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Today we’re going to talk with Chris Dickey, a search engine marketing expert. Chris is a veteran marketing professional, and also have experience on the PR side of things. His team created the tool Visably.

Chris has been in marketing for 17 years across different professions and roles, from in-house marketing to publishers, working in agencies years. The last decade he’s managing inter-operating his PR agency. Through the interactions with his clients and trying to push forward where is PR going he got interested in the intersection between public relations and search. That‘s where a company called Visably came out of – a software solution to scale how brands can improve their brand visibility in search with PR being one of those channels.

In this episode:

  • Most important SEO tips beyond 2020
  • Why do people tend to fall short with SEO
  • What makes SEO so complex and what can businesses do about that.
  • Interesting statistics about organic search
  • What are some other ways to rank higher with organic search
  • How to use SEM to complement SEO
  • Learn more about Visably, the free SEO tools and how it helps address some of the challenges
  • How can a midsize company, startup or a small business (with finite resources and budget) improve their SEO.
  • What is the role of a business value proposition for organic search.

Quotes from the episode:

“The important thing for marketers to recognize is that they really need to shift the goal line from saying, ‘how do I rank my, my website and search’ to say, ‘how do I get a better ranking for my brand in search?'”

“Good keywords are just consumer behavior. It’s not Google coming up with the keywords. It’s your customers coming in with the keywords.”

Today, we are going to interview Chris Dickey and who is a search engine marketing expert. So Chris. I heard that you are a veteran marketing professional and have experience on the PR side of things and manage your agencies. It sounds like you start up a company. So can you tell us our listeners a little bit more about yourself in two minutes?

Chris Dickey: Two minutes. All right. So I’ve been doing marketing for 17 years across lots of different professions and roles. I’ve been in-house marketing direction. I worked in publishers or publishing, um, and we’ve been working in agencies for many, many years. The last decade I’ve been working, I’ve been managing inter-operating my PR agency.

And then a couple of years ago, during that process and just really through the interactions with our clients and, and kind of doing, trying to push forward where is PR going get very interested in the intersection between public relations and search. Uh, we just started developing our practices in house.

And then that’s kind of where this new company called Visably came out of–a software solution to scale, uh, how brands can improve their brand visibility in search. PR is one of those channels.

Pam Didner: So, with that being said, you are the expert in the search area, along with, you know, how to leverage the PR channel to make that happen. And I know that everyone–including myself–want to rank higher organically. Right. And everybody tried a different kind of method.

So why do you see people tend to fall short and why did you launch your product, and how does your product address some of those questions I mentioned? Like in terms of like, you know, people are not doing it so well. How does your tool help?

Chris Dickey: Yeah,

Pam Didner: I know the loaded question.

Chris Dickey: Let me, let me start with SEO. Who’s everyone’s kind of heard that buzz term and a lot of people, a lot of your listeners will be familiar with SEO. SEO–search engine optimization–is the idea of how you pull a bunch of levers to improve the ranking of your website and search for your content within the website and search.

It’s a great strategy, and you should pursue it. And not saying that you shouldn’t do it at all. Um, I think that the thing too, for many marketers at the end of the day, is that ranking well–for popular keywords or high traffic or high-value keywords–with SEO is exceedingly challenging.

Pam: I know! Talk to me, I know!

Chris Dickey: So, the first page of search is the only page that matters. And so, “Hey, you’re on, you’re on page four, and you go to page two, who cares? It doesn’t matter. You’re not going to anymore.”

Pam Didner: Yeah. I know. How many of us go to like the second or third page?

Chris Dickey: Less than 1%. Go to the second.

Pam Didner: Exactly. That’s a good stat. I like that.

Chris Dickey: Well, another stat for you is that 70% of all the clicks for a keyword will select an organic link in the first five positions. So the first five organic links on the page received over 70% of all the traffic to that keyword.

Pam Didner: Really? But not everybody can win. Right?

