Tobes and Morgan Mckell

All Things SEO (Monarch Social Podcast)

On Friday, April 2, 2021, our SEO Manager Tobes had the opportunity to be a guest on Monarch Social podcast. Monarch Social is one of our digital marketing partners. IIn this interview, Tobes discusses how he got started in SEO, as well as several misconceptions about SEO and its future in the digital marketing space.

You can read or watch the podcast episode below.

We’ve also distilled this discussion into a few easy questions and answers for your reference. Check that out on Monarch Social’s blog.

Introduction (0:16)

Morgan:
Welcome back to another episode of the Monarch Social podcast, where we discuss all things digital media marketing in hopes to give the viewers at home a little inside glimpse into this digital marketing world. I’m your host, Morgan McKell. Today I’m flying solo…

…mostly because we needed three microphones and I only brought one…

So, that being said, my beloved co-host Makoa will not be with us today but I will try to hold the banner in his honor.

The last time we spoke with you guys, a lot of things have happened and I’m going to jump into some of those cool things. The big thing was we actually did have our event. We hosted a huge digital media marketing event where we taught some of our tips and tricks of social media, marketing, and advertising. We stomped on some of the gurus out there that we think are just big phonies. We taught some real marketing. We had a great turnout, it was super fun. It was super successful and we can’t wait to do that again. And we’re probably going to do them quarterly.

The last podcast that we did, Makoa and I were talking about websites: what makes a great website and things to look for. And then we started touching on SEO, search engine optimization. And we told you guys, you guys listening, we wanted to bring on our guy. And so that’s what we did for you today. We brought in the big guns.

So, our guest today is none other than Mr. Joshua Tobler. He is the owner of Dragon Tail SEO, right?

Tobes:
Longtail Dragon.

Morgan:
Oh, my gosh. I already screwed it up. Longtail Dragon SEO, right?

Tobes:
Correct.

Morgan:
Josh actually works directly with us and he is our fulfillment center for all of the SEO that we provide. And so I thought, no better guest to have than our guy. So Josh, welcome to the show.

Tobes:
I appreciate the invite!

Tobes’ Story: How Did Longtail Dragon Start? (2:20)

Morgan:
I am so excited to have you here. First of all, tell us your story, who you are, what you’re all about. And then how did you get started in the SEO world?

Tobes:
Sure. Yeah. How much detail do I go into?

Morgan:
Yeah, it’s up to you.

Tobes:
My interest in business goes way, way back. I remember being in the fourth grade or something, we read this book about some kid who makes it big selling toothpaste. How interesting is toothpaste? But the idea fascinated me that like, here’s this kid my age who hustle and grinds and generates his own source of income and this idea just stuck in my head like a mind virus. I could not get this idea out of my head.

Morgan:
How old were you?

Tobes:
Oh, I don’t remember. Third grade, fourth grade.

Morgan:
And there was just this random kid slinging in toothpaste down the street, or at school.

Tobes:
Yeah. I think the book was called The Toothpaste Millionaire or something like that.

That interest is probably what led me to study business in college. And as luck would have it while I was in business school, they developed a digital marketing track. So, it wasn’t exactly a major, but you could take these classes and they gave you, I don’t know, a gold star on your diploma or some crap. I don’t know what it was. But I took all those classes, and I fell in love with it!

That parlayed me into a job in an SEO company doing link building. For those who don’t know, link building is one of the most important (but also the most difficult) parts of getting your website ranked in Google and other search engines. I cut my teeth doing some of the hardest stuff in SEO.

Eventually they put me in charge of the full service SEO service line. And so I was, I learned how to do the keyword research and the technical SEO and the onsite SEO and all those things. I was the guy, I was the account manager. And that was way fun. That was a great learning experience.

But that place did not survive Covid. Or at least that product line didn’t. So I got laid off.

But about a month after I got laid off, I started getting phone calls from some of my old clients saying, “Hey, they didn’t really replace you and we still need SEO. You want to be our guy?”

Morgan:
Yes.

Tobes:
I said, “Yes, I do.”

So, I got the tools I needed and set up shop and I was off and running.

Now, the thing is, I couldn’t make a living with just those clients. So, I did what any business owner should do and I hit the prospecting super hard. And that’s how I bumped into you.

