Local SEO for small business owners with John Vuong

In this episode, I speak about Local SEO with John Vuong from "Local SEO search" agency in Toronto, Canada. Have you ever wondered how to promote your local business if your marketing budget is two donuts? Today we give you a starter guide on using Google Maps and Google My Business in your favor to improve your Google search engine ranking. 

Why Google wants to own your content and how to benefit from it? Google wants to own as much of your information as possible so they can make money on Ads. Don't be scared, be prepared! Learn how to trade your data in a smart way and generate sales. 

You can learn more about John Vuong and his podcast here: https://www.localseosearch.ca/

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Artem: Hi, guys, it's Artem here. And it's another episode of Daniliants ventures podcast where I interview interesting people entrapreneurs and thought leaders in different industries today. It's my pleasure to welcome John from Local SEO search agency in Toronto, Canada. Hi, John, nice to have you on the podcast.

John: Hi, Artem. Thank you for having me. I'm excited to share some insights with some of your audience members this morning.

Artem: Thank you. Thank you very much. It's awesome to have you. When we actually talked a little bit in email, you mentioned that you kind of focus on local SEO and I thought that would be really interesting topic, topic to talk about since everybody and their mother are talking about SEO, but local SEO, you know, that's that, that kind of caught me off guard a bit. I thought that'd be really interesting to talk about. So what do you really mean? What does your agency do and how local SEO you know is different from traditional SEO?

John: Yeah, definitely. So I'll just take a step back actually in time I started my agency back in 2013. So not too long ago, so turnaround for about seven years. Prior to working and starting this agency, I actually worked at Yellow Pages group, which is as you if a lot of the listeners don't know, it's a printed phone book that went to every single home business, and apartment, etc. But on a more traditional level, so it was actually delivered to homes. And people when they were ready to buy, they would go through the categories pick it up. So I was selling ad space and I had a lot of clients in the local market. And that's where I came from. So I worked there for five years, I worked with over a couple thousand local business owners small medium sized, you know, ones that are family run that actually worked on their business for not just decades but maybe even generations. Right. So traditionally, that's how business owners operated. They got to know their local community, they got to know what customers they wanted to go after. And their absolute needs, right, and how they fit in the local landscape and ecosystem. So what I, you know, learned over the years and near the end of my career at Yellow Pages was people are just frustrated with spending a lot of money and not getting the same returns that they used to get. What I mean by returns is when you put in $1, I want $5 in return, right? So the higher the return on an investment, the better it is for all advertisers in any form of mediums. So at the Yellow Pages near the last two years, every time I went to see a customer, they were telling me, I wanted to, you know, why should I continue with you? First off, I'm getting not as the same amount of calls. It's not even breaking even. Where are people going? I hear a lot about Google and why do you Should I not spend money there when I know more and more people and even myself is spending more time? You know, navigating, searching so at that time, you know, smartphones weren't taking off yet. Internet was not as fast as it is today like 4g LTE. Right? And it's gonna go to 5g. See it all still like infancy, right where tablets were starting to pick up. And email was still the medium of choice, right? So now today, I mean, you look at it, there's apps, there's so many different social channels, right? from YouTube content to Facebook, to Instagram to Twitter to whatever may be, but then there's also different forms of media right like voice as well as podcasts as well as written as well as infographs. And of course, the video, right? So with SEO, it's actually transitioned a lot over the last couple years, and it continues to pivot like you just got to adapt to change right? Have what the users are looking for, in terms of the type of format that they're comfortable with. So, you know, seven years of doing this, and the real reason was I work with a lot of small, medium sized businesses. I am one myself. And that's where my connection is. And my values are, I really want to support the small, medium, small business owners, because they service a very good market, and majority of the businesses in the world actually are small, medium sized businesses. And if you can help your own people, everyone, you know, wins together. Right?

Artem: That sounds that sounds very good, almost like a commercial, but, you know, helping each other and all that, of course, it makes sense. And I think a lot of small business owners are now you know, getting pushed by huge companies. I mean, if you think about booking.com, Amazon, hotels.com. They buy a lot of ad space on Google, right? They spend a lot of money in SEO. So what can the little guy do? You know, if I have like mom and pops, you know, repaired, you know, shop somewhere in Toronto or beat Helsinki or somewhere else. What can I do if there are all always new chains popping up and they have a marketing budget of half a mil on SEO? And what can I do if my marketing budget is about two donuts, maybe in a toilet roll? So what can I do?