Chris Dickey: Yeah, so that’s the challenge. I mean, sure, if you can get your website and within the first five organic links for all your target keywords, then you’re doing something well because nobody else can do that. So essentially, how we started approaching PR professionals to recognize that who was, who was a ranking in those first five organic positions? And often it was publishers or media outlets or e-commerce giants, or, you know, all these companies that publish full-time–that’s the core of their business. Or they are massive E-commerce giants like, say, Best Buy or Lowe’s or Home Depot or Amazon. They do very, very well in search.

The recognition that there are so many potential customer touchpoints on the search engine results page doesn’t need to be your own company. It doesn’t need to be your website. If you reach a customer through a review, a media review, that’s it – a super relevant way of reaching that customer. In the same thing with, let’s say like you’re working with an e-commerce partner and that partner happens to say, happens to curate your product on their landing page for a very high traffic keyword. You’re going to sell a lot of stuff if you get that relationship and that product placement in place.

So, I think the important thing for marketers to recognize is that they need to move– they need to shift the goal line from saying, “how do I rank my, my website and search” to say, “how do I get a better ranking for my brand in search?”

Pam Didner: Okay. Okay. So with that being said, let me paraphrase it. You mentioned an interesting couple of things. When people talking about search engine marketing, the things that pop into my mind, I cannot, you know, it’s like, “Oh, you know what? My website needs to rank high for the keywords that people search for.” You are trying to say that it can be a goal, but it doesn’t have to be your end goal. There is another way to get yourself ranked higher. For example, you leverage your partner’s website.

For example, you do co-marketings and or maybe you do media buys on certain publications. Is that your, is that what you are suggesting?

Chris Dickey: Yes. Yeah. So I think that I think the whole point is, is that, you know, the point of a marketer is to be discovered like what we’re trying to do here is promote product discovery within search. Search should be seen as the largest product discovery platform in the world, specifically Google.

Pam Didner: I 100% agree with that statement.

Chris Dickey: I think there are about 70,000 searches every single second worldwide. Um, and all 70,000 are some form of a question, and they will find their answers in a very predictable place at the top of the search. If you can penetrate that real estate–it doesn’t matter if it’s your website–as long as your brand is being recommended at the top of the search, who cares, you know, and yeah, I mean, there’ll be lovely if it was your website, but a lot of times it’s not.

And I think something in SEO, you know, there’s a lot of a huge science around how to pick your keywords. And one of the pieces- a big piece in SEO is picking keywords that you have the opportunity to rank for.

Pam Didner: No, that’s, that’s very true. I understand that. But sometimes, from my perspective, I have one piece of content I’m using myself as an example at this time. Um, I write content, right? So the way I get myself on my website up to date or current, or it keeps that some sort of, you know, that Google can crawl regularly. Find the stuff on my content is because I publish regularly. And there’s one piece of content that always stands out, which got the most organic search. One is called “Planning versus Replanning.” Right. So I talk about the differences between planning versus replanning. And then there’s another one how to construct or how to create a messaging framework. Um, and I say “A Complete Guide for B2B marketers.” And these two content pieces I created probably is more than most organic searches and can rank pretty high for me.

But unfortunately, you know, the messaging framework or creating how to create a messaging, how to create a value proposition is only one pillar of my product offering. So I kind of pick and choose my battle in terms of keywords. So I use that as a way for people to find me, right. Once they find me, they want to talk; they can talk to me if they will, they will say, “Oh yeah, Pam, Pam can do more stuff,” right?

Then I’m using that opportunity. They talked to me to educate them on what I can do. Right. So I can understand in terms of, when you say, “Hey, you know what, you need to rank for your keywords,” but at the same time, what I have learned, and Chris, you can tell me I’m off. That there are certain keywords, you can win, but there are certain keywords you can’t. You just can’t.

Chris Dickey: And, and that’s, that’s kind of a shame, right? Because you’re, cause you’re saying, “Oh, we’re just gonna, like, we’re just gonna toss out these viable keywords. We’re just not even going to try because, um, our, our SEO platform is telling us that we’re not going to get there.” And that’s, and that’s an important recognition that you’re not like spending a bunch of time get somewhere that you never will be.

