Robbie Richards is one of our industry's best authorities on SEO. Passionate about optimization, Robbie is the creator of the actionable SEO course, SEO Playbook, blogger for his popular marketing blog RobbieRichards.com, Search Strategist at Virayo, and speaker at premier marketing conferences including Content Jam and Experience Inbound.
Robbie's hold-nothing-back approach to help SEOs succeed (not to mention his super-cool Aussie accent) makes this interview compelling and fun. You'll learn more than a few new SEO tactics. And - Robbie will make you a smarter marketer, guaranteed. Listen in!
In this interview, Robbie shares his first-hand experiences and search engine optimization tips including:
- How to create an SEO strategy (where to start)
- How to get quick wins for early results
- How UX and CRO fit into an SEO plan
- How to create a repeatable process (yes, it's possible!)
- What to measure and recommended tools for your SEO stack
- And – Robbie's golf game (8 under par THREE times is nothing to sneeze at!)
Grab your favorite beverage and spend 27 minutes with Robbie and me!
Ready for a deeper dive into SEO? Want to get your questions answered in person? Want to take a selfie with Robbie? You're in luck! See Robbie at Experience Inbound 2018 - Tickets are on sale now. Register here.
Hi. I'm Linda Kyzar from Stream Creative. I have the pleasure of being joined today by Robbie Richards. He is one of the authorities in SEO. We are so happy that you could join us today. Welcome Robbie!
Thanks Linda. Thanks for having me.
Getting to know you a little bit, why don’t you give us a brief introduction of who you are and what you do.
Yes sure. I'm Robbie, I live in Boise, Idaho, originally from Sydney Australia. I lived in the US for about 12 years now. I got over here in 2006. I played gold at Boise State University so, I got a scholarship there. That’s what brought me here originally, and I’m still 12 years later. I have a wife and a boy now. So that's pretty awesome.
In terms for work, I'm the director of Marketing at Virayo. We just rebranded, we specialize in doing SEO, PPC, search marketing, really for mainly health care, legal and B2B companies. I'm also the founder of RobbieRichards.com which is my personal blog and also just created a new course called the SEO Playbook.
It's so great to have you here today. Your course is amazing! I just recently was able to take it and it really helped boost what we do here at Stream Creative to both look at what we are already doing and justify some of our techniques plus add some great new ones that have helped us and our clients. So absolutely amazing course.
When speaking to midlevel marketers, who are looking to either boost their rankings or get started or put together a plan, where do you start?
So, a lot of the clients that we typically engage with already have some sort of existing presence online like they have a website, and in a lot of cases, producing content or have at least existing content out there. So, where we always start is just going back to the foundation. We really look at all the assets they already have that could potentially be driving traffic to their website and we usually do this by doing a technical content audit, again, this is usually for sites that are a little bit larger, usually around like 500 or more pages just because they have more content. And through that process, we will usually identify any content that could be ranking a little bit higher or has already got rankings but isn’t just converting really well and then usually those are the assets we'll target first to improve so we can get them some quick wins.
So, we'll do that and also do a lot of competitor analysis as well. So, we'll kind of benchmark our baseline whether at in terms of top competitors and looking at those, we usually identify a lot of important gaps as well whether that's in their content strategy or PPC strategy, whatever that is. Because I feel like a lot of times, when it comes to SEO and content marketing, any type of digital marketing, other companies try to reinvent the wheel so it goes to the next biggest thing or try to make some crazy breakthroughs really fast. By just looking at your competitors, you can usually uncover a goldmine of information that can give you some really quick wins and help you build that platform to build your ongoing efforts. So that's always the first place
I recommend in any business or any marketer really starts with when looking at their own business or for a client.
So, you start out kind of like doing surgery on what already exists, and then taking that competitor data, as a second step?
Yes. Exactly. You know, like just like a real quick example, we're working with a defamation attorney last year and they came to us, they had a bunch of content on their site, a lot of it was ranking page two or they even had some kind of keyword optimization going on so we run this order--we identify where all that was going on and we started re-launching the assets that are sort of ranking maybe bottom of page 1 or top of page 2 as well as all the pieces of content that were competing with one another. So, they're going after the same keywords and a lot of marketers will do that by mistake. They think that they need to create more and more content on a topic and they'll end up actually hurting themselves or diluting their ability to rank first in terms instead of just having one resource on a given topic.
