a, such an evolutionary process for the searcher. It’s not just about ranking for the word laptop. So, I think, to be honest, if you still… if you’re still struggling with that concept, and you’re still struggling with exactly how to catch the customer at each one of those touch points, then attribution is probably going to be a real struggle for you, but mechanically everybody should be working on, you know, the right attribution model for their business. And it’s also to see Google Analytics producing the right tools. For everybody to be able to do that, because it’s been historically, a quite specialized thing. So, you go and talk to a client, and you go talk to an affiliate, and you ask them the questions, you know, how are they attributing their conversions to, you know, multiple channels. And, sometimes, they admit that’s a difficult challenge. So, hopefully, that problem will sort itself out in the next twelve months.

Mark Cann: Brilliant. Well you obviously mentioned that Google Analytics moved into that area.

And in terms of… A lot of people would argue that they, kind of, gave their competitors and analytics firms already out there, kind of, a bit, kick up the ass.

Richard Baxter: Yeah.

Mark Cann: Some people would say, that the innovation just wasn’t, maybe, happening in the analytics industry, until the big G, kind of, comes in, really.

Richard Baxter: Yeah.

Mark Cann: So, what do you think that we need to do, technologically to encourage innovation not wait for it to happen?

Richard Baxter: Well, actually, I think what companies like Google Analytics are doing, is absolutely right. They‘ve got disruptive business model. So, what they’re doing, they are developing the best products or services, or at least, they’re attempting to develop the best stuff. You know. For that kind of scale. For the small, to medium, to large enterprise. That’s kind of, awesome. And they’re making a compelling case for users to use their analytics tools over the really expensive stuff, because they’ve got better features. They’ve got better UI. And they answer, you know, more questions, which is really what analytics is there to do. Answer questions and help you discover solutions to the problems that you’ve got. So, I think what people are doing is awesome. It’s incredibly disruptive to the big guys, but hang on. The big guys, the companies, I guess, like Webtrainers. They’ve been charging for their services for a very, very long time. You would expect that at that premium service charge, they’d be able to innovate quite rapidly too, and keep up, and you know, hopefully stay one-step ahead of the curve. I don’t think Google Analytics is developing in the way it is, to put any other analytics company out of business. But, I do like the fact that, you know, you’re forcing the other companies to keep up, and develop their own solutions too. Disruptive business model. It’s awesome.

Mark Cann: Sure, Sure. So, There’s a lot of talk about start-ups at the moments. You know, obviously they’re kind of the lifeblood at the moment. Do you think in terms of SEO as a channel, but also other online marketing channels? What would you say that you need to do in terms of you know actually get into the market. If you actually want to market your business online.

Richard Baxter: Yeah.

Mark Cann: What are the top tips?

Richard Baxter: Gosh, there’s a start up so. The biggest problem for a start up is that on day one you’re not gonna rank organically for any career terms right. Nobody knows you exists. So you’ve really got to get this balance of you know the right level of brand marketing, outreach, you know, content production. And you’ve really got to be phenomenal to make that thing work now. So, you’ve read all about inbound, inbound marketing on SEO malls. Actually producing exceptionally stellar content and products is, in my opinion, that’s an important first step. Right, you’ve got to have that capability and you’ve got to have some thing true, unique and remarkable to get your foot in the door. But I also think that certainly with the start-ups that we’re working with. They have some pretty solid outreach too. So we work with them to help their internal teams understand what e-mails they should be sending, what content should they be promoting. Where should they be promoting that? What are the first steps and how will they know when that looks like a success. You know you’ve got to have a plan and you can’t base it on the assumption that you’ll just rank without putting the work in. But what’s really interesting about you know looking at how these guys are marketing their sites now compared to maybe a couple of years ago is that the focus is on multiple channels. And you know what’s really interesting is that you push really hard on twitter on face book. You make connections you reach out to people you go far maybe even e-mail outreach and that kind of thing and that brings the organic SEO rankings together.

Mark Cann: Sure, social signals, yeah.

Richard Baxter: Exactly. All these channels are so dependant on each other from a start up point of view.

Mark Cann: Well, I suppose there’s even like free start up now if you’ve launched a business years ago you wouldn’t actually to do any of the market research around what sort of demands there were for those particular keywords or perhaps how much competition was out there. I mean I suppose your presentation touched on the fact that that keyword research needs to be kind of taken to another level in terms of whether you do launch a start up business or indeed you go for the next stellar idea you know.

Richard Baxter: Um, Yeah. You know I think there’s always still opportunity in organic SEO but you know you shouldn’t just be focused on organic SEO.

Mark Cann: No exactly.

Richard Baxter: It’s bottom line. You see the margins decrease. It’s much, much harder to even find… It’s just harder to find opportunities for stocks they’re so competitive but it’s also hard to find opportunities where video search results image search results local search results aren’t pushing all the top rank… organic rankings down.

Mark Cann: Yeah.

Richard Baxter: And also with pay search being the way it is, it’s quite expensive particularly for a bootstrap. It’s important to understand what all of your options are, and I think that you’re making a mistake if you’re not reping your socials.

Mark Cann: So, you touched on personalized search. How would you advise a company whose… maybe the search landscape is filled up with personal results? How do they create content for those personalized users?

Richard Baxter: Well, How do you… Yeah. So, I guess this is where keyword research meets an understanding of what’s popular. What’s emerging in social circles, right? So there are tools, I mean there’s you know, website… web applications like Top Seat, for example. You can look at what content is popular. You know, what’s trending. Who’s sharing that stuff, right? I think that’s the real trick isn’t it? But, you’ve really got to have that understanding of what’s happening on the web right now. Where are the opportunities right now? How might that evolve into, maybe, a longer-term organic SEO play? So, you know, I was talking about Google Insights, which is like, a really standard tool. Everybody knows about Google Insights, but I’m not really sure if everybody realizes, how important the rising searches section of the Google Insights report for keywords, really is. Because that’s, that’s what people are looking for right now. And there are the queries that are growing rapidly. Rapidly enough for them to be featured on that report. So, I think that, for you to be able to really get an understanding of those things, you’ve got to be experimenting. You’ve got to be using these tools. You’ve got to find the applications that give you the answers, and play with the data. And, just have a look at what real people are really sharing. It’s not necessarily about the search volumes themselves or the keywords. It’s about what content is working on the web. And that’s really, really important.

Mark Cann: Brilliant. Well, really appreciate your time. It’s been a pleasure talking to you Richard.

Richard Baxter: Awesome. Thank you. Take care.