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Plan out your SEO strategy

An Interview with Frank Olivo

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 Frank Olivo, Founder & CEO at Sagapixel.

Frank talks about keyword research, schemas ,PPC and speaks about his SEO process. He also shares his thoughts on Google EAT updates, how to rank rich answers and talks about the importance of optimizing Google My Business page.

Frank also shares his insights on press releases, voice search optimization, link building and content marketing and how once can leverage it.

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

Content can be a phenomenal way to grow your business. Make sure you’re targeting stuff that’s on your buyer’s journey that actually targets a keyword.

Frank Olivo
Founder & CEO at Sagapixel

Hello everyone. Today, we have with us Frank Olivo, Founder, and CEO of Sagapixel. Really excited to have an SEO expert with me. We are really excited to dive down and discuss SEO with you. Before we do that, it would be great if you could introduce yourself and your company to our viewers.

Sure. My name is Frank. I’m the founder of Sagapixel. We’re a digital marketing firm that focuses pretty much on SEO and PPC. We work primarily in the legal niche and healthcare. The healthcare side is growing more and more. It wouldn’t surprise me in five years, all we’re doing in healthcare. We have team members all over the United States, employees in Africa and in South America as well. We’re primarily located around the Greater Philadelphia region.

Talking about health care, it’s like the perfect time for it. How did you see telemedicine grow during COVID or any particular areas? How you saw healthcare SEO primarily change?

I was surprised at how little telemedicine tended to come out. I don’t know if you spent any time looking at our website. We have an article about it. Our website ranks number one or two for SEO for telemedicine. I was surprised looking at our analytics, how little volume there was for that during the pandemic. When we put it up, I expected to see a lot more than we actually saw.

I have seen other changes. Within healthcare, we work with all kinds of different healthcare providers. The strong niche that we have is in aesthetic medicine, with plastic surgeons, medical spas, and so forth. In that respect, we’ve seen across the board, no matter what the market is, in the United States and in the UK, just big optics in everything. It’s one of the conversations we’ve been having with clients. Why is there all of a sudden increase in interest in plastic surgery? I’ve heard answers that people are on Zoom all day, and they see their faces. They say like, “I don’t like my nose to look like this. I’m starting to look older around my forehead.” My theory is that a lot of people have thought about it for many years, but they didn’t want to leave work on a Friday, be out for two weeks and then show up all of a sudden that they had a facelift and everybody noticed. I think people are doing it because they feel they’re under less scrutiny but, it’s anybody’s guess. What I can say is all of our monthly search volume for everything is up. Intakes are up. Everything is up across the board with everything.

Talking about clients, tell us your favorite client story.

My favorite client story actually is from when we first opened up. I opened up Sagapixel in 2017, and within a couple of weeks, we got to leave for somebody. A guy that was opening a basement waterproofing company. They were out of business for six months. We cut them a ton of business, all PPC. But, they were out of business because of poor management. I think the guy had a substance abuse issue.

One of the sales people that I had met from meeting with these guys about four or five months after that place went belly up, googled Frank web design, and somehow found u s. He didn’t even know what my last name was, but he found us. We started doing work for him. He was going to start his own basement waterproofing business. Out of the gate, we’re doing PPC, and he’s getting leads and closing sales. About a year and a half or two years, he came into the office for a meeting. We were talking about some additional stuff that he wanted to do, and he started getting choked up. He was like, the work that you guys have done has changed my life. I’m paying for my daughter’s nursing school right now, cash! I would have never imagined that I wouldn’t be in the place that I am right now, two years ago. I also note that there are a good amount of SEO companies or PPC agencies that would not have been able to deliver the results we did for him. That is my favorite client story because it’s a tangible case where we changed somebody’s life for the work that we do.

Frank, when you’re planning a marketing strategy for a client, you’re not just doing SEO but preparing a proper marketing strategy. How do you plan the budget across platforms like SEO versus PPC?

