Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Damon Burton explains the concept of being a hunter versus a fisherman in the context of SEO building
- Damon’s key to SEO success
- How new brands can play smart to win against more established brands through SEO
- The top strategies for building backlinks
- Damon explains the best ways to use video content on a website and on Amazon
- Damon’s advice on choosing the right social media platform for your business
- How brands and their SEO investments were affected by the COVID-19 crisis
- How Damon realized he was good at helping brands with their SEO needs
- Damon talks about the lessons he learned from past employers, and how he uses those to be a better employer himself
- Where to learn more about Damon Burton
In this episode…
For brands that haven’t yet invested in SEO, it may seem like the key to overnight success. However, search engine marketing experts, such as Damon Burton, know that it takes time to successfully build a trustworthy reputation and relationship with Google.
The Google algorithms are intended to send people to websites that provide quality content about their searches. Therefore, for brands to drive traffic to their websites, they need to create content that is helpful and user-friendly for their customers. The same applies when it comes to the Amazon marketplace.
In this episode, James Thomson interviews Damon Burton, founder and president of SEO National, about how to drive traffic to your Amazon pages and website with minimal paid Ads. Damon explains why social media has very little influence on SEO, how backlinks work, and why you should invest in long-term search engine marketing efforts. Stay tuned.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Buy Box Experts
- Controlling Your Brand in the Age of Amazon: The Brand Executive’s Playbook For Winning Online by James Thomson and Whitney Gibson
- The Prosper Show
- SEO National
- Damon Burton on Linkedin
- GET A FREE COPY: Outrank by Damon Burton
Sponsor for this episode
Buy Box Experts applies decades of e-commerce experience to successfully manage their clients’ marketplace accounts. The Buy Box account managers specialize in combining an understanding of their clients’ business fundamentals and their in-depth expertise in the Amazon Marketplace.
The team works with marketplace technicians using a system of processes, proprietary software, and extensive channel experience to ensure your Amazon presence captures the opportunity in the marketplace–not only producing greater revenue and profits but also reducing or eliminating your business’ workload.
Buy Box prides itself on being one of the few agencies with an SMB (small to medium-sized business) division and an Enterprise division. Buy Box does not commingle clients among divisions as each has unique needs and requirements for proper account management.
Learn more about Buy Box Experts at BuyBoxExperts.com
Welcome to the Buy Box Experts podcast we bring to light the unique opportunities brands face in today’s e commerce world.
James Thomson 0:18
I am James Thomson, one of the hosts of the Buy Box Experts podcast. I’m a partner with Buy Box Experts and the former business head of the selling on Amazon team at Amazon, as well as the first account manager for the Fulfillment by Amazon program. I’m the co author of the book “Controlling Your Brand in the Age of Amazon”, and co-founder of the Prosper Show, one of the largest continuing education conferences for Amazon sellers in North America.
Today’s episode is brought to you by Buy Box Experts. Buy Box Experts takes ambitious brands and makes them unbeatable. When you hire Buy Box Experts, you receive the strategy optimization and marketing performance to succeed on Amazon go to buyboxexperts.com to learn more.
Our guest today is Damon Burton, an international search marketing expert. Over a decade ago, he first beat a billion dollar company by outranking its website on Google. Since then he knew he was onto something and has gone on to build an international search engine marketing company that’s worked with NBA teams as well as Inc 5000 and Shark Tank feature businesses. Since founding his company SEO National in 2007, he writes for Forbes and has been featured in publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, BuzzFeed and Us Weekly. Damon has recently written a book on search engine optimization titled “Outrank”. In the new book, Damon serves up a guide for those who want to dominate Google search engine without paying for ads. In full disclosure to our audience. I’ve worked with Damon and his firm on multiple online properties that we have owned, and I’m very impressed with his skills, and I’m excited to share Damon with our audience today. So welcome, Damon. And thank you for joining us today on the Buy Box Experts podcast.
Yeah, thanks, James, looking forward to chatting.
In your book, you talk about this concept of being a hunter versus a fisherman. Can you explain what this means in the context of SEO building efforts?