John: Yeah, it's definitely challenging, right? You have to stand apart from everyone else. So traditionally, how did your grandparents if your grandparents were in business, worked on a successful business? Well, they took care of their customer base, they understood their market, they understood their competitors, they understood their value proposition and how they differentiate from the big brands, right? So it's very similar to how they operated and just push it to more digital presence, right? So I always look at foundationally. How do you stand out? What makes you different? So does that mean take care of your customers increase? You know, understand the the price point, the service level? Like what is unique selling proposition, right? And what once you determine that, and what I always say is, before you venture into SEO, you need to already have a solid foundation of running a good business, understanding who your ideal customer is. And then so so the SEO person or yourself or your agency can understand what kind of client you want to really go after, right? Without that insight and knowledge. It's very difficult for anyone to project and help you if you can't help determine what is important to your business.

Artem: Yeah, for sure. I think one way though, that you can maybe get away from the big competition is if you're like a hairdresser, or I don't know repair shop or grocery store, right. Google Maps, I think offers a lot of opportunity to know, because for example, I tried A lot. I used to travel a lot. I used to travel a lot before all the all the negative stuff that happened during the last few months. But anyway, when I used to travel, I always needed a space to, you know, work during the day. So I go to Google Maps and I search coworking. And I always get really good results. I sort my reviews. And I see additional information on the site, maybe read a few reviews. And I understood, you know, that that's probably the best way nowadays, to search for local providers, Google Maps, what what do you think? Is it something that everybody can leverage? Or have you seen any success with it?

John: Yeah, definitely. So being localize we focus on not just the local three pack of Google but also any localized keywords because typically, the buyer journey will depend on where you want to be displayed on the search right as you know, More and more people are using search and refining their searches, and using more longtail keywords as opposed to very broad keywords. So the more defined it is yes, you might not get as many as much traffic, but it's convertible traffic. And when you hit those type of people, the higher the more likely they're going to do something like call you or investigate and check out the form is a lot higher. So those are the keywords that you want to go after. But once you've determined what you're all about, right? And of course, yes, optimizing your Google My Business, claiming it verifying it, add images, get reviews, you know, optimizing it to full extent with categories and everything else. But how do you rank on that map? Right? There's a lot of variables very similar to how traditional SEO was right links, citations, good compressing your images, you know, site speed, as well as all the technical aspects as well as the on page all applies, but ultimately, it's all about building your authority and trust, right? And position yourself as the expert. So whatever you do, you have to know what you're doing in terms of your landscape know your competitors inside out. So when someone does approach you, you already have all the answers, right? But typically, when they approach you, they already don't need to know anything, because they already read enough from you. All they care about is price, right? And availability, really. So that's what you're trying to position yourself as in terms of an expert. So don't just focus on, you know, putting it on your website, but Google, my business is amazing. platform. It's their social platform as well, right? You can do Google polls. You know, just making sure that you're encompassing, whatever channels your absolute customers are using to finding you. And that's what you need to uncover as well. And some clients. Maybe Facebook is the channel of choice or Instagram or YouTube or LinkedIn japanning. It doesn't really matter, but you got to uncover that. Grow, what your customers are searching who they are, how they search, where they're at in terms of the buying funnel? And then, you know, make sure you emphasize more heavily on that channel.

Artem: Yeah. But let's talk about Google My Business since I think there is a lot of misconceptions. And yes, a lot of people don't understand how it works. What do you do with it? And we can get a little bit more practical, since I know you have a lot of knowledge, working with many clients and optimizing their presence using Google My Business as one of the factors obviously not the sole factor, I think nothing. There is no such thing anymore. That's one thing the silver bullet, it doesn't exist. Everybody's searching for it, but it doesn't exist. You have to do many things. You have to put a lot of effort. But if you think about it, where does the Google get information for Google? My business profiles so if you open the company, for example, in Toronto, right or anywhere, you know, in the world pretty much nowadays, at some point when people Google for yourself Company using your company name, they will see a Google My Business profile. It will be unclaimed. Basically, it will be created by Google, but nobody is actively managing it. So where where do they get the info from? In most cases? Is it scraping?

