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Sebastian: Welcome to the SEO show. This episode we have Jacob Stoops. Jacob, welcome to the show.
Jacob: Hey thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Sebastian: Yeah man so, you’re the senior SEO manager at Search Discovery and you’re also the host of the Page 2 Podcast. Is that right so far?
Jacob: That is absolutely right. I just started the podcast last year to tell the background and origin stories of some SEOs ranging from well-known to not so well known. I’m interested in capturing and documenting it all. Then, I’ve been at Search Discovery for about a year and Search Discovery is a data transformation company that also offers full service digital marketing, so, SEO, paid search, so on and so forth.
Sebastian: Yes, I was looking at the Search Discovery website, it seems like a pretty unique business model in that you guys do more than just SEO, you guys do a whole range of other stuff, which is hard for me to understand. Could you maybe share a little bit more about what you guys do over there?
Jacob: Yes. So, a bulk of our business is geared in the Business Intelligence and analytics space. And we are actually the company that built satellite, which I believe later became Adobe DTM and that was our founder, Lee Blankenship. Then after that, or during, at some point, he decided to start Search Discovery. So, the majority of our business is focused on helping customers get the most out of their data. Then, the part that I work in is helping grow visibility and have good data coming in, in terms of helping them grow their business. So, not just understanding the data but increasing and getting them more of what they want which is more visits, more revenue, more conversions, to help grow their company and their capacity.
Sebastian: Right. So, you guys are more of a combination of a CRO, SEM kind of agency in that you guys specialize in that specifically with data in mind. So, with that said, is there like a perfect client that you guys work with or you work with anyone who has the budget?
Jacob: I wouldn’t say we work with anyone who has the budget, but we do work with a lot of different clients. We work with really well known enterprise level clients, and then we work also with really great clients that maybe just aren’t as well known. I don’t want to say we have a minimum budget or anything like that, but we do have a certain threshold where we like to be in terms of the level of effort and the value that we bring, and that’s how we look at things when we’re looking at prospective clients or when something comes across my desk. We try to think, how much value — what does this client need? How can we help them? How can we help them use their data? How can we help them build their capacity in terms of expanding their business? If the numbers line up for both sides, then we engage and we do business.
Sebastian: I see you guys have worked with a lot of big names over there. Is that what kind of inspired the birth of the podcast or was that something you’ve just always wanted to do?
Jacob: Oh yes. So, the podcast for me — I had been having kind of a creative itch for a while and I had just been thinking, I want to put out content in the space, but writing takes too long. And I’m a slow writer, slow reader, and I just don’t feel like I have the level of dedication that is necessary for that. However, I feel like the podcast allows me to quickly get my thoughts out about what’s going on in the industry, as well as, it helps me kind of scratch the creative itch of doing things like editing, audio, designing like a brand. I come from a background as a graphic designer and web designer so, building the podcast website and figuring all that stuff out gives me kind of an extra side hobby to do. I needed something to keep myself busy and that just felt like a good opportunity to both scratch that creative itch as well as put out content within the industry. Then, I think the other thing for me was that I didn’t want to come at it from the perspective of feeling like or projecting like I know everything that there is to know or that it’s just going to be a complete knowledge dump and I have all the knowledge and nobody else does. What I really thought was unique and what I still think is unique is that SEOs tend to come from all over the place. There’s nothing right now in terms of like traditional collegian education. There’s not really a great way for people to learn SEO, if they go to college in that way. So, because of that, folks that are coming into the industry and folks that have been in the industry for a while have had to find other ways to get into the industry and in many cases, they come from incredibly diverse backgrounds and almost accidentally get into SEO. My goal is to tell those stories over the course of time with as many SEOs as I can, and figure out what are the common commonalities and what are the really unique backgrounds. We’ve had some common backgrounds like journalism and then we’ve had very uncommon backgrounds like glass blowing or archaeological dig consultants in one case. So, a broad spectrum of experiences all landing in the SEO space which I find personally fascinating.
Sebastian: Yes that’s true over here too. Let’s switch to tactics now. As SEOs, we love to work with WordPress but if you had to pick what would you select as your next best alternative?
Jacob: In terms of platforms?
