Episode 77:

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker, and author of “Duct Tape Marketing,” “Duct Tape Selling,” “The Commitment Engine,” and “The Referral Engine.” He is also the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network. His latest book, “SEO for Growth – The Ultimate Guide for Marketers, Web Designers, and Entrepreneurs,” is changing the way the world thinks about SEO.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • The big changes SEO has undergone recently
  • Why you need to re-engineer a client’s editorial approach when you’re assisting them with an existing website
  • Some of John’s favorite web/SEO tools
  • Why content and SEO can’t be thought of as two different things
  • Big mistakes people make with SEO
  • How to charge for SEO and demonstrate ROI
  • How John uses an editorial calendar to plan and write all of his content
  • Why you need content built for every stage of the customer journey
  • Why SEO is all about consistency
  • Why backlinks are still important in 2017 and how to do them right without getting penalized
  • Resources that John recommends to grow your digital know-how

 

The Golden Nugget:

“It’s easy to drive traffic to a website. Driving the right traffic, that’s where SEO comes in.” – @ducttape Click To Tweet

 

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Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Build a Better Agency where we show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invest in employees, and best of all more money to the bottom line.

Bringing his 25 plus years of expertise as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everyone, Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build A Better Agency. Today, my guest is someone that I suspect you are all familiar with and you have followed for a long time.

John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing is really one of the first guys out there creating content, blogging, the whole notion of sharing what you know and letting that attract folks to you. He’s written a ton of books, has coached lots of folks. If you’ve been to any marketing conferences, the odds are you’ve seen John speak so I know he’s no stranger to you.

But what some of you may not be familiar with is that John’s just released another book, and I want to talk about that. It’s SEO for Growth: The Ultimate Guide for Marketers, Web Designers and Entrepreneurs. If you haven’t read it already, as soon as you are done listening to the podcast, or for those of you that multitask, you’re going to want to head to Amazon and get it because it is, I think, probably one of the best SEO books I have ever read. I’m coming at it from somebody, A, who does it for clients; but, B, just in the way it’s explained and how broad the perspective is. And so, that’s probably where we’re going to spend most of our time today.

John, welcome. Welcome to the podcast. Thanks for being with us.

John Jantsch:

Well, thanks for having me, Drew.

Drew McLellan:

So, what made you decide that the world needed one more SEO book?

John Jantsch:

Well, I think, to tell you the truth, the main thing is that I got tired of reading SEO is dead articles mostly by content marketers. I think that what has happened is SEO has significantly changed. Its location has changed. Where it sits in the continuum of marketing, I think, has dramatically changed, not just the tactics.

That’s why we intentionally actually titled the book SEO for Growth. Growth is a strategic word, and I think that search engine optimization, or at least some elements of it, have to actually be risen to the level of strategy. You no longer build a website, get some great copywriters to write the content for the site, and then go get somebody to SEO it. It all has to be done before you really ever start doing any kind of programming.

Drew McLellan:

Let’s go back to that in a minute. But for a lot of agencies, as you know, when they engage with a new client, the client already has a website. And so, they don’t necessarily get to go back and start from scratch, right?

John Jantsch:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

So, what are some of the best practices that you outlined in the book when that’s the situation?

John Jantsch:

Well, where you can actually get a little bit of a chance to go backwards, so to speak, is to re-engineer their editorial approach. In cases where we’re not starting from scratch, we don’t get to build a site, that doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t make recommendations about how to improve it or what’s broken and how to fix that.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

John Jantsch:

But we definitely would start with an editorial approach to try to sell them on that. The editorial approach would be, because in many cases not only is their website broken, but they’re talking about the wrong things, they don’t really have content that is going to attract any kind of leads.

Drew McLellan:

Right, right.

John Jantsch:

And so, once somebody has decided to buy their product or service, it’s a nice place to come and find out what the price is or something. So when we re-engineer the content or at least present, here’s the ongoing editorial calendar, in many cases that dictates a little bit of a need to, even for that client that they just got their website done 12 months ago or six months ago or something, it does give you the opening for at least rearranging some things or adding some things on.

Drew McLellan:

In your mind, what does that conversation look like? In your mind of best practices, where should agencies be moving clients to? It looks like everybody else’s website, to your point, which is the content is all about them but it’s not about them in a way that’s relevant to the buyer and all of the mistakes that we all know our clients are making.

John Jantsch:

Yeah. I think one of the beauties of SEO or some of the tools of SEO, keyword research and things, the technology is such that we can present, I think, a very clear case for improvement to a website by simply demonstrating, look, here’s what the person that you’re after, the buyer that you’re after, here’s what they’re doing when they turn to a search engine. Here’s how their journey starts. Here’s the intent when they go online to search, and they’re not finding you because you’re not addressing that intent.