John: Yeah, they're scraping it from aggregators. Usually like big huge directory sites. It could be yellow pages could be Yelp, it could be Facebook, whatever, wherever it's claimed. So what I always tell people to do is go in, verify and claim it yourself. First, that's the absolute most, then you go into all the directories and make sure it's consistent in terms of your profile, write your name, address, postcode, phone number, all synchronized with the same information, hours of operation services, so that whoever's looking at different channels and different platforms, different sites, different directories are least in sync, right. And so Google recognizes it as much as you think Google will already know. It's easier for you to make it easy for them to know. Yeah, right. If I, if you know what I mean, like even on your website, creating a sitemap, making sure that it's easy and crawlable without errors, and it's indexable. And it's fast, and it's easy in terms of like navigation. And you know, the URLs, everything, make it simple so that your users have a good user experience. But also Google can have a better user experience. So once you claim it, then of course, you have to optimize it. What does that mean? Right? Make sure it's consistent and make sure it's by your corporate name, do not keyword stuff, do not spam. work by the rules play by the rules, so that you build a good solid brand so that people in your industry, your competitors, know that you're playing fair, right? The ones that aren't fair, well, you could report them right. And you know, who are kind of not playing by the rules by when you start seeing the spam always appear, right? Then what how do you rank? Right? Of course, you need that vertical, the niche that you want to target. Put that in, because that's probably the most important portion of it the category. Right? So that's pulled by a lot of variations of keywords that Google is looking at, in terms of keyword research, right? batching it. So once you have that, of course, you you put your description in for your website. And then it all depends on, you know, other factors, like reviews are very strong indicators, citations, links are very strong indicator, still making sure your website is performing and positioning itself as an expert and leader. And that's where traditional SEO comes. So there's a lot of correlations between the two, even though people think there isn't. I still believe links are a very strong correlation, because how else does Google see if you're a credible source? Oh, you're writing in different, you know, publications, you're speaking, you're doing other things right. And the more you're out there and more credible You become, that's where Google can see signals on your influence. Right? So I'm not sure. Is there things that you wanted to discuss?

Artem: I have I have I have, I think it's a good intro. But like, you know, I worked with many clients. And maybe since I have now expert here, I could maybe ask you for about a few questions that they had, that they had, you know, trouble with. So first of all, you claim it and there is a claiming process, right, you have to identify that you actually either a business owner or you have access to the mailbox, stuff like that. Sometimes, the claiming process is just, you know, as easy as getting an email, getting a phone call, but sometimes Google sends a postcard to the location, right. And, you know, sometimes it just doesn't come. And Google is notoriously bad when it comes to reaching out for support. So when there is something Yeah, yeah. I I know when the when things are not just working. Have you see, were you ever ever able to reach to reach out to Google? Have you ever received anything?

John: Yeah, so typically, so the claiming process is obviously the first thing you have to verify, right? Make sure that you have full ownership, and the owner has ownership. So if you cannot claim by a phone, usually it then becomes a mail, they send it to your physical mail, at your, you know, office, right? Usually it arrives within 10 business days, and you have 30 days to actually verify it. Once you go in and verify it. And if it doesn't appear in 30 days, then you got to start that process over again. But don't go in and re issue it because then you're starting from scratch again, right? Wait, Yes, exactly. Just like what you do a request on Google, never go back in and request it again because they already have a ticket. Right, so you need to just wait. And yes, it's frustrating because there's a queue. And sometimes during this COVID It's a lot longer than usual.

Artem: It can be like 30 days, 60 days.

John: It could be longer now write a request because of the load, right? Everyone's spending more time in front of computer making changes, looking at what's going on, there's a lot of spam. There's a lot, and there's a lot less people actually going in doing the, you know, fixing it, right? performing the duties, right? So yes, they outsource it. They also have a lot of people that are contributors that go in and fix it themselves as well. Right. So understanding the process of what Google has to go through, and what once you verify it, then at least you have free range to go in and modify your name, your address, your telephone, your hours, your, you know, posts, right? And my suggestion is make your post very similar to a like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, make sure that you're posting at least once a week, because you can have multiple posts in the week, but after a week, it kind of just drops off. Yeah. So what you want to do is make sure it's top of mind. Because if it's a branded search, someone's looking at you by name, that, you know, featured snippet, which is that knowledge panel on the right hand side, you can see that you can sort by reviews, your map your images, and below that is also posts, right? So it's another place that you can send more content, going redirecting to maybe a blog or something that is ownership of your site.

Artem: Yeah, yeah. Very good. Very good. But if I, you know, if we go step by step, and I kind of get your input on some of the questions and struggles maybe that some of the clients I worked with had, you know, in order to get expert opinion, so sometimes you know, the name of the Google My Business profile is just the company name, the corporate name, you know, the legal entity name, and that's all All good and dandy, but what about keyword stuffing? I've seen that happen, you know? So basically, the profiles name is, you know, whatever Company Ltd. And then there is hairdressing. You know, like beauty salon, whatever. What does Google think about it in general? You know, Is that allowed?

John: So it's spam, I would say, stick with your branded corporate name. Anyone could go in and fix it. Right? They could report you. Yes, Google doesn't penalize business owners at this time. However, what happens is, I'm sure they're keeping track of how many times you have been reported. Right? They know a lot more than you think, of course, especially if they're tracking every action, every website that you're going to how long they stay. There's a lot more to it than you think. Right. So my suggestion is play by the rules. Yes. If you see people in your industry or your competitors that are key word staffing the company name, or trying to trick the system, fake writing fake reviews or whatever, like, stuff like that, there's things that you can do to report them. And I would say go about doing that. And make that a part of your process in terms of if your agency are you doing yourself, go in and start cleaning house and making sure you're managing not just your client, but what's going on in your competitive landscape.

