Erik Newton is the VP of Marketing at Milestone Inc. He is a growth marketing executive who takes a full-lifecycle view of customer acquisition, experience, and retention. Prior to Milestone, he was the VP of Growth Marketing at BrightEdge.
Early on in his career he spent 6 years in Japan and earned his MBA there and then started his career at Dentsu agency in Tokyo. Erik has worked in tech marketing for more than 20 years at Adobe, MP3.com, Netflix, and TiVo. He has published more than 175 blogs on SEO, is an accomplished speaker, and wrote a book called Hack the Corporate Fast Track.
Josh: What is up everybody, Josh Tapp here again and welcome back to the lucky Titan, today we're here with Erik Newton, he's the VP of Marketing at Milestone Inc. and this guy is here to rock the mic, I'm really excited today, because we're gonna be talking about building a community through SEO and he's going to be sharing something and this was something I was so excited when he posted this as as his topic was, why your business content is never going to go viral, hugely important topic, I think this is going to be a really big eye opening experience for a lot of you. So Erik, say what's up to everybody and we'll hop in.
Erik: What's up, Good to be here, Josh
Josh: Yeah, super excited to have you here. So Erik, I want to ask you, I honestly think we ought to just start off with that question, which is, you know, why why business content isn't going viral and I'm going to preface this by saying, every single person I work with in the business space is like, waiting for that posts to hit millions and millions of people when they have a following of 1000. You know, and it's hard to explain why it won't work, I like to hear your take on it.
Erik: Yeah, it's it's difficult to achieve but it's even more difficult for people in the b2b space for promoting a business solution but the most likely reason why your content won't go viral, particularly when it's coming from a sole proprietor or a business is because you're going to pitch yourself and your products, you're going to put your pitch into your content and that's not the best kind of content, the best kind of content is something that people that's authentic and emotionally engaging, that people are going to feel good about sharing with, with their audience. So those are the first two reasons and this is all part of the content conundrum and the content conundrum is that this is a very substantial research of over a billion URLs that found that 90 plus percent of all of those URLs had no audience from Google, which for the most part means they had almost no audience whatsoever. Google standard search, SEO and Google Local, if you exclude direct, which is a channel you can't really control, if you if you take that out of the equation, it's 67% of the the traffic that comes to a website comes via Google search in Google Local, and that's for a location based business for a b2b business, it's actually can be higher, because those b2b businesses are more information intensive, and they tend to have more long tail content that can get picked up and, and they tend to spend less on media, like if you don't spend millions of dollars on media, your your most of almost all of your current all of your traffic is coming from SEO, and SEO, local and referral and social in roughly in that order.
Josh: Right and I mean, that's so it's so awesome to see that because what most people don't realize is that they're putting up all of this content doing all this stuff, you know, maybe some people spending 10s of 1000s of dollars a month producing content, when they really shouldn't be focusing on that, like what you talked about is saying, hey, instead of making more content, bring more of an audience to the existing content that you have, is that correct?
Erik: That's right. That's right. It's it's definitely more satisfying there. In the HubSpot era of about five, six years ago, this model of jamming up the cadence to a week, three a week for a week of whether you're doing blogs or videos or podcasts, that if you produce more content, you have a bigger you have a bigger body of content, you have more chances in some ways, but it's somewhat exhausting. You know, as a producer, if whether you're the producer, the writer, the designer, it's it's a lot of work and what we'd really like is to create content that has a ready audience because it solves a problem if there's a need out there and we do our research either in the traditional way we do research by talking to customers and talking to prospects or we do research using online tools that give you an idea of what is the query volume for some of these for some of these queries, so that what we call the head terms, the mid the mid-terms, and the longtail terms and right creating that content is if we can, if we can take the content we have and you don't want to go into the oldest content like 10 year old content is probably going to be a problem but among your fresher content for the last couple of years, what can you do to make let's say you've got a 100 page blog and you've got 50 videos. In your case, you've got hundreds of podcasts, what can you do to make it come to life, well, let's talk about the podcast and I think you know, I think you're a good marketer, I think you probably do a lot of research so you could probably you could probably tell the audience. First of all, you're creating audio, and which is somewhat unusual among passive podcasters is you're creating video too so you've got two mediums, then you're going to create a text version, like you're going to you're going to promote something with with this, then you can do a still version where you do images that are good for social and the more you cover the asset types, the more opportunities you get in the Google SERPs because Google is sort of stratifying that SERPs in the search engine results pages where people see those results and they're putting video at the top and they're putting images at the top and they do a quick answer at the top. and then they do people also ask and if you can satisfy all that, here's one more that you might not be using yet, Josh, and that is to add FAQ's, right? What are people asking? What what questions Did I ask Erik? What what questions is Erik capable of answering because for Google, every search query is a question and every answer is one of the search results so when you do FAQ's in a robust way, like you think of 10 or 15, fa Q's to add to a page, Google looks at that, and it understands your page a little bit better. So you create FAQ, create a question, you create an answer and then you mark it up with something called schema markup, which is something milestone is expert at the schema markup gives Google all these indicators of where's the question starting stop, where's the answer and how do these questions interrelate, the links and so forth?