And as luck would have it—and you can tell your side of the story—but I just hit you at just the perfect time because you were looking for somebody to fill those shoes. And so we got talking and I got integrated into the beautiful Monarch ecosystem.

Morgan:
Yeah. So, it was the last part of the year, last year, the end of the year. We had been discussing, adding SEO as our services because it was such a natural fit.

I met with two or three people that I wanted to work with, and they just convoluted the whole damn thing. And it just really put a bad taste in my mouth. I was like, “Screw this.”

And then lo and behold, Mr. Tobes slid into my DMS on LinkedIn and he say, “Hey, yo, I want to do some SEO with you.” I waited till after Christmas and I randomly messaged him back and I said, “Yeah, let’s actually do it. Let’s set up a meeting.”

And then the rest is history! We launched our SEO services with you in January and we’ve just been rocking ever since. And so that’s how that happened.

Awesome story! So, when did you start? Was it right after Covid last year? Or was it fall? When did you start your, “Okay, this is where I’m going full speed ahead with this.”

Tobes:
We were hanging on at that other company for a while. I was trying to do sales and whatever I could do to keep things together. So, I think I got laid off in June. And then by August I was, I was up and running. So, that’s how fast after they shut down that I got the phone call.

Morgan:
Yeah. Because SEO is such a huge thing! I know there’s going to be clients out there that are doing SEO. And then if you just turn that off or just stop doing it, they’re going to be like, “Nah, we got to keep doing this!”

What is SEO? (6:47)

Morgan:
So, one of the big questions I wanted to have you answer, we tried to answer it in our best way last time, me and Makoa. When you’re working with someone for the first time, like when you’re talking to a business owner, how do you describe SEO? What is your, not necessarily your pitch, it can be, but how do you describe SEO to someone that they think they know what it is, but maybe they don’t understand all the facets of it? What’s the easiest way to describe what SEO is for a company?

Tobes:
Well, I mean, from the company’s perspective what matters is getting ranked. So you’re getting seen, getting web traffic, right?

They used to tell you all the time, what matters in business is location, location, location. Well, that’s true, but the location is just digital now. That’s where people are getting discovered.

So there’s a lot of levers that can be pulled in the back end, but what matters is what the visible result is and that’s improved search rankings on the correct keywords. Fundamentally, that’s what SEO is.

Is SEO Worth It? (7:44)

Morgan:
I was reading somewhere that SEO is still one of the biggest budget verticals in the digital marketing world. It’s one of the highest spent. There’s a word I’m looking for. It’s one of the highest paid services out there right now, because it makes companies so relevant.

I know that there’s this back and forth right now where some people say, “Hey, SEO isn’t relevant anymore.” And then there’s other companies that, they doubled down on SEO. What’s your perspective on that?

Tobes:
I think SEO is here to stay.

Morgan:
Same.

Tobes:
I think that it’s just like probably everywhere in digital marketing, that the technology is changing super fast, that the whole environment is changing super fast. So the nature of what goes into SEO is likely to change month to month, say nothing of year to year.

But as long as there is an internet, people are going to use it to try to find the products and services they want. And as long as they’re looking for that, somebody is going to need to help businesses get in front of the right audience.

Morgan:
Yeah, I think it’s just a no brainer how it works.

On one end of it, I think where they were coming from, when people are saying like, “SEO isn’t relevant.” It was kind of how me and Makoa were thinking when we first started. When we first started our company, and I can’t remember if we said this on the podcast or not, we told it at our event, but when we first started, our whole mentality was, “Why do SEO? That’s going to take six months plus. Or we run Google Ads and I’ll make you number one every single time.” Right? That was kind of our mindset.

The thing that happened with us is we look at our oldest client right now, the one who’s been with us for two over two years, right? If they were to stop working with us right now, where do their leads go? How are people even going to find them?

But if we had been doing SEO for the last two years for them and they stopped working with us or stopped using us, they were going to be so much more benefited from doing SEO rather than just doing Google Ads with us.

And that’s when our perspective shifted from short-term versus long-term.

Yeah, short-term, we can probably generate some leads quicker by using targeted ads and PPC stuff. But, if you’re going to be a company that’s planning on being in it for the long haul, you’re going to want SEO, because that’s going to benefit you for so much longer. It’s that longer game. And so that’s how our mindset shifted.

How Does SEO Fit Into Your Broader Marketing Strategy? (10:19)

Tobes:
And I think that’s the best way to think about it.