I think that you can show them in black and white a couple of things. First off, you can show them the path, you can show them the search volume, you can show them the commercial intent based on advertising spend of other folks that are trying to win those keyword phrases.

And I think you can also, in many cases, paint a very clear picture of what their competitors are doing. I think, in my experience, those two components to demonstrate using data, how far off they are in their existing design or layout and just what their competitors are doing, particularly the competitors that are beating them in ways that that are pretty obvious through the data, usually that’s a pretty compelling story.

Drew McLellan:

Yes. By the way, and I’m sure that the listeners, it’s not them, but some agencies are guilty of this as well on their own website.

John Jantsch:

Well, then we have to have a whole another show now.

Drew McLellan:

That’s right.

John Jantsch:

Because, yeah. I mean, all marketers, anybody are guilty of the sort of classic cobbler shoes type of scenario, so no question.

Drew McLellan:

Yes. So, are there tools that you think should be on the radar screen of agency folks or are you pretty tool agnostic?

John Jantsch:

Well, I guess, my take on tools is that generally speaking, for every category of thing you want done, there are five adequate tools. We could list 25 tools and I could tell people get to know that one or get to use that one and figure out all the ins and outs and become a power user of that and you’ll be fine. Because even if one tool improves, the [inaudible 00:06:57]. And so, it’s more of what you can get comfortable with.

But there are a handful of tools that I personally really love and use almost on a daily basis. I’ll give you a couple of those if you’re interested.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, that’d be great.

John Jantsch:

So, one of my favorite tools particularly for painting competitive scenario, It does actually give you some great data on what a competitor or a group of competitors or a landscape of competitors might do. But it’s also such a great sales tool because in pre-sales you can actually show somebody where they, if you’re trying to promote content, you’re trying to promote SEO, and you’re trying to promote social media activity and you’re getting some resistance, you could demonstrate, “Hey, here’s the stuff we’re going to suggest. And, by the way, here’s what your competitors are doing good that might actually suggest why they’re beating you.” So, Rival IQ is one of my favorite tools for that. It’s nice reporting.

From a content standpoint and content research standpoint, whether we are pitching business or whether we’re just trying to develop editorial calendars for clients, Buzzsumo is one of my favorite tools.

Again, from a competitive standpoint, especially if you want to get a little geeky with the under the hood data, is a tool called Ahrefs. Kind of like the HTML code for a link, Ahrefs. I use that to do keyword tracking on both competitors and clients and to do backlinks to try to, if I want to find out …

At times we’ll get a new client and they’re not ranking for anything. We’ll go do a backlink profile and find that some SEO person had sold them a whole bunch of links from some Russian agencies. That’s why they’re not ranking because they’ve gotten penalized, I think so. Certainly looking at that, but also using that tool to look at where opportunities that, you know, if a competitor or if people that are ranking above you, it’s a great way to maybe get a sense of why they are and what links they have acquired that maybe you could acquire.

And then one of my favorites, because I’m a big SEO person, I believe in pay-per-click advertising and the right scenarios as well. But one of my favorite reports that Ahrefs can run is I can actually take the keyword rankings for a client and it will match those against what they would have to pay to be on page one, for example, in advertising for that. And you can demonstrate, based on the traffic that they have gotten, exactly what your SEO efforts have been worth to them had they had to go out and bought that traffic in the pay-per-click market.

Drew McLellan:

Oh, yeah, that is a great tool. I mean, talk about being compelling.

John Jantsch:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, yeah. And you know, a lot of agencies struggle. A lot of agency owners, SEO is not their stick, right? They didn’t grow up doing it. They know they need to do it, and they struggle with hiring people who are good at this. And so, a lot of times, and I don’t know what your experience has been, but a lot of times I watch agency owners hire kids right out of school. They’ll have them get Google AdWords certified and a couple other certifications but there’s no sense of, well, as you talked about in the beginning of the conversation, there’s no sense of strategy around that.

So, if you were looking for someone to add into your team who specialize or was going to be handling that, are there skill sets or knowledge bases that you would be looking for?

John Jantsch:

Well, I think there certainly would be. Before I answer what those might be, a lot of why we wrote this book actually was for that agency that was going out there and just hiring. Whether they hired an unseasoned person or a kid, as you called it, or they even hired an agency that specialize in that, I think one of the challenges is so many people abdicate that. It’s like, “I don’t understand SEO, so I’m just going to hire some of those geeks that say they do that.” That’s where you really get yourself in trouble.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely.

