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Unlocking the Secrets of SEO: Expert Strategies for Sustainable Success

In Conversation with Jeff Romero

For this episode of E-Coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed, Jeff Romero the Founder and CEO of Octiv Digital, an Advertising Services Agency located in Salt Lake City. Jeff takes us through his remarkable journey from in-house SEO roles to establishing a thriving digital marketing agency. Together, they delve into the intricacies of technical SEO, share practical solutions to common SEO roadblocks, and discuss the transformative power of AI indigital marketing. Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or just starting out, this episode is packed with valuable tips and strategies to elevate your SEO game and drive sustainable growth for your business.

Don’t miss this chance to learn from one of the industry’s best!

Technical SEO is so, so important. You can have the best content in the world, but if you don’t have that foundation, you’re not going to rank well.

Jeff Romero
Founder and CEO of Octiv Digital
Jeff Romero

Hey, hi everyone. Now, welcome to your show, E-coffee with Experts. This is your host, Ranmay here. Today we have Jeff Romero, the SEO Consultant and founder at Octiv Digital with us. Hey Jeff, how are you?

Doing well. How are you?

All good. Jeff, before you move any forward, let’s get to know the human behind the mic. Why did you talk us through your journey thus far? How did you find Octiv Digital, and what has been the journey with Octiv Digital this far?

Sure. Yeah. So my journey has been quite involved. I’ve been on the agency side as well as on the in-house side throughout most of my career. I started on the in-house side working on the e-commerce world, getting my knowledge there and understanding what happens in e-commerce, and then learning more about SEO and marketing, digital marketing as a whole from there. I then transitioned over to the agency side where I knew what that looked like, working with a bunch of different clients in different sectors, solving different problems, and fell in love with that world, knowing every day is going to be something different. You’re working with different clients you’re working with and different problems you have to solve. Loved that area. Then my personal life took me back into the e-commerce world where I spent the next about eight or nine years working for a company called Lumens.com, where we sold high-end lighting and home decor products. I ran the SEO program there for that as well. Grew the traffic there, had a lot of data to work with, a lot of strategies to work with there, and tested there.

Eventually, that came to an end. The company was purchased by a competitor, and we got to a point where a lot of the lumens team decided to leave the company. I held out until about August 2019 and then decided I was going to go off on my own. Went off on my own at that point and was at a point in my career where I was trying to figure out, do I want to go back into the agency side of things or do I want to go back in-house for a company. Did a couple of interviews, trying to figure out what’s going to be best for me and even my personal life, and decided, you know what? I want to do the agency thing. I saw just so much opportunity there, so much potential with SEO, with paid search, with Webdev, everything that we now offer today, and decided, you know what? I’m going to go into that role and try to figure out what we can do. So we started acquiring clients, started building a team, and started building up different departments to where now we can offer web development services, web design services, analytics consulting, paid search strategy, SEO, content link building, the whole run that businesses need for their digital strategy.

Lovely. Quite a journey, I must say. You have it on both sides of the table, Jeff. Which one do you feel, I know each side of it has its challenges, but which one do you feel is more challenging?

I think the agency side is more challenging. I honestly love it because I’ve offered a challenge. In the in-house role, you’re doing the same tasks on a day-to-day basis. You’re growing the traffic for the company. You’re trying to do what you’re doing there. But I honestly like having to solve different problems. I could go from, one day I’m trying to solve a problem for, let’s say, a law firm, and then the next day I’m working with a dental agency, and then I’m working in something in e-commerce, and then it’s a car dealership. It’s just across the board. I get exposure to a lot of different types of marketing and different strategies in different industries. Then I use that to cross over and know, Okay, if this is working well for this particular client, why don’t we take that same strategy and apply it to this client? In some cases, that works out well for us.

Yeah, absolutely. You nailed it when you said you have that exposure to work across industries. You also work with a lot of different founders. Obviously, top-down, you have that one approach, one vision. There’s nothing in it. But when you are with an agency, when you are sitting at the table with those founders, you have all those different ideas and visions and those brainstorming sessions, which have their learning challenges as well. Handling a law firm client to a medical practitioner is two different sites of the world, so it has its challenges. But yeah, you seem to be enjoying it.

Yeah, enjoy it. I love seeing our clients grow. A lot of the businesses that we work with, they’ve had budget and they’ve had to focus on digital for a little bit, but they haven’t done it well. We like to take them from that growth phase to where they’re growing and scaling. That also goes into the name Octiv Digital. There’s some music terminology behind that, and that gets into where we like to help businesses scale and grow.

Absolutely. Talking about scaling and growing you have grown Octiv Digital now, and you started at some point. Running an agency is not an easy task. You and I know that, right? When you started it out, what were those initial challenges, Jeff, and how did you overcome them?