Josh: Right and that's the first off Thank you for those facts, I love that those are little hacks that people could use right now to to increase their SEO, and what I love what you're talking about. And I want to ask a follow up question with this, because you're saying that, basically, when you when you do a long form piece of content, or just say a blog, for all intents and purposes, if you were to put video, audio images, everything written content onto one post, would that increase the SEO are you saying that would detract from the SEO?
Erik: Yeah, that Google likes that Google understands these things as components so as the producer, you're producing four types, four asset types, but you're combining them and Google understands that these are things that are related that these are rich media assets, that are a great experience for people, and it knows which which of its users are using mobile phone watching video, and what speed connectors, what speed, bandwidth connection they have, and it'll it'll customize and promote those things so you're absolutely on the right track there, Josh, that the richer the media, the the richer the post, in terms of video images, original images are better than stock images, I know, as marketers, you know, it's it's easy to go download but if you could photograph these things, Google knows that that's an original image, it knows it hasn't seen it before and it knows that's a picture of a guy doing a podcast, that's a that's the podcast mechanics that's the marketing of the content conundrum and that's one of the reasons why infographics do really well, I don't know if you've ever noticed when you make an infographic, it's pretty easy to rank, because infographics are hard to make, you know, they take the take hours and hours of design and it's if for how we're all trained in school, it's a little bit easier to just write a piece that's about 1000 words, and that's a blog, but you want you do want to add everything you mentioned and infographics and you know what else is a is it is a trick, it's a little bit harder for people, they might need some support from an upward type programmer, is interactive content, like an ROI calculator and I made some ROI calculators five, six years ago, and I still rank first for those volumes, not really high, but you rank first and if you're walking, if you as a human, you're walking through a human based sales process, or let me pull up my ROI calculator. Oh, we rank first for that and SEO ROI calculator or FAQ, I do an FAQ estimated, like how much benefit could I get from adding a lot of FAQ's to a 200 page site so that's interactive, that's kind of at the more somewhat more extreme end of because you need a little bit of programming help usually to do that as a as a marketer.
Josh: Yeah, and that's, that's where I love, there's agencies like you guys, you know, milestone where, you know, you're there to help, I think it's called schema, you said, right schema?
Erik: yeah, that's right,
Josh: schema tagging everything, all those things are just so their next level are things that you really can't just sit down and do yourself, you're trying to produce your own content and I want to throw in a caviar here for a lot of you who are listening to this, because a lot of people when they enter the marketing game, especially as a digital entrepreneur, they feel like okay, I, I need to be everywhere but the one thing that I can say that wins out every single time is the SEO, it always wins and, you know, over your social media content, all these other things, it's well worth the time to just make a post like this, because you'll get consistent traffic, that's how we've grown our show, is through SEO.
Erik: That's great. Yeah, it's true. So as I said, before, the majority of the traffic as a channel the percent of traffic for almost all websites, and your audience can go and look in Google Analytics, and they can see this distribution by the percentages, I take out direct, but I account for SEO, and local and referral and you know, then you can see paid and all these things you've tagged up in there and SEO is gigantic. SEO is about 10 times bigger than social. If you're getting 5% of your traffic from social, you're doing pretty well. It's a lot of work to get fiber, you know, if you got, let's say you've got, you know, 5000 visitors a month and you know, if you're getting 250 300 400 500 people to click through, not just read your social content, that's great and then Google will be 10 times bigger than that and if you're local as a third of 67%, like 20, to 22 points of that traffic will be coming in on the local three pack and the map and so forth so it's really important for location based business people that have a physical location to go to Google My Business and fill out 25 28 different fields and then the other thing is consistency, this is an older tactic, but you want your name address in place your nap to be really consistent and if you're particularly rebranding, you don't want to confuse Google and you know, have have your name be cinematic with another company's name, and you want to differentiate it with like, milestone Inc, we updated that, you know, in years ago, and, and now that's the consistent way we're treating in local and then that connects to reviews and I don't know if your audience is in the reviews game but
Josh: most of them aren't but I used to be and I know definitely that's a that's a beast in and of itself
Erik: it's a lot of work. I'd rather work on SEO than reviews they're both important and they both in reviews supports SEO, but SEO is the master channel in which that traffic is going to be coming through to your website.