John Jantsch:

I don’t think there’s any element of a campaign that you can … You can certainly delegate, but that delegation to an SEO firm needs to be here’s what we’re trying to accomplish and why. And that certainly does start with strategy.

Now, they may actually come with the ability to create some things that are going to amplify your strategy and maybe even suggest some tactics that you are not aware of, but you’ve got to be an informed buyer of any service that you purchase.

So, going back to the skill sets that you talked about, I certainly want somebody who has, whether it’s through certifications or through just self-taught, you want somebody who understands on page basics of exactly what Google wants to see in terms of how to optimize content that you would be producing or you’d be producing on behalf of your clients.

You want somebody that understands … I think you want somebody that understands content and the role of content that plays in SEO. That’s, I think, become a bigger challenge for a lot of folks is that we’re still disconnecting those two elements-

Drew McLellan:

Which is crazy.

John Jantsch:

Yeah. We’ve got our content people, we’ve got our SEO people, and they have to actually be lockstep. I don’t know that that has to be one person, but they certainly have to be on the same page.

Drew McLellan:

Right, they need to be working towards the same goal or the same recipe of here’s how we create content that is going to drive the results that we want.

John Jantsch:

Yeah. In my experience, and again I don’t want to offend any of your listeners, Drew, but my experience is the bigger the agency, the less connected they are.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I totally agree. I think that for the most part, especially if … Again, you and I are stepping all over the toes of agency owners today, but especially if they’re over 40. They really don’t have a strong understanding of this, which is, again, why I said I think your book is one of the best books that I’ve ever read on this because whether you did it on purpose or not, it’s written for people who don’t get it. And at the end of the book, they get it.

John Jantsch:

Yeah, we were not we were not trying to write a book that somebody who was a working SEO grunt would go, “This is the most amazing thing. I didn’t know all this stuff.”

Drew McLellan:

Right.

John Jantsch:

I mean, this was really written for entrepreneurs and for marketers and for agency owners that need to be better buyers of this stuff.

Drew McLellan:

Yes. Yes. So, in your own experience and through the book’s content, what are some of the biggest mistakes you see folks making around SEO?

John Jantsch:

Well, probably the biggest one is that we still call it web design, and that people go out and the first step, and this is in many cases. I would say that agencies understand the role of a website in marketing, so they understand typically that that site should be designed with a persona in mind and that there should be some core message  that they want to communicate that is going to inform the content or the page structures. But oftentimes it ends there.

I think that that’s one of the biggest things, is that I really believe that SEO design and content have to really be working together. It’s not a linear path. They actually have to … When we go look at a client where we are going to completely redesign their site or they don’t have a site that is working at all for them, one of the first things we do is keyword research.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

John Jantsch:

Obviously, we want to understand who their ideal client is, who they’re trying to attract. We certainly want to understand, particularly if they have existing clients, what it is that those existing clients believe that this company does that that is remarkable.

But before we ever start deciding what pages are going to go where or what pages are even going to exist, it’s going to be firmly based on our SEO structure.

Drew McLellan:

Makes sense. Other mistakes that you see happening all the time that agency owners need to have top of mind as they either are working with clients or they’re building out their staff or they’re … Here’s one of the things I hear agencies talk about all the time and I’m curious, agency owners struggle with how to charge for it and how to monetize it, and how to demonstrate ROI. You have thoughts around that?

John Jantsch:

Well, I’m not going to give you the answer that’s going to make everybody happy. I mean, my approach has been, for a long, long time, we create packages of services that we certainly tailor to the needs and the objectives of the client. But then, we bundle everything together in a monthly retainer based on the scope that we agree upon together. That’s really just always been our approach.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for the client to, you gave the example starting off where maybe we’re not doing the website design. Well, when we get in there and we’re trying to do work on SEO, we find that there’s lots of challenges on the current, say, WordPress heme or something.

Drew McLellan:

Right, right, right, right.

John Jantsch:

So, in order for us to do what we promised, we have to tell them XYZ has to be done. And so, there’s always going to be room for project add-ons. I’m just a big believer in this idea of a repeatable process and a repeatable package. It doesn’t mean that every client is identical, but the starting point with 70 to 80% of them and being able to walk in and say here’s what we’re going to do, here’s what you’re going to do, here are the results we hope we can get, and by the way here’s what it cost, that’s just been our approach.

I’m a firm believer of it. I preach that approach. Ask me again next week and I’ll give you the same answer.

