Mark was interviewed by Business Innovators Radio Network host Neil Howe about the Google Medic update and how it is related to the Expertise, Authority and Trust (EAT) ranking factors.
Welcome to the Trust Factor Radio, bringing you interviews and insights to unlock the power of the subconscious mind, to create authority, credibility, and trust, with your host, the Authority architect and bestselling author Neil Howe.
Interviewer: Hello and welcome to the show. This is your host, Neil Howe and today my special guest is Mark Bealin and he helps businesses seeking a marketing edge and performs SEO and paid search marketing campaigns that generate more revenue for their business. And that is what everybody wants, isn’t it? Mark, welcome to the show.
Mark: Right! Well, thanks for the introduction. I’m really excited to be on.
Interviewer: Well, give us a little bit of your background before we get into it, how you got started in digital marketing?
Mark: Sure. I’ve been, involved in search marketing since 2007. I worked for a start-up first who was acquired by a very large company. I really learned a lot at that job and then have been in the industry for I guess 12 years now it’s 2019, I’m still getting used to that, doing SEO and paid search primarily. I’m the web developer of some skill and then in 2017 in March, I founded this agency, where I work now called SearchLab. We’ve grown in that period of time to, now I have 12 employees and we’re hoping to hire more employees here in the first quarter of the year. We’ve opened a second office in Valparaiso, Indiana where we have four employees. One of them is a business development director who’s hardly ever in that office, but, I have a great team in Indiana as well. And, just the business has grown really nicely in the first, almost two years. And, I think it’s because we’ve done a really good job for our clients and retain clients and gotten referrals from that kind of work.
Interviewer: Excellent. Well and your main office is in Chicago, is that right?
Mark: That’s right. We’re in the North Center neighborhood. People who are familiar with Chicago will know it. It’s right along the tracks here. So if you do hear a train go by, I apologize for the audio, but, we’re along with a bunch of other digital marketing agencies. It’s basically digital marketing agencies and microbreweries in this neighborhood.
Interviewer: Oh, what a great combination!
Mark: We strategically picked my offices sandwiched between Dovetail Brewery and Begyle Brewery, on Ravenswood, just north of Irvin Park.
Interviewer: Well I’m glad that you are still able to get some work done based on your [inaudible 02:58] and the growth of your company so far. So talk to me about your clients, what kind of clients is it that you serve?
Mark: We serve primarily small medium sized businesses. They’re probably a little bit larger, the way that I’ve described it in the past. If you can remember, picking up a yellow pages in the past, my clients were probably in there, but they probably had one of the larger ads. So that’s sort of who I serve primarily. And then we also have a lot of, you know, start-ups, solopreneur operations. And so we’ve expanded a little bit. I think the best way to describe my client is actually like a, I think it’s a psychographic profile. These are people who are really eager to grow. They’re not satisfied with where they’re at and they want to see their top line revenue increase.
Interviewer: So they’re not happy, just getting by and you know, being in business, they really want to get to that next level and take over the market and ultimately what I say all the time is if you’re in a position to help people solve problems, you want to help as many people as you possibly can. So there’s definitely that drive to succeed, which is really what you want to be working with, isn’t it?
Mark: Yeah, it’s really well said. I mean, we’re, you know, I’ve been doing this a long time and what’s most gratifying is exactly what you say. You solve people’s problems. You give them, if they’re, trouble is they need more revenue or they need more business, that’s sort of the obvious one. But you know, our agency just, we’re always listening for how we can help small businesses solve problems and issues that come up. Whether it’s something that I can do personally or our firm can do personally, or if it’s something where, you know, I have a decent referral network myself of people we can refer people to. That’s the thrill of it is trying to help people solve their problems. I think that’s really well said.
Interviewer: Yeah, definitely. Well, what kind of issues is it that you find that these companies have that you’ve helped them with?
Mark: Well, most commonly we’re going to try and help businesses, I think though the slang we use, we’re going to make their phone ring and their doors swing. So they want to get more people into their business. They want to have more phone calls, more leads, more online sales, and they want to do that through their website. And so most commonly that’s where I come in and I’ll take a website, either optimize it or send paid traffic to it, in a way that will, will help their bottom line. Then there is just like a bunch of other problems that we can solve working in small business category. There are just so many different challenges that come with technology and trying to understand how all this works and so we want to be a good partner to our clients and help them navigate any kind of technology issue they might have. But in particular if they’re looking to get more leads and have a better presence online, that’s usually the problem we solve best.
