Linchpin SEO’s Bill Ross on successful vs. shady SEO practices

So glad you checked in today, because we are featuring our interview with Bill Ross, the self-described “Lead Linchpin” of Linchpin SEO.

As an SEO expert and internet marketer of some eight years, Bill has some words of wisdom for both copywriters and clients in terms of SEO, content creation and strategy, client education, and brand reputation management.

You’ve been in this SEO copywriting and content creation business for eight years now. How did you come to be the director of Linchpin SEO?

Back when I lived in North Carolina, I started Linchpin SEO with a good friend and one of the best programmers I know, Dan Therrien. We saw a need for a company that could provide small- and mid-market businesses with the level of digital marketing knowledge and value most large brands pay six figures for, while working within the small business’s budget.

We keep our team small, operate on a lean model, and resist the need to outsource – all this allows us to keep costs down and value high. Our team of Linchpins consist of myself, SEO geek; Dan, who handles all our programming; Doryan, our illustrator who designs many of our infographics; JJ, our web designer; and Ahna, who takes care of our social media strategy.

What would you say are the best strategies for adding value to website owners/clients?

Businesses should understand that high value content must be the core of their marketing campaigns. In traditional marketing, you wouldn’t produce a bad TV or radio spot and expect it to drive traffic to your business. So, it follows: if you write low value content, don’t expect it will perform any better.

With digital taking over, and with individuals consuming information so much differently than they once did, business owners must shift their mindset and think of content assets as the new radio and TV spots. If done well and targeted properly, a single piece of content can drive more traffic and conversions than most TV or radio spots.

Much like traditional advertising, where spots were bought based on Neilsen Demographics and Ratings, the digital value starts with understanding your target audience at a deeper level: as customer types or personas, in digital marketing terms.

Once primary personas are defined and understood, it becomes much easier to build valuable, relevant content assets that guide those core customers through their conversion journey.

To compete and gain market share in search results, and to build trust and authority with users, brands must create high-value content assets and essentially become publishers.

Astonishingly, most big brands don’t understand this concept. Small- and mid-market companies can excel in this knowledge gap, and take search share away from the big guys. We wrote a more inclusive post all about this topic, titled Brands Need To Become Publishers to Succeed .

What are the “shady tactics” of bad “SEO expert agencies” that business owners should know about & stay away from?

About a year ago, I wrote an article about the 12 most overrated SEO tactics that don’t work – a great resource for any small business when interviewing a new SEO company.

Outside the tactics listed there, business owners should understand the days of adding keywords to a page and ranking with little effort are far behind us. To be successful and “build a business” – to create high-value content assets and then market those assets in communities where your target customer interacts – takes time and resources.

Too many businesses think their traffic, rankings, and conversions will magically increase if they spend $99.99 for 1000 directory listings, buy links, or outsource their SEO and digital marketing to a company that promises them the world but charges next to nothing.

My advice would be to stop, think, and ask yourself: Would I be proud to show this tactic to someone at Google? Is this something my customers would find valuable? If you think a tactic could be shady, it probably is – but you can always give us a call if you want a second opinion.

What do you make of Google’s aggressive efforts to remove or devalue low-quality content from its SERPs?

As any business should strive to do, Google has always been proactive in creating valuable services for its user base.  Over the last three years, they’ve condemned many low-value content tactics with updates like May Day (against low value Q&A or Ecommerce websites), Panda (against thin or low-value content), and Penguin (against manipulative links and spam).

Google wants to provide value to its users; without value, those users would go somewhere else. Businesses must remember this. So, if a business tries to manipulate Google’s search results by taking on shady tactics that inhibit Google from providing value to its user base, don’t be surprised when that business gets penalized or banned.

Wil Reynolds of SEER Interactive says it well: “Real companies do ‘RCS (Real Company Shit).’”

If you do stuff real businesses do – sponsor events in your community, give back, build valuable content, go to networking events, etc. – you’re providing value and thus you will be valued. Not only that, when you do RCS and happen to get hit by an algorithm update (because Google’s not perfect), you’ll have hard evidence and a list of RCS in hand that you can use to legitimize your value.

What would you say constitutes the best possible SEO copywriting and content marketing agency/business owner profile?

The perfect content marketing agency understands that their job is to provide value to a website’s primary users as part of a holistic content strategy and SEO approach. Simply writing content that is “unique” or “quality” is no longer enough; the content itself must provide value to a website’s primary users.

The perfect agency also understands that SEO is not about adding keywords to a page; rather, it is a business strategy; inclusive of publishing, brand-building, marketing, conversion rate optimization, and traffic acquisition.

Laura, thank you again for giving me the opportunity to help your community with their questions. If any others come up, feel free to contact me on Twitter @billross or on Google Plus.

You’re most welcome, Bill! Thanks so much for your time and valuable info!


image thanks to Sean MacEntee


Want to know more about SEO copywriting & content marketing best practices? And make more money while honing your SEO copywriting skills? Check into Heather Lloyd’s SEO Copywriting Certification training today!

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