Artem: Okay, that's good. I'm sure a lot of people in the field will be thrilled, you know, now they get to go to their competitors and, you know, audit them and their profiles and keep clicking report if they see anything, you know, menacing or, you know, something that doesn't make sense. Very good. Very good. So basically, I should, you know, have my company name as, you know, as, as title, my profile, that's cool. So, then we go to the boring stuff. So basically, there is like opening hours, you know, phone number, that kind of stuff, the Yellow Pages, you know, sign up things right, like when you're opening and so forth. But then there are, I guess, new features, as you mentioned, as you mentioned, there are posts, there are products and services, you can add those. Or you can create a mini website even as well. Yeah. And then there is like live chat or like a messaging tool. Yes, those I think are pretty interesting. And I think very few people use them. Very few local businesses use them. I think a lot of them going just adjust the hours, you know, and stuff like that, and basic information. But I haven't seen for example, if I add products or services, is there an added benefit, you know, to adding products and services to my Google business page? Or is it just when somebody already landed on my Google, you know, profile and then see additional information about my brand?

John: Yeah, what what I'm thinking is Google wants to get more ownership of every single content piece, and therefore Yeah, You should, because people are getting lazier and lazier and they don't want to click on More and more pages, right? So the last pages, they can click on, they find the information right there at their fingertips, the easier it is for you to convert the right. So the more information you have displayed on the knowledge panel on that Google My Business Page from all the product services, click to call messaging. You know, there's even a COVID one right now. Right?

Artem: Yeah, on COVID or something. COVID notification?

John: Yeah, notification. There's a lot going on. And there's updates all the time. You have to think about two things, right? Like, how is it benefiting your customers, your absolute customers, if you are selling a very large ticket item, maybe it doesn't benefit you the same level as a small ticket item like coffee, right? So coffee, it's very transactional, and they just want to order on the phone app base. Click to call But when it's buying a home or the roofing, you know, a big ticket, right? Well, I have $10,000. They're gonna do their due diligence. And that may take you months in terms of the buying cycle and journey, right? So yes, as much as you want to put it there. does it benefit you as much as making sure your website? Has he updated information? Probably not. Right. Yeah. So you have to think about the user standpoint. And of course, you got to understand what Google is trying to achieve, which is they want to own as much information as possible, even though they can already crawl and index your whole website, right, scrape it, but they don't have authority, right? Or consent. So they want to you to do it, so then they own it.

Artem: Okay, okay. So they kind of want to move as much information away from other platforms, beat your own website or Facebook to their own platform where they can mix and match, put it in Google Shopping, pull it and stuff like that. Yeah. Okay.

John: Because ultimately you have to think about what Google's ultimate goal is. It's ads, right? They make billions of dollars through the Google search ads, AdSense and their advertising network. Right. So once they have enough data, and they know what website relevance categories, then they can display it at the optimal point of when you're searching. Right. Yeah. So and you have to understand also Google is moving towards people, actually, users are not even clicking to websites, as much as they used to do, right. They're using voice now. They're using a search, they see what they're looking for. They don't even click on a site anymore. They see everything on the three pack. They know they call, right, or they book right there, they purchase right there. So you have to understand users behavior as more more so than what Google is looking for. Because ultimately, if you understand your customers, then you can pivot and adopt all the new innovative things they're trying to adopt.

Artem: Yeah. And I think, you know, with Google, moving towards machine learning and artificial intelligence, and you know, smart decision and stuff like that, I think it kind of makes sense, right? If they own as much information as possible on their own platform, then their assistant, for example, is a lot more smarter. Because now a system could, for example, find pricing for basic services maybe and stuff like that, thanks to Google My Business and so forth. So it kind of you know, helps them enrich their products, the more information you can have fitted.

John: Exactly. And as you know, like more and more people are using voice right. And as you know, everyone home now maybe has google home or Alexa, or Siri or right and they're listening to you more than you think right just like any smart device, smart phone. They know more More than you think. And yes, is that good or bad? Well, you kind of live with technology, you can't live without it. Now people have the smartphone Nexium and they live and breathe it, it's way more powerful than it's ever been. And people, you know, use it right? The big thing is, it's useful. So you got to live with it, you got to understand what the purpose is, and how you can live, you know, purposely with it or not right for the benefit of your business or not, right. So if you don't adapt to these new technologies and platforms, and different, you know, things going on, then you may be missing out, right. But you also understand have to understand what your customers are ultimately consuming and how they're consuming. And I always look at foundational as much as all these new widgets coming up and apps and platforms and social media, like it doesn't really impact me if you understand how to run a really good business.