Drew McLellan:

Well, especially with SEO because it’s not like you flip a switch and then you’re done.

John Jantsch:

Right. You know this, Drew, I mean, we don’t do SEO per se.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

John Jantsch:

I mean, we do SEO as part of a foundational element of the entire marketing package, but that’s our model.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I don’t, unless you’re an SEO shop, I think most agencies bundle it up with other things. They just really seem to struggle with do I charge by the hour, do I charge by the result, how do I prove the result, there’s too many things outside of my control that impact the result. I think it all boils back down to, which again I guess the simple recipe is read the book, but I think agencies still struggle with understanding and explaining SEO to their clients in a way that their clients understand what they’re buying and why it matters.

John Jantsch:

I guess, you talked about the ROI. I mean, the ROI comes down to traffic and keyword ranking and then obviously ultimately conversion. So, there are some things that you can at least demonstrate we’re making progress.

A big key, of course, is to have a baseline when you start. Where are they ranking today? Why aren’t they ranking? Who’s ranking ahead of them? And then it just becomes a little bit of keeping score on the improvement that you can make based on, again, based on what your objectives are. I mean, a lot of times people just say, “Well, we want more traffic.” Well, ultimately, they want more business.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

John Jantsch:

And so, that traffic has to be the right traffic. In some cases, there are a lot of ways to get a bunch of traffic, but that traffic may not be that valuable.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and at the end of the day, back to your point, it gets bundled with other things because what we’re really trying to do is drive leads and sales. And so, SEO rarely is a standalone service, or shouldn’t be any way, because-

John Jantsch:

[crosstalk 00:19:36].

Drew McLellan:

… it doesn’t really deliver exactly at the end of the day what the client really wants.

John Jantsch:

Well, and we really need to every day because SEO is probably the most … Well, people feel like they need it. Second to web design, it is the most searched for service particularly for small business and it is consequently, unfortunately, the most abused, I think because of that.

We run into folks on a daily basis that have bought SEO. Well, they have no content, their website structure is terrible, they would never convert even if you sent people there and yet they’re paying $1500, $2000 a month to somebody for I don’t know what.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Exactly. Exactly. But I think we are in sort of the snake oil season of SEO, right? I think too many people don’t really understand that it’s difficult for people to lift up the hood and see it unless they’ve got a reputable partner who’s helping them set baseline measurements and is giving them regular reports and showing them movement. But also tying it to the bigger outcomes of the company, which are probably I want more test drives and I want to sell more cars or whatever the thing is, right?

John Jantsch:

Right. And I think one of the things that we so often forget, and so it bears, even as simple as it sounds and as silly as it sounds when I say this, I think it bears repeating, so many people think that SEO is about tricking the search engines into showing your content.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

John Jantsch:

Google’s objective, if we’re going to talk about Google alone here, Google’s objective has never changed. It is to, when somebody turns to a search engine and types in a phrase, it is for them to determine what the intent of that search is and show the most relevant, most useful content possible. That’s it. It never changed.

Now, their ability to figure that out and figure out how to rank one content over another, that is what has evolved. And so, when you hear all these SEO people freak out about, “Oh, Google changed the rules,” well, their objective has never changed, their rules have never changed, it’s just their ability to deliver on their objective has changed. And so-

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, they’re tweaking to get better.

John Jantsch:

Exactly. From an SEO standpoint, from a marketing standpoint, I think that’s what you have to realize, is that your goal too is to create the most useful relevant content and then optimize it in such a way that a search engine decides to show that to somebody who has that intent. That’s the entire game.

That’s why, if we do come to the realization that that is the entire game, that’s why content has essentially become the way in which you … We used to joke about content being king, but it’s really air. I mean, it is-

Drew McLellan:

Right.

John Jantsch:

… it is what drives pretty much every channel today in some fashion. I’m not saying everybody does it right, but it certainly is the foundation for every channel.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and you have mastered the content. I mean, you are constantly putting out useful good content. I have to think, people ask you on a regular basis how on God’s green earth do you do as much and create as much good content as you do. Is there a methodology or a secret or there’s 12 of you that we don’t know about? How do you get it done, John?

John Jantsch:

Well, I do have a team of people that play very important roles. But it also starts with a body of work mindset. I can tell you what we are going to be focusing on in March and April and May and June and July. We’re lining up podcast guests based on those topics. Where you’re lining up guest posts, we are finding places where we’re going to write based on that. So, it all stems from our editorial calendar approach.

But then, the methodology is essentially grown out of what it always was, and that is just an intense curiosity about paying attention to what’s going on and to what folks need and what folks talk about.