Damon Burton 2:17
So you think of hunter versus fisherman, and you know, one is always on the move. You know, the hunter always having to chase the leads, always having to chase the cells. And then there’s the fisherman where you kind of establish a process, and then your leads come to you. So it’s interesting, you know, a lot of what you do, I often think of you and your partner, Joe, we do things parallel. So you are on Amazon and attracting sales is kind of like I am in the Google world. And so, you know, there’s that there’s all these opportunities now with paid ads. There’s nothing wrong with paid ads. But I think a lot of times people get caught up in like, what’s the latest shiny object? And so whether that’s ClickFunnels, or paid Facebook ads, and if those drive return, that’s fine, do those. But I think the distraction of those newer shiny objects kind of detracts from the long term things that have always been there, you know, probably to kind of tie up this answer is relative to today everybody’s, you know, talking about the virus and how it’s impacting business. And what about those businesses that have historically driven cells by paid ads? What are you going to do now when you have to tighten your budget, then you’re gonna have to decrease your leads. So organic search engine marketing, without using paid ads is always like a really good safety net, you know, you can still do those other things, or it can be the core of your sales. But as the fisherman you know, your leads and your sales come to you without always having to set the bait and pay the ads.
James Thomson 3:53
That being said, if I if I extend this anecdote a little bit further, being a fisherman to require With more patients or requires you to be prepared to have to wait longer for the fish to start finding you and coming to you talk to me a little bit about, you know, when I work with companies that are saying, Oh, yeah, we need an SEO strategy. One of the first things that’s pretty obvious, by the way they talk about SEO, is this concept that somehow there’s a lever that we go over, we flip it on, and now it’s running fully functionally. And you know, isn’t that great? Yeah. How do you help companies understand, hey, listen, you’re hiring me. And by the way, it’s gonna take a long time for this to fully bake, and for you to realize all those fish that you’re pulling out of the water. How do you help people think about this as being a long term investment, versus something that they can turn on and off just like a short term advertising budget?
Damon Burton 4:48
Yeah. You know, you had mentioned that I wrote a book and I think on page one in the book, it says, you know, the key to success and I know we’re only on page one of the book, but I’m gonna give you the answer right now and that what you need to be successful is patience. And so you’re exactly right. The reason why it takes time and to answer your question directly, you know, how I establish to communicate this to clients is I kind of give them examples because SEO and search engine marketing a lot of times some of the other guys, it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors. And so it’s like, well, we’re going to do these proprietary things and blah, blah, blah, and they don’t actually do. So I really make a strong effort to set expectations and communicate what we are going to do. So I don’t just say this takes time. What I do is I say this takes time, and here’s why. And so some of those examples are you’re basically building a reputation and a relationship built on trust with Google. So Google wants, they want to look good, right? They don’t want to send people to a website that has an irrelevant answer or a bad user experience. And so to accommodate those things, you have to build good content, which means you have to do a lot of research right? Have to do Good copywriting. And then likewise, they don’t want to send people to a slow website or one that’s not user friendly. So you have to build those things to have a good website, a mobile friendly website, and just the logistics behind checking each of those things off of the list. It just takes time. And so that’s why, you know, I don’t think I don’t think you have to muddy the waters in explaining why it takes time. I think a lot of these other guys kind of dodged the question and they just want the long term contract. But if you help the client, if you educate them, you better help them to be able to help you drive better results.
James Thomson 6:39
So tell me a little bit more about your firm SEO National. There are thousands of SEO firms out there. So how should brands be thinking about finding the right agency that meets their needs for SEO?
Damon Burton 6:52
Well, that’s largely what you kind of touched on in the question before is, you know, are they promising speed like instant gratis vacation like you can’t rank quickly on Google, just because the logistics we talked about, the things you want to look out for are the ones that offer guarantees. Obviously, I’d love to guarantee, but it’s just not realistic. And so what you do instead is set realistic expectations. So look for the agency that communicates clearly and transparently sets expectations and is willing to educate you through the process. If they offer guarantees, if they offer instant results, or, you know, one of my favorites is if they say, what we do is proprietary, right, and just run because at the end of the day, we’re all doing generally the same concepts. Just some of us are doing it more efficiently.