Artem: Yeah, yeah, if you have the strategy, the processes down, the tools just change a little bit techniques change, you know, still you're trying to provide as much value to the customer as possible, you know, and try to gain as much, you know, monetary value for yourself as possible, but in a way that it makes sense for customer and for you as well. But if we go back to the Google My Business profile, for example. So I think that's really good insight that if you have a small ticket item, then it might make sense to add it to Google My Business profile page. For example, if you have like breakfast, or you have some, like, set pieces that don't change a lot, you know, could be really great. Or if you have some sale going on, and I'm sure there are even if you have like Shopify or WooCommerce, there even might be some integration you can do. So your products are automatically push things and so forth. But what about services? So, you and me We operate service based companies, right? And I'm sure it'll be really Bad if Are you no profiles on Google, my business would suck. So what we can do people who provide services, we don't sell physical goods, should we add our own services to the Google My Business Page? And is there a benefit in terms of visibility? Like what about service industry?

John: I think services, it's not harming you, in any ways, right?

Artem: A lot of people don't harm me.

John: Yeah,it really adds it adds value. Right? What I'm saying is, it's a layer for Google to determine it makes it easier to recognize what what you're doing, right. So the more transparent you are, the better I feel. The more you give, the better. And the easier it is for the users to determine if they want to click to your website to uncover more, right with case studies and, you know, the actual services. You know, it's all about like, just making sure that it's broken. But complete, right? As much as there's more and more stuff going on. Like, yes, if you're a restaurant, you know, you can even tell when it's busy or not, right? You can do connect it with all those fedoras and all those online, Uber Eats and all that stuff, right? So things are integrated all the time for and why is this happening? Because the users expect it. And this is the new generation that you're gearing towards, right? These are the people growing up in in front of a computer and smartphone all day long, right? So we're consuming it and just like before, I'm not sure how old you are but when I grew up it was more TVs, right and ads and is all about like newspapers and flyers traditional right? But today, it's you don't get any ads on online streaming sites, right YouTube, I hate pop ups, right? It's all about like, I want to prevent that from happening. And I want to be in control. So that whole You know, buying journey of SEO being control versus ad being pushed at people. That's why people are becoming more and more creative. And this whole ad space is always evolving, right? How do you interrupt someone's attention? To get them to maybe want or need your services? Right? versus SEO? People understand these are ads, and they don't want to click on ads, because they want to be a control.

Artem: Yeah, yeah, for sure. And you got pretty personal right there with the age. I think I'm, I'm already very, very old. But my wife keeps telling me that you know, at 37 I think I'm 37. It's not that bad yet. She said, you know, you shouldn't be you know, shopping for a grave just yet. So So yeah. I'm close to 40. And yeah, I remember the times when there wasn't much advertising online and when YouTube didn't have any ads and so forth. And yeah, I guess what you're trying to say is that if you're worthy of you know, people talking About You, a lot of things become, you know, a lot less easier, right? So if you deliver something unique if you have competitive advantage, even SEO is easier, right? Anything, everything is easier. But if you're just like, if you just sell the same commodity that everybody else sell, you don't have anything extra. There is nothing special about service. And, you know, basically you will have to pay in order to interrupt people and get them you know, to be interested about you.

John: Exactly positioning yourself as an expert, right? Understand what makes you unique. What's your unique selling proposition? What's your value prop? And people people will see right through you. And know, right, if you actually have a good digital presence or not, yeah, and if you're not, then you've got to start building that because you're already behind, right? So I would say of course, understand your business. Understand how you differentiate and start working on a good profile. It may take time. It may take you years to run a good business, right? And people, and that's I think the problem with this industry alive the digital industries where they see some videos, they will see some feeds on Facebook, and they're like, oh, someone made $100,000 in a week. Right? It's like, it just doesn't happen overnight. And yeah, it's great that that person did out of a million people how many actually did that? Right? But they see it and they make it sound so easy. And yes, it's an ad and they're trying to sell a course. So it's like so all these things are Yes, it may sound great, and they might take your life savings. Don't get me wrong, because they're selling this course that brings no value in they're trying to get you in their system, right or drip fun or campaign. So, you know, understand, read, be informed, right? educate yourself, so that you make the right decisions, right. And that's what We're all about as as yours, right? Like, yes, it's a very cluttered space. It's a lot of unknown, but you have to understand it all before you make the right decisions. Right. And you've been in the space. So you get.