Interviewer: So tell me how you help them with that? And you said optimize and paid sometimes, so you’re doing the mainly SEO?
Mark: Yeah, so I’m an SEO by trade, that’s what I did for most of my career. I would say the agency; we’re usually doing one of two things just about every day during our time. We either want to send more visitors to your site and that’s done through search engine optimization and running paid campaigns, through Adwords or paid social campaigns. Or we’re going to try and look at, if you’ve got no more visitors to your site, how can we make a higher percentage of those visitors convert into leads for your business? So the acronym for this is CRO or conversion rate optimization itself, they also have web design, web development resources who help businesses get a higher percentage of the visitors to their traffic, visitors to their site, converting into business leads for them. And so I’m usually doing one of those two things almost every day, or at least our team is.
Interviewer: So how do you figure out you know, how to drive that traffic, whether it’s a really big SEO push or whether it’s a paid advertising campaign on Google, or whether it’s, you know, driving that social traffic. How’d you figured out what works best for which company?
Mark: Yeah, that’s a great question. So one of the things I would say that I love about this business, I’d liked since I got started in it and that it’s extremely transparent whether things were working or not. So, for better or for worse, you’re sort of naked to the results. I always wondered how, like if you were selling billboard ads, how you could prove that those things were working because it seems tricky to me, but with these kind of digital marketing campaigns, it’s completely transparent. You’re naked to the results. So your traffic’s either going up or it’s not. You should be tracking a variety of conversion points. So we track phone calls for our clients. We track lead form, we track sales online. If those things aren’t improving, I have a problem. And so if you think about that from a positive standpoint, what’s working, if I’m sending paid traffic to your site, I want to only send the sort of traffic that’s converting. I don’t want to send good money after bad. And so you just kind of optimize from there. You, look for ways to just fully, you know, develop high performing ad groups and keyword patterns that you might find. And then with SEO you want to try and you really want to try and focus out fundamental things like making sure you have good keywords that you’re targeting, if your keyword rankings improve, you would anticipate that your traffic would improve and if your traffic improves, you anticipate that your conversion numbers would improve. And so we were naked to all those results. Now how that actually gets done, you know, is probably a longer question, but we would do technical SEO. So we improve the website itself, and make sure that it’s fast and secure. The keywords are included in the right places on the site. That we’re using a mark-up language that’s mobile, it’s highly optimized for mobile devices and tablets. And then once a website’s at a reasonable place, you really do need to drive backlinks to that, to the page. And that’s done by producing really good content. And so, you know, backlinks is a huge time. We could talk for half an hour just about that. But, the main thing that we want to try and do is make really great content. Promote that content and learn backlinks that way.
Interviewer: Content is a big one as well. You know, we could talk about that for hours. So what is really good content? What does that look like?
Mark: Well, the people who studies this so don’t even take my word for it. You know, I think Hubspot does some great research in this area, but they’ll find that research is very valuable. So if you have independent research on a topic that tends to get more lengths. The other way that I think is really, really beneficial, so let’s say you don’t have a budget to do a bunch of research and you know, intervene, you know, to do a survey of a thousand people or something like that, a really good way to do this is to find other experts in the industry, or at least in a similar like shoulder niche industry. So if I’m an SEO, I might look to an IT consultant, a similar but not competitive industry. And seek their appeal to their vanity. So you would try and include them in your blog posts or on your white paper or on your, uh, on your infographic. Include a quotation from them and generally speaking, if you do this right, you’ve identified people who have a blog or capable of linking back to your content. And so you identify people who are really able to amplify the content that you’re creating. And that’s probably the easiest way to do it. So I would say the two [inaudible 11:36] independent research and finding people within this industry who will amplify your content, by using their own blog, their own social media network.
Interviewer: And is that kind of like influencer marketing? Trying using the influence of different audiences out there. And does that work for the small or medium size businesses that you deal with?
Mark: Everything’s within reason. So, an influencer, you typically think of a celebrity or somebody who’s really got a massive following. But in a lot of cases it’s just somebody who’s an expert in the industry. So if you’re a locksmith or a door, you know, that client is going to say who does this? In turns out there’s a lot of people who are interested in security. They don’t have a following that’s as big as I the Kardashians. But they have a following. It’s very important to your industry and so appealing to those people because they do write blogs. They are active on social media; they are active in thought leadership. It’s very helpful. So I think people get intimidated by that word, influencer marketing. Because it can be like, oh, if they’re not planted in the NBA or going to the Golden Globes, its how am I ever going to get those people. Now it’s really about focusing in on your niche. What are you guys really good at? And who else is talking about that and who else is trusted?
