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The Ultimate Guide to Plan and Execute SEO Projects

An Interview with Adam Chronister

Welcome to E-Coffee with Experts, an interview series where we discuss all things online marketing with the best minds in the business.

In this episode, Dawood catches up with the brilliant Adam Chronister, Founder Enleaf.

Adam shares his journey into the world of digital marketing, the work he does for Liberian orphans, and then shares in-depth knowledge about the SEO process he swears by and follows it up with tips and hacks to effectively use the SEO tools available in the market and more.

Read this insightful conversation and stay tuned for the next steaming cup of E-Coffee.

Our process is trying to keep any kind of content as alive as possible for as long as possible. So the more we can refactor that content and distribute it across multiple channels, the longer it’s gonna be out there.

Adam Chronister, Founder
ENLEAF
Hello everyone, how's it going? Today we have with us, Adam Chronister from Enleaf. Hi, Adam. How are you?

Thanks for the invite. Happy to talk shop. I know we’re in a weird time in the world right now. And business and marketing is in the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Well, I think the viewers will have a lot to learn from you. And I agree, these are tough times. We'll come to that as well, how you are, how you are holding the ship and handling your clients during these times. But before we actually dive deep into it, why don't you start by introducing yourself and what you do?

As mentioned, my name is Adam Chronister, I’m the lead operator for Enleaf.com. We’re a digital marketing agency, kind of a full stack agency, focusing on everything from website development and design to search engine optimization and pay per click marketing. So everything in the realm of getting your business started to actually promote it is really within the realm of what we focus on.

We have a pretty broad customer base in very differing industries. We’ve done B2B, B2C, small to mid size all the way up to enterprise level clients. So we’ve done it all. I would say our sweet spot is probably the smaller mid sized businesses though. Those are the ones that we really go after. We help come alongside and really partner with them. So that’s kind of our sweet spot if you look at it.

You also handle the digital marketing at Stay Alfred. Tell us about the platform because what do you do that sounds fun?

Yeah. So in addition to the agency side, I also oversee digital marketing for Stay Alfred. Now, Stay Alfred is in the hospitality space. They operate vacation rental units all across the domestic US. For the last three plus years, I’ve overseen much of their digital marketing strategy as well. I’m taking them from a much smaller market share than they are now to, pretty healthy growth. Much of that is in the organic space. In addition to our clients, I would say one of the areas that we focus on is travel, it’s not only a personal passion of mine, but being involved in businesses in that space has been very enjoyable. And they’re one of few clients that we work with throughout the years in the travel space.

I love traveling. And I think that is one thing, which is facing a major hit during these times.

Market in general is definitely going through some challenging times. And so it’s certainly one of the hardest hit. So there’s a lot of adaptation that businesses in that sector are really having to take hold of.

You started your career as a software developer, and then transitioned to digital marketing, how was the transition and how did it happen?

As you mentioned, my background is in software development. I came out of school with an intent of doing software development. I learned really early on that I wasn’t made for coding or just didn’t have the interest. I love everything around the whole realm of development and I’m still pretty heavily involved with everything we do on the website front. But doing the day to day code, I realized quickly, it wasn’t something that I wanted to do long term, I would rather let other more senior developers focus on that.

So at the time out of college I was working for an agency, where I started as a project manager and then quickly jumped into the marketing aspect of their services or their industry because they really had no marketing representation and around this time Twitter and other platforms were just starting to get a wider adoption. I went to my employer at that time, asked them if I could head up their marketing and they said, “Well, no one else is doing it. so sure.” And I’ve been doing it ever since. So that’s kind of how I adapted it. It really was just kind of a pull and an interest and realization that I really liked the digital marketing aspect more than the development. But still, having that background has been very helpful the last number of years, as there seems to be a somewhat of a disconnect with a lot of marketers on the technical know how so that’s always been a benefit, I think.

Absolutely. I understand. I have an engineering background but I lasted in development as a coder just for eight months but the knowledge definitely helps in marketing, so I completely agree. Adam, also, you are a part of an amazing orphanage MOWCF, which provides opportunities to Liberian orphans, widows and children. Share more information about it.