Artem: Yeah, of course, of course. And I think if you're a small business owner, the best investment you can do is educating yourself. I think that's because in the beginning, you don't have the funds. So for example, if you hire an SEO company agency specifically, that has copywriters, technical, you know, people and so forth, it's not going to be 500 bucks that you're going to you know, spend monthly, it's going to be a substantial amount. But if you put that $500 into advocate educating yourself, that's a lot of SEO books, a lot of good courses, and like Google garage has a lot of good courses on SEO. I think it's just you putting in the time I think. I think most of the information is there online for free. I guess even if you hire an agent Right, if you know the basics of SEO, you will be able to choose a better agency. Because you will be able to talk the lingo and you will understand the metrics and so forth. And also you will be able to, you know, see if they're doing anything because in many cases, I've seen customers who pay well then to maybe like 20,000 euros, you know, a month to SEO agency, and then they get a fancy report, but they don't really understand it. They just assume that this is a big company, everybody trust them. They're doing something right.

John: I totally agree. Right? Because as a business owner, you're busy you're pulled up you know left right and center for operation sales and marketing accounting to bookkeeping to you name it, right? Yeah. For now. Everything is matters. And of course, you can't do everything right. And where's the best of your abilities right. So be educated to an extent where then you can ask the right questions and be informed because You know, the the challenge is what is going to move the needle the most for your business, right? You're going to invest money on people, or you're going to invest in on companies to help you speed up the process, right? And hopefully shrink time so that you can get to a better port in your point in your life faster. Right? So this is whole thing about business, right? learning about what works and what doesn't. It may take you years and don't think about weeks and days and months. I mean, look at our grandparents, they worked in business for generations. It's not every one that's going to be successful. And what does success mean to everyone aways? Does it mean making, you know, 20,000 a year, hundred thousand a year, a million dollars a year. It all depends on where you're at, and where you want to be at, right? So don't compare to others. Make your own plan, make your own journey. And make sure that whoever you work with or do your own due diligence. There's so much information out there, especially with Internet today at your disposal. There's so many different places to be informed from videos, to podcasts to written. So many sites, from blogs to different paid slack groups and different groups, forums, associations, even Google has all the information in the world. You just don't the challenges, they don't make it easy for you to understand what they're talking about.

Artem: Yeah, it's just, it's a bit overwhelming thing. That's the that's the theme. Nowadays. Anyway, I think there is too much information. There are too many channels. So many things are moving, changing, evolving, when it comes to SEO or online marketing, you know, in general, but if we go back to, you know, Google My Business and kind of like wrap it up, because I think it's really valuable. And because it's a free resource that Google provides, especially to local businesses. I think it's really invaluable, as you mentioned already, but if you think about it, like you mentioned that you should follow At least once a week, right? So you have fresh posts. And you know, basically, again should focus on providing value to customers, right? So you're not spamming, you're talking about something really interesting. Something that could be beneficial to your customers to your ideal customers. Then we have like, photos videos, again, I guess your opinion, would be just my guess, is just populated with content. That makes sense, right? So they do place a lot of value on images in general.

John: Yeah, real images that impact your real customers, right? Don't use stock images, of course, not kind of blacklisted. So make sure that everything you do is just as hard as running a real business. Right? Like they're making it difficult. But the reason there are is there's too much spam and too many ways to trick the system, right? Yeah, there's no easy way in being successful, right? There's no easy way to run a good business as opposed to Learn how to run a good business. Take care of your customers, understand it, make tons of mistakes, and learn from it, right? And eventually your reputation will be better people will start referring you word of mouth referrals. You know, just cleaning house which is get third party reviews, great. Lot of people writing reviews now on Google, make sure you respond to positive and negative on the post. Make sure you personalize as much as possible. Make sure that it's newsworthy information, time sensitive, geo sensitive, relevant to your users, right, and make sure the image is corresponding to the content, right? And make sure that it actually attracts and grabs the attention. What I mean by everything is make sure your whole campaigns awesome. your website's awesome, your profiles awesome. Your digital presence is awesome. And therefore you're running an awesome business. And it takes time. Don't get me wrong, it takes years to learn. And over the course of seven years, I'm still learning and still making mistakes. And I admit it, I let clients know that there's changes happening daily, right? It doesn't just happen. Like once a year, yes, there's a big algorithm update that hits different industries and niches, but it cleans its house, right? Like everyone's trying to spam and find a easy way for links to attract links, or keyword stuff, or find a way to, you know, embed certain codes in the back end to really help with ranking right. All these things are not good habits in terms of running a good business.