So we started consolidating all these resources and really worked on that for the first 30 to 60 days and after that process, without building any new links or writing any new content at all, we almost doubled his organic traffic to the site and the number of leads coming through in a 3 to 4 month period which was a really good win and once that technical foundation was built out, then to your point we went and started re-launching more of these content and then looking at these competitors to find out what topics he wasn’t targeting, identified a couple of valuable service areas that he wasn’t targeting on his site as well like legal practice areas. We started incorporating those into his website as well and just sort of built that out from there.
I know you're going in depth in that in your course and we actually did something similar with a new client that was coming onboard where they had a similar thing where two blogs had similar keywords that were ranking on top of page 2. We combined theme using some of the tactics in your course to re-launch into one page and boosted them quickly into page 1 which was such an awesome win -- especially with a new client. So yes! That's such a great tactic. Really important part of the plan, I agree with you of getting those basics on the site done first while looking at competitors as well.
I think it kind of has a two-part approach especially when you're thinking about other marketers out there. I'm sure anyone who has worked in any type of digital marketing, when it comes to engaging with a new client, there's so many options, there's so many agencies and companies that they could work with. Businesses are constantly told like for example SEO, they say SEO is a long-term play, takes a long time to get results, which is true obviously it does take time but you can implement like work on these foundational elements, looking at your competitors, identify gaps and get some quick wins for a client. You instantly build that trust with them which sets the stage for the longer, ongoing, long-term engagement.
So, it's just another reason why it's so important to start there, rather than try jump into building massive keyword research document, and doing a lot of longer tailed effort. Like just kind of start with these foundational pieces. It will allow you to build trust and probably build a long-term relationship.
So, true. We definitely have seen that here too. You know everybody wants quick results but there's those industries like manufacturing where their mindset is we can make these many parts in this amount of time, like a piece of equipment they're selling and get it out the door. And so, getting those quick wins makes a huge difference because that's how they run their business and so when you can show them that you're doing the same thing, it's just so valuable.
It sounds like you are able to do somewhat of a repeatable process. I think a lot of SEOs struggle with that. I know I do, where each client is different, each website, what they have done is different. So how customized do you find your process to be like, what are some tips on how to make it more repeatable than some of us are doing?
Yes it's a great question and really, that sort of struggle or problem is the whole reason that I started creating my course because up until a couple of years ago, we’re just a small agency, had a small handful of clients, and we’re able to take extra time figuring things out but as we start to grow, bring on more clients and built that team, you know as we try to scale not having these processes in place we're working longer hours and we rush up performances to be honest and it's all because we're running around trying to be so customizing with everything that we're doing. It was just a huge times suck.
So now, with how we focused in the now on a few niches that we're working in mostly and the types of services we prefer to do, we tend to generate more value for, we now have very documented processes around all those things and well they do very a little bit. For the most part, we are able to replicate those across almost any client and any size website now, which allowed us to work much faster and drive a lot more consistent results for our clients.
It's really the only way to scale as I am sure you know having these processes in place it's just so key.
Yes, it's totally great having a standard operating procedure and really, I think the magic is the brains behind it. You know, you can pull data all day long but it's really how you’re looking at it and what you're finding and then how you apply it. That's really where the magic is more than like “more data” because there are a lot of keywords out there you know. We can pull data on anything and you can end up with like you know like a 500-page report but you know, it's really making those things happen, that makes the difference.
Yes, I think too. When it comes to processes like a lot of people understand the importance. One of the things that makes it more actionable, I'm not sure what you approach this internally but one of the things that we do when it comes to mapping out our processes was we just do a really basic matrix and we pretty much listed out, like we spend a month really just with our team to just internally map out all the different things that we tend to do for our clients and then we grade them based on the amount of time they took as well as the amount of value that they delivered to our clients consistently and by looking and comparing it, we are able to hone in on--Okay what are the things that we're doing most often and take the most time? And really mapping our processes around those things and obviously looking at which ones drive results. Because you know there's a million and one things that we could build a process around but we really wanted to just focus on the main things that we're taking a lot of our time, that we're doing most often, and driving the most value. That really help simplify the process of making processes.
Yes, I agree with that. I think refining those things and I like your matrix idea. I'm going to bring that up on our Monday morning meeting. There are things that are really just time consuming and there are things that you can pass onto other people but you don’t want to waste their time either so yes that's a great insight.
Okay, you've optimized, you're getting the right people to these pages, is it part of the same process that you're looking at user experience and CRO, and all that. Is that combined with your SEO strategy or is it something like are you doing that on separate teams or how do you handle that?
