Interview with Alex Blaisdell Founder of Sixth Media SEO Agency and Digital Marketing
Steve Wetmore – Welcome to the InstaVIP podcast. Alex is founder of Sixth Media specializing in SEO and Digital Marketing. And their forte is execution. So, Alex, welcome. How are you?
Alex Blaisdell – Doing fantastic today. Thanks for asking.
Steve Wetmore – Alex, could you take us down the road of describing who you are and what you do and touch a little bit on your credibility, your experiences in the industry, if you’re part of any association, or if you’ve done any public speaking, that kind of thing?
Alex Blaisdell – So, personally, I’m a husband and a father. I have a family with three kids. I always like to joke we have three goats, three dogs, and 20 chickens as well and it sets me apart on the professional side so I’ve been in SEO for for over 10 years obviously dabbled in other digital marketing areas as well. And as far as speaking goes I do a lot of different little local engagements where I work in groups and where I talk with business owners, and help them understand the value of and why they need a website, why they needed to produce leads and how they build their own credibility. So I focus a lot on a lot of personal branding for local business owners. And then he had just recently left a Director of SEO position, turned down a six figure salary to start my own Agency – Sixth Media so that’s kind of how it came about.
Alex Blaisdell – And just Some context on Sixth Media, we really focus on SEO, like you said, and execution. There’s a lot of knowledge out there in the industry and there’s a lot of really smart people out there in the industry. Where I feel like a lot of people failed and where a lot of people struggle is taking that knowledge and being able to actually scale that with their team, and execute and get the results. And so that’s my mission; trying to bridge that gap and make that focus work. And what I have done at Sixth Media is assembled a Power Team, we really have that knowledge, but then also have that system that can execute at a high level. And so far, it’s been been going really, really well.
Steve Wetmore – That’s excellent. So how large is your team?
Alex Blaisdell – Right now we have five people that works with me on a daily basis. We also have a team of freelancers that I’ve worked with for 5 to 10 years in certain aspects. We leverage our team well on a case by case project.
Steve Wetmore – I am really looking forward to you talking about the future of SEO as you see it and the near future. With all the changes that Google implements we don’t walk around with a crystal ball but I would like to hear where you see SEO evolving relative to your niche focused on local small businesses, branding, execution like search engine marketing.
Alex Blaisdell – I explain it in two parts, especially like you said, nobody has a magic ball, nobody can see into the future. And so one of the things that I think people throw out there a lot is voice search and those types of things, right, which I definitely think is important, and we need to focus on before I get into future casting. I really think SEO in 2020 will be back to the basics. So things like technical SEO and having a really solid website. Critical to any type of its success, especially within your mobile first indexing coming out a few years ago and those types of things. Going back to the basics of having a technically sound website, having a website that’s fast on desktop, but also more importantly on mobile, having a solid foundation keyword research and making sure that the efforts that you are Doing or going towards those keywords that are actually going to drive traffic to your website and drive leads and sales. A lot of a lot of business owners, you know, ones that are trying to DIY or even when you get into really large e commerce businesses, they might be gaining in traffic they might be getting keywords but against that the right keywords that are actually driving clicks to their website. So where I feel like a lot of people are kind of overlooking is, again, the fundamentals of what we need that you know, foundation that we need. And I will specifically focus on like the technical side of things, so how your website’s functioning, how fast it loads, those types of things. And then you can start getting into the other basics of relevance with keyword research and on page optimization, video markup, all those types of things. But again, I would say that first part for 2020 is back to the basics and if you focus on That, if your site is well oiled and running successfully there, you’re set up to win. If you don’t do that, all this new stuff that’s coming on, you won’t even really have a really good chance for. So that’s part one. Part Two, I would say for 2020 is some of the stuff that I mentioned earlier. So voice search is huge, but instead of just saying voice search, and what that actually means. I think that’s still playing out how people utilize that and take advantage of that. But number one, because of voice search, I think featured snippets is becoming even more important. I’ve worked on large websites where if we didn’t have that featured snippet for three weeks, you lost over $100,000 in revenue. And featured snippets get a lot less clicks coming from Google also known as zero click searches. But featured snippets will drive clicks to your website. Also, another hot topic the last few years is is EAT, which is Expertise, Authority, and Trust which is about establishing yourself as an industry expert. If your niche is SEO or digital marketing, or food blogging, or selling something online or a local business. If you’re a tradesman, like an HVAC, or a profession like a Dentist or Doctor, it’s important to establish yourself as the expert. The objective is to build your own authorship and credibility through quality content blog posts. I had a lot of successful businesses that focused on EAT. Blog with credibility, not authorship and eventually your content gets picked up and helps the rest of the site perform. So again, going back to the basics, once those basics are covered, you can start expanding into featured snippets route and ranking for relevant keywords to drive traffic and drive revenue.
Steve Wetmore – Continuing our discussion on “Basics”; when you’re working to correct On Page issues, do you have in house people that can fix errors?
Alex Blaisdell – So we do a full on technical audit when somebody comes through the door and we dive deep into all the different areas. And then from there, we take that audit and then we prioritize a custom package on what’s best for that business. So whether, it’s an e commerce business, it’s doing hundred’s of thousands of dollars a month in revenue or rather a local business that is getting no traffic to the website; each approach is going to be different. And we diagnose the foundation and make sure that it’s set up, and then go in and fix on page issues. And so the three areas that we’re focusing on, they’re not as obviously technical. The technical part of it the relevance, which is keyword research with the on page optimization, and also the trust. Trust gets into EAT like I talked about authorship, but also how healthy your backlink profile is, your anchor text, all that. So those are the things that we’re looking into, and then we prioritize our work based on what’s going to make the most impact first.