The fundamental question here is, “Okay, I’ve got I’ve got a new business, I need more customers. Where do I put my marketing budget?”

I think you’re thinking about this the way people should be thinking about this: Well, you need leads today. So going all in on SEO might not be your best bet. You probably do want some social. You probably do want some search ads. But at some point you need to get a permanent presence.

Ultimately, once you have search rankings, it’s one of the lowest cost-per-acquisition, highest-yield marketing channels. But what you pay for that is a bunch of investment on the front end before that really starts paying off. And that’s hard.

Morgan:
I think the hardest part with marketing digitally in general, is there’s so many different avenues to do it and it can be overwhelming. It can get expensive quick.

You have to take a 50 foot top-down view of like, “Hey, what’s your end goal? What are we really trying to do?”

When a company comes into us and they say, “We just want to do everything,” I’m like, “Okay, hold your horses! Because that can mean a lot of different things! Like we’re talking to some big bucks!”

And then other companies come in and they’re like, “Oh, I needed leads yesterday! I just need leads right now!”

SEO is a spoke on the wheel. Social media is a spoke on the wheel, PPC, having a great website, videography, photos, original content, a marketing funnel—you have all these different spokes.

SEO is a huge spoke for long-term success, I truly, truly believe. Any company that wants to stay around or plans on staying around for a while, that should be a big spoke in the wheel that they should focus on.

Earned vs Demanded Attention (12:24)

Tobes:
I think you’re right. And the reason why it’s such a big spoke and the reason why it’s here to stay is—moving up a layer of abstraction—there’s a difference between earned attention and demanded attention, right?

Ads—I’ve got nothing against ads. We do ads. I do ads—but you’re inserting yourself in somebody’s experience and demanding their attention.

That used to work a lot better than it does today. Because with ads, you become part of the noise. Because everyone is doing that!

And people don’t want your banner ad. They want to find the stupid “X” and my fingers are too fat and you always miss it. People want to move on and get to the content or the experience that they wanted anyway. You are interrupting that process, and people don’t like that that much.

Versus: if you can get in front of people who already want what you’re selling. No wonder that’s a higher yield avenue!

And so this is the way to think about content marketing, this is the way to think about SEO: can you earn attention by just being the best and getting in front of the right people, rather than demanding attention?

Although in this environment there’s certainly room for both.

On-Page vs Off-Page SEO (13:52)

Morgan:
One of the things I wanted to do, Tobes, was this. When we start explaining SEO, there’s these typical questions that come up, and I don’t feel super equipped to answer them. But I thought it would be great to have you.

The first one is: what’s the difference between on-page versus off-page SEO? What does that mean? We hear that term around, “Hey, you need, on-page SEO. You need off page SEO.” Help us through that.

Navigate us through these waters, Tobes.

Tobes:
Well, the simplest answer is that on-site SEO is everything you do on your site, and off-site or off-page SEO is everything you do elsewhere on the internet that impacts your search rankings.

Morgan:
What’s more important?

Tobes:
You need both. Everybody needs both.

Morgan:
So it’s 50/50. You can have the best site in the world but if you’re not in other places on the internet, SEO is dead.

Tobes:
Yeah. So maybe let’s start with off-page SEO, because that’s going to be the part that people struggle with the most. Because, by definition, off-page SEO is dealing with a part of the internet that you don’t control, right?

The genius of Google, for people who are old enough to remember. Do you remember Ask Jeeves?

Morgan:
Oh yeah, for sure.

Tobes:
And then people kind of figured out how they did their thing and they gamed it. Then you couldn’t find what you were looking for.

So, everybody moved to Yahoo. And then the same thing happened to Yahoo.

So, everybody moved to Google. And I’m old enough to remember the first time I used Google. It was magic! You got exactly what you were looking for on the first page! Every time! It was magic!

Well, part of the magic was that they figured out how to measure not just relevance, but also authority. I think it was Larry Page that wrote a paper about it in college. He talked about it like this:

If you’re just going to index the entire internet anyway (which is basically what Google is; they just downloaded the internet. That’s why they can serve up search results so fast) then you could count references to different websites across the internet. Those are backlinks. People link to your website. That will give you a rough approximation of how authoritative a site is. It’s a brilliant innovation!

So that’s one thing that you need to do: you need to generate some of those links to boost your authority. Very, very few people can get away without doing that and see good results. That’s usually the missing piece in most SEO campaigns.