I think it definitely bleeds through a lot of the SEO strategy, an example, when we're looking at a content audit, part of that process is not only looking at how do we drive more traffic but a lot of times we see websites like they got these assets, they're ranking really highly, they're driving a lot of traffic and you would think it would be qualified traffic too. People searching for things related to their products and services but they're converting well below what you would expect and so the focus or the strategy that we assign to that specific page in the order process is how do we get more conversions out of it because again, that's an even win for the client like if we can start immediately get more conversions from their existing content then they’re really happy with that.
So that's definitely part of the process, is looking how we can optimize those existing high traffic assets. And one of the ways that I like to do that is I go into SEMRush and I look at any of the top competitors that are bidding on those sort of bottom funnel service product related keywords and I look at the PPC reports specifically and try to dig in, what kind of call to actions or how are they framing the messaging around the call to actions, how are they using social proof like any of those conversions elements and then going back and looking at the client and seeing what are they missing, are there any opportunities that we could use to improve that. And rather than me just thinking that “Oh yes this could help improve conversions”, let's test that, I can go back to competitors, don’t try to reinvent the wheel, see if there's anything they're doing because you know if they are spending a lot of money driving traffic to those assets, we're converting pretty well. So that just eliminates the guess work. So that's part of it, in terms of conversion, optimization and also too as we're doing our keyword research and kind of looking for some quick wins, we're always prioritizing based on search intent funnel positions. So again, anything bottom of the funnel, middle of the funnel, always takes priority. And if we can improve rankings to those assets they’ll usually generate more conversions. So, it kind of bleeds into it I guess.
Yes. Definitely. So, you mentioned SEMRush. That's a favorite tool at Stream too. What are some of your other go-to tools?
SEMRush, yes huge one I use that a ton specifically for PPC, I use it a little bit for keyword research as well. I use Ahrefs a ton now too because we do link building for clients as well. It's pretty much exclusively I use for backlink analysis. I also use it quite a bit now for organic keyword research as well just because I love how…for keywords their overview report, they're pulling in back link data so you can get a really strong indication on how competitive it is to rank for keywords and topics on that tool and the amount that keyword index is growing exponentially as well over the last twelve months, so using that a lot more now.
Those are the two main ones when it comes to keyword research, link analysis. I also use Screaming Frog a lot when it comes to doing site crawls and content audit and things like that. URL profiler, I use that to pull down data points from different third-party sources and then I also use Mailshake for running my outreach. I use Buzzstream in the past but I found out that the scale of the campaigns that we were running didn’t really justify the added expense. That's a great tool though. I use a lot of tools but those are the main ones.
Great! And then for tracking and measurements, are there any particular metric set that you are looking at, tools that you are using for tracking, talk a little about that process.
Yes. I lean a lot on…in terms of the tools I use for that, I use Google Data Studio quite a bit now building out custom dashboard connecting to different data sources. I just go to super metric accounts as well so that's going to allow us to pull data in from a lot of other sources like for Facebook ads and SEMRush and different things like that outside of just the normal Google suite. Google Data Studio has been very helpful for us in creating some clean reports. Also looking at, use SEMRush a little bit as well, as well as Ahrefs we kind of testing the keyword rankings data for those tools and then obviously Google Analytics search console, we depend on those a lot as well. And for some of the B2B clients, we use salesforce as well just track and close the loop on the leads that we're generating things. In terms of metrics, kind of the secondary top-level metrics that we're looking at obviously traffic, organic traffic, we like to break it out by brand vs non-brand as well just to see like are we improving traffic across the non-brand keywords. I think that's a good insight.
And then really after that, the way that we get measure ultimately is a lot of times the leads and also the quality of leads. So, the number of leads that we're getting and how many of those leads are turning into opportunities and again this usually goes hand in hand with the clients where we integrate with sales force with and then how of those closeout into paying customers. So those are the core metrics. And then on top of that, depending on the campaign, sometimes we'll just do link building campaigns to clients so we ultimately just get measured on the number and quality of links there and any referral traffic we're driving from those and then we also have some local search clients where not so much opportunities and things are closing out when we're looking at map positioning, number of calls we're generating, things like that.
So, we try to stat as bottom-line focused as we can as I'm sure a lot of clients get really fixated on some of those vanity metrics the things like keyword rankings. I think there are good trend line view or relative indicator if what you're doing is working but we have some clients in the past that have just been so fixated like, so much traffic and leads is the secondary thought. So, we do report on that stuff but it's more kind of top level.