Steve Wetmore – Did you get involved in backlink outreach in a significant way?
Alex Blaisdell – Yes It’s something that I’ve done throughout my career. And also something that we focus on here. Again, it depends on each individual partners website or their strategy, what they have going on. And so we’ll scale it depending on the business model. For example, for local business, HQ backlinks might be the key thing that they need so we will focus 50% of our time on an outreach effort on acquiring high quality backlinks to their site with specific anchor text to specific pages. Sometimes for bigger sites. They don’t need more backlinks, but they might need a better internal linking structure. So again, we’ll focus our efforts on cleaning up their site, so that trust flow can pass through it instead of gain more trust.
Steve Wetmore – Alex you have been very consistent with respect to don’t forget the basics, the basics will always be there. But can you cast a forward looking eye at work where you think even the basics might take us?
Alex Blaisdell – If we if we look at it from that lens, I would say in the past, you could still have a very successful online strategy while not doing the basics very well. For example, you could have a lot of different efforts on where your ranking for a lot of keywords and it’s driving a lot of traffic in your site, could have been loading in 10 or 20 seconds. But, now if you have a site loading in 10 to 20 seconds, or even longer, trying to rank for those keywords and trying to stay on top of your competition just doesn’t happen anymore. So again, if you’re looking at it from the basics in a forecasting lens, there’s a lot of different things that you may have been successful for. And that’s why I say going back to basics in 2020 is very important. Because if you’re not, you’re going to be penalized and damaged for not being able to execute and have those basic SEO fundamentals established.
Steve Wetmore – Alex, let’s talk a little bit about what tools you’re using. We discussed earlier, what most agencies use. So I’m really looking for some insights on something that you might use that’s off the beaten trail.
Alex Blaisdell – We talked about Moz, AHREF’s and SEMrush, which I definitely do leverage as well. One that I really like that I think is still commonly used, is Screaming Frog. It’s a crawler that goes in and crawls the entire site and gives you a lot of useful data. Another crawler that I really do like, is Deep Crawl. I like to cross reference those between all of the tools. So I like to use Screaming Frog or SEMrush or AHREF’s and cross reference what each crawler is finding. The thing specifically that I do like about Deep Crawl is how they organize the data and how you can see it from the front end, I find myself spending a lot less time just trying to interpret the data and understand what the data is telling me to be able to formulate a quality strategy. And so I really do well with Deep Crawl in how that data is presented to me. They also have some really cool functionalities in there, where you can actually take it and share that dashboard that you’re looking at with a partner. When you’re working with high level partners, high level marketing understanding, you’re able to discuss what I’m seeing. Here’s why we’re going to be knocking out these over the next two weeks or four weeks and here’s why our strategies are created because you can show them that technical data. As with Screaming Frog, it gives you a lot of valuable data but you have to take that data manipulate it. It’s not necessarily partner facing tools or that I use are outside SEMrush or AHREF’s.
Steve Wetmore – Do you use any page optimization tools?
Alex Blaisdell – I have like our own internal processes on what we’re looking for. Create a lot of custom content and wireframes, that will actually scope out the entire page of what we’re looking for. One tool that we have been able to leverage in that process a little bit is from SEMrush with their on site tool that you can actually plug in the content and get the score out of 10 and get kind of what the overall content is doing. And you can then compare it with your competitors. So I like doing that because historically, before they evolved into a tool that I was using on a daily basis, I would have to do that manually. So if I’m trying to rank for a certain keyword or query or even group type, I used to have to go and manually and look at the top 10 competitors, grab their content, get their word count, and do all those types of things manually. Now SEMrush allows you to have a little bit more automation, but it’s still very much a manual process of making sure that how we want the content to appear on the site is going to be successful from a user experience, which is sometimes where I feel like a lot of SEOs, they might be just doing it to optimize for the search engine. I think it’s even more important optimize for the end user. And so with our custom content wireframes we’re actually going in there and specifying what we specifically want and what we want to flow and going anyway with Epic keys or something like that. That really allows us to be successful on page and then that also allows us to either have, for example, a very technical industry sometimes it doesn’t make sense for me or my writers to create content and actually makes more sense for the partner to write because they’re the expert. And so that allows us to still get the result we want. But have the expert be the one actually creating a copy.
Steve Wetmore – That makes really good sense. I’m probably on interview Number 25 now, and you know, what you’re saying is increasingly consistent with what other people are saying and that you can over focus on the technical aspects of SEO, and then all of a sudden your written content just doesn’t sound natural. Google is getting increasingly wise when it comes to detecting intent. You need to work for quality over keyword placement. We all get it that you’ve gotta use keywords and, and related keywords and, and all that technical stuff, but if that article doesn’t add value and people don’t finish the article, and you get people bouncing away. It’s just not going to work.
Alex Blaisdell – Like you said, it’s really about focusing on the topic, there’s a lot of software out there, that’s really helpful. And it’s helped automate a lot of processes. So if you’re an SEO and saying that you don’t need software, I think you’re probably spinning your wheels on certain areas where you don’t need to. But at the same time, it requires that personal touch, and really understanding what that end user is looking for. And then to be able to solve for that. So again, when you’re creating your keyword strategy, you’re building a website strategy, understanding what that specific users looking for and what you’re trying to accomplish on that page. If you’re trying to convert someone to a lead, or if it’s just more of an informational type of query, having that personal touch that human element where you can evaluate what’s coming in and what are they looking for, really isn’t something that me and my team do really well and something that I don’t think anyone should lose focus of ever with any piece of content.
Steve Wetmore – Alex, I really appreciate your down to earth, practical knowledge and guidance here. It’s refreshing and consistent with what a number of other experts have been saying. So thank you very much for this.