I caught up with Andrew Shotland of Local Seo Guide yesterday between “a painful SEO audit” and Trick-or-Treating. The interview was done over the phone, and I found Andrew to be fast-paced and friendly; a let’s-get-it-done kinda guy. I emailed him to introduce myself and request an interview at 5:06 (EST) and had a reply at 5:31, suggesting we do it now.
Tim: Before we get started, I saw that your blog is one month old today, congrats… Could you tell me how you got your blog to a PR 4 with Yahoo reporting 2,700 backlinks in such a short time?
Andrew: It’s PR 4? Wow, I didn’t know that…woo-hoo! I wasted a lot of time on it… Ha…Ha. It’s a combo of the content and social networking. I started the blog because I was asked to speak at SMX… and they needed something to link to.
So, I was doing a lot of work in local and many of the blogs in the local space were essentially saying the same old thing…fill out the business profile and such. So, I thought I could contribute there.
I spent a lot of time socializing on Sphinn… way too much time on Sphinn (laugh). But I wanted to network with other marketers and bloggers. Although the stuff I’m writing is for small business I felt like I would have a hard time getting a plumber to read my blog. So, I am writing for 3 audiences: small businesses, people in the local search industry and search marketer/bloggers who can help me get the word out about what I’m doing.
Tim: You’re also one of the few A-listers in the space who post every day…
Andrew: A-lister? Ya, it get’s to be a pain in the ass…(chuckle) but I knew what I wanted to write about. I set-up an editorial calendar for the first 30 days, I approached it like I would a project for a client… So, I knew what I wanted to say. Now that we’re at 31 days, let’s see what happens.
[Editor’s Note: It was preparation and hard-work?…hrmmph! I was hoping for a quick tip or trick. ]
Tim: Do you recommend that small businesses set up a blog as well?
Andrew: Only if they have the time… most small businesses don’t have the time. The other thing they can do is set it up and just put up 9 or 10 posts and then leave it alone. That might help or it might not.
Tim: Ok, tell us a little about your background.
Andrew: I got into the Internet when I was at Showtime Networks. I launched their first website in 1994. I was doing some wacky stuff for them like live IRC chats from Mike Tyson fights… and then moved to NBC.com.
I did anything and everything over there: starting web services, investing in pre-IPO Web companies, and I ran NBC.com for a while. It was different getting traffic then, so we started with the go online now and do this thing or that thing, back when it was still a novelty to watch TV and see a website promoted. I also started a network of local TV station websites, NBC-IN, so even back then I knew local was big!
I was at Insider Pages for 3 years. And the only way we were going to get traffic at the beginning was SEO. So, we would hire some consultants… and don’t get me wrong, they were smart and they knew their stuff but they were busy… and there was something about the level of service they could provide that wasn’t enough… so I would learn a thing or two here and there and pretty soon we were getting 3 milllion visitors a month. Entirely through SEO… it was exciting and very addictive. But I would make rookie mistakes too… like create some weird duplicate content issue and then boom… we’d lose all the traffic.
Then Insider Pages got sold and I left. Around that time a guy I knew had a huge site and he was adding a new feature. So, I happened to ask him… What’s your SEO strategy?… and he looked at me like I had 3 heads. So, I told him to send me the wireframes and I would have a look at them. He liked what I had to say and ended up being my first client. So now, almost by accident, I’m an SEO consultant.
Tim: I saw that you were recruiting on Sphinn. When I first read your blog, you hadn’t opened the door yet… and now they’re banging it down?
Andrew: Well it comes down to… how much business can I take on and still provide the level of service I want to. Every business has a reason for being in business or what they sell… for me that’s service. I can grow my business and still provide an excellent level of service to my clients.
Tim: How was Sphinn as a recruiting tool?
Andrew: It is a very high quality audience that hangs out at Sphinn. And I found 2 very qualified candidates.
Tim: I can’t let you go without asking this. At a high level, what are the first 5 things you would recommend for a Plumber or a Lawyer just starting a website?
Andrew: The first is to figure out what they want the the website to do… is it lead generation? Lead generation is easy to say… but for some businesses it could be about retention or something else.
Next, is to decide how much effort? If they don’t have the time the best thing maybe just local launch or webvisible, PPC and such.
Next, they need to understand their potential customer… what words will the potential customer type in… a couple of tools we use: compete.com and google’s keyword tool is good too. And ask where they are searching?
Then of course, it couldn’t hurt to hire a skilled SEO or make sure the web developer understands a little about SEO. They don’t have to be an expert, but you don’t want one who is going to tell the client, hey make the title tag this… and then there goes all the traffic. The general level of knowledge is improving though because there are a lot of smart people out there blogging and telling everyone how to do it.
They should also talk to someone they know who is already doing it… if you’re a plumber talk to an electrician who’s had some success and so on…
Good Advice… Thanks Andrew.
And don’t forget to link to my blog with the words “local search engine optimization” in the anchor text!