Yeah. So about three or four years ago, my wife and I and a small team here locally, through a strange series of circumstances, got in contact with an individual in Liberia. And he expressed his need and interest in eventually starting an orphanage. And at the time, the thought came to me that while I don’t know a lot about starting an orphanage or about how to start a nonprofit at the time, I did know how to do marketing. So I said, “well, the least I can do is put a website up and do some marketing.” And that’s really how it started. I had the talent as far as marketing and promotion was concerned. And that really eventually, over the years, bloomed into a non government organization over in Liberia. We have a 501 (C) 3 here in the States. And we’ve been supporting four orphans under our care. We just completed the construction of a building. So until this point, we had been essentially renting the safe house facility. So we’ve just completed that and hopefully that will open up opportunities to take in more kids in the future.

Let's dive into marketing now. So, you know, the first question I would ask would be, how does your SEO process look like?

Often, we’re gonna start out with clients trying to understand essentially what their needs are. That seems to be the very first point, understanding what their expectations are, what their real objectives are, because surprisingly, many clients have different goals and objectives. You would think that most clients want solely just leads and that is a that’s often the case, but it’s not always the case. Some clients are really more interested in larger exposure, maybe, maybe their KPIs or phone calls over traffic, or vice versa. So we try to understand what their big picture objectives are.
Once we’ve defined that and understood the business a little bit more, typically the first step is going to be an in depth audit. Some competitor analysis, understanding the kind of the landscape as it relates to their keywords, figuring out what can be done, and also making sure that we have the right strategy.

While we really do like SEO and pay per click marketing, there are some businesses where you may not want to lead with SEO or PPC, or maybe you want a mixed approach.

So also understanding what strategy or combination of strategies are going to be most advantageous to the client is going to be important. Once we’re done with the audit, competitive analysis and keyword research, then we typically have a baseline offering that we offer and this varies. It has some flexibility depending on the client, their scope, how quickly they really want to see results. And it’s three tiered so we’re going to be looking at link building, link acquisition and often depending on the business, we might do a set of local citations or directory submissions. Then we do a lot of link acquisitions through third party, blog partners or affiliate sites.

The second part of our package or offering is the on page technical SEO. So making sure that page structure is intact and healthy, making sure that metadata is filled out appropriately and well researched and then the last piece is content certification. So often we’ll create a content supplication strategy. Sometimes this will come in the form of supplemental blog posts for the client. Other times it might be monthly page content or product descriptions. It really depends but we like to supplement content where we can because you know that that also is a piece that moves the needle expanding that page count.

You also play with a lot of tools. What are your go to tools that you always carry in your SEO kit bag?

Yeah, depends on what we’re doing. For audits, I really like Screaming Frog. That’s probably the tool I’ve had in my toolbox the longest. We have essentially a customized audit template. As with much of our processes, we have customized templates that we pull data into, but I would say the majority of our audits come out of Screaming Frog, but we do pull elements out of SEMrush as well. As far as day to day tools, I would say probably my go to tool is SEMrush for reporting, day to day analysis. And then for keyword research, I would say probably my favorite right now is Ahrefs.

There’s a lot of crossover between SEMrush and Ahrefs. But it’s funny, I find myself getting used to different aspects of each tool just because I don’t either don’t want to learn it from the other tool or maybe I like the user interface on one tool versus the other. So I find I pick and choose different aspects depending on what I’m doing and my kind of comfortability with the user interface. And then the other tool I haven’t mentioned is Page optimizer Pro. So we’ve been using that for a lot of the content optimization side of things. So we use that quite a bit as well.

When you are planning your on-page and the content audit, you said that you would also have a look at the cost competitors and see what they are doing. But when it comes to planning the content of the page, how do you decide, what content will go on the page? What elements to include? Will you compare for that particular keyword, the top 10 pages and then plan the content? How would you plan the content of that page?