I mean, I have the benefit of, either in person or via email to be in contact with hundreds of small business owners each and every week, some case sometimes thousands when I’m in conferences and things. I take all of that and run it through my lens of how can I be useful, how can I be practical? That’s really where our content comes from.

Now, I used to write every single word of the content that went on my blog in the first probably seven or eight years. We now have a lot of guest content that is contributed. People have realized that’s a great way to get backlinks, authoritative backlinks. So, we have a lot of people that want to write for us. And then I have an editorial, I hesitate to call them team, but I have a couple folks that actually, even on some of my longer form content, work with me to find resources, find examples, find sources, find studies. And so a lot of times what I’m doing is just putting my voice on the content these days.

Drew McLellan:

So, you have successfully avoided the trap that I think a lot of content creators, bloggers, consultants have fallen into which is, I very, very rarely, when I read your stuff, very rarely do you ever talk about yourself or your work. You are constantly, again, if I had to characterize your content, the lens that, it feels like, you’re always looking through is, “I wonder what people are wondering about that I could be helpful about?” How do you master that?

John Jantsch:

Oh, gosh. Now, I’m blushing, Drew. I don’t know that I master it as much as. I will tell you, and now we’re going to go into the Zen component of the show, but I really do this. I started my business to help people. I like to think that most of my good days I wake up saying, “Who can I help?” I love small business owners.

I started Duct Tape Marketing out of really a frustration of trying to work exclusively with small business owners and not figuring out how to do it. There’s something that really drives me about … I mean, it’s equal parts. Terrifying and gratifying about doing work for the person that’s actually going to write the check.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

John Jantsch:

As sappy as that sounds, that really does drive a lot of my motivation. I didn’t do this to somehow become seen as a thought leader or to be an expert or to be famous in any way, shape, or form. I love doing this. I’ve been doing it 28 years and I still love coming to the office.

People would sometimes joke and ask me what my hobbies are. Writing is actually one of my hobbies, so I think that that’s … If you want to talk about the secret, it’s I’ve certainly love what I’m doing, I love who I serve, and I have fun doing it.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I cheer that. I agree with you. That’s how you can do it for as long as we’ve been doing it. Not that I want to talk about how old we are, but I think it’s hard to sustain if you don’t love the work you do and love the people you do it for.

John Jantsch:

That’s right.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. All of that aside, which I totally agree with, you also have to feed your family. So, talk a little bit about … Because I think for a lot of agency owners, they are anxious for content or SEO or whatever. Now, I’m thinking about for their own websites. They’re anxious for that to pay off. So, talk about your philosophy around that in terms of the way you approach content.

John Jantsch:

Well, first off, it is a long-term game. I mean, it is not a quick fix. We certainly work in industries with clients where nobody’s doing anything. And so, hey, that remodeling contractor that is now blogging is on page one.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right, right.

John Jantsch:

Pretty quickly. But marketers get it line. There is, what, 60 million blog posts written this last week on some sort of marketing topic. So, I don’t think you can take the position particularly if you feel like that content is not paying today, whatever content that is that you have.

I don’t think you can take the position that … You’re going to write content that is instantly going to start driving leads and traffic? I think you have to take a very holistic approach to your content and realize that, for me, content is the voice of strategy today. It’s not blogging. There are numerous intentions that you need to serve with your content. If you’re going to make it pay, you need to be producing content that, yes of course, creates awareness and you need to be amplifying that content and networking with that content.

But you also need to think about producing content that builds trust, and that educates, and that informs, and that nurtures, and that converts. Maybe even content for referrals so that you have content that you have developed specifically for every stage of a potential customer journey. That to me is how you make it pay.

You know, we’ve gone into organizations before that, and you’ve probably worked with them and I’m sure many of your listeners have too, their $10, $15 million have no marketing.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

John Jantsch:

But they’ve got a good product, they’ve got a good sales team, they’re out there banging and banging away but they’ve kind of plateaued. In a lot of cases, with an organization like that, they immediately start thinking, “Oh, how can you generate a bunch of inbound leads for us now?”

Drew McLellan:

Right.

John Jantsch:

What we typically do, while we’re working on that, is we’ll look at it and say, “What content would actually make the sales channel even more effective?”, and produce that kind of content, that kind of thought leadership pieces, some of the videos and things that they don’t have today that actually would be useful.

And so, in many ways, while we’re waiting for that long tail content to start paying off, we could start amplifying the channels that are already working using something like content.

Drew McLellan:

Yes. Well, I guess back to what you said earlier, you’re creating a body of work, and the body of work has to serve many purposes over time.