James Thomson 7:40
Yes, yes. So you’ve worked with countless brands to create rich SEO assets that have helped the brands do much better than their weight class. Can you talk about some of the ways that smaller startup brands cannot win and they’ll play bigger, more established brands? Yeah, there’s
Damon Burton 7:58
some easy free tools that The listeners can go hit up, you know, some examples are, answer the public and SpyFu COMM And I’ll kind of elaborate on why those are valuable for smaller brands. You know, let’s start with SpyFu. That’s a great tool because you can, I like to say follow the money. So if you’re a smaller brand, and you’re trying to identify what your competitors are monetizing, SpyFu will tell you, you know, if they have enough data, and your competitors are large enough, if if they have enough results showing up on the radar, it’s going to tell you what keywords are targeting, organically what keywords they’re throwing money at. So follow that money, because if they’re willing to spend a budget on it, and it’s probably driving the return, which if you’re in direct competition with them, it’s probably a good candidate to drive return for you too. So go to SpyFu and look up what kind of market your industry is doing, then take that and go to answerthepublic.com. Now what’s cool,
Unknown Speaker 8:54
Damon Burton 8:57
so what’s cool about answering the public is you know, James, when you go to Google Go and you start typing out. You know, I want to know about XYZ and then Google starts to fill it out for you. Well, what that’s doing is Google saying historically people that start to type that question, want one of these five things. And so what that is, is that’s exactly your audience. So go start to type in words related to your industry or words that were revealed in SpyFu. And then you don’t have to guess about what content to write. And then you don’t have to guess about what blog posts to create or what, you know, infographics to make, or what you know, answer what questions that you can answer for your audience, because that is exactly what your audience is asking. So answer, the public will go pull that data down and give you this really cool chart that says, the who, what, when, where, and why about your industry. And that’s your audience right there. So tap into those questions you are already asking and then you become the authority by answering those.
James Thomson 9:52
So I’m a new brand. I’m getting started with SEO. I’ve got a bunch of money to throw at advertising slash SEO. Take me through what realistically are the trade offs that one can make around spending more for SEO? versus simply having to wait and build that kind of that kind of asset over time? Is there a way to accelerate much faster your SEO presence? If you’re willing to throw money at the situation?
Damon Burton 10:19
No, not necessarily mean, there’s like, there’s a couple things that you can do, you know, larger quantities, but maybe maybe an easy way to answer this question is, when we have a new lead, I don’t offer pricing tiers and packages, because the the problems that I see with that are that if we had a sales team, I don’t want a commission person, you know, presenting the larger price package so they can make more money. Likewise, I don’t want the client choosing the cheaper package. You know, understandably, I get why sometimes that sounds appealing, but then I don’t want to be fulfilling a package that I know isn’t going to drive the results. So when we come in, and we hope We do, we basically look at three things we say, okay, you know, what is their market is hyper competitive, or are they selling a little niche widget? Second thing is, is their geographical limitations? Do they service only a city versus a state versus national versus international? Yes. So the broader you go, obviously, the more competition, the more assets you gotta create. And then kind of the last thing that we usually look at is what back end? Is our website run on? Is it on a search engine friendly platform like WordPress or Shopify? Or is it some archaic back end? Or is it static? And we have to manually touch hundreds of pages? Yes. So depending on those things, we come in, we say, okay, Barry, you are in this very specific scenario, which needs these very specific fulfillment, areas of fulfillment. And that equates to this time and this cost. And so we get very specific rates based on you know, exactly what you need. So therefore, no, you don’t really throw more money at it, you know, maybe you can write more content may as long as it’s value added, but now you don’t just mass produced intent just to mass produce it. So usually there’s a very strategic strategic strategy that’s needed and then a given timeframe for the rollout.
James Thomson 12:09
So we’ve had clients of biomes experts that have built a lot of content assets, where they managed to get a lot of backlinks or other websites to review their products. How do you think about the process of building backlinks all at once one at a time prioritizing some sites over others? Is there guidance you can share with brands that are looking to develop backlinks? And I raised this whole question about backlinks because, you know, for somebody like myself who’s not not very well versed in SEO, I hear about backlinks all the time and get to get the backlinks. So Talk me through what a strategy would be if somebody is interested in using backlinks isn’t even an effective strategy for SEO.