I think one of the biggest challenges that we faced was a lot of just administrative stuff. Who are we going to use as an invoicing vendor? Who are we going to use for hiring talent? A lot of the back-end stuff, not necessarily day-to-day client interactions and how we were growing those clients, but a lot of the stuff to run the agency itself. Those are just hurdles that I feel like any agency founder is going to run into. We eventually got to a point where we hired an accounting team that helped work with us with invoicing, Quickbooks, with everything that we needed to do there. We work with several different companies to hire and find some talent to work on the team. Just a lot of those administrative tasks are just things that you just have to be in the position doing the work over time and try to figure out what’s going to work best for you. Then also what’s going to work best to contribute to profit.

Absolutely. Now moving on to SEO, Jeff. What do you feel are some of the common technical SEO roadblocks that you see businesses facing? How do you advise them to overcome these challenges? About picking up the phone and calling you.

Yeah. Technical SEO SEO is so, so important. It is the foundation of your SEO success. You can have the best content in the world. You can have all the links coming back to your site. But if you don’t have that foundation, you’re not going to rank well. A lot of the challenges that we see are across the board. We’ve got easy stuff where, Hey, I’ve got a bunch of broken links on my site, or I’ve got some broken images that are going to affect the user experience on the site. Basic low-hanging fruit stuff like that that we try to solve for clients. But then we also look at things like, Do I need to minify the CSS on my site? The JavaScript, do I need to make the site faster? How are you stacking up in Google Page Speed Insight? Issues are happening there, all the way to, how is Google crawling the site. We use a handful of different tools for our clients, things as Ahrefs, SCM Rush, Screaming Frog, and Siteful. A lot of different toolsets that we use to be able to analyze the sites and see what’s happening. Of course, the bigger the website, the more you want to do that, and the more data you want to look at to see what are some of those issues.

But it depends on the size of the client side itself, depending on what SEO issues they’re going to have. But then using some of those tools to be able to understand what’s happening and then how do we implement some fixes to make things better?

Absolutely. You would have come across or rather worked with a lot of businesses. Many businesses struggle to measure the 2-R-Y of their effort. How do you approach measuring SEO success for your clients and demonstrate the value that you deliver?

In our initial kickoff call with the new SEO client, one of the first things that we cover is the client’s KPIs. There are going to be certain KPIs that we’re going to recommend if we’re going to look at traffic clicks, organic rankings, what your, let’s say, your DR, your DA might be for your site with a link-building perspective set of things. Try and understand what is the baseline that we’re working with. And then we want to establish those KPIs to make sure that we’re helping that client grow. A client might really want to go for an SEO strategy, but if they’re not seeing that ROI, if they’re not seeing form tools come through, or if they’re an e-commerce site, they’re not seeing product revenue come through, that’s the biggest issue. So we like to align what those KPIs are on that first call. And then the second biggest thing that goes into the ROI is making sure that the analytics are correct. We’ve seen so many cases of, I installed Google Analytics, I don’t know how else to do, don’t know what else I need to track here, I don’t know how to track product conversions.

I don’t know how to track a thank you page, just different things like that where if that’s important to understanding if we’re driving traffic to certain pages if we’re building up your domain rating, we’re building up your domain authority, things like that, we want to know that people are taking the type of action. Tracking is just one of the most important things that you can have. Like I said, we’ve just run into a lot of cases where that’s not properly set up. That’s another one of those foundational things that you have to have in place. If you’re going to do not even just measuring SEO ROI, but also paid search ROI. In any marketing effort that you’re taking, you want to make sure that you have those KPIs in place, and then you’re tracking in place to understand what that ROI looks like.

Absolutely. Moving on, talking about AI, which I’m I’m sure you’d love to talk about. How are you incorporating AI tools into your workflow, Jeff, to gain that competitive edge in organic search rankings? What are the tools that you use on a day-to-day basis as well?

I am a ChatGPT fan. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that we take content from ChatGPT and use that for client websites, but we do get ideas and content briefs coming out of ChatGPT. That’s one of the best things. It’s just been able to speed up that process for the whole team. We look to ChatGPT for creating some of those content briefs that help our team of writers be able to navigate that content and expand on certain topics. Looked for that, but then also we use different extensions with ChatGPT. There’s a great one for Google Sheets that helps us analyze a lot of data. If we’re looking at, let’s say, 20,000 rows of data from Google Search Console, we’re trying to understand what are some patterns, what are some trends, you can use ChatGPT to analyze that data and say, Hey, ChatGPT, give me the four or five biggest trends that you see on this data. It can provide that data for us. It speeds everything up. We haven’t jumped on board with Midjourney in terms of image creation. We use a variety of different image vendors for things like that.