John Jantsch:

That’s right.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, yeah. I know that you work with a lot of marketing consultants and the Duct Tape Marketing consultant network that you have. Did you have them in mind when you were writing the book, and what things did you want them to know? Not specifically your people, but people like them. What do you want agency folks and marketing consultants to know around this topic that you thought, boy, I better address this in the book?

John Jantsch:

Well, I think it starts with the title. Just that SEO is not a tactic down the line. If one of your objectives, if in fact your primary objective is growth, then SEO has to be a key component of thinking about growth for an organization and that it really needs to be elevated to the strategic conversation.

Not every element of SEO is going to be in the strategic conversation, but your overall marketing plan should have a very high-level discussion about how SEO is going to play a role in your online presence. I mean, I don’t really know a business today that their website is not the hub of their entire marketing world. Even businesses that do all of their business face to face in their own local community, the website typically is where the journey starts or it’s where the journey continues.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, it has to be the mothership, right? It’s the only thing we can control. You know, I talked to clients sometimes or agency owners who are investing. I remember, I read an article about an agency owner who they had taken down their website because they were going to use Pinterest as their main hub. I thought, oh, my God, what happens if Pinterest goes away or they decide you don’t get to have that kind of board anymore or all of that? The website has to be the mothership.

John Jantsch:

Yeah. Yeah, a lot of people talked about that when we … Oh, even when Facebook first came along, there was a lot of conversation about, “Gosh, who needs a website? We can just do that.” But you’re right, you definitely want to own that asset.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So, what do you think … Your book has been out for, what, a few months now, right?

John Jantsch:

Yeah, about four.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So, when you’ve heard from readers or people who have consumed the book, has there been anything that has been sort of a consistent theme or thread of what they want to know more about or what surprised them the most?

John Jantsch:

Well, fortunately, what I think we have heard the most is that people were saying, “Oh, I guess this SEO stuff is as complex as everybody’s [inaudible 00:33:29] be,” because I really don’t think it is. I mean, I would hold myself out as being as successful an SEO as anyone, and I don’t spend a lot of time studying it or practicing it. I just think that there are a handful of things to understand. If you do them consistently, you are going to get results.

Drew McLellan:

It’s the consistency part, right?

John Jantsch:

That’s right. I mean, nobody wants to hear that it’s a lot of work and you have to do it a long time, but get over it.

Drew McLellan:

Right, right. If you want the results, you got to exercise every day, or whatever the analogy is, right?

John Jantsch:

Look at me, I am a 25-year overnight success.

Drew McLellan:

That’s right. Just chipping away at it every day. Yeah. Yes. So, I want to ask you a question about the way that you engage with consultants and agencies there. Because I’m sure a lot of you know that not only is John a marketer and deals with clients, but he also has built quite a network of marketing consultants that he coaches and helps with this stuff. John, what made you decide to turn that corner and do that?

John Jantsch:

Well, I mentioned earlier in the show about my desire to really work exclusively with small business owners. I actually built my practice doing that, so this was around 2000, 2002 when I decided I was going to take this very systematic approach and create this Duct Tape Marketing system.

I filled my practice very quickly because I think there’s a huge need for that approach in the world of small business. My thought was, well, how do I expand that? I don’t really want to hire … I had actually had the full agency staff and really had to focus on this Duct Tape Marketing I scaled way back. I really didn’t want to build the people machine again.

And so, my first thought was, “Well, I’ll take it online. I’ll turn it into a course and I’ll sell a product.” That was about the time when people were very confidently putting their credit cards into the internet and buying products and services.

As I did that and as I created the content around trying to market that, I started hearing from independent marketing consultants really around the world. In fact, my first marketing consultant was a Canadian. They said, “Hey, this Duct Tape Marketing system, this idea of marketing as a system and the way you’ve built it and the way you talk about it, is something that resonates with me and I want to use that. I want to license that.” I said, “Okay, there’s-

Drew McLellan:

There’s an idea.

John Jantsch:

… [crosstalk 00:36:14]. I’d always kind of thought about that, but it seemed like a lot of work. But then, when all of a sudden 10 or 12 people wrote to me and said, “When can we buy it?” I was like, “Well, maybe now’s the time to produce it.”

Drew McLellan:

Maybe it’s okay that it’s a lot of work.

John Jantsch:

That’s right. Now, we have about 120 independent consultants and agencies in 14 different countries, most in North America. They are using the Duct Tape Marketing methodology but they’re also using their strength in numbers. They’re using the resources, they are helping each other.