Damon Burton 12:51
Yeah, so for the listeners that might not be familiar what a backlink is one another website links to yours when Google came into the search engine world Old that was the main factor that differentiated them from Yahoo and Lycos and you know, all those other ones is historically those other search engines would use meta keywords, which are no longer used at all by Google as of at least 2009. And so Google said, Well, what if we look at these external things. And so it’s like a popularity contest. If we have these votes coming in bound via links, then that probably means something is more popular, and so they’re more credible. So backlinks is still a valuable concept, but it’s much more a quality play than quantity. And, as of 2012, there was an algorithm that Google rolled out called penguin. Before that, you could scale backlinks using automated software and it was just, you know, it was like the wild wild west, like just the more you did, regardless of quality, usually the better then after that algorithm is like instantly changed to quantity. And so for that reason, you know, you may have been if you’ve been an SEO long enough, you may have had a client Or for yourself done 1000 backlinks a month back then. Now you’re lucky if you spend the same amount of time, zero automation entirely manual outreach and other ways and, you know, lucky if you get 10. And so quality is way more important than quantity. And the other thing that’s really important for listeners is relevancy. So try and connect with websites that are related to your industry, it’s much more effective to have 10 links from a relevant website than 100 links from even if it’s even if it’s an okay website, but if it’s completely unrelated to your industry, chances are the 10 are going to be better than 100.
James Thomson 14:38
So use the term Wild Wild West. Talk to us for a few minutes about what aspects of SEO are still very much Wild Wild West, versus aspects of Google SEO that are very well established and have very clear ground rules. Are there still aspects where people run around and do crazy stuff and things haven’t been particularly well locked down by Google.
Damon Burton 15:04
There’s certainly a lot of people that I guess you’d say experiment, but I and there are corner cutters that may get some short term wins. But eventually the algorithms catch on, all you have to do is establish a footprint of doing, you know, shady tactics, and then it’s pretty quick that Google’s going to come around. So yeah, you may be able to get away with some things, but it’s a pretty short run. And then the long term penalties as a result of that are usually not worth it.
James Thomson 15:32
Yeah, yep. So we talked about Google SEO, things on Amazon, in the world of SEO are a little bit different. You know, when I think about Amazon, it’s important for brands to incorporate videos into their product listings. What do you think about video content in the world of Google SEO? Are there certain types of videos that make sense for a product brand? And where should those brands be primarily used?
Damon Burton 15:58
So there’s a couple places Benefits of video are, it’s kind of the same answer where the value is in the uniqueness. So if you’re just duplicating a video, it’s already out there and you’re not going to get a lot of value. So what I would recommend is if you can do a video that brings unique value, or if it’s a product, you know, showcase the value proposition of your product. So here’s how I would load it. A lot of times people say, well, do I load it directly to my website? Or do I load it to YouTube? Now, there’s advantages and disadvantages. So I’ll communicate what those are. And then I’ll tell you how to do the middle ground. So the advantages to loading a website directly to your website are that’s your asset. So then Google sees it directly on your website. Now, the disadvantages usually have, you know, because you’re loading the raw file, then a load slower and may not be as mobile friendly or cross device friendly. So then that leads to the advantages of YouTube. You load it to YouTube, and then it’s universal friendly. You know, they figure out how to display it based on whatever the device browser is. But the downside is that now that’s on you. YouTube, and so it’s not directly on your website. So what you can do is you can create what’s called an XML sitemap. Now some people will be familiar with XML sitemaps in the form of content. And what a sitemap is, is when a search engine comes to your website, it basically says, Okay, I’m going to follow the links and follow the content. And then I go, Oh, I found this other page. And then here’s another page, instead of sitemap says, Hey, Google, instead of you know, fumbling around trying to identify the content, I’m just going to give you the blueprint that shows exactly where all my content is. Now, if you have a video sitemap, it’s the same thing. And so there’s a really easy way and a lot of people probably have WordPress websites. And so I’ll give you an easy way for WordPress website. You can search for a plugin called Google XML video Sitemaps. Now what that does is allows you to load the video to YouTube so you get the quick load, the cross device mobile friendly, you know, efficiency. But then this plugin says anytime it identifies anytime you embed a YouTube video on your website, It says, Okay, well, now we’re going to create a sitemap. And then we’re going to ping Google. And we’re going to tell it that the video is on this page, but it comes from this YouTube link. And then you kind of get the best of both worlds, because it’s kind of saying, you know, here’s the video on YouTube, but, you know, give us the credit associated with this content on my website.