Josh: Well, and I do want to ask this because, you know, let's turn it on the digital entrepreneur, right and say, okay, they can't really use a map pack, right, they're not really I mean, yeah, good but it'd be kind of inefficient unless you found some really cool way to do it.
Erik: Sometimes for candidates, if you're different recruiting people come to the office and stuff, you might people need to know what the offices and needs to be done, it needs to be clear, but it's not going to drive customers and prospects in retail store.
Josh: Now, not in the same way as if it was a retail store so so as a digital entrepreneur, and I'm going to give you kind of this as as a digital entrepreneur who has a podcast as one of the forms of marketing, where would they start, when it came to SEO, how would they use the podcast and the SEO to actually grow their business?
Erik: Yeah. Okay, so the right place to start. So if we're going to build a building, we're going to start with the architecture and the engineering plan, right, we're going to the wiring the plumbing, the the foundation, we want this building to not fall down after we build three storeys of it so what does that mean? That means you get a good host and it's really fast that the pages load fast and that you build in, in, you know, what we're recommending is you build in schema markups, you build in a navigation and a digital experience and you're very careful and you think about mobile, it's really easy for us when we work at desks to look at our world in from the desktop or the laptop but do you check your site on mobile Josh? Do you go in? And do you go in and see how's it going and how's it loaded?
Josh: never I don't touch that at all?
Erik: Yeah, mobile is Google's preferred platform so if you're really good on desktop, and really bad on mobile, you're going to get penalized, essentially, or you get rewarded for being good on mobile. So get your mobile experience, right, get your speed, right, um, Josh, you know, on on a mobile page, when the content moves around a little bit like something like a pop up, or even though it's part of the website, it's not necessarily an ad, and you go to touch it, and you touch the wrong thing, and it loads the wrong thing, that's called content layout shift and Google is now penalizing that because it's a crappy user experience and it doesn't want remember, Google is referring its friends and its its users to you and if your site, if they're bouncing back and having a crappy experience, then Google doesn't want to send you more traffic so where do we start with SEO, have a have a great digital experience and Google doesn't want you to get too deep into this technique or that technique because those the algorithm updates and changes every three or four months, and create the right digital experience, good content, helpful content, its content that answers questions, that is questions and answers, it loves that it loves rich media, put all those things together and make it optimize to perform really, really fast on mobile and that's the right place to start, now, once you lay that foundation, because you're you know, you're if you're using a contractor, if you're a small company, if you're using an agency, milestone has a CMS platform, that's SEO first so we built this platform, because the 10 years ago, because the market didn't offer all of this SEO built in. So we built it for us and then we realized, well, other people would like to use this even if they're not using all of our our whole suite of services. So then on top of that, then you create this kind of content that is helpful and relevant and useful and there's a there's an acronym in SEO that I don't know if you're familiar with Josh is called eat EAT expertise, authority and trust. So if you are a PhD, make sure that's on your website. If you've got a if you're an MD, whatever you're you know, if you're selling supplements, and you know you have some authority and you've done research, you want to show that because Google cares a lot about veracity and accuracy and truth and value so your authority your expertise come could come from your education or your work, experience and you want to feature your thought leaders on your executive page and, and I've done that if you looked at our website, I've done that by most of our executives have the speaker page on which we showcase what they talk about what they know what they've done on from podcast to, to speaking in live events. That's expertise authority is that you have a body of knowledge that you have enough that it's not some kind of just, it's not just like a one off or a two off blog post that you really are deep on this topic that you talk about, we talk about SEO a lot, we talk about local a lot, we talk about social a lot. So Google shows us Google believes we have that authority and then trust is this traditional Google metric of like, what is the community think of you in terms of reviews and backlinks, and you want other people link to you but you don't want to game that system, either Google, Google hates that so what you want to do is just do everything right, create a good, fast user experience with great helpful content, like you're creating, hopefully, right now, Josh, hopefully this is a piece that the audience and Google both like,
Josh: I say, well, we'll see how well it ranks right and one of the things that stood out to me and so what you're saying is like you can basically use, I mean, your goal is to just answer questions that are being asked and that's the whole point of search raise is just bring those questions and if the content is doing that, then I mean, Google's going to rank you and what I love about your strategy is you're not using these gray hat black hat tactics, however, trying to just game the system, because every time somebody does that it's short lived, because Google's job is to make their algorithms so good that you can't use your strategy, we're trying to give the best results. So just be the best result, I've never understood why people try to game that.