Jacob: Honestly, it depends on the type of website and the type of business you’re trying to do. If you’re a small business, WordPress works quite well. I’ve had a lot of experience with WordPress, but if you’re running a multimillion dollar business and you’ve got a lot of content editors, and you’re doing eCommerce, or there’s a lot of business flowing through your website, I would not recommend WordPress. I would recommend something a little bit more enterprise level that integrates with maybe your CRM. For example, and I’m not saying that this is the best platform, but this is a platform that we recently helped a client move to is Salesforce’s commerce cloud and they do a lot of eCommerce business and a lot of stuff that funnels within their company through Salesforce as their CRM so, it integrates quite nicely in that way. So, I think it just depends on the kind of business and how much business you’re doing. And it’s not to say that WordPress isn’t a big boy CMS because it’s used by most of the web. I think it’s the most broadly used CMS platform but I think that there are just some limitations if if you’re trying to integrate and do a lot of business with WordPress and that is coming from somebody who loves it and who’s been using WordPress for 14 years.
Sebastian: Well, if and when you have to conduct an audit, do you use a tool like Content King or Screaming Frog or do you have another proprietary method?
Jacob: I use a ton of tools and it depends on the audit. It depends on what you’re trying to look at. If you’re looking at technical SEO, for example, Screaming Frog is a great tool and I definitely use that, and it’s really great for ad hoc crawls. But if you’re crawling a really large site, Screaming Frog has a tendency to bog down so, in that case, I would use something like DeepCrawl to crawl an enterprise or a site with many more pages. But if I’m trying to get a quick crawl of a regular size site, Screaming Frog is great. If I’m looking at site speed, I like to use WebPageTest, GTmetrix is one of my favorites and Google Page Speed Insights. It just depends on what you’re looking at. If I’m doing a content audit, I really like Ahrefs is one of my favorite tools to really investigate content gaps and do ranking analysis. Honestly, Ahrefs is probably my favorite overall tool but really, it’s like you’ve got all of these tools in your belt and it depends on the job that you’re trying to get done and what you’re trying to look at. I don’t like to say I only use one tool or another because it really just depends on what I need to find so, I use whatever tool that is the best to find the information that I need to find in whatever I’m auditing.
Sebastian: You mentioned Ahrefs, do you also use them for keyword research or do you use another standalone tool like Keyword Revealer or KW Finder or anything like that?
Jacob: Yes. I primarily use Ahrefs for my keyword research. I know that there are other folks even within my company that use some different tools. I’m trying to think — gosh, I can’t even think of the name, there was one that came up the other day. I can’t think of it off the top of my head but yes, I know that other people use different tools. My favorite is Ahrefs personally.
Sebastian: Some SEOs use content writing optimization tools like Ryte or Clearscope. Do you guys play around with those as well or not really?
Jacob: I would say not really. Only because I personally think that those services are really great, but when I’m thinking about a content strategy, I kind of think about it in a different way. Once you identify the topic that you’re trying to rank for in search results, rather than trying to use a service to write the content for me, before I even do that, my first task is to understand one — is this something is this a situation where we need to update an existing piece of content, or do we feel like we need to create a net new piece of content. And no matter what, I think the best thing that you can do is go and look at the search result for the thing that you’re trying to rank for, and see who ranks there. Once you see who ranks there, once you understand what features are being triggered in the search result, document all of that, put it in a spreadsheet, get an understanding, and I hate to say word count, because it’s not really an important thing. But I do like to look at things like word counts in terms of looking at all of the results in say, the top 5 or 10 and get an understanding of the depth of how they’re covering a particular topic so that you don’t go to try to rank for this particular thing and write a 200 word article when everybody in the top 10 is 2,000 or 5,000 or whatever the case may be. And it’s really just to directionally understand the depth and how deep people are getting and then looking at, out of the out of the people that are ranking, what are they talking about? What sub topics are they all mentioning? Then from there, the way that I kind of inform the writing process is I work with the copywriter and we create a brief and we say, hey, for this topic, here’s what we saw in terms of the common trends out of the people that are already performing well — trying not to reinvent the wheel — and here’s where I think you should go because it’s not that I want to copy what other people are doing, it’s that I think that that is a baseline for like, this is the minimum threshold that we have to hit from a content standpoint, if we want to rank. Then from there, we have to figure out as a business, what is our unique value proposition? What is our unique perspective on whatever the topic is and how can we achieve a level of parity with the people that are already performing well and then take it one step further and make our content better than better theirs? That’s been incredibly successful for me and my clients as we kind of work through things. So, it’s not the typical fit, X amount of keywords into your content at certain amount of times. It’s more going further upstream and understanding what exactly do we have to do and in what depth? If you do that stuff right, mentioning the keywords in your content will just come naturally and it’s not something that you should really even have to think about after the fact.