James Thomson 18:19
When I think about a lot by myself, and being exposed to all these different forms of social media, there seem to be new social media platforms popping up every year. And quite frankly, I don’t know what they all do. So if I’m a brand, and I’m being presented with the opportunity to put my message on all these different platforms, how do you help brands make sense of, okay, there’s this social media platform, this one and this one and this one, and this one does this, and this one does this? How do you build a comprehensive strategy that says, For the types of products or services you offer, we would suggest that you participate here and here but not over here. My journal sensors it’s Hard to be in all these places all at once. And so how does a company make sense of all these social platforms and figure out whether their product or service makes sense to the audiences on those platforms?
Damon Burton 19:12
Well, the first thing to differentiate is that social media has very little influence on SEO. And a lot of people are surprised to realize that. And the argument is that well, I can have a lot of likes and a lot of comments. But here’s the easy answer to why it doesn’t matter. So facebook.com is one domain. So it doesn’t matter. If you have a bazillion likes, it’s still one domain, you know, that on the SEO side, the value is based on the diversity and like we said earlier, the relevance of a variety of domains. So there’s very little overlap, but you know, excluding the SEO answer, and just, you know, focusing on the social media answer, that’s not to say social media doesn’t have value in itself. Obviously it does. But it’s like, you know, kind of the old general rule is don’t become, you know, don’t work on multiple things and then end up being mediocre at all of them. So an example for me is my audience is largely on LinkedIn, it is not on Instagram. And so I spend more time on LinkedIn. So identify where your audience is, you know, if you’re a restaurant owner, then it’s probably the opposite. You probably have less audience on LinkedIn. But you can show these beautiful plates of your amazing dishes on Instagram. So first, identify where your audiences are, then I would really commit to one platform at a time, get really good at just one because you can drive more leads and visibility on one than you can on deluding yourself across many. And you don’t have to jump in to the next thing immediately. We talked about any shiny object syndrome earlier. You know, tick tock is huge right now. I’ve done zero videos, and I plan on doing zero in the future, because that’s not my audience. And even if my audience was there, you also have to say, is that my style, like I don’t want to get on and dance to Don’t
Unknown Speaker 21:02
even come on Damon, come on.
James Thomson 21:06
So Daniel, let me ask you what the COVID crisis? Have you seen any strong long term SEO investments made by brands paying off in unexpected ways during this crisis?
Damon Burton 21:17
Yeah, you know, there’s a couple ways we can answer that one is obvious that the clients aren’t suffering because they have an overly committed reliance on paid ads. And so now what you have to realize about COVID is that there are more people online than ever, I think, during the first couple weeks examples of, you know, Facebook and Google search queries were like, 50%, just something astronomical. Yeah. And so the SEO specific answer, yeah, you know, one example is we have, you know, a vendor that does food gift items. And so they have a physical retail shop, and they also have an online distribution of their product. And so everybody is Meeting the convenience of you know, you can’t go sit in the majority’s restaurants, but you still want to go eat or you still need your favorite dish. And so there’s been a huge spike, I think there was just across the board and every industry like that first week or two, everyone kind of was like, what do we do next? And there was just a pause. And then after that, just so much as you know, there was a huge spike in online demand because people said, okay, even though things aren’t normal, we have to still live. And we still have to do things and buy things and consume things. So yeah, there’s been a huge increase, because online is largely the only option for a lot of people. So if you had a head start and we’re already at the top of visibility, then you’re just instantaneously reaping those rewards.
James Thomson 22:43
So good to invest in SEO for a while to get to a place where people will still find you even when the way that people search and maybe change significantly. That’s really good advice. Let me ask you to shift gears a little bit. Damon, talk to me about big turning points that you had early days professionally working with brands. When did you realize that you were good at doing what you do helping brands with their SEO performance?