But, the problem is it’s like, sure, like maybe SEO isn’t the best strategy for that keyword, but maybe there’s an opportunity there to work with the other partners on the page. So it could be a pay-per-click strategy. Reasonable.

Pam Didner: You do an SEM. You do pay media effort to compensate.

Chris Dickey: Nothing wrong with that. But I’ll tell you right now that for non-branded search terms. So somebody looking for your product and services, but they’re not. They’re not typing in a specific brand name. Those advertisements receive like a good advertisement, anywhere from two to 3% of the clicks on the page. That means 97% of the traffic is going somewhere else.

So sure, you’ll get a couple of clicks, but you’re not. You’re not reaching that customer in a meaningful way. Um, however, look at that first organic link on the page. Is it a media review? Is it an e-commerce website? What, who is it? Um, you know, is it a company blog that’s talking about a subject? Can you be, um, an expert or somebody or somehow get it backlink on that page? These are the ways that you can create visibility within the search results page that can be very, very meaningful and can drive a lot of traffic.

Pam Didner: So, you know, I spend a lot of time on my website, and you have been to my website, you can tell like I’m pretty intentional and purposeful about it.

Chris Dickey: It’s a gorgeous website.

Pam Didner: Thank you! You make my day! (Chris laughs) Um, I spend a lot of time. I’m very intentional about it. And, um, but as you said, it’s a lot of work. Right? Everything that you said, we talk about it, “Oh yeah, you can do a backlink. Oh yeah. I’ll do product marketing. Oh yeah. You reach out or write a review.”

But everything you said does require time and effort, even budget. Would you agree?

Chris Dickey: Oh, no question. Yeah.

Pam Didner: With that being said, do you have a suggestion for a midsize company or a startup or small businesses–that they have finite resources and budget–do you have any suggestions, like specific steps or even, um, uh, tips or tricks or something that they have to do? Right. Yeah.

And for me, one thing I told all my clients, you have to have a very clear value proposition. You need to know who you are, why you offer, and you need to articulate that very clearly. If you cannot do that, you can have a beautiful website, but the value proposition is still confusing. People cannot understand why you offer, and then they will leave.

So for SEO specifically, are there one or two things that, from your perspective, they have to get it down before they breach or expand, you know, other, um, methods to increase the organic search?

Chris Dickey: I mean, the most important thing with SEO is understanding what your keywords are. Like, what are the keywords that matter to you? And what are the keywords that mattered to your customers, because that’s how you guys find each other, right? As somebody looks at, looks up a keyword and then you’re on the other end of that keyword. Um, and so doing that research is supercritical.

I’ll tell you just a few kinds of anecdotes around that. Number one, keyword research starts with reverse-engineering how your customers find you or your products and services. You have to think about the ways, the questions that they’ll ask their pain points. What are the phrases and terms somebody’s going to use to find your stuff, assuming they don’t know that you exist?

So. Put all those into a list and get as far as you possibly can. And then, if you need some help, pop those into Google, and Google Auto Suggest will suggest a whole lot more. And then you look at the bottom of the page, and they’ll say “people also searched for,” and they’ll tell you other actual keywords that are related to that pain point that you identified.

And then, look at the questions that may be on the page. Like there’s a, there’s a little special thing that shows up sometimes called “People also ask.” And it’s a question box, and Google’s telling you, these are frequently asked questions, and we’ve recognized that, and we have repopulated answers. So those are questions people are asking in that field. Grab all that stuff, throw it into a keyword list and then now you have a reverse engineer that that customer journey.

And then you can start backfilling the actual metrics behind those keywords, figuring out how many people search for those keywords or this whole month. What’s the engagement rate? Start looking at those search results on all those pages and figure out who the authorities are in this space? Like who are the people who constantly get rewarded with top search positions? Are they people who are writing blogs? Are they people doing podcasts? Are they personalities? Are they writers? or is it somebody else? And then you start creating inroads with those influencers, as well.

Now you understand the landscape. How people are finding and the people who are populated at content that Google is rewarding. And you can develop a nice communication strategy once you reach, reach out to those influencers, once you understand that keyword, and you can create content on your website, as well.