First, I look at the client and then the market realities that they’re in—frankly, the financial realities threat. A startup very often needs to get revenue in the door. Our focus should be on achieving that now or in the next 90 days. SEO should not really be the focus on somebody that is potentially cash poor and needs dollars in the door now. In those cases, we typically start off with almost all PPC or mostly PPC.

Also, it depends on the niche. We have worked with assisted living. In those cases, that service is dominated by directories. So you’ll do a search like seen near me or living near me, and it’s literally eight or nine directories in one spot for organic results. In those cases, we say just go all-in on the PPC, and SEO would be more like content marketing.

In other cases, if we have someone that has an established business, isn’t desperate for new business right now, and is thinking more long term, then we would go more SEO, if not entirely SEO.

What does your SEO process look like?

We divide our clients up into local SEO clients, concentrate content marketing clients, and then those that are a little bit of both. The process is different depending on which one of those you fall into. A local plumber is very unlikely to drive any leads through his blog. On the other hand, a lawyer or a local attorney might because people have legal questions. They may have a question, “How can I move out of New Jersey if I have joint custody with my ex-husband?” You need to talk to a family law attorney if you’re googling that. If somebody’s googling how to fix my toilet, odds are they’re not in town you serve even if you rank for that.

We divide them up into those different buckets. With content, any content that we do is to check three boxes. First, it’s got to be on the buyer’s shirt. If it’s something that you can get a ton of traffic for, but it’s never gonna turn into clients. It’s a waste of time.

The second thing is, can we rank for it? This is where I think most SEOs get tripped up. I think that very often, they focus too heavily on what is the domain rating, or the domain authority, or what third-party metric is of the website. There is something to be said for that. But very often, they stop there, and they don’t look at the actual results. We often find they may have a SERP with top results, or they may have super high third-party metrics, but when you start looking at the content, it’s maybe two paragraphs and barely grazes the surface of the topic.

The other thing that we see is sometimes the domain itself may have very high metrics, but if you look at the page level, they have no links going to it. So, write the content and then do a little bit of outreach. Even if you just get two or three links to this new piece of content, there’s a good chance that it will hit page one despite the fact that it doesn’t have high metrics as everybody else.

Absolutely. I knew exactly. We did a test a long time back, and we actually follow the strategy when we’re doing the keyword research. What we do is exactly what you said. Normally people just look at the overall competitors. Let’s say for site x, there are five competitors, and they just compare the domain authority and rating of these five. They are like, these guys have DA 90 or 80, and I have 20, I cannot compete.

What we did was we actually went to each and every keyword, and for that keyword, compared the top 10 pages. Then for those ten pages, you see like yourself, fine, in some areas, you might not have great content and no links. So you actually see a combination of content and links. If you are able to pull that piece up and do some good links, it starts ranking for that particular keyword. So, it absolutely works. In fact, for all our agency partners now, we have that as a part of the keyword research. It’s working really well. I have experienced that myself.

Yeah, so really checking those two boxes works. The third one is very often qualitative; though it sounds quantitative, what we think the monthly search volume is for something. We have Search Console data and PPC data that shows that there is the volume for this keyword that we’re looking up, but very often, if we’re relying on third-party tools, they’re off. There is one of the top articles on our website, Ahref says that it gets 14 visitors a month, it gets about 1600 visitors a month. A lot of those tools, if the people are performing the searches, don’t have the browser extension being used for the clickstream data. It’s not being reflected at all. Sometimes we have the Search Console data, and sometimes it will be data we know that there are a lot of people looking for.

Yes. I think one thing we had done a long time back for one of our clients is when you’re creating a buyer persona, do customer surveys. Again, I understand it depends on how much budget the client has. You need to spend hours, but when you have a budget, it also makes sense to do a customer survey for them to help you create actual buyer personas. This might actually help you come up with search terms, which you would not get using a normal tool. Since it’s not there on the tool, your competition would not be targeting them. So they might be easy to rank as well and low in competition as well.

We have these Google updates coming and a lot of them lately have been focusing on the site speed, PageSpeed, mainly about the EAT update. How do you leverage EAT for SEO success?