So typically, what we’ll do is in our setup phase, we’ll do the initial keyword research, and we often identify a set of terms that are going to really match for each of the primary pages on the website.

We let a lot of that keyword research and competitive analysis drive the strategy.

So at least we know the focal points. And then once we actually get going with our monthly cadence, that’s where we build out the content based on that topical focus. So it would start with the keyword research often with ahrefs. And then build almost like a sitemap to keywords and strategies. So you have a primary and then some LSI, or a synonym related term. And then we’ll use that as the baseline. And then each month depending on our cadence, we’ll start building content around that. So we know of where we’re at in our roadmap. And that’s where things like Page optimizer Pro comes into play. Obviously, we can write a piece of content knowing what the keywords are, being able to pull the competitors that are ranking for those terms, but that tool allows us to kind of analyze the content that we create, making sure that once we either add it or update it to the site in question, we’re going to have a better chance of ranking for the desired terms.

Adam, tell us about your search. Engine spider simulator tool and what does it do?

Yeah, yeah, so we have a couple different tools that we’ve created. And that’s one of them. None of the tools are, I would say are groundbreaking. But there are a lot of the tools that we found ourselves using. And some of them we’ve built based off of existing micro tools in the market, but maybe added our own little spin to it. So the search engine spider simulator doesn’t exactly simulate a search spider.

What it does is it pulls out and lets you analyze a website purely from the textual content aspect. And this is one thing that a lot of clients misunderstand. They can have a really beautiful looking site, a lot of nice aesthetics. But the search engines ignore a lot of that.

Of course, you have things like alt tags That will tell you what an image is.

But if you have a page that is maybe aesthetically pleasing, but it has very little copy, that’s less context for the search engines to use when determining how to rank a page. So we built this tool, really as an exercise not only for our team, but also for our clients to say,” Look, this is exactly what the search engines see, they see all these words, they really don’t see much of the imagery.” It helps us to communicate to them why we may recommend expanding page copy, or why we may recommend building out a different page layout. So that’s the primary focus with that tool is it really helps us hone in on that type of conversation.

Coming to the link building side of SEO, once you have the right structure, the right content in place. How do you plan the link building?

Yeah, so the link building is similar to our initial setup, a lot of what we look at as far as link building is we’ll look at the competitive landscape.

We’ll try to figure out who the competitors are that we hope to compete with and we’ll look at and analyze their backlinking scenario, and figure out how we can replicate that.

And that’s the biggest thing with the search engines, even though the algorithms change constantly, the one thing that is always going to be there is the ability to analyze what’s there, whether it’s pages that are ranking, figuring out your top 10 competitors, what the average word count is, what the average keyword usages, what the average number of links or anchor specific links are. So we look a lot at the competition to help plan that out, making sure that if we’re building links that have keyword anchor, anchor tags in them, that we’re not overdoing it, making sure that the ratios are similar to other sites that we’re competing against. So really, it’s a lot of competitor analysis. And then also just starting to run the link building programs and analyzing them from there. Most of what we build, we build in so that we can make changes if needed, so often we’ll control a lot of the link properties or at least the ability to remove or change those later on. It’s obviously not always the case.

Right? Right. What is your take on link building or getting links from very low DA sites because a lot of outreach companies out there define their starting packages from DA 10 to DA 20. What is your take on those DA links?

You know, it’s funny, you should ask because we had a client ask us about this because one of the metrics that we do add in our link building is domain authority score to give clients that are not in the SEO industry, at least some baseline.

We have a multi tier link package. So some of the links are higher value, and we obviously do less of those because there’s more work to set up and then there’s those that are lower value, at least as far as what we’re being reimbursed for from a client side. So a situation came up where we had some saved directory or social bookmarking sites that had a higher Domain Authority than the premium links that we’re offering. And the client asked a relevant question as to why are these considered premium links when they have lesser domain authority.

