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SMB : Unlocking growth

An Interview with Craig Doty

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

In this episode, Dawood is in conversation with Craig Doty, Owner of Grappler Media.

Craig shares his thoughts on the importance of press releases as a part of SEO strategy for SMBs. He also speaks about lead generation, link building, and video marketing and how one can leverage it.

Craig also shares his thoughts on Reputation Marketing and shares ways to tie it into your marketing strategy and make it more impactful. He also shares his tips and tricks on ranking rich answers on search engines and remarketing strategies for Adwords.

Lastly, he shares the importance of Google My Business for all the SMBs and how it will boost up their ranking and traffic on their website.

Tune into this insightful conversation and stay tuned for the next cup of E -coffee with Experts!

Get your Google My Business claimed and fully optimized. It’s free and it can generate a huge amount of traffic to your website.

Craig Doty
Owner at Grappler Media
SEO & Lead Generation
Hello everyone. Today, we have with us Craig Doty, Owner, Grappler Media. Thank you so much, Craig, for taking out time. Apart from Grappler Media, you are doing some interesting stuff. So, we really want to know more about it. But, before we dive deep into lead generation and how SMBs can do it, it would be great if you could introduce yourself and what your company does.

Sure. I am Craig Doty. My company is Grappler Media. I got interested in the whole digital marketing field about 12 years ago. I dabbled in SEO and Social media and couldn’t get enough of it. Eventually, a few years ago, I started up my own agency. I’ve been helping small businesses to develop a better presence online.

Perfect. SMB lead generation is something you have been doing for quite a long time now. Our main focus would be around SMB marketing today. So, how have you seen marketing evolve for SMB, especially since the pandemic?

I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily evolved much. But, a lot more businesses have realized how important it is to have an online presence. Even though it’s 2021, there are still many companies dragging their feet and really didn’t go all-in on being online. I think they suffered the most, and unfortunately, a lot of them did go out of business. The evolution now is really just that the competition has grown immensely in a short period of time. Many people have come online in the past year. It’s crazy.

Right. What according to you is the best lead-gen strategy for an SMB?

That’s really tough. There are so many different kinds of businesses out there, you know, B2C and B2B. We take every business on an individual basis and try to hone in on a strategy that’s going to work the best for their business type. I’m a firm believer in omnichannel marketing, trying to be everywhere. So no matter where your customers or clients are searching, they’re going to stumble upon you.

What are your thoughts on chatbots?

Oh, don’t get me started on chatbots. I am over the moon with chatbots because it’s really grown. I think the statistic is that chatbot usage saw an increase of 92% over the last two years. A very few guys in marketing know that chatbots have been around for a while. We might think of them as old hats already, but it’s really a burgeoning industry. Consumers seem to love chatbots. If chatbots are done right, you can get great engagement. People will actually interact with the chatbot and give up more information than they would to an actual human, or if they had to fill out a form.

We make the chatbots very conversational. We make them fun, put little jokes, and little gifs in there. Certain industries, like real estate, have had great results with chatbots because people tend to fill out that information, though. How much is your house worth? How much do you have to spend and stuff that they might be a little more guarded? The chatbot just goads them into it or gives them a button to click, which is very easy. One-click email, one-click phone number, and you’re able to capture all that information as well. So the chatbots industry is just getting started, and you’re going to see chatbots everywhere in no time.

Absolutely, there's a lot of increase in the use of chatbots. Even like small campaigns where you were initially doing, let's say, a Google AdWords campaign, and it was just a landing page, right. You just add a chatbot to that landing page, and you see an increase in your leads. A person feels that he can communicate with somebody right there. They start communicating, and your leads increase. You will definitely see an increase in the use and efficiency when it comes to chatbots. Where do you also think that it can have a negative impact? Sometimes I think it's better to be somewhat transparent, where you tell the user and give them an experience, "Okay, this is a chatbot, and if you want to speak to a human, then XYZ." Do you think that sometimes it can have a negative impact?