Morgan:
So not only does your website need to be strong, but Google needs to know that you’re legit elsewhere on the internet and people are referencing you and talking about you in other places.

Tobes:
Correct.

Biggest SEO Mistakes and Misconceptions (16:36)

Morgan:
What are some of the biggest mistakes or misconceptions there are about SEO that you deal with with business owners?

A lot of our listeners and viewers are business owners—people that are entrepreneurs starting a business, want to start a business, or do have a business. So, what are some of the biggest mistakes of SEO that you see and what are some of the biggest misconceptions of SEO that you see?

Tobes:
Well, the biggest misconception I see is that people just don’t do it. I’ll come to a site and the technical side under the hood is all messed up, and they haven’t looked at that.

Another big misconception is a lot of people try to optimize their site for the algorithm. And the problem with that is—first of all, they’re underestimating how good Google and other search engines are at recognizing human language. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s getting really, really ridiculously good!

Besides, we don’t have Google reverse engineered. So, you’re guessing at what you think the algorithm wants, and then you’re optimizing for that.

Plus, the algorithm is changing all the time!

So, you’re taking a snapshot of what you think the algorithm looks like today and trying to optimize for that. That’s probably a poor strategy.

A better way to think about it is: Google wants to serve up authoritative relevant results. So, be authoritative and relevant. Optimize for your audience’s ideal experience. Google is trying to approximate that with its algorithm and it’s getting better at doing that.

Morgan:
So, maybe this is more for the agencies then. Because—I’ll just be real—the majority of business owners that I know, if they’re not hiring an agency to build a website for them, they’re building it on Squarespace or Wix, or … They don’t care about the algorithm. They’re just like, “Oh, cool content. Here’s my product. Here’s my logo. Okay. Let’s go.”

Tobes:
And honestly, that’s probably more of an advantage than a disadvantage.

Morgan:
So, with agencies that are hired then are you saying that … Let’s say agencies that build websites, are they trying to build it for the algorithm? And is that where there might be going wrong? They’d be more sophisticated people that are building websites?

Tobes:
It’s the people in SEO who have been around for a long time.

Anywhere else, if I hire an HVAC guy and he says, “Oh, I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” I think, “Great! You’re an experienced guy!”

If you’re an SEO and you say, “I’ve been doing SEO for 20 years,” I’m like, “Yikes, okay. SEO looks really, really different than it did 20 years ago.”

Not that HVAC doesn’t change, but it doesn’t change anywhere nearly as fast as this ecosystem.

Morgan:
Yeah, it could be completely different. It is completely different.

Tobes:
It’s some of the old timers who have been around for a little while that are still, they’re optimizing for a version of Google that hasn’t existed in 10 or 15 years.

How Expensive is SEO? (19:43)

Morgan:
Yeah. The next thing I wanted to tell our listeners is: one of the biggest misconceptions that I have seen is how expensive SEO is, right? Any time I mention it, it’s almost like, “Oh man, SEO, it’s so expensive!”

I think it’s on a sliding scale. You can get started for super affordable, all the way up to full-blown a lot of money a month, okay? You can go as little as people want or as big as people want.

And so one of the misconceptions that I’ve seen working with business owners is, “Oh man, that’s going to be thousands of dollars every single month!”

And I just want to say, “That’s not the case. It’s a sliding scale.”

Tobes:
Yeah, it’s not necessarily the case—although a lot of SEO agencies won’t take smaller accounts anymore.

Part of the reason for that is because, what increased budget really buys you is pace—how fast you can get these rankings.

Morgan:
That’s the same with us with anything that we do PPC or social media. If you want to dump thousands of dollars into Facebook Ads and you want to be on Facebook, Instagram, Google, and we want to do a full blown scale. Well, yeah, that’s going to cost a lot of money. But if we need to start small and let’s just say run Facebook Ads, it’s going to be a very different price.

And so I think that’s with anything though, like with SEO, yeah, you can go as fast and as hot as you want if you have the budget. But that shouldn’t deter you from at least starting now fixing things on your website, fixing some of your backlinks and the things that are going to rank you. And we can relatively do that for a pretty affordable budget with Monarch and us and our relationship.

Tobes:
Yep. With smaller budgets, it’ll be a little while before you’re seeing your ideal results realized. But yeah, there’s absolutely no reason not to at least get started on that level.