And we had to backtrack a little bit and explain that domain authority is really just one metric.It’s not even technically a metric that Google uses. It gives a rough idea to give you one data point. But what we look at when we’re looking at links is not just domain authority, there’s been opportunities for us to garner links that have high domain authority. But when we go and look at their traffic, we see that their traffic is either minimal or it’s quickly declining. And so that would not be a good site to get a link from despite the domain authority. So we look at traffic as one of the factors as to whether we want a particular link. We do look at domain authority. We look at sometimes social signals. Sometimes we’ll even look at the branding of the website to figure out if this is a site that somebody threw up and it’s just a PBN, or a link wheel type site? Or is this an actively managed property that actually has some work put into it? So we take all those things into consideration as quality because there’s a good chance that Google is also looking at a lot of these factors, not just a central score, such as domain authority.

I think more manual investment of time is needed when you're planning links, because not only the metrics, it's easy to analyze all metrics like traffic, TA, DA. Again, those are just metrics, you need to actually have a look. decide to see whether actually, your client, would want to be associated with that site. And what does it cater to. Would you agree?

Yeah. For any of those partnerships that we look, we tap into, we do actually study everything, even up to the design of the website. So that goes into play as well.

Adam, have you implemented CRO while doing SEO?

There’s a couple different tactics that we like to implement. There’s various heat map tools. Google has a plugin that ties into Google Analytics, that’s really helpful. That helps us see some heat mapping. We’ve used tools like hot jar, attention wizard and others and so those can be really beneficial to help analyze conversion rate optimization.

We also do a lot of click through rate auditing. So one of the tools that we use for this is primarily Google Search Console.

And from there, we’ll pull a report of the terms that our website is being fetched for.

So essentially, the impressions our website is getting and we can look at pages or terms that get a high impression count, but very low click through rate. And usually that’s an identifier that hints at an opportunity here that’s being missed.
People are seeing the website come up in the SERPs, but for some reason, they’re not clicking through.

The very first part of the conversion rate is getting people to the website. So we start there with click through rate optimization, and then from there really work on the page analysis to really analyze where people are going.

Google Analytics has some good visual data as their flow data as well, which helps analyze where people are going once they hit a primary landing page. So those are really all different combinations of elements and aspects we use for CRO. But they can vary depending on the client, the type of site, whether it’s an e commerce site or just a standard service practice. So a lot of that goes into play and is very specific to the scenario.

Right. Adam, how do you plan structure and promote your blog for traffic?

So with a lot of the clients that we’re working with, if we’re building out blog posts for them, usually what we like to do is use every Arsenal that we have. So everything from social media promotion, making sure that we’re taking a blog post, maybe refactoring it for a social platform. So if it’s a Twitter post we might take a snippet from a blog and put it on that platform. Depending on which industry you’re in, there’s a lot of other third party aggregators. For example, whenever we do a blog for our own personal brand we’ll leverage sites like growth hackers and others where we can syndicate that post across another channel and get referral content back to it.

The biggest thing that we’d like to do with any content that we’re creating, whether it’s us or clients is to try to repurpose the content as much as possible.

So for instance, We just got done doing a webinar for SE ranking. And then of course put it into a video platform. They promoted it on their channel, we, of course, promoted it on our channel, but then we wrote a press release, and we’re pushing that out. We’ve taken portions of that, and then turned them into small snippets for Instagram and Twitter.

And so our process is trying to keep any kind of content as alive as possible for as long as possible. So the more we can refactor that content and distribute it across multiple channels, the longer it’s gonna it’s going to be out there.

We do also like to use social signals as well as of course backlinks to boost blog posts. So that seems to be one of the things that is helpful, even though social signals are still kind of a debated aspect of whether or not it relates to traffic. seem to see an impact. We’ve done a couple studies where we see, at least in the short term, it tends to give content a boost. How long that sticks, if you stop those signals is a little bit debatable. It seems like it does degrade over time. But we can get stuff boosted fairly quickly, at least from our test by implementing some social signals into post.

Also, trying to rank for rich answers has a lot of value. How would you strategize for it?