Erik: Yeah, they're there years ago that you could get some serious games that would hold for months or quarters and now with artificial intelligence and machine learning Google is Google is understanding the context and the content and Google knows which is the better piece Google knows which one's better written, google knows which one's better laid out, google knows which navigation is better so it's getting more and more human like so you're right, this and that's what Google wants, they don't want to most of these algo changes, they don't telegraph to us, they did telegraph a couple of the big ones like mobile first, and this PageSpeed and this experience, they gave us the metrics and said this is coming in about six or nine months get get ready and what we saw at milestone is that two or three months before the change date for this page experience and speed, only 5% of websites and pages were qualifying and then we retested and now it's 21%, about two months after this change, 21% of the sites are good, fast and stable and in providing that good experience.
Josh: Yeah, and it's good to see the market shift that way for sure but it's it's Yeah, that's those other 80% who are sitting here going, why isn't my site working, you know,
Erik: what, have you gone to your site on mobile and seeing that it takes 12 seconds to load? Yeah, nobody likes that. Yeah,
Josh: especially me. I love that. Well, and so let me ask you this, Erik, because you know, we are coming up to the end of the interview here but but where where would you send people if you want, if they want it to start leveraging good contact, where should they go and search you and your content?
Erik: Well, they can, if they're interested in my book, and some of my personal ideas, they can go to Amazon and look for hack the corporate fast track. If they're interested in schema markup and FAQ manager, they can go to milestoneinternet.com and look at the product section and I put a lot of resources up I've done a lot of research as I've since I've joined milestone, 18 months ago, I've published nine research reports that have some of these the data that we're discussing some of the benchmarks, and it helps, in particular, for companies where you've got to make the case to an owner or an executive that like this isn't a good opportunity for us so those resources, and I think for me as a data person, as an analytical person, seeing a statistic like 90% of content doesn't have an audience from Google, or 80% or 79% of these web pages are not really providing the right experience, it helps give you the the the wherewithal to go and fix those problems for your users.
Josh: Yeah, I completely agree. So what's the name of the book again,
Erik: hack the corporate fast track,
Josh: perfect! so make sure you go check that out or go to milestoneinternet.com, Is that correct?
Erik: That's right.
Josh: Make sure you guys go check that out because honestly, if you're needing help with that kind of content, getting like said schema, schema mapping, I can never remember how to say that markup
Erik: schema markup
Josh: Schema markup, thank you but you'll be able to go check it out over at milestoneinternet.com. So, Erik, just to wrap up the interview with one little bow. If you could give us one final parting piece of guidance. What would it be?
Erik: Something that took me a long, long time and a couple decades into my career is empathy is it Is, what does empathy mean and I train young people, I say, the sooner you can understand this in your life and in your career, the more it's going to help you advance and deal with all kinds of relationships from your boss to your personal relationships with family, and, and empathy. What it means is that you care about the other person, and you care about what the other person needs and wants and you align what solution what you give to the world, you align it to them after you understand them and rather than just coming, like I do all these things, like if I just started with schema markup, without giving you and the audience for context, it's kind of like, it's code. You know, it sounds it's kind of kind of a bummer but like, you tell me about the audience. You know, I listened to some of your other podcasts, and I got, I got a feel for your style and I bring a story to you that I think supports what you're doing and as we're talking, you're like, you're good at SEO, but I see an opportunity to give you another idea and I saw you write some of those things down and that's being empathetic and as a marketer, and all businesses marketing, sales is marketing, marketing as sales, it's the same thing in a small, medium and large business that we're, we're appealing to customers to come do business with us or stay with us or buy more from us and to do that people have to know that you care about them and it's it's not an easy thing to teach, it's not an easy thing to package, but ask yourself, what's the right thing to do for the customer and this is something you know, we're pushing here and milestone in my group right now. Just like, Don't Don't worry about the politics of any of this stuff, just what's the right thing to do for the customer, what would make them the happiest, That's a good answer.