We always laugh and say people come for the tools because we have developed a lot of tools, templates and training and things that can really get people up to speed very quickly or allow them to change their model pretty quickly, but they stay for the network. They stay for the people, and for the sharing, and for the events that we do in the training that we’re able to provide and help them grow their practices or their agencies.

That’s a big part of my focus these days because I feel like we’ve built a really great platform and a great network and a great membership association, almost. Much like yours but serving probably more of that solopreneur or smaller independent marketing consulting firm.

Drew McLellan:

Yes. Well, I think you’re right. I think even my folks, they come for the content, but they stay for the people. Absolutely. And the relationship, yeah.

So, one of the things that I know about your system is and you said you love to focus on the small business, a lot of agencies, everybody seems to want to work for Nike or Ford, or Coca-Cola. So, talk about your philosophy around why it’s a good idea to serve the small business.

I just had a conversation with an agency owner a few weeks ago, and they had been doing really well serving small businesses. All of a sudden, for whatever reason, they got this idea in their head that they needed to stop serving them and go after big, big fish. That didn’t work out so well for them, and so we had a conversation. I said, “I don’t get why you don’t go back to serving the people that you were serving well.”

So, talk to us a little bit about your thoughts around that. Because you’re in a good-sized market, there’s lots of companies with corporate headquarters there and you certainly have a brand and a name that you could go after some of the big boys. So. where does that desire to serve the small business come from?

John Jantsch:

Well, it probably started because I started out, really just hustle and work as a solopreneur myself. I think it probably started with that’s who would hire me or that’s who would take a chance on me. But I think it’s obviously developed much more than that.

I think the thing that I love the most about working with small business owners is in some cases these are the salt of the earth. These are the people that are hiring people. My office is in a neighborhood. I see people walking by, and there’s a dental office across the street and a bakery just down the road. I don’t know, I just feel like that’s what, I’m going to get really sappy again, but that’s what makes America such a great place.

On one hand, I really love working with those folks. So, it’s purely something that I love. But, I also, just from a practical standpoint, it’s not that hard to have a lot of impact.

Drew McLellan:

Right. To be a hero.

John Jantsch:

Yeah. And I really love that. I have a remodeling contractor I’ve worked with for years. When I started working with them, they were doing half a million dollars, and they’re going to do eight-and-a-half million dollars this year. I think that that’s some significant impact that you’re able to not only have, but you’re able to see and participate in.

I’m not saying that there aren’t agencies that are working with $100 million brands that are having a similar kind of impact. I just felt like that was impacted. I could see and feel and touch and be a part of.

Drew McLellan:

And you can make a pretty good living doing it. I think that’s the other misnomer is, that those people want pay for marketing.

John Jantsch:

Yeah. Well, and particularly that is why I am such a fan of this packaged delivery service. Because we can actually get very, very efficient at delivering some of the things that we know 80% of the folks we work with need. They need content, they need SEO, they need maybe some optimization on some of the more local aspects and technical aspects of it, they need a little bit of pay-per-click, they need email marketing. These are all stuff that we know they need, and we can get very efficient at delivering those in just about every engagement. That’s where that working with that smaller client in a way that is repeatable is very profitable.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely. I agree. By the way, when you do that, you don’t have one client that’s 85% of your adjusted gross income, and if they go away you have to lay off 12 people.

John Jantsch:

Yeah, absolutely.

Drew McLellan:

It’s a stable strategy, that’s for sure. So, as we wrap things up, if there was an idea or a chapter or a message that if someone read your book and they took nothing else away, which I think would be impossible, but if that was the case, what’s the one thing you would want the listeners of this podcast, so agency owners, agency leaders, what’s the one thing you want them to take away from the book that you think is most useful to them that they can leverage inside their business whether they’re talking about their own SEO, or they’re talking about what they do for clients?

John Jantsch:

I’m probably going to get a little in the weeds here, technical. But one of the elements when it comes to SEO that was so important and that was so gamed was backlinks. So, getting other sites to link to you.

That was the that was the big hammer that came down about probably officially eight months ago or so, maybe more like a year now. The people who had played that game, where they just gone out and bought quantity links from any source possible, those folks got hammered hard.

Google put a lot of emphasis on backlinks. The fact that other sites were linking to you-

Drew McLellan:

Right, authority. Yes.

John Jantsch:

Yeah. That meant a lot to them. But they realized that was being gamed. And so, they were able to get better at taking that component away.