How Fast Can You Reasonably Expect SEO Results? (21:38)

Morgan:
And speaking of timelines, what’s a normal timeline? How does SEO work with timelines?

Is there a build-out phase and then it’s just monthly maintenance?

Tell us what a typical timeline is. When can people expect results? What do the results look like?

Tobes:
You ready for the most disappointing answer ever?

Morgan:
Yeah. Let’s hear it.

Tobes:
It completely depends.

I’ll tell you what it depends on; it depends on how competitive the keywords are that you’re trying to rank for. If you’re trying to outrank Home Depot on hardware, you’re screwed, right?

Morgan:
Or you’re going to need a huge budget.

Tobes:
Or you’re going to need a Home Depot-sized budget.

But if you’re only trying to rank locally in your area, for example, that’s a much smaller market. There’s not as many competitors. That’s going to be easier to pull off.

That’s one of the things that we’ve tried to do on these more budget-level campaigns. I’ve gone really far out of my way to try to identify keywords that are not particularly competitive, but are still relatively high yield. That way, you’re getting in front of the right people, and it’s not going to take a really long time.

Even under those ideal circumstances, the fastest I’ve ever seen anybody see visible movement on their rankings is three months.

And that’s the best case scenario. And that’s just rankings improvements. Traffic improvements follow that.

Morgan:
So, you get ranked better and then traffic follows that? Traffic to your website?

Tobes:
Once you get onto the first page, which is roughly the top 10 results. Because nobody moves to the second page of Google. So you got to get those first page results. Once you get there, then you’re going to start seeing the traffic come in.

Then, assuming that you’ve got good conversion rate optimization, that’s when that starts turning into sales. Then we’re looking at positive ROI. But now we’re probably six months in, best case scenario.

Morgan:
So, business owners or people that are looking into SEO need to have a long-term mindset that says, “Hey, this isn’t an overnight fix. We’re going to have to fix a lot of stuff on the backend. Then we’re going to put some actual time and energy into a campaign to get you to where you need it.”

And it might be a year out. Hopefully sooner—maybe we’re six months to a year, but let’s say a year—mindset of dedicated SEO services.

But the whole point of it is: you’re going to be ranking better on Google. Your website will be more relevant and more searchable, and it’ll get more people to your website. You’re going to get more traffic to your website. And that’s how we have to tell people how to look at SEO. Right?

Tobes:
Correct.

Is SEO Still Relevant in 2021? (24:29)


Morgan:
So, I have this random question in here too, Tobes. I kind of asked it earlier, but for the people that say SEO isn’t relevant anymore, what is the Tobes response to that?

Is SEO relevant in 2021?

Tobes:
Yes.

Morgan:
All right. You heard it from him.

Tobes:
I don’t know what else to say about that. I honestly don’t know where that idea comes from.

As we move into a noisier and noisier media environment, earned attention is going to become a more important aspect of your whole marketing channel distribution. Not less relevant.

Morgan:
I completely agree. Like I said, my mindset had to get changed. When we first started, that was the mindset. And then all of a sudden we realized there was so much more value we could give to our clients if we just offered one more little thing.

And so that’s what changed our whole perspective. We’re right there with you. Monarch totally believes in SEO. It’s why we offer it. It’s a huge thing that we offer right now.

Where Can People Find You? (25:37)

Morgan:
Last thing. Tobes, you’re great! Thank you for being our guest!

Where can our listeners find you? Where can they see what you’re all up to or what you’re doing? Where can they find you online?

Tobes:
Well, at this point, I’m doing work for you for the most part. So, monarchsocialbrand.com is a good place to start.

Longtail Dragon has its own website that I have not kept up at all (because you keep selling these SEO accounts so fast you’re keeping me too busy) but that would be longtaildragon.com

Morgan:
Awesome!

Well, that brings us to my next point. Guys, turn on your alerts. I want you guys to follow us. Give us a subscribe. If you want, you can find us on Spotify, Apple podcasts, iHeart, we’re all over the place.

You can find us on Instagram and Facebook as well.

New episodes of our podcast drop every single Tuesday.

And thanks for being our guest today, Tobes.

Tobes:
Hey, I appreciate it. This has been fun. We can do this again sometime.

Morgan:
Let’s do it.

All right, guys, take it easy. Till next time.

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