I think the negative impact in chatbots comes when you try to fake out the consumer that they’re talking to a human. We never do that. We always let them know that they’re interacting with a bot. If you make it conversational, you make it fun, you make it easy for them to just press a button to answer a question, then the impact is mostly positive. I think the stats are somewhere like around 86% that the general public has positive interactions with bots. If you try to pull something fishy and try to make the person think that they’re actually talking to a human, that’s where you’ll run into problems.

Talking about video marketing, you have spoken about video marketing earlier; how do you think that small businesses can leverage it?

It’s tough. A lot of small business owners are really too busy to do the things that they need to do. In my opinion, small businesses need to get on camera. They need to talk about their USP. What makes their business special? Or providing tip videos, or how to use a particular product or service in a unique way or in a way that hadn’t been thought of before.

Video is not going away anytime soon. Videos are just growing and growing and growing. People prefer to watch a video more than they do reading. It’s well established at this point. I think any video strategy is worth doing. Even if it’s just some simple tip videos, anything that they can put on their website, put on Youtube or put on Vimeo is definitely going to attract traffic. It also could be very useful for their clients and customers.

What does your SEO process look like? This is a question I asked almost every marketer out there, so I can't spare you.

I’m pretty old school. My process is pretty simple. We, of course, want to figure out what the valuable keywords are for the client. Establish what pages we’re going to try to rank. Do on-page optimization like meta titles and alt tags. Make sure the content is written for SEO as well as being human-readable and not keyword-stuffed and any of that nonsense. Then, of course, a great backlinking strategy is really what it boils down to.

Right. Trying to rank for rich answers has a lot of value. How do you strategize for it?

The easiest way is to put an FAQ on your page. Use schema data and just research it. See what questions people are asking. Think about questions that your customers might ask you on a regular basis. Look for other industry-related questions, and put them at the bottom of the page that you want to rank, and it’ll do it. Especially for local searches, using geographic modifiers and things like that will definitely help you show up for a lot more searches.

Talking about link building, which is a very important part of your SEO strategy, how do you look at link building? How does your link-building strategy look like? What are the main elements to look at?

I typically like to do a large batch of profile links. For somebody who has no links, you definitely don’t want to just go out and start purchasing links, willy-nilly, and buying from unverified sources. You’ll get the form filled on your website constantly and be like, “I got 1000 links for 20 bucks.”

I like to start with a batch of profile links, 100, 200, or 300. I consider that like a social fortress. It puts out a bunch of links, Google sees them, and they’re all pretty high-value websites. From there, you want to do citations and directory listings. Once you get all of that foundation built, then you can start to do the guest posts, forum links, web 2.0s, and things of that nature.

When talking about guest posts, are you following the July update that's rolling out right now? The Google update? They're saying it's mostly about guest posting backlinks.

My strategy is pretty safe. I only get links from very high-quality sites. I’m not too worried about it at this point. If you had gone out, bought links from a lot of low quality, low DA, low page authority sites, you could get spanked and lose rankings. I only get top-quality sites. That doesn’t really scare me too much.

Right. What are your thoughts on press releases? There are some industries where people are really doing a lot of PRs. What are your thoughts on using PR as an SEO strategy?

I think it’s awesome. I love press releases. First of all, it gives you an instant batch of backlinks to your site. It can rank overnight for high-value keywords. Many of those backlinks stay forever. You can literally rank for hundreds, if not 1000s of keywords if you structure your titles and your content properly. Press releases can be very powerful, but it is something that you would probably want to do at least on a monthly basis to start to stack the benefits and see the best results.

Talking about local businesses and small businesses, what is your opinion on local search ads? How have you seen them change or evolve during the last one year?

Like I said earlier, so many people have come online. The fact that everybody was locked down for such a long time, there was a definite boost in Google search ads, but I think it’s going to even out. I think it’s a good strategy if you have the budget and you have the skills to imply it.