I view EAT as something that Google came up with to communicate to its quality raters, people that are kind of their low level. They’re not SEOs, they’re not marketers. They’re just people and they pay them $15 or $20 an hour. They’re not savvy marketers. I think it’s a term that they use to try to communicate to these people what they’re trying to achieve with their algorithm.

I also think that what they’ve been doing basically since August of 2018, is try to differentiate between content and websites that are trustworthy and the ones that aren’t. That’s where a lot of that comes from. We don’t have any sort of focus at all on EAT as it’s a number somewhere on Google. We’ve had an increased focus over the last couple years on having expert content, because I think that Google does a really good job of telling whether a piece of content was written by an expert or a lay person. I think that there’s a big benefit to having it at the very least reviewed by an expert. I’ve heard people express doubt about that. I’ll tell them this, if you’re an SEO, reading an article about SEO, within the first three paragraphs, you can tell whether this person really knows their stuff, and they’re right about the topic, or they’ve read some stuff on that. I think that Google is able to figure that out as well, basically about anything that is Your Money Your Life.

Talking about ranking on Google, you know, ranking for rich answers has a lot of value. How do you strategize for that?

I’ve noticed anecdotally but I haven’t ever done a study or anything. But anecdotally, it seems like very often those featured snippets are getting pulled from like the first 20% of the article of the page. That’s one part of it. Another part is we pay attention to the format. Whether they’re playing a list? Whether it’s a paragraph? How long is that paragraph? If there is already a featured snippet, we’re just trying to capture it.

We want to see how we can format our page in a way that’s better than what’s already there. I also like to check whether Google has deemed us the other content, if we’re on page one for it, let’s say featured snippet worthy. If you take whoever has the featured snippet already and go into the search and add a minus into that domain name, it will exclude that domain name from the search results. Then you can see if another result is getting pulled in as a featured snippet. If there is, do it again, and have both of them excluded. It’s a way for you to see am I in line for this featured snippet? If you are, then the approach may be a little different than if you’re not at all.

Is it okay to have multiple schema snippets on one web page?

Yes, Google answered this a while back. Yes, it is, however, you have to make sure that they’re not in any way conflicting. If there’s a certain type of rich snippet that you’re trying to trigger, let’s say review stars, for example having that and also having an FAQ schema on the same page, only one of those is going to trigger. So make a decision which one you want to show.

Talking about content, blogs form a major part of niche websites, and you just talked about law. SaaS is another niche where blog is a major part. How do you plan, structure and promote your blog for traffic? What are some best practices for creating an editorial calendar?

I would start with doing all the stuff that I talked about earlier when it comes to identifying topics that are making sure of your buyers’ journey. I would also add to that to make sure you’re actually targeting a keyword. This seems like such an obvious thing. But I challenge you to go Google like SEO agency plus a city, any major US city, look at the top results, and then look at their blog feed, you can’t identify what keyword they’re trying to target with these articles because they very often aren’t. That’s a very common mistake. Make sure you’re targeting a query, make sure that query is on your buyer’s journey, make sure that you can rank for it. That’s where I would start.

I would also try to organize the content where there could be a flow. If you are targeting your family law attorney, or better I’ll change gears. You’re a plastic surgeon and you’re targeting queries related to rhinoplasty. There’s a good chance that somebody has a question about how long the recovery for rhinoplasty takes. They’re gonna have other types of questions, and you may be able to keep them on the site a little bit longer. The whole goal being that you establish your authority. When I say authority, I’m not referring in the Google sense, I mean, do they trust you? We use HubSpot on our website and we have it integrated with our contact form. So when prospects fill out the contact form on our website, we have all kinds of data about where they visited, and what pages they saw. I’ve seen the clients that have spent a lot of time visiting our blog. They tend to be better prospects, because I think that we’ve done a better job of establishing ourselves as an authority whatever their spaces, before the call has even started.