Interviewer: Yeah, there’s the big word right there. It’s the trust and you know, that’s really what it’s all about. I think when people trust you, they buy from you. So you want to be able to convey that trust. And you know, we’ve talked a lot about the traffic so far Mark, but you know, that trust really comes in with the conversion and what you can do to help people trust you so that they, you know, make those conversions steps, that gets a sale. So what kind of a conversion things do you do to help your clients out?
Mark: Sure. That’s a great question. So yeah, some of this is basic copywriting skills. So do you understand how to write a compelling call to action? Do you understand how to write compelling sales copy in the first place? And so you do need sort of a surface level understanding about how to write marketing copy. And all these things like unique selling propositions and calls to action are very important. Then there are really understanding the user at where they are. So if I am on my mobile device, I’m not very interested in filling out, you know, a contact form with 27 fields in it. I’d much rather have a button that I could tap to call a customer service representative or a sales representative from your company. If I’m on a desktop computer, maybe that’s different. Maybe I would like most laptop computers don’t have a tap to call feature, although some do. I might much rather, either have a phone number ready where I could, I could see it and it’s not in a button form, but I could see the numerals or I might much rather fill out a contact form. So coming up with, I would say device specific calls to action and conversion points is I think incredibly important. And then just making sure that it’s not hard to find. So we do a bunch of user tests on websites. My company also does web development. We’ll do these user tests where we’ll have, you know, a critical mass, let’s say like 30 people look at the website while it’s in development and provide feedback. One of the most common things that we hear in these user tests is, I can’t even find the phone number. I can’t find a way to contact these people. Interviewee:And so making that really easy, making sure that’s above the [inaudible 15:33] content, uh, is essential. And I think you also want to try to have that on multiple places on the page so it’s not like if they scroll down on the page, they have to scroll back up to find your conversion points. And then lastly, I just think you want to make sure that the page performs well, so it’s fast, it looks nice, it’s enticing to a person and all those things lead to a conversion. And then if nothing, if all else fails, AB test that. So try a different version of the exact same page, different copy or different conversion points and send half your paid traffic to one and the other and see what your users tell you which one works best.
Interviewer: Right? And Google seems to be putting a lot of emphasis now on that user experience and rewarding, through, you know, rankings, the sites that have a better user experience even more than backlinks, you know, so what is that user experience that they’re looking for?
Mark: Well, the fun acronym this year, August 1st there’s an update, they’re nicknaming medic. The acronym for that is E-A-T; which is not meant to be like you’re eating, its expertise, authority and trust. And so they want to try and begin to evaluate pages based on a lot more of what the user is signalling back to Google. And so this is something we’ve been hearing about for a long time. I did it like in Outlook in 2018 and I was talking about Rank Brain and artificial intelligence then, and it sort of really came, it’s really starting to accelerate now. And so you’re right to say I still think backlinks are very, very important and probably will be for a period of, you know anybody whose bet against backlinks for my whole career is probably lost. But at this time you are starting to see these user signals really creep up. And so the big ones that we talk about are dwell time, you want people on your page for a long period of time, easy ways to do that or to include video or again, some of copy writing tricks to keep them on the page longer. And then the other thing that they’re really going to look at is your click through rates. So you can measure that in search council and see how frequently your result appears and how often it’s clicked. And that having a high click through rate will certainly appeal to, Rank brands. Some of these are artificial intelligence measures, but I still think a big component of E-A-T is going to be backlinks. It’s going to be like you need, you need to have trusted authorities linking back to you. If it’s just a fly by night directories, it’s not going to do it. You’re probably going to do more harm than good. And so you really want to make sure you’re understanding who’s liking to you, that they’re an expert in the field. And then some other subtle things. I think reviews are really important for my small business clients. Making sure you’re utilizing schema mark-up so that Google can begin to see you as an entity. All of these things go into it, but you’re right to say. I think the biggest thing is it’s not about including the keyword 20 times on a page anymore. Your content has to be readable, it has to appeal to users and its those kind of tactics are just like, how many times can I say personal injury, attorney in one blog post. They’re not going to work anymore.
Interviewer: Yeah, it seems to be you know Google is really rewarding those frantic people who are putting their expertise and authority and their trust out there and sharing information through education. And I know you do a lot of education in your area with your clients as well. How do you educate them in order to get them to take action and have service with you?