Pam Didner: Yeah. So the one thing that you mentioned, especially I call “prerequisites,” right? And that the most important thing in SEO or any kind of search engine marketing is you have to create your keyword list. And from my perspective, that is very critical in terms of how much you understand your audience. Right. And also how much you understand your products.

And as a brand, a lot of time, we feel like we understand the audience, but the way to test that is can you write ten different questions In the form of a search that how people look for their answers? Does that make sense?

So often, when I do one-on-one mentoring and the one thing I always ask them to do, especially the marketing professionals, I say, “can you write on ten questions that your customers are asking?” By the way, not long-form. But write it in a way that, how they search. So I, 100% agree with you in terms of the search keywords. And I did not understand that initially when I started my own business and was about six years ago.

Chris Dickey: Good keywords is just consumer behavior, right? Like it’s not a Google coming up with the keywords. It’s your customers coming in with the keywords. And so you’re getting inside their head, and you fully understand how they process this, this question.

Pam Didner: I agree. Yeah. Once you start writing things down, you kind of have much clearer ideas in terms of how your customer search and then that will help you in terms of what you need to do for your search strategy. I like that. Any additional things you want to add, Chris? I know that you have a tool. Do you want to talk about your tool a little bit more? Is it free?

Chris Dickey: It is free.

Pam Didner: Yeah!

Chris Dickey: Come check it out. Free accounts for everyone (laughs). Yeah. So, um, I come out of the public relations space. We started developing this software solution, and we call it Visably. It’s a play on the word visibility.

Pam Didner: V I S A B L Y. Is that correct?

Chris Dickey: Correct. Yeah. V I S A B L Y.com

Pam Didner: V as in Victor? Yes.

Chris Dickey: Yep. Yep. So just kind of like Visibility but Visably. The idea here is how do you become more visible within search results? And I, the way that I rephrase it is how do you improve the likelihood that a customer is going to find you? Period.

And, you know, so we know search volume for any given keyword; that’s known. We generally know where people click on the search engine results page, depending on the link people click and how many people click in terms of advertising.

And so, you know, once you kind of identify- what Visibly does is we look through every single link on the page, and we look at all the page content behind every single link. So we don’t just do—

Pam Didner: So it’s kind of like the SEO audit?

Chris Dickey: Yeah. It’s big; it’s a big audit. It’s a big SEO audit. Um, if you will, but SEV–search engine visibility–audit, because we’re not looking for your website, we’re looking for your brand.

Um, and so, and, and the way to do that is you need to look at the page content. And funny enough, nobody does this. Nobody looks at page content. Like even though that’s what consumers do, people. All the consumers look at page content…

Pam Didner: Good question.

Chris D: How many people just go to a page and look at the links? Like nobody does that. Everyone looks at the page content. So, but every SEO platform, all they do is go, and they look at the links and they say, “is this your link? Yes or no?” And it’s a very binary answer. But the question is, is like, it’s not whether it’s your link or not. It’s whether your brand is featured on the other end of that link.

And what we saw in PR is that quite often, yes. You would look up–I’ll tell you a good example–so if you look up the term “best fleece jacket.” And the number one most dominant result on the page is the brand Patagonia. However, there’s not a single patagonia.com anywhere on that first page of results.

Pam Didner: That kinda sucks!

So if you’re an SEO engine and Patagonia said, “Hey, how am I doing for best fleece jacket?” The SEO pro platform would say, “well, you have zero hits on this page.” But from a consumer perspective, Patagonia is every place you would look, which is a really important distinction because the touchpoints on that page are all over the place. And Patagonia is looking for a very good job there.

So, you know, what would Visably it would tell you is, “Hey, not, is this your website or not? but is your brand presence within the page or not?” Then we further segment and say, “Hey, was this a PR hit? Is this an e-commerce website? Is this a brand-owned site owned by a blog?

Or is it something else?” And once you kind of segment the results in that way, you can say, “Oh, like we’re doing well in PR, we could. We have some points of improvement with, you know, with e-commerce.” It becomes much clearer what that map looks like, what your footprint looks like in search, and you can do something about it.