Remarketing strategy for any campaign is tricky, but it's very important as well. How do you think a business can build a successful remarketing strategy for AdWords?

Hire a professional; that’s my first piece of advice. Remarketing is definitely tricky. There are so many things to think about. You have to know your objective first. You have to realize that remarketing is not going to bring in a flood of traffic like a standard pay-per-click ad might do. There are all the little details you have to take care of. You have to make sure you update your privacy policy and have the double-click cookie notification in there. It’s a lot.

You have to get your lists straightened out. Put a lot of time into planning and list structuring. I couldn’t give you a strategy over a short meeting like this. It’s way too complicated. I don’t recommend that small businesses attempt it on their own. There could be just throwing a lot of money down the drain if they don’t do it correctly.

Absolutely. I think that would have been my follow-up question. When should people stop doing it? They're trying to do it on their own. I mean, if you're not good at it, just stop it.

I would definitely put a halt to it. If you don’t have all the pieces in place just stop it. You need the ads, you need all the different ad sizes- animated ads, text ads, still ads. You need your landing page optimized and all your branding to be congruent across the whole campaign. It’s complicated. It’s not something I would suggest any business owner attempt on their own.

Right. You also talk about reputation management a lot. What is the best way to tie that into your marketing strategy?

I think reputation is the cornerstone. It’s where it all begins. If you don’t have a good reputation, you can mark it to the end of time. Nobody’s going to click that one-star rating, two stars, even for three stars, people will hesitate. If there’s a three-star and a five-star in front of them, it is a no-brainer, they’re going to click the five-star. Getting a reputation established online is sort of the starting point for any business.

We do review generation campaigns through our CRM. We have campaigns in place, and customers can just send out a bulk request to past clients. We’ve seen 20, 30 reviews come in a week. It’s not hard to build if you work at it. It’s definitely the cornerstone, and it’s a good place to start. If you have zero reputation, or if you have a bad reputation, it’s pretty equal.

Right. What are your thoughts on optimizing for voice search?

That’s really something that’s just starting to get bigger. For the most part, you want to have some long-tail keywords in your content. Again, geographic modifiers, for somebody’s searching for a business in a particular city.

It’s funny that you mentioned that because I’ve recently come across a new app that I’m going to beta test. You can actually claim a phrase or keyword; when somebody speaks it into Siri or Google Assistant, it’ll automatically open up your website. So you can tell people, “Hey, just say Grappler Media into your phone, and it’ll open my website,” if I had claimed that term. The downside is they have to have the app on their phone. So it’s something that will have to grow, but it’s a good idea. Someone definitely going to follow through and check out a little more.

Absolutely. LinkedIn is a very powerful B2B tool. Enterprise-level businesses are using it for growing the network for lead gen. But what about SMBs? How do you look at LinkedIn as a lead gen tool for SMBs?

It is more of a B2B marketing tool. A lot of small, professional businesses do very well with LinkedIn. We’ve actually started to implement some automated connection software. We help businesses to connect to their ideal prospects automatically and help them to further the conversation and get the ball rolling with their ideal prospects on LinkedIn. For professionals and b2b companies, it can be a great tool.

Well, Craig, I know we're short on time. Before you go, any special tip that you want to give our audience that they can implement and benefit from?

For small businesses, I think the biggest tip that I could give is to get your Google My Business claimed and optimized. There’s a little meter inside your Google My Business tells you if your profile is 100%. Try to get that profile claimed and get it up to 100%.

I recently heard a statistic that still one out of three businesses have not even claimed their profiles yet. I don’t know why that is, especially in today’s day and age. I think for a small business, it’s the ultimate thing that you need to do because, first, it’s free, and second, it can generate a huge amount of traffic to your website. That’s my advice. Go get your Google My Business claimed and get it fully optimized. Continue to post to it, add photos, keep it active, and you’ll see great results.

Well, Craig, thank you so much for your time. It was fun chatting with you. Hopefully, we'll catch you the next season.

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