Continuing with what you were saying, I think, it’s very important to look at topical clustering where you are actually writing more stuff which is related. It is helping you
build that trust and authority. At the same time you can do a lot of interlinking. It will give you added value to SEO as well.

Talking about link building now, this is my favorite topic, how have you seen link building change over the years?

There have been a lot of changes. We had some flashes in the pan, like the infographics. At first, they were great, and then it just got overdone. Nobody cares about your infographic anymore.

The other thing is that the guest posts were like a big link-building strategy maybe ten years ago, and then they fell out of fashion. Then it seems like it exploded in the last maybe two or three years. I have some suspicions that not as many of them are as powerful as they used to be. I think Google is getting better at spotting low-quality guest posts and devaluing.

You’re right. We are high on not only guest posts but link building. What I have realized when I see a client coming to us and they have done a lot of links in the past, but they did not see results. When we look at the difference and what kind of guest posts they’re doing, what people mainly do is, and that’s how even the link building agencies are selling it, I mean if you’re outsourcing it. You will realize that they are either selling you on the basis of just the DA or just the traffic. So you want five links, fine, DA 30 and traffic, XYZ, and so and so. Google is smart enough to recognize what you’re doing.

At the end of the day, even if you’re using a partner for it, it has to look genuine and relevant. There might be a site with DA 25 or 30, but it might be very niche relevant to your topic. The anchor has to be relevant. Let’s say it’s a US client, the main target country, and it has to be a US-based site; the traffic has to be US. You can’t have 30% US traffic and 70% Philippines traffic. I think Google is looking at all of those parameters now. If you’re getting all of those boxes ticked, I think you see results.

As the years and times are passing by, it is getting difficult to get results by doing guest posts, but it definitely works.

I also think that you have a lot of people that are relying on vendors. We actually have a tender out right now for a link-building account that was working with a very well-known agency that you certainly know. These are some examples of the links that we got. When we threw them into the pitch box to see about the websites, they were all on the blacklist. I dug in and said, “Well, why are these on our blacklist?” Every single one of the examples that they gave was from those spam emails that we get all day long. This is a well-known agency selling basically the posts on the same website that are in those spam emails.

I have seen that. I’ve come across that. I think I know who you’re talking about. But anyway, I totally understand.

I have seen press releases work, depending on niches. What are your thoughts on press releases lately?

We don’t do them. We do a press release because we think that there’s something that may get a client on the phone with a journalist, which is very seldom to start with, so we don’t do it unless somebody has asked us to do it or if that’s the case. However, my belief is that there shouldn’t be any sort of SEO benefit. I’ve seen some evidence to the contrary. It’s not a strategy that we leverage. I’ve seen some evidence that they do move the needle.

The reason I asked you that is I have mixed thoughts on that lately. I would see it totally dependent on the niche and the industry. Some industries, like PRs, are working well; some are not. But lately, there have been mixed opinions. Even we did an AV test on a couple of clients. For one client, it actually worked, and in other ways, it did not move the needle at all.

I think we are observing the same thing.

Right. What are the key elements to look at while optimizing the Google My Business Page?

My view on this could change on the road. My view with Google My Business is, fill it out as completely as you can and give as much information as you can. Get the pictures in there, get all the stuff in there that someone may care about. I think the only real optimization that we can do with Google My Business is getting reviews from trusted Gmail accounts. I don’t mean buying links or buying reviews because I absolutely do not condone that. It’s against the law, and it’s unethical. If you have clients that use Gmail, Google knows that they’re real people; get them to leave reviews. If you mentioned what we do for you, it could help us with SEO. Sometimes they’ll do it.

This is a piece of advice that I give our clients. We don’t do it ourselves. We don’t do a good job of asking for reviews for ourselves of our clients. When we do, I’ve never told them that. However, I’ve seen clients that so happened to mention a specific keyword in the review. There we are ranked number map results in Philadelphia for that keyword because one of our clients happened to say it.