And then what’s interesting is when you scale it and look at multiple keywords at once and see how you’re doing across multiple categories.

Pam Didner: In your free version, d you get that kind of recommendation?

Chris Dickey: Yes.

Pam Didner: Oh, cool. That’s what I want to hear! (Chris laughs) So boys and girls, if you are all listening to the website out and Chris, can you tell us what the website is?

Chris Dickey: V I S a B L y.com. Visably.com.

Pam Didner: Excellent. Hey, I always ask my guests a silly, stupid question. Okay. And that’s my job! (laughs) So I’m going to ask you a question. Do you have any ridiculous goals in your life? is like something you want to accomplish, but it’s like, we just make the point that people like you are crazy?

Chris Dickey: So many ridiculous goals. So many, um, I guess, I guess first and foremost, um, I live in Wyoming. I live at the base of the Teton Mountain range and Jackson Hole.

Pam Didner: I’ve been there.

Chris Dickey: Oh, you have?

Pam Didner: Anybody is listening. If you have never been to Grand Teton National Park or Yellowstone, you have to go there. The scenery is majestic. When you drive, like, literally that road—oh, I don’t know that highway number–the road to the, to the entrance of the southern part of the national park. Oh my God. Oh my God. That drive is gorgeous.

Chris Dickey: Yeah. It’s insane. I live here. I see every day, and it’s still impressive to me after being here for 17 years. Um, but I came here to climb those mountains, so maybe that’s a ridiculous thing. Um, and I, and then after a while, I was like, “why don’t we ski down them too?” So I have ski down, like from the top of the Grand Tetons, and that’s pretty ridiculous. And now I want to ski down a whole lot of other things.

Pam Didner: Okay. So that’s a ridiculous goal. Okay. You, you, you got, you got one down, keep going and keep going. (laughs)

Chris Dickey: It says, yeah. So there’s a long list of, uh, mountains that love to ski. Um, I think the other ridiculous goal is, um, I want, I would love to live in a van for a year with my family. Uh, so it was just me, my wife.

Pam Didner: Will they want to do that? Like my kids, they are like, “no, I don’t think so!”

Chris Dickey: No, I don’t think, well, as my wife and daughter would love it. Like they, they’re better at small spaces than I am. Um, and she’s still, like, my daughter is still pretty young. She’s only four years old, so she can fit in small places (laughs).

Pam Didner: Yeah. Tiny House Nation. Yes, I get it.

Chris Dickey: Yeah.

Pam Didner: So that is not. I think that goal is not ridiculous, by the way.

Chris Dickey: Isn’t it like 20 square feet with a family of three or something?

Pam Didner: It’s achievable. Well, and is it possible you rent, you know, it’s, you can’t even rent an RV if you want to.

Chris Dickey: We want to be in a smaller, yeah, more like a, like an adventure, your van that we could take off-road and we could, you know, take up mountain passes and things. I think the problem with RVs uses they’re tough to park. Um, they’re, they’re not good to drive on dirt roads. Um, things like that.

Pam Didner: Very, very good. Mean, no, it’s fantastic. I hope that you get a chance to do that and, uh, and check that off on your bucket list, and by the way, I think it’s fantastic. It’s a great goal.

Chris Dickey: Thank you. Thank you.

Pam Didner: All right. Hey, thank you. So much for coming to my podcast. And, uh, I appreciate that your insight about search engine, SEO search engine optimization. And you talk about it, the SEO in the much broader term and the look looking at it from, you know, marketing and the PR perspective. And I liked that.

Chris Dickey: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Pam Didner: And if you want to reach out to Chris, Chris, how can people reach out to you?

Chris Dickey: Um, Hey, I’m at Viably.com, V-I-S-A-B-L-Y dot com. If you go and submit a query, there we’re a small enough team that it will get to me. So thank you.

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To keep on expanding your knowledge about digital marketing, technology, and SEO check out some of my previous podcast episodes.

4 Key Elements for Successful Website Overhaul

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