Mark: That’s a great question. So the first thing that we do is we’ll just work with them in a consultant basis. So we will, you know, that’s the way we sell our services. That’s the way that we perform our services. So we want to identify, you know, what kind of leads are good, what sort of traffic is beneficial to them. And then above and beyond just kind of our core services of SEO and paid search. We’re also frequently hosting events at our office in Chicago and I’ll bring in, I co-sponsored this with a company called [inaudible 20:20] or sales and marketing training company, just down the street. And then we’ll bring in subject matter experts on things like finance and brand marketing and video marketing to talk to our attendees about how they can improve their business. And if it’s something that, and we just give it away. I mean, it really is. For some of these we we’ve charged a fee, but for the most part we have like a bunch of freebies that I try and give out. And as long as the head counts reasonable, we’ll give out a lot of free tickets. And it’s really a way for you to figure out, you know, sometimes, sometimes clients know something’s wrong or I’m sorry, prospective clients know something’s wrong, but they can’t put their finger on exactly what it is. To take a broad array of perspectives, figure out if your challenges are SEO or paid search or maybe you’re challenge is something I don’t offer. Well that’s great. So come to my office and learn from these people. Like I said from the beginning, I just want to help solve problems for small business owners. Interviewer: And you get everything that you want in life. If you just help enough other people get what they want according to a Zig Ziglar, one of his famous quotes, which I definitely agree with. Now Mark let’s talk about some of the misconceptions with SEO and digital marketing. What do you generally hear from people? Interviewee:Yeah. This is another one of those where we could talk for a half an hour about this. One of the most common ones I hear is just a misconception about how SEO works in terms of the time, except I’ve heard this a lot where somebody will say, I did SEO three years ago. It worked great, but now what happened? I’m nowhere on the first page. I lost all my traffic. And this seems to be surprising to small business owners. I like to say you can really use the words SEO and marketing interchangeably. If you said, you know, I did marketing three years ago and now my phone doesn’t ring. That wouldn’t make sense because obviously you did it three years ago and now you stopped. And so you’d see a regression, you’re tracking your amount of leads. SEO is a continuous process and really the hard work become when you get to the top because now you’re competing not just against other really reputable businesses, but likely reputable businesses who also have SEO consultants working on their behalf. So staying at the top is actually when the real challenge starts. The other misconceptions I’ll get a lot are about paid search. So the idea that by paying Google you’ll get better visitation and better visibility in the organic section. It’s just not true. It’s never been true. But nonetheless those questions come on and paid search a lot of times just like you get questions about, you know, where’s my ad? I searched for some of my keywords and I didn’t see my ad. And you got to understand that you have a daily budget if that’s expired and you wouldn’t show up. You’re not going to be, if I searched from where on that currently or if I searched for my home, which is like two neighborhoods away, I could get totally different results. So, yeah there is, it’s a great question you know, because there are a lot of misconceptions in this industry. Interviewer:I what you said the first part where you know, you know, I did the SEO for a while, you know, three months ago or three years ago and then stopped and I’m not seeing results anymore. And then, you know, once you get into those high competition levels, you know, I equate that to like a performance athlete right there. You know, you cannot go to the gym three years ago and expect to be in perfect shape today. But again, if you’re at the other end of the spectrum where your competition is really high, you talk about these professional athletes that, you know, the difference between a magnificent player and just completely outstanding player can be minute, you know, just 1%. But they have to put in so much work just to get that. But ultimately the rewards are there aren’t they?Interviewee: They are. Yeah. And I think that’s the line I always use is like now once you get to the top and you’re competing against other black belts, so you’re through all the work even harder, then you got to train against the black belts.
Interviewer: Yeah. Well let’s talk about some of the fears because obviously there’s not everybody that’s doing this, you know, people try to do it on their own or they just feel that they can’t afford it. And you know, what holds people back from hiring, you know, at this to marketing company like yourself, Mark.
Mark: Yeah. Maybe cost. I think there’s a tricky thing to understand that an SEO agency or a paid search marketing agency or anybody you work with in marketing should be an investment. It’s shouldn’t be an expense. So if you spend money with me and that price tag looks, looks scary, you have to keep in mind, like, if we’re not delivering more revenue than we’re costing, then that doesn’t make any sense. We should really deliver a lot more revenue than you’re dishing back to us. And so there are a lot of people get sticker shock with the service because it is a professional service. It does cost money for my time and for my employees’ time. But you know, the idea of anytime you do a marketing campaign is that it should really be an investment. Anytime a marketing firm is an expense to you, that’s not a good situation. And so I think people, I have [inaudible 26:09], they look at that number and they go, this is how much I’m spending. Instead of thinking about this is how much money I should make because I’m spending that money. If that gels with, you know what you’re asking me.
