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SEO Mistakes That Are Killing Your Leads (and How to Fix Them)

In Conversation with Pete Kleinjan

For this episode of E-Coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Pete Kleinjan, Owner of Tiger 29 – Sioux Falls SEO, a Writing and Editing Agency located in Sioux Falls, SD. Dive into the world of SEO and entrepreneurship with this captivating interview that explores the journey of an agency owner, sharing invaluable insights on overcoming challenges, balancing short-term gains with long-term strategy, and unlocking the secrets to local SEO success. Tune in now!

Allocating budget wisely, rather than solely investing in website development, can yield better SEO results.

Pete Kleinjan
Owner of Tiger 29 – Sioux Falls SEO

Hey, hi everyone. Welcome to your show, E-coffee with Experts. This is Ranmay here. Today we have Pete, who is the owner of Tiger29 with us. Hey, Pete.

Hey, how’s it going, Ranmay?

All good, yeah. How is it going at your end?

Very good.

Lovely. Pete, before we go ahead and pick your brains, so why don’t you let our audiences know more about the human behind the mic? Why don’t you let us know how you were as a kid growing up, who was Pete at school, and how you started Tiger29, and we’ll take it from there.

Yeah. I grew up on a farm in South Dakota, in the middle of the United States. Went to college. I was always in sports and stuff as a kid. Went to college. My college degree is actually in elementary education. When I got done with school, I decided, Hey, maybe I don’t want to be a school teacher. I got a job doing sales for a company that sold a product over the phone. We sold Nationwide, and I wanted to make more sales. I knew that we were getting leads off of our website. I knew that if we got more traffic to our website, we would get more leads and I would get more sales. One day, I went to the owner of that company and said, Hey, can I help somehow? Can I do something to help get more traffic to our website and more sales for myself? He said, Bob said, Hey, go talk to Adam. He’s the website guy. I went and talked to Adam, and he sent me a link to the Wikipedia article on search engine optimization and said, Read this article and then come talk to me. That was my start in SEO.

We became very good at doing SEO with that company, and I think I played a pretty big part in that and started an agency that served the industry in which we sold the products. Eventually, my wife and I had our first daughter. I thought, Hey, I’d like to start my own business. I went to the owner of the company and said, Hey, can I start my own business? And will you be my client? And he was okay with that. So at that point, I started Tiger29, and I’m very grateful for the experience. And then also to I have a boss or an owner that was over me, that was willing to work with me in that way. I kept him as a client from 2009 until 2020 when he sold his business to a private equity firm. And so that’s the way that Tiger29 started and where I come from.

Lovely. It was a good sales pitch. You had your first client before you even started the agency.

It was also challenging because it was a very good client.

I was coming to that.

He was a great client, and revenue-wise, it was very good. But I had never gone out and gotten my clients. I didn’t know how to do that. That was a very big learning curve.

I agree. Throw some more light on that, how challenging were the initial days as an agency? We all know how difficult is it to run the show. Give us more about your initial days. How challenging was it?

Initially, I didn’t even think about it. I was just like, Hey, I’m self-employed now. I have a business and I’m making money and everything is good. As time went by, even with the great relationship that I had, things got rocky every once in a while. And new people come into the business and they start to ask questions and start to chirp and that stuff. And eventually, I got nervous and thought, Hey, what would I do if I got fired, if this client canceled with me? And so then I started to have to figure out how to become a real business with lots of clients. And so that was a big learning curve. I started with working and just talking to people in the community about what I do and how I do it and why I do it and why they might want to work with me, and just chipped away at it little by little. Through that process, we have essentially built the business up to today on a referral basis, where almost all of our clients have come to us as a referral from another client that we have right now, which has given us a really solid foundation of clients that have stuck with us for a long time.

We’ve got multiple clients that have been with us for 10-plus years, which is fantastic.

Legacy clients. All right. How was it, Pete, initially to pay out salaries to your employees? You have been on the other side for quite a long time. How was that experience?