Backlinks are still extremely important of the algorithm. But it’s not quantity, it’s quality. Because it’s quality, I refer to link building now as networking. So, it’s not a technical thing that you just go out and buy or you find some service to get it for you, it’s the same way you would build a strategic partner network. Where you doing it person to person? It is something that has to be done by hand in many cases. I’m not saying you can’t delegate it, but it’s certainly something that has to be almost hand curated and both people in the exchange have to be receiving results.

Google wants to see things that look very organic to them. And so, even though a lot of times, they’re not penalizing companies anymore, if you’re just going out and getting trashy links, they’ll just ignore them. And so, think of your link building now the same way you would think of networking.

Drew McLellan:

Yes, it’s almost the kissing cousin to influencer marketing or any of those other things. It’s like, who out there really should be connected to you and how do you create that relationship so that that happens for the right reasons?

John Jantsch:

Yeah, and there are some very natural places to go for that. I mean, we mined a lot of links locally, just people are doing business together. I keep talking about remodeling contractor. Well, he’s got 18 subcontractor businesses that do business with them. Well, that’s a natural linking back and forth to each other. They belong to organizations locally and they work with nonprofits locally. Those are all legitimate super places to get links.

But also, develop what’s that guest post editorial component going to be like? What are some places where you can actually be taking some of that content and placing it in other places? That actually may be more valuable than placing some of it on your own because you don’t have the traffic yet today. So, go out and find other people’s audiences and use that content to drive people back to your site, and get a link in the book.

Drew McLellan:

And welcome appropriate and relevant guest content in your space as well. Right?

John Jantsch:

Yeah, absolutely. Because there’s a really good chance that you will then be able to find partners who will want to promote that content.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. Okay, so if people have been listening to us and owners are like, “You know what, I got to get in the game on this,” other than reading the book which obviously is my prescription for them, what other things should somebody who’s maybe not as familiar with SEO, where are some places they can get their toes wet in the water and begin to feel more comfortable? Because again, to your point, it’s not rocket science, but it feels a little intimidating.

John Jantsch:

Sure. The good news is, and this is, well, it is a plug for the book, but I don’t mean it so much. We have tons and tons of resources in the book, so there’s one opportunity there. But a couple of my favorites are Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Journal. Those are both sites that are primarily a lot of SEO folks reading those sites. Especially if you get into the discussion boards and things, you’re going to find some people arguing over some very minutiae of technical SEO.

But generally speaking, those sites are great for unearthing the what’s coming or what’s next or what you need to know. To just even keep your finger on the pulse. Not necessarily that you’re going to be a working SEO person, but you do want to know if a client is asking you about Voice Search or something that is kind of a coming thing. You do need to stay at least knowledgeable about that. Another site I failed to mention, Moz. It’s another great one [inaudible 00:46:57].

Drew McLellan:

Yes. Yes. Absolutely. John, this has been great. I can’t tell you how grateful I am. I know how busy you are, and so I’m super grateful that you took the time to be on the show.

I love the book. I thought it was written … I felt like you were writing right to me, so it’s right in the sweet spot, I think, of people who are running businesses who maybe don’t need to get in the weeds of the technical stuff but they sure need to understand how and why and what’s coming next. And so, A, thanks for being on the show; and B, thanks for writing even more great content that helps everybody be a little smarter.

John Jantsch:

Well, my pleasure. If you’re one of those people that doesn’t like to read, you like to listen, there’s an audio book version as well, and you can get it all on Amazon.

Drew McLellan:

That’s right. It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it? So, John, if folks want to … Obviously, they can find the book on Amazon. If they want to find more about you or follow you all over the interwebs, what’s the best way for them to track you down?

John Jantsch:

The easiest is just ducttapemarketing.com. That’s D-U-C-T T-A-P-E marketing dot com, and podcast, newsletter, blog, lots of eBooks. Tons of stuff there.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely. A lot of great content. I’m guessing a lot of the listeners are already hanging out there on a regular basis. But just in case, if you have not discovered John’s work, A, it’s great content for you; but, B, it’s also a great model for how to build out content that serves your audience and is, again to John’s point, it’s an investment in time and effort. Nobody’s going to probably call you tomorrow and hire you, but it will pay off in the end.

So, John, thanks very much for being with us. Appreciate it so much.

John Jantsch:

Oh, I had fun.

Drew McLellan:

All right, guys, this wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. I’ll be back next week with another guest. As always, if you’re finding the content useful, make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss any of the weekly episodes. I am always grateful for ratings and reviews or feedback.

I’ve gotten a couple of emails recently from folks who are asking me about specific topics that you want to hear more about. So, always open to that. Just shoot me an email at [email protected]agementinstitute.com and I will get right back to you. All right, I’ll see you next week. Thanks.

Speaker 1:

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