But I know a lot of companies have jumped on Midjourney, and what I’ve seen for Midjourney doesn’t look great in terms of image quality and the way that AI creates the content. We just haven’t jumped on that. But I’d say ChatGPT is one of the biggest ones. We also use Surfer SEO for a lot of content creation. I know it uses quite a bit of AI to come up with different ideas and help you create content all based on its semantics of it. A couple of different tools are at play there, but it’s been a wild, I’d say 18 months in AI since everything came out. We’ve had even more changes just this week. There’s going to be more. If anything, if business owners are listening to this, I would say, don’t hesitate to adopt it. It’s going to become part of what we’re doing. It’s going to become part of what you need to do for your business, whether it’s we’re talking SEO or just day-to-day processes that you want to make faster.

Absolutely. As long as you’re taking it as an enabler into your scheme of things, it can work wonders to give you a Head Start. It cannot be the final delivery product as we speak now, but who knows? Given the way it is evolving, right?

It’s getting smarter and smarter every day. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve seen content from about a year ago when it was, I think it was ChatGPT 3.5, the content was just gibberish and terrible. Where now, the one that they released just earlier this week, I think it’s 4.0 or something like that, it is getting smarter. I know there’s more emotion that’s backed into it, so the actual content it produces, it’s getting better. I think we’ll probably get to a point where that’s where people are relying on content. I know I’ve personally seen some different content companies that we work with, they’ve had some trouble just based on AI. A lot of people are using AI for their content. I think we’ll probably see that continue to happen.

All right, Jeff, give us your favorite client story.

Favorite client story. Let’s see. We’ve got a wonderful real estate agent out in Tennessee who came to me with a site that was getting maybe 20 visits per month. It wasn’t doing much. It was his last effort to be able to say, I want to push on marketing for this, or I’m just going to get out of the real estate business altogether. We said, Hey, let’s give us six months and we’ll try to turn this around. We created a new content forum, created a whole content strategy forum, and made sure that the site’s technical SEO was proficient, that everything crawled, and that we wanted it to crawl. There wasn’t any bloat in the crawling or anything like that. Made sure that was covered and then kicked off a link-building strategy for him as well, just to focus on how can we earn some relevant and contextual links back to the site. Now today, I can say he’s selling houses all the time. He’s had, I think, at least 12 He has 12 times the amount of traffic that he had when he started with us, and he’s just happy as can be.

It’s just awesome to see that. We help with businesses across the board, whether it’s a single-person business or you’ve got a department of 20 people in your business. Whether it’s a small win or a big win, we just love to see it.

All right. It’s a difficult task to say no to a client, Jeff. We run the agency, we need to keep the lights on, need to run the show, right? But we all have said no to some client or the other at some point. We all have our reasons. Give us one story, when, you have said no to a client, the reason behind it, that you wish to share, and your experience about saying no to a client.

Sure, yeah. Just jumping back into the whole AI and ChatGPT thing here, They didn’t become actual clients, but what they were requesting was, that I want to produce 20 articles of content from ChatGPT a week. And we pushed back on that and said, That’s not going to be good. That’s going to be a lot of duplicate content, plagiarized content, stuff that Google is going to figure out. We don’t want to do that. As I said, those people didn’t become clients because of that reason. But that’s a perfect use case where a client says, I want to create all this content with AI. I don’t care about what Google thinks. I just want to do it. That’s where we’re going to advise them and say, That’s not a good idea. In some cases, if we have to say no, we have to say no, and unfortunately, end that relationship.

All right, great. All right, Jeff, this has been a brilliant session. But before we let you go, I would like to play a quick rapid-fire. I hope you’re game for it.

Yeah, let’s do it. All right.

Your last Google search?

Laboratory information systems.

Okay. What did you do with your first paycheck, Jeff? First paycheck of your life.

First paycheck of my life? Wow, that was a long time ago. I’m pretty sure I probably bought a video game.

Okay. Your celebrity crush?

Oh, celebrity crush. Let’s say Taylor Swift.

Okay. All right. Where do we find you on Friday evenings, Jeff? After office or let’s say after work?

Yeah, usually either at home or maybe taking my dogs for a walk. It’s getting to be beautiful weather, so we like to go for hikes. I have three rescue dogs, so I love to take them out for hikes, but usually just hang somewhere and keep it pretty relaxed.

Superb, Jeff. Once again, thank you so much. We’ll not go to you any further. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this with us. One last time, let’s say audiences, who want to reach out to you, how do they do that?

You can find us at Octivdigital.com. That’s O-C-T-I-V-D-I-G-I-T-A-L.Com. You can look me up on LinkedIn, and Jeff Romero on there. You should be able to find a couple of different ways to find us.

All right, lovely. Thank you once again, Jeff. It was a great session, and really, it was a pleasure hosting you, man. Cheers.

Yeah. Thanks again.

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