Yeah. That’s part of the challenge of being an entrepreneur, I think, is that I feel like I’m good at SEO, and I’ve been good at SEO almost since the day when I read that Wikipedia article. Knowing how to do the job doesn’t mean that you know how you run a business. It’s still something that I’m learning today as we grow and expand and look at doing new things. How do you run the business? Frankly, from 2009 until 2016 or 2017, it was just me. I was the owner, operator, head janitor, all of that stuff. We hired in 2017 or 2016. I have a saying that every molehill seems like a mountain until you climb it. Part of the challenges of entrepreneurship is You don’t know how to do things, and you have to figure them out. Sometimes you just have to do them, so you have to figure them out. That was the case with hiring. Unfortunately, the first hire that I made was also a referral from a business banker in Sioux Falls. That was my first hire. It was a quality hire, so I only had to worry about figuring out the HR stuff and how they do payroll and that stuff.

We had a bookkeeping firm, and I talked to them, and they talked me through a lot of stuff, and they said, Hey, we do payroll. We can do that for you. I guess a combination of learning and then also having the right resources available and the right people to talk to who can either walk alongside you or just climb that molehill for you.

Lovely. Quite a story. Now, talking about SCOP, we know that SCOP is a marathon. It is not a sprint, right? How do you guys at Tiger Turn strike a balance within achieving those quick wins, which is important for the client to see the immediate results to keep it warm? Then also build a sustainable long-term organic strategy. How do you strike a balance between both of them?

I think for us, it starts with the very first prospecting call, where we start to set expectations almost immediately when we’re talking to someone who thinks they might want to work with us. If you don’t set those expectations, you might be trying to hit a completely different target than what the client is trying to hit. Frankly, sometimes that exposes clients that just aren’t a good fit for us, where if their only objective is to rank number one for this particular keyword or triple our traffic within 18 months, whether or not we can do those things, the mindset of that business owner isn’t a good fit for our organization. And we back away from those deals. As far as once we get into a working relationship with somebody, we do regular reporting like every agency does. One of the things that’s a little bit different about how we run things, I think, is that we manually create our reports every month. Through that process, we learn because we’re immersed in the data, we’re immersed in the different platforms that we use, and we gain an understanding of what’s going on. And then we also gain some things that we can share with clients that you don’t maybe see just from the automated analytics before.

And we can share those things and drip that information out to clients as time goes by. And so it establishes a really good trust with clients. And so even if we have a bad month, even if rankings get for a little bit, We have the credibility now to tell them like, Hey, here’s what happened. We think this is what’s going on. Here’s our strategy going forward.

It is so important to keep it transparent with the clients. Very important message there. If you keep on beating around the bush for long, it’s not going to hold up. It’s good that you mentioned that point of keeping it transparent so that you both are on the same page in terms of what’s happening so that when it is back on track, they also understand that you can if things go south tomorrow, You can make it right.

I think a lot of clients, just like I mentioned, have a bookkeeper. Clients want somebody that they can walk beside, that is their partnership. We’re not partners, but somebody that they can trust, that they know has their best interests It’s a heart. If you can establish that relationship, it’s gold.

Absolutely. As you mentioned, Pete, in the green room you guys are majorly into local SEO. For smaller businesses within a local reach, how can SEO be leveraged most effectively to attract customers within that geographic area?

I think one of the big things is you have to measure what is important to the client. That goes back to those prospecting conversations of whether ranking number one is the most important thing to that client, whether they realize it or not, that’s not the most important thing. The most important thing for their business is increasing revenue. Typically, the way to increase revenue is to increase increase leads. That’s typically where we start. That’s our key performance indicator It starts in month one. How many of those high-value actions, we call them, are you getting from organic search right now? Then We can look at that number month after month, year after year. Hey, you had a 40% increase in high-value actions compared to last year. We’re on the right track here. Then the business owner in their mind is going, He’s 40% increase in leads. Our revenue is 60% compared to last year. We had to buy three more service trucks, and we had to hire four more technicians because all the dots started to get connected in their minds. I think that’s important. It goes back to when I was selling.

The whole reason I started doing SEO, I wanted more sales, which is the same reason why business owners do SEO or any other marketing. They want more sales. If we can show them that the work that we’re doing is leading to more sales, that’s just another positive thing that stays in the relationship and keeps it going.

Absolutely. Then in your experience so far, what are some of the common SEO mistakes new businesses make that enter that online visibility and lead gen?

I think it’s not even an SEO mistake necessarily. I’m not even sure how to fix it, but poor branding, where companies start and they don’t even start with a consistent company name. It’s Dave’s Plum.