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah, definitely. All right, well, you know, we’ve been talking about what you do for your clients and trying to solve their problems and the solutions that you have with the SEO and paid and just an overall strategy. Let’s find out how it’s being work. And talk to me about some of the successes you’ve had with your clients. You know, where were they when they started and what problems did they have? What were you able to do for them? And ultimately what was the outcome?
Mark: Yeah, so we, one of the very first companies that we started working with, that search lab is a l medical device company with locations throughout Chicago land and in northwest Indiana. So they have 16 total locations, over the course of our time with them. You know, I think there started out and they had like a surface level of like 700 calls from their website per month. We started working with them in early 2007 or 2017 and so they went from 700 calls to today, I think they’re going to have 4,000 calls to these occasions. So tremendous improvements. A case study for us, we really do love doing local SEO too. So multi location businesses, I know you’ve had some other guys on the show who’ve talked about this as well, but there’s this really low hanging fruit for small business owners where optimizing your Google My Business page, doing just some really easy things to optimize it. And then getting citations can be like a, just like an easy way. If you have 16 locations to do well with this client, really a lot of improving their link profiles. They have back links from Northwestern University now and medical industry specific sites in the medical field. They have dramatically, we’ve dramatically improved their link profile, but largely what we’re most proud of is that there’s like a 400% increase in the amount of conversions that they had since they started working with us. Traffic to the site follows a similar trend line and it was just really, you can change your business by doing things like that. It really is exciting to see. And then I think even for a very small business, I mean we had a client who does limousine sales. So, you need to get picked up from O’Hare. You got a prom; you got to use these guys. And their business was severely hurt by ride sharing. So like Uber and Lyft have come into the, into the space and it’s really hurt these guys. They weren’t really doing anything. Um, I mean we’re talking like 20 phone calls a month from their website when we started. They’re getting something in the, in the neighborhood of like 400 calls a month now from our program, which was largely, again local SEO and, traditional SEO services. So really exciting to see those kinds of things. And when you, when you, uh, when you’re able to do that for a business, they really appreciate it and tend to refer you and it can, it can really change, um, the whole fundamentals of the business. And more than anything, the business owner can go back to doing what they enjoy, don’t have to worry about where the next deal is going to come from.
Interviewer: Exactly. And, uh, you know, I know with local businesses and I’ve got talking about the Google my business, cause if you get that right and you have that optimized, well, it really does get a great results. Lots of calls, lots of traffic. Just a great place to be on Google my business. Well Mark, if somebody wants to reach out to you personally to, you know, how do you look up what they’re doing and see if they can get some of those same results for themselves, what is the best way for them to do that?
Mark: I encourage them to visit our website at SearchLabChicago.com. We are constantly hosting events at our sites. So if you just kind of want to learn a little bit more, or you’re not necessarily sure you want to dive in yet. That’s an easy way to get introduced to us. I’m happy to schedule a call and a strategy session with anyone listening to the program, Neil, and you can find all my contact information on that site. But I, I like to use Twitter. My Twitter @MBealin and our agency’s just been growing very, very quickly. I’m so terribly proud and try and get everyone to our website to see what we’re up to as much as I can.
Interviewer: Well, great stuff, Mark. I have definitely enjoyed listening to what you’ve got to say about digital marketing. Obviously SEO, we know that that works, gets a great return on investments and paid works as well. And paid social is also something that can be very good for different kinds of companies. There’s just so many things to do and then, you know, it’s very tough to keep up with it, which is why you need a quality digital marketing company, like Search Lab to help you out.
Mark: And really good information channels like you’re providing. Yeah. So this is, this is really helpful.
Interviewer: Excellent. Well Mark, thank you very much for being my guest on the Trust Factor Radio today.
Mark: All right, thank you.
Interviewer: And to our listening audience, if you like what you hear, click the like button and share and we’ll see you next time on the show. Voice Recording:You’ve been listening to the Trust Factor Radio with Neil, how to learn about the resources mentioned in the show and to listen to past episodes. Go to the trust factor, radio.com to get a copy of the book, the trust factor, go to the trust factor, book.com if you are ready to act now and build your authority, credibility and trust, schedule a consultation with [email protected]