Sebastian: Exactly. To wrap up the tactics section, do you feel that web hosting affects SEO and if so, do you have a preferred web host when it comes to SEO?
Jacob: Yeah, that’s a good a good question. I feel like it impacts SEO mostly with site speed. I’ve seen examples of where a client has set up their web hosting and things like load balancing, and it’s really been detrimental in terms of, however they set it up was so bad that their sites kept going up and down and they just weren’t reliable especially in high traffic times. Then I’ve seen other sites where they’ve got a really great web host and really great server response times and they have really great speed. I personally use GoDaddy, although sometimes I kind of hate GoDaddy. I’ve seen folks use WP Engine in a few other things, but really, I think about it in terms of reliability and uptime and its relation to speed. If those things are good, and not only that, if those things are good during peak times when you’re getting a lot of traffic, then that to me signifies this is a pretty reliable web host.
Sebastian: Do you read many marketing books or blogs in general or do you stick to podcasts or any other media?
Jacob: Yeah, I keep up with the news. Honestly, where I get most of my information is through Twitter. So, I’m constantly scanning through that and if I see an article that kind of piques my interest, whether it’s coming out of Google Webmaster Central or whether it’s like john Mueller created a certain video or Barry Schwartz reported on a certain story, that’s something that I tend to focus on. Surprisingly I don’t listen to that many marketing podcasts. As you can probably see behind me, I’ve got a bunch of gangster pop art stuff. So, when I listen to podcasts, it’s actually more like mob related history or documentaries, audio books and things like that with my free time surprisingly. The only reason I do that is because I’m in it, I’ve been in it all day, every day for 14 years and sometimes I feel like my brain just needs a little bit of a break and not being constantly saturated with articles or podcasts or whatever related to what I do day to day all the time, and then I also in my spare time, podcast about it so, sometimes I just need a break.
Sebastian: You mentioned Twitter, is that the best place for people to reach you or is it through like LinkedIn or Instagram or anything like that?
Jacob: Yeah, Twitter. If you want to have a conversation with me, Twitter, it’s just @JacobStoops, is a great place to reach me. If you want to connect on a more professional level, LinkedIn is a fine place as well. My personal website is JacobStoops.com. Then like I said before, I run a podcast, which is just Page2Podcast.fm. Not to be confused with Page2Podcast.com which somebody created after me. Probably six months after me, somehow we decided upon the same name or actually they decided upon the name that I had already taken, and me being an idiot, I didn’t have enough foresight to go and buy the domain in time and they won’t sell me the domain so I’m dealing with an imposter at the moment. So, it’s Page2Podcast.fm.
Sebastian: Bonus technical question if you’re up for it. If you had to find the meta data and the link data of say, a million URLs, how would you go about approaching that?
Jacob: Holy shit. It really depends. I think DeepCrawl would probably be the best way assuming they’re all from the same website. DeepCrawl would probably be the best way or maybe like Botify to crawl that many URLs. From a link analysis standpoint, a million URLs is probably a lot, but I really like Ahrefs batch analysis tool. It’s one of their more obscure tools but you can do a batch analysis and you can analyze at one time up to 200 URLs. When I’ve had more than that, I’ll just enter 200, export it, add 200 more, export it, and it’s a little bit of a manual process but when you’re trying to get that much link data, there aren’t a lot of tools that offer that batch analysis ability but Ahrefs does if you trust their data. I know that some people might think that they’re better sources for link data and I know that that’s up for debate, but I think for my purposes, if I’m trying to analyze that many URLs, I’m just looking for directional data.
Sebastian: Well, hey Jacob, thanks so much for your time. Really appreciate it man.
Jacob: Yes, thank you Sebastian.
Sebastian: Speak soon.
Jacob: Have a good one.