Across all platforms, yeah.

Then six months later, they changed their business name and they decided, Oh, we’re going to be doing business as Sioux Falls Plum Services or whatever. And so part of it is getting the business stuff right, which is hard, especially when you’re an entrepreneur and all you’ve done is maybe be an employee at someone else’s business. You don’t know how to climb those molehills. Just nailing down, who are you? What are the services that you provide? We typically don’t work with clients that have been in business for less than two years. And the reason is there are a lot of things that change in those two years. You might have a completely different set of service offerings in two years after you open your doors, which is true for me. We did national SEO when I started Tiger29. Today, we almost do entirely local SEO. If we’ve been optimizing for two years for national SEO, and we decided, Hey, local SEO is a better fit for us, it’s almost like you’re starting over. Not totally, but you got to know who you are when you’re starting out or at least have two years to figure it out.

Then I think, too, and again, I don’t know how you fix it, but understanding where to allocate budgeting dollars, where I see a lot of small business owners make this mistake. Well, they’ll go out and spend a lot of money on a new website and assume that their website developer knows how to do SEO. They say, Oh, yeah, I paid $5,000, $10,000, $15,000 for my website. It’s got to be good on SEO. And that’s not the case. And so they might be better off building a smaller website, lower budget on the website, and hiring professionals, whether it’s SEO or Google Ads pros or social media Ads pros to put gas in the tank of that website to get it to perform and to do the thing that they want it to do, which is generated.

For smaller local businesses, it becomes very crucial, right? So what are some of the often there overlooked elements within a GPP listing that new businesses can optimize to increase the chance of poor inquiries and get their phone ringing?

What we call it is fill-in-the-blank SEO.

That is interesting.

So a lot of businesses that we’ve seen, they go and they say, Oh, what’s this Google business profile? And they go and they figure out how to set up their Google business profile. And then ask you, What’s your business name? What’s your What’s your phone number? What’s your service area? They get it all done. Hopefully, they get it verified, which can be a real challenge in and of itself. They say, Okay, I’ve got a Google business profile now. Things are good. They’ve never actually taken the time either themselves or to hire someone to go back through that profile and fill in the blanks. What is your service area? Do you have appropriate service areas? That stuff. Is your website URL correct? Yeah. Did you fill in all the blanks where you can put it in a website URL? Let’s say you put in your appointment link on your Google business profile. Does that help you rank better? I’m not sure. Will it convert better? Absolutely. Anytime you can place a link on an asset over time, you will get conversions from that. Again, from the standpoint of, why do you have a Google business profile in the first place?

To generate leads? Let’s make sure your profile is set up to generate leads, and then we can improve the visibility in them. For us, at least, we look through the lens of authority, relevance, and trust. If you were Google, would you show this Google business profile to people? Then you look at what everybody else is doing. Hey, the people showing up now have 30, 40, 50 pictures in there. We have three. Let’s put some more pictures in there and see if we can get better engagement, see if that will help us get visibility. At that point, it’s just figuring it out, really, and trying to do things that are going to give you more authority, relevance, and trust in Google.

Absolutely. Great, Pete. It has been a brilliant conversation. But before I let you go, let’s play a quick rapid-fire.

Sure.

Your last Google search.

We were looking for a human resources videographer. We had some staff who were just looking at that, at how the search results were different in different parts of the country.

Okay. All right. Your favorite spot?

Basketball. I am about 6.4. My favorite basketball team is playing in the NCA tournament this afternoon, so I’m excited about that.

All right. Lovely. What did you do with the first-speed check, Pete?

Probably saved it. Whatever I didn’t spend, I saved. I’m a saver.

All right, entrepreneur. All right, young one. Great. You’re a celebrity crush.

Celebrity crush. Mariah Carey from when I was probably in junior high.

All right. Okay. We’ll not grill you any further, Pete. I have a spot. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this with us. Appreciate it.

Yeah. Yeah. Thank you very much for having me, Ramji.

How do our audiences reach out to you?

A good way is through the website. For better or worse, the phone number that is on our website is my cell phone. If you call that number, you will get my cell phone. I’d be happy to talk to you. I love talking about SEO, so even if we don’t end up working together, I love having the conversation and helping out however I can.

Lovely. Great. Thank you, Pete.

Thank you very much.

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