Yeah, it’s such a broad topic, it kind of depends. The quick and easy answer is make sure that you have schema markup on your page
There’s most people that are not in the digital marketing space or outside of the SEO space specifically that don’t even understand that. That schema markup and rich snippets is a thing. Now they’ve seen them on Google and stuff. They’ve seen Rich Snippets for recipes, and, the movie times and all that stuff. But if you ask the average person, even maybe a marketer, that’s not specifically an SEO, you know how that comes to be, most of them don’t even know. So, honestly, most customers benefit just by implementing that into their website.

Luckily, content management systems like WordPress and others are starting to implement some fairly easy tools that do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. Although even with those tools, sometimes they fall short of how much you can pull out. So we will implement a lot of done for you plugins in some cases, but in some cases, we’ll actually go through and work to actually manually add schema to website sites because we’ll get a little bit more extra input from it. And then of course, sometimes you just get it naturally. Whether it’s for your brand or a blog post, creating content that’s really readable, relevant, making sure that you are answering the query quickly at the beginning, that’s going to help.

So whenever we create content, we have a particular structure that we look at. Often we like to tell people right from the beginning, what we’re going to tell them, you know, preferably in bullet points or some other structure and then go into the meat and then reiterate it. So even structuring your content in a particular way, without specifically implementing schema can sometimes make sure that you show up in those verticals, when there’s not a lot of competition.

Adam, even though this sounds simple, a lot of people get it wrong.When you are pushing a new website live. How do you ensure there's no loss of earlier SEO value?

Yeah, this is a big issue. I was literally on a call with somebody yesterday. And they’re launching a new website. And she has a web firm that is handling the website, but also claiming to do SEO. And my first question to her was, “Has the agency that you’re working with addressed anything as far as URL redirection or any of that stuff is concerned.” And she says, “not really and that’s what I’m concerned about.”
I said, “Well, one of the biggest things I see all the time is people launching a new site, getting really excited about it, and then seeing their traffic just fall to the floor.” It’s because a lot of people don’t understand that If you switch from one content management system to another, almost inevitably your URL structure is going to change. Even if you’re in the same content management system, you’re going to probably see some URL structure changes.
And so it’s really important whenever you’re making major updates or relaunching a website, that you have somebody on your side that can help you navigate that.

I would say that’s one of the aspects where the typical client is going to have some challenge. And even developers often don’t understand. They may be able to understand the technical side, but understanding the need for it is often lost on most developers. They have a technical SEO person explain why it’s important. So a lot of times when in those kinds of scenarios, we’ll take an inventory of a URL structure of a whole site before and then have a redirection map on the back end, making sure that we’re properly redirecting all the URLs to the new landing page. And I’ll give you an example, So let’s say that you have an About Us page and the URL is: website.com/about-us and in the new site, it’s website. com/aboutsus. There’s not only pages that are indexed in the search engines with the legacy URL but there’s things like bookmarks or links. So all of that gets obfuscated whenever you break that link unless you tell the search engines that, hey, this is the new home. So if you go to the old URL, go ahead and redirect that to the new URL. And so that’s a typical process called 301 redirection. That’s one of the biggest things we do when it comes to helping clients navigate either new or updated website structure.

Also Adam for a business with multiple locations, how do you plan locations specific pages, while ensuring you're not creating doorway pages or spammy pages?

You know, it’s interesting because there are certain tactics that are out there that are considered doorway pages. And while Google typically frowns on those, the reality is, there’re so many of them still out there, and a lot of them really do still work. And so, if you have two or three locations, it’s not a lot of work to just create a custom page for that. So that’s not really a scenario. If you have a couple locations, you’re just essentially making a couple of different landing pages with some different verbiage. But there’s other clients that we worked with that wanted representation all across, the domestic US or maybe across a certain state. And we’ve run tests where we’ve essentially used the baseline of content and made changes to it slightly, updating the location, maybe a little bit of verbiage but 90% of the content is actually redundant or repetitive. even

So you have to ask yourself as a business operator or as a support to a company you have to know what the risks are, but you also have to know what the rewards are. And God forbid you ever have a situation where your website gets say penalised or gets deemed. The upside is websites are dynamic. And so you can always make changes later on. But yeah, we typically will implement different activities based on the client. But we’re not opposed to creating template landing pages where there’s a lot of territory that needs to be taken advantage of.