Artem: Yeah. When I was in high school, I had a website where I was doing reviews of Japanese animation, and I earned a commission from referring people, you know, to Amazon. And my first negative experience with optimization in general was me just creating white background, setting text to white as well, and learning as much keyword stuffing as I could but come on, at least I had a good you know, explanation I was in high school stupid and young. But I got removed from Google pretty quick. And then after that, I filled out a request to be, you know, relisted on Google. But my visibility was never the same, basically, because I just closed the website. So obviously, you know, there are some things that are still working in terms of blackhat. And, you know, some of the techniques, but there is less and less opportunity, right, to kind of cheat the system.

John: I would say if you're in it for the long term, yeah. Right, which is, you know, you know, this is what you want to do as a career. You you plan on doing this business for the next 5, 10, 20, 30, 50 years, whatever it is, right? do it the right way, because anyone that's trying to cheat the system. Well, yes, they may win short term. Yeah. But at the end, they're not going to survive over turbulent years, and Google will determine just like how the figures out that you were kind of cheating the system. It's all about, you know, following their rules, their best practices, their follow policies or guidelines to the best of your ability, right? And yes, even like backlinking is deemed illegal, right? Yeah, if you're doing it ethically, which is you're providing good content to a different website or Association, just you're speaking on behalf of them, right? And you're going out there doing good. And you earn a backlink from that. That is all by the books, right? Like, yes, it's a backlink. But you're not paying for it, you're earning it right. And that's what it takes. It's hard work to get out there. Do these things that deliver small rewards, but that's what SEO is about. You do a lot of things. You keep doing it. And hopefully it takes time for Google to recognize that you're an expert, just like in anything in life, your competition. It's not easy to build a relationship or get married and have children, right? It's the same day or writing a business. It's not easy, right? And you might not be successful your first 2, 3, 5 times, but eventually, if this is what you really want to do, just stick with it, learn from it, make mistakes and keep pivoting, right?

Artem: So if, you know, if we're, you know, slowly, you know, moving towards the end of the episode, if you think about a small company, let's let's imagine a like a really small company, you know, maybe there are two employees, you know, you know, maybe a hairdresser, maybe a small restaurant or whatever. So, they heard about SEO, right. They they heard the stories, you know, the wonderful, the wonderful success stories and so forth, but they don't have a lot of time. They don't have a lot of money, you know, so they can't afford to hire an agency. They're pretty tired after work. So what can they do? What would you suggest in terms of concrete advice to a small company, you know, somewhere wherever, in order to get their feet wet, so to speak, like, what could they do to try get some positive impact? So that it feels they're interested in, you know, investing more and more.

John: Yeah, so SEO is an investment, right? Like, just like advertising on Google like Facebook, Instagram, whatever. I would say dabble into the ad space. Invest in a decent website. Yeah, you can do the Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy Website Builder. It's affordable, 30-50$ a month, easy for sure. You have to spend that time to populate that information. No one knows your business better than you. So no matter what, you still need to educate yourself enough to know how to put together a decent website. If you're not hiring someone to do it, like a full web designer, you got to go in and do it yourself. Logo design, content creation, understanding that customer, your ideal customer, all that stuff. There's a lot of content out there. Learn, but it's like this whole industry has been uncovered. And it's been going on for now a couple decades, right? But just like you're in business, there's a lot of people that are in business as well. And why are they in business right to support the family, and they have a skill set that people are willing to pay for. Right? And they don't, they can cook at home, but you're a restaurant you deliver great food, right? Great. Why would they go to your restaurant, but they can cook the same thing at home at a fraction of the cost? Because you're an expert. Right? Yeah. And so it's the understanding the value of time, money and trade off, right? So if you feel that it will stress you out, if you don't know what to do and how to do it properly. I would say investigate on either freelancers, finding a good partner, figure something out to really help you understand and scale to a level where they you have more of a digital presence, right? Because if you're not even comfortable with the computer, or social media, or platforms and understanding what you know, websites, because, you know, even myself, I was never technically sound. I was my background has always been in sales and marketing, right. And I got into this because of a need that I uncovered from my clients, right? And I still am not, you know, a coder, I'm not by any means strong like all these SEOs, developers that I have on my team, right? And that's why I hire them. I pose for experts to do stuff that I know I can't do and I don't want to do and I would be stressed out doing, right? So it's the same thing. You know, you can do it yourself. You hire someone, you pay it, but it's all based on your budget, your time value of money. And I always say play around with ads early days to see if there's enough momentum and enough I would say have your users consuming information that you see some sort of return? If you start seeing some return, then you know, there's people that is your ideal customers there for you to invest further.