Damon Burton 23:13
There’ve been a couple of fun moments in the timeline of this, you know, probably the first one was in year one of the company when I originally started the company, it was largely a design agency. And so we had a client come to us and say, Well, what do you know about Google? And we said, well, you know, we know enough that we’d be willing to experiment, but I didn’t feel comfortable saying, Well, I’m not gonna charge you. I’m gonna charge you for it because I knew I wasn’t the expert at it. Yeah, at that time. And so what we did is we said, let’s set a benchmark where that way I’m still incentivized, if I hit it, then you will retroactively. If not, then you’re at risk. And so we sent it I think it was like a three month goal and we hit it in about less than six weeks. And so then I said, Okay, that was fun. Let’s, let’s apply this to a second client. And we did the same thing and hit the same goal really quickly. And so it was very definitively at that moment, I said, you know, SEO is going to be my thing. Because, as we said earlier, I too, don’t want to be the agency that says we do it all, and then is mediocre at all of it. So at that point, we said, we’re going to shift gears, we still do a lot of design, but we don’t advertise it, you know, the design is for the benefit of our SEO clients. And so at that point, we said, All right, we’re going to shift our model to an SEO agency. And then as we evolved, you know, it’s, it’s, we’ve been really fortunate to never spend $1 on advertising. So here we are 13 years later and grown into a big agency, just on referrals. And so that has gone far to speak to the results that we drive because, you know, you bring value to one company and then they welcome you into their inner circle of other successful agencies and companies. So there’s been a lot of moments like that where we’ve had big home runs, you know, we worked with the Utah Jazz retail division recently on increasing their sales for jerseys and hats and merchandise. And so things like that are really exciting to add to the resume to work with, you know, not only respectable names, but me being in Utah just kinda like her route fair, the home team.
James Thomson 25:21
So I want to ask you one final question for our discussion today. Talk to me a little bit about your mentors and the kinds of advice they’ve given you, for learning to be good to yourself and being good good to the world. You certainly have done more than your typical business person when it comes to thinking about things beyond just getting work done. I have pretty strong suspicion. You’ve got some mentors that have been helping you through that to take us through that. And you know, even if you don’t want to talk about specific mentors, I’d love to hear the advice and how you learn to incorporate that into the way that you operate.
Damon Burton 25:59
You’ll be surprised by the answer. I don’t have any mentors. In fact, I’ve learned that’s not to say that I haven’t learned a lot from other people, but I’ve learned it in the opposite way. And what I mean is I’ve learned how to treat people, you know, with respect by seeing no former employers, not be respectful agencies or to their employees. So you know, some of the, one of the last gentlemen I worked for before I started my company super successful. He, you know, he was doing probably two to $3 million a month, and I was his only full time employee, and here I was making 1250 an hour. It wasn’t the pay that was a problem, because at the time I was in my early 20s, and that was just fine for me. But it was a way that he treated his team and then as the company grew, and he brought in other people, he would offer incentives and then not pay them, or he would offer you know, we’d go to Christmas parties and then he’d be Honestly, like, just these really bizarre relationships. And so I really learned how to identify and appreciate the small things as an employee. And so now I apply those to my team. Another good example is one time I was at dinner, and it was after hours on a, you know, on a weekend or something Friday night, and he was calling and calling and calling and I was at dinner with my wife at like, 730 at night. And then when I didn’t answer it was emails and text messages. And so at that moment, I deleted email from my phone, and I’ve never had email on my phone since then. And so I know, there’s other things like that, but, you know, seeing the mistakes that other companies make or the mistakes that managers make, and I really try to look for proactive ways to, you know, care more for the people that support me and support them in return.
James Thomson 27:54
David, I want to thank you for joining us today. Before we leave, can you share a few words on where people Go to learn more about you and your services.
Damon Burton 28:03
Yeah, thanks for the time, James. You know, I spent the last few years I just wrote this book “Outrank” and it just hit Amazon but I’m giving away some free copies for the next couple weeks. You want to go to freeseobook.com. There’ll be a download there.
James Thomson 28:15
Great, Dan. Thanks again. And good luck with the book. Good luck with the agency. Take care.
Thanks for listening to the Buy Box Experts podcast. Be sure to click subscribe, check us out on the web, and we’ll see you next time.