Yes, I agree. Awhile back, we're having those keywords and looking at specific keywords and where they are and measuring those seem to be more important to get clients to make that switch of like what are the conversions, how many people are clicking find a store, how many people are subscribing, or doing whatever it is at the call to action is and really honing on that measurements and those particular pages and how those pages are doing, definitely the place to be measuring.
So, pivoting over to you and some of the things that you mention at the beginning of the interview, first off, your course is amazing, SEO Playbook and I guess what I love about it most is that you're giving short videos that are variant thoughts, you are not wasting a minute of time and then you are including these templates so you can just get going and get started and go along with the process in real time. It's really good. I definitely recommend it for any marketer whether you are in a corporate setting or agency, there's just so much to learn there. So, great job on that. How did that come together?
Yes. You know I kind of touched on it a little bit earlier, just going back to the important of having processes and things that you can just open up and follow and know that they are gonna consistently drive results for your clients, it's just so important to scale. And as you are growing too like having materials like you are able to quickly train new hires and ultimately bring them up and make them billable much faster as well can have a tremendous amount of value especially in an agency setting.
So, it was sort of born out of that struggle I guess because I struggle with that for a long time. I kept putting off creating process. It was sort of in my head which is fine when you're tiny but as you start to grow a bit bigger and you're on the mix, it can just get messy really quickly if you don’t have those in place. So, I really just wanted to create the course to share those process that I have found work for my clients across a lot of different industries so that advance to intermediate level marketers could take them and implement them, build that new skill sets, train new hires and get better results for their clients.
I've been working on that for almost four months now. It's definitely a side project. It has taken up most of my evenings and weekends for quite some time so I'm hoping that it does well. So, we'll see next week when I open it up.
We wish you good luck with that! You share the love on SEO and I mean you're helping on so many ways and really sharing that knowledge and data. So, it's a great course. And then your blog, RobbieRichards.com that's how I actually first got to know you maybe a couple of years ago. You had reached out and I was fortunate enough to be part of some of your roundups which has been great and I know you have about 40,000 subscribers at this point, is that right?
Yes, it has grown a lot, the list has grown pretty quickly. We're continually cleaning it out, I'm kind of do to do some more cleanings soon, it's kind of a painful process to eliminate thousands of subscribers but it's better to have a clean list right rather than non-engaged. But it's growing nicely especially over the last couple of years.
And over a million visits, is that right?
Yes, the blog has grown over a million visits. I think there's 29 or 30 blog posts on there now. Again, my blog is really just been sort of evenings and weekend project for me. I started about 3 1/2 years now so I don’t publish that many post. It's not a full-time thing that I think there's a quarter of million words across those posts. Som, they are in depth and really just try to share again some of the strategy, tactics, case studies, just the things that I've found that worked and hopefully a lot of people benefit from them.
Absolutely. I know, I definitely do. Other than knowing you from RobbieRichards.com, I also saw you speak at Andy Crestodina's Content Jam in Chicago last year which was amazing, and I have to say that I've been to a lot of conferences and I've seen a lot of speakers, and a lot of great ones, you have more questions and engagements following your session that people skip lunch to stick around and hear more of what you have to say and that was just amazing and you really shared a lot of great information there too so you've been like awesome in helping the industry adjust with everything that you share in so many ways and we're lucky because you're coming to Experience Inbound to speak this June. Two locations, we're taking you to Miller Park in Milwaukee and then Lambeau Field in Green Bay for a two-day stint so we are really excited about that and excited to hear more from you and all on this then. So, we can't wait to have you!
Yes. I am looking forward to it and it would be great to meet you and all the Stream team and everyone else in the conference and I'm going to be talking on some of the stuff that we've sort of touched on in this interview as well, we'll go a lot deeper and hoping that people who attend get some good actual takeaways from it.
They absolutely will. Just one more thing for you, today, you're golf game. So, I hear another interesting fact you had 8 under par three times, really?
Yes! I used to play pretty well. Not as good anymore, I don't play as much but during college and junior years, things like that, got down to minus two handicappers something so ---- a few times and pretty much golf was my life for about ten years or so. I play pretty much every day. So yeah it was great experience and through golf and college, I've been able to travel to I think around 40 states in the US. Playing tournament and things.
That's so cool! I'll caddie for you some day.
The games are not that sharp anymore.
Well, again, Robbie Richards, thank you so much for your time today in sharing so much information. We look forward in seeing you in June and checking out your SEO Playbook and even a deeper level and sharing it with some of my team here at Stream. So, thanks again for your time. We look forward for June.
Awesome! Thanks for having me.