What is the biggest challenge you have come across in your SEO career?

I think the biggest challenge is with SEO in general is helping clients understand that SEO is a long term play. Most businesses have heard of SEO, they generally know what it is but they don’t understand that there’s a large maturation period. Meaning that what you do today, you may not see an impact for two to three months. However, it’s compounding and so the longer you typically stick with it, usually the better results you’re going to have. So that’s the hardest sell, I think that we have been telling clients that they’re not going to see results likely for a couple months. But if they stick it through they’re going to see a benefit. We’ve been doing a lot of supplemental packages where we’re working in pay per click marketing with SEO, specifically for that purpose. It allows the clients to see some quick results from the pay per click side while we get the search engine optimization up and running. I would say probably some of the best case studies that we’ve had have been those clients that have been with us for the long haul, like two years. Usually after you get to that 12 year mark, or the 12 month mark, that’s when the light bulb goes on. And clients are like, “Oh my gosh!” But getting people to that point can sometimes be challenging because it takes a lot of patience and a lot of trust, that you know, the money being invested is not going to waste.

Also,from my experience, what I've realized is in SEO, like you said, the actual game is to keep the client till the crowd once. What I have realized also is it's the way you're actually selling on day one, and laying down the expectations, if you're able to actually show that roadmap of 12 months now and explain to the client that this is what you have to expect and the time you need to invest. You know, then he is the ideal client for you. Now this goes back to our earlier discussion where you said, “First, I need to sit down with the client and see whether actually SEO is the solution PPC is the solution, or do I have to do a mix? “ Right?

Yeah, we do set the expectations up front. But the other thing that we do, I think, above and beyond a lot of SEO agencies is we do pretty extensive reporting. So obviously, SEO always requires reporting. But we find a lot of agencies really are just doing essentially data dump, they’re exporting something out of a toolset. Maybe automating it, they’re not not even looking at it. Every month, we put together a custom, handwritten overview of what we’re doing. And linked to that is an embedded custom report in Google Data Studio. So every client that we have has a customized report that;s pulling data data from multiple sources. So it might be pulling data from usually at least Google Analytics and Google Search Console. If they’re doing AdWords, we’re gonna be pulling in data from that, if they’re local, we’ll be pulling in data from that. Soon here, we’re probably gonna be, starting to pull in social information as well as we have some partners in that space. So all of our clients, whether they look at their reports or not, and trust me, some of them don’t, the ones that do at least get a sense of what’s happening and and why, there’s there’s never a lapse of not knowing what’s happening on their account, which I think helps helps them understand that the money isn’t just being, you know, wasted or put into a black hole somewhere.

Also, Adam, you know the situation right now. A lot of clients are pausing campaigns. Talking from the agency side business is getting hit? What has your experience been during these times? And you know, how should agencies go about it?

As far as we’ve seen our agency, we’ve seen an uptake. And that is refreshing.because at the beginning of this nobody knew what to expect? A lot of businesses are realising their need to be more online centric. So people are opening up to the idea of PPC, SEO or putting out website properties. So whi;e business has picked up, few have paused campaigns, so it’s a balance.

As we analyse the clients reports in month end, we’ve seen an avg 20% dip in traffic. So that can be challenging. So we are telling the clients to keep their heads up and that we are here to help them. And we can make or pivot any changes required in the short term. We’ve been extremely reactive in helping clients whose business models have not necessarily worked in being restricted to a single location.
Being flexible, whether you are in marketing business or general will help to come out of this. Now is the time to push back on hard sales. And try being there for them.

I agree, Now is the time to show your true character to your clients. I believe a good salesman is when the client can leave you all alone with his house open. Adam, thank you so much for your time.

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