You’re right. Even I do not believe in taking that job of getting reviews for your clients on yourself. But now, with all these tools, it’s easier for clients to enable their clients to put reviews. You have these tools that automatically send that review message, and it automatically gets added to your GMB. They just had to put in an effort making sure they’re trying to use a tool or something that sends out these messages to their clients. They have to do that job on their own.

Yeah, I think so. It’s best if they can automate it. With healthcare review, solicitation gets a little hairy because of HIPAA. But with the law firms, it’s more effective if the attorney actually sends them an email with the link.

I think with the law, it’s tricky also. Let’s say criminal law; why would anybody leave a review and say he helped me with that case? With the law, it becomes more and more tricky.

Well, it depends. These are my clients’ words. They are not mine like most of them are children. The reason they need a criminal defense lawyer is that they did something irresponsible. They did something irresponsible because they didn’t think. In that case, it may not be the most difficult, but it’s stuck. With family law, a lot of people are really grateful for you being able to help them. Where I think it may be difficult is maybe if you have more corporate clients. I’ve found for ourselves, and it seems to be more of a pain to get our corporate clients to leave results and or reviews than like Joe, the dentist.

Talking about dentists. Let me take an example of a dentist, mainly talking about local SEO right now. Let’s say we have a performing dentist in LA; how relevant would it be to pick the same content of that website and use it for a dentist in Atlanta.

If we’re talking about practice page content, I know that having a format is almost like a template, but not quite a template. We would never like to copy-paste anything. Having a set order, these are the things that you’re talking about on this page. If it worked in LA, it should work in Atlanta.

Most of the time for a dentist, now I can actually give you an example for this. If you look at home appraisers or real estate appraisers, if you do that search in Philadelphia, you’ll get all service pages. Most of the people that are looking for a real estate appraiser or home appraiser in Philadelphia are looking for a higher one. If you do the same search but change the modifier to New York or New York City, you’ll find that all the results are about getting licensed as an appraiser. So what that tells me is that Google is paying attention at the query level to what the search intent is. If the search intent for a home appraiser in Philadelphia, the search intent is I need to hire somebody. In New York City, they’re looking for licensing and information. That may change. This was the case six months ago.

What are your thoughts on optimizing for voice search?

We don’t. Honestly, voice search is usually about getting featured snippets. We don’t have any clients who really do this because we typically are working with more high involvement purchase decisions, like nobody’s saying like, “Hey Siri, give me a phone number for a facelift surgeon.” or “Hey, Siri, find me a divorce lawyer.” People are spending more time. However, if we were doing more work with lower involvement, like locksmiths, I can totally see people using voice search for a locksmith, or like emergency plumbers or anything like that. In those cases, we would probably pay more attention to it. I don’t actually know where Google pulls or where Siri pulls. They may be pulling that from Apple Maps, which pulls it from their review information, for example, from Yelp. It could work very differently. I’m interested. I’m curious about that now.

Well, let’s do some more research. I’m already working on it. Like you said, a lot of our clients are the ones where a person would not do a lot of voice search, but it’s definitely an area where we are internally doing some more research and tests and trying to find out what works and what doesn’t work. I’ll try to fill you up with details as I come across them.

Well, Frank, one last question before you go. Any special advice that you would like to give our audience that they could use and benefit from?

Well, your audience is mostly agency owners. The piece of advice that I would give them is to leverage content marketing. I think too many agency owners rely on referrals for business. Referrals are not scalable. You can’t predict any sort of certainty when they’re going to come in. I think it’s a poor way to build an agency. However, content can be a phenomenal way to grow your business. It just has a focus on making sure that you’re targeting stuff that’s on your buyer’s journey that actually targets a keyword. Writing good stuff. Think of it like this if your dream prospect were to read this article, how would you feel about that? Publish it, and then a week later, look at it. If your dream client were reading this, do you think the person would feel inclined to contact you or not?

Make sense. Well, Frank, it was lovely having you. Thank you so much for your time, and hopefully, we’ll catch you for the next season again.

Yeah, it was nice talking to you. It’s always cool to talk with somebody else that knows about something that you’re passionate about.



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