Artem: All right, that's good. So basically what you're advising is, you know, get comfortable with at least some basics, in terms of digital marketing, at least some basics. And then you have options, right? You can either take it further and start learning yourself and doing yourself or you can get somebody to help you. It could be an agency, it could be a partner, I didn't even think about it that but that's actually true. You could actually, you know, give a stake in the company to somebody who can come in and you know, kind of clean house potentially, if you're talking about, you know, small business, you could hire freelancers, so there is Upwork, freelancer.com, and gazillion other websites. Yeah. So you get, you could get some work done for a few hundred Euros. All right, some small fixes here and there, some updates, maybe a virtual assistant, you know, that could help you out maybe with basic rudimentary work, you know, updating, you know, your service hours and stuff like that. But at some point, you know, if you want it to be a true part of your business, then you should approach it as a, you know, integral part of the business. So basically, you will have to invest sooner or later, you will have to make it a crucial part of a business or otherwise you'll be just dabbling and will not really get any results, right.

John: Yeah, so, this is where a lot of people who approach us, we are an extension to their existing business, where we feel like we take part of you know, yes, a lot of the dev we're the graphic design and SEO component, but we also are their IT department, because that's a huge field that they're this is not what their strengths are right? Yeah. So once you become comfortable with the relationship, the partner that you want to work with, because yes, you'll hire all these freelancers and all the staff, but their strengths are not to the same ability as an agency, right? And you're only focusing on content or dev and graphics, or, you know, on page design or whatever it is, like, that's only one aspect of the big picture, right? So it's the same thing as a restaurant. There's cashier front, bartenders, waitresses, concierge, then there's the cooking. Then there's the line workers, there's so many facets to running a business and then the operations marketing, bookkeeping accounting. It's the same thing as any business. It's the same thing. There's every function, and you have to understand the value of your time. Do you want to do it yourself or hire someone that actually has a system in place and processes that they need to earn a living to write you have to adjust to it and of course be a part of your business?

Artem: Of course, of course, but what would you say, you know, if I'm interested in SEO, you know, if I'm a local, you know, business, they're always afraid of just paying enormous amount of money to agencies. So, as a, you know, person who owns an agency, what would you say a small business should spend on SEO? You know, of course, it depends in many cases, it could be, you know, 1000 to a million but, you know, what, what is what do you think in your opinion is like, a some that would already bring some some, some substantial changes, maybe to visibility, what they should be warming up to?

John: Yeah, so, like, just to give you an example, we're in Canada, we service everywhere in you know, North America, Europe, you know, Australia, Canada, we started at $1,000. We make it affordable for entry level small business owners to get it. Right. But it's a long term commitment. We do one year contracts. All right. So it is a commitment. But it's also a relationship that you have to understand, right? So if you're in it for the long term, then of course, this is an investment. But you understand this is really to help you grow your digital presence, right? But then there's agencies in the US that start at 7-15 thousand dollars, right? Yeah. And they target personal injury lawyers, or they target specific niches, which is fine. I mean, that's their business, right? Yeah, I want to help make it affordable help as many people my margins aren't the greatest, but that's what you need to look for a good partner that are in it for the right reasons that earn alignment with your values, right? Like, there's a lot of business owners out there just money hungry, right? I actually want to help support as long as they're in the same mindset and has the same value as my own. I bet them as much as they bet me, right? And I don't take on everyone, I basically let them know like, yes, thank you for reaching out, but maybe you're not a good fit, go look, you know, because they don't have the same values or mindset or, you know, just by our initial conversations, it wouldn't be a good fit, right. So, yeah, it's all about just understanding what your value is what you bring to the table and how, who you want to partner with, right? If it's long term, short term, if you're playing around with ads, or if you don't know if it's good business, yet, figure that out, have a good store, core foundation before you venture into the whole SEO space.

Artem: Yeah. That sounds very good, really solid. Thank you very much, John. It's been a pleasure. And you have a podcast about SEO, right?

John: Yes.

Artem: Tell us a little bit about you. podcasting. And a little bit about your podcast. I'm sure people will appreciate because I've seen you. You have quite a lot of episodes on running out.

John: Yeah, we have fun with it. Right. So the podcast is called local SEO today, me and my VP of Sales we've had, we did work at yellow pages together and combined, we work with over 10,000 local, small, medium sized business owners. So we what we bring to the table is more business experience and knowledge and insight and more practical business experience versus the technical aspect of what SEO is about because aim can read and learn it online. But in terms of business, that's what we're trying to gear towards and target business owners learn trying to learn and understand this whole space and navigate through it. So yeah, it's called local SEO today. We have over 150+ episodes. And really, we're just providing value, right, giving people good snippets and content that they can use for their own business and purpose.

Artem: Yeah, good. All right. Thank you very much, John. It's been a pleasure. And I really appreciate having you on the podcast. Thank you very much. See you. Take care.

John: Thank you Artem. Thank you for having me.

Artem: Bye bye.