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Unlocking the Power of Sustainable SEO: Strategies for SMEs and E-commerce Growth

In Conversation with Richard Kennedy

For this episode of E-coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Richard Kennedy, Managing Director at Arken Digital, located in the Greater Bristol Area, United Kingdom. Richard takes us on an engaging journey through the intricate world of SEO and digital marketing, offering rich insights and stressing the vital need for sustainable SEO strategies that form a strong foundation for long-term growth. Balancing the demands of short-term objectives and enduring goals, Richard shares his expertise on securing high-quality backlinks and offers practical advice for businesses seeking to supercharge their SEO endeavors.

Watch the episode now for more insights!

In the realm of link-building, authenticity and relevance are paramount.

Richard Kennedy
Managing Director at Arken Digital

Hey, hi, everyone. Welcome to E-Coffee with the experts. This is Ranmay here. Today we have Richard Kennedy, who is the Managing Director at Arken Digital with us. Welcome, Richard.

Hi, thanks for having me.

Great. Richard, before we move any forward and pick your brain, why don’t you talk us through your journey this far and what Arken Digital is all about? What are your core offerings? What niches do you cater to? And we’ll take it forward from there.

Sure. To give you a bit of background on me, I’ve been in SEO and digital marketing for around 14 years. I initially started as a way to avoid getting a job as most teenagers do. We can go to that as well. I started like most people do in general digital marketing and then found something that I enjoyed, which is SEO. We then went into all SEO and that’s all we do. From there, we now specialize with local service businesses, like Plumbers, and Roofers, and we just help them with their SEO and their specifically local SEOs, the Map Pack and the Organic. We do the link-building and all that boring stuff.

Great. Richard, you mentioned being fascinated by SEO from a very young age. How do you see the SEO industry evolving since then? And what are some of the key trends shaping the industry in the coming years?

I don’t know if I was fascinated with SEO. I’m 31 now, so I was 17 when I first got into SEO. It was more of a when you go to college and you get a job and most teenagers don’t want to get a job. I looked at how could I make money through the Internet. That’s how I got into SEO. Started with, I think, the pretty typical path of affiliate marketing, all that lead gen for companies. I’ve done the bare minimum, I think, like most teenagers did, what would do just to avoid getting a job in the local supermarket. That’s how my career in SEO started as a way to avoid getting a job.

All right, great. Your journey began with a focus on design, but eventually, it shifted to SEO. How do you think your design background has influenced your approach to SEO and content marketing? How has it changed the perspective that you bring to SEO?

Yes, I started, once I was going to college, I was doing graphic design. To be completely honest, it was probably a hindrance, the saying that a little bit of knowledge is dangerous. I think that was very much the case. I was going to college for a couple of years doing graphic design. I thought I was a good graphic designer. After growing to the point where I have my designers, I realized I’m not a good designer or not as good as I thought I was. It hasn’t influenced it in that way. But what it has done is it’s given me experience in the processes that designers go through and the processes of turning a piece of content into something visually pleasing. I understand that I think better than I would have otherwise. But I think for sure when I started, I produced some stuff that was maybe questionable in terms of how it looked, and I thought it looked quite good. But yeah, also say, a little bit of knowledge is dangerous. I think that was very much the case when I started with graphic design.

Great. Let’s talk about sustainable SEO. One topic that you’d love to, like you mentioned the Arken Market is focused on sustainable SEO. Can you throw some light in terms of your perspective about that?

Yeah. A lot of people when I talk about sustainable SEO, they think of eco-friendly SEO, and that’s not necessarily what I mean. What I mean by sustainable SEO is something that we can sustain over a long period of time, and is continual growth for a company. We’re not talking about getting a company and 10 times how many products they sell in the space of a few weeks. It just doesn’t work like that anymore. But we’re doing stuff the right way. We’re building up a solid foundation for all of our clients so that we can target what we used to call the bigger terms. We always start small because that always assumes that our clients start from scratch. Not all of our clients are starting from scratch, but it’s building up in a way that we’re targeting what’s realistic to target. We’re not getting a company on board and just going after the big C terms that are great once we get there, but it doesn’t have sustainable growth because it’s not something you can grow in the short term. That’s what I mean by that we can grow over time.

It’s not something that we’re going to do six months and then we’re going to go, we can’t grow you anymore because we’ve done it in a way that we can build up with the smaller stuff and then build up to what you would call the C terms and go from there. Hopefully, I’ve explained that quite well. I don’t know if I have or not.

Great. How do you balance the short-term and long-term goals when developing SEO strategies for your clients? What are key elements of sustainable SEO that you consider in your strategy that ways?

Yes. A lot of it comes down to where the business is starting from. If we’re talking about a brand-new website, it’s unrealistic for us to target the most competitive terms in the industry. We have to think of another way to do that, whether that’s if you’re a local service business, whether that’s targeting specific services in the local area as opposed to general. Say, for example, you were a plumber targeting like London Plumber is very competitive, but maybe targeting bathroom-fitted London is still going to be quite competitive about us. But one way that we could go to building business for the short term while also keeping an eye on the long term is because we can’t just go to the main C terms with a brand-new website. That’s also true with more established websites. It depends on where they’re starting from. If they have an established website, but they’ve had no SEO done before, we’re still going to have to build up with their established website. They’ve got to a certain point where maybe all their service pages are rating well, but they just can’t get their C times. I hate saying it depends, but it does depend on where they’re starting from, what their eventual goals are, and how much they can invest in SEO because it’s not free.

You can’t always go to the most competitive terms with a limited budget. More often than not, it’s about building up the business in the short term through achievable terms and then going from there once we start getting the ball rolling. And ranking for any bidding helps rank stuff that’s more competitive if that makes sense.

Yeah, absolutely. As an agency owner, building relationships with your clients is so important to ensure that, as we say, your attention starts with your sale in the first place. Can you provide insights into how you cultivate and maintain these relationships and how they contribute to the success of your clients as well in terms of the work that you do for them?

Yes. That’s something that I’ve learned at the time. Initially, we would, I don’t want to say neglect, that’s maybe a bit of a strong word, but we didn’t tell our clients everything we were doing, not because we were hiding everything, but because we did think they were interested, to be brutally honest. Then we went the other way and we told them every single thing we did and then it just got too much as well. Something I’ve learned is balance is key. It depends on the client. Some clients want to know everything we’re doing. Some clients just want to be sent the report at the end of the month. The funny thing is a lot of clients don’t even read the reports, which is always quite disheartening when you write and put together a nice report. I think for most of our clients, hearing from us as little as possible is probably ideal. But yeah, it’s a fine balance to do. It depends on the client. It depends on the type of client as well. We have a couple of e-commerce clients, for example, that the sales can be down quickly on that. Those clients are the ones that we speak to every week, whereas the other service businesses, if the phone is ringing, they’re happy and they just get their monthly post.

It’s quite a fine balance. For us, it’s dependent on the type of industry that we’re in or how much we communicate with them. I think I may have waffled on off course there a little bit, but hopefully that answers your question.

It did. Moving on, Richard, you spoke about backlinks. Just taking a cue from that conversation, building quality backlinks is the cornerstone of SEO. What perspective of yours in terms of modern link-building techniques? And how do you ensure that the links you acquire are high-quality and relevant? And before you start, I love when you said we build links thinking that, let’s say if Google is not there, will that link be relevant? I just love that.

Yeah. So, in terms of link building, the reality is every method that you’ve heard, maybe not every method, but most methods that are pretty popular can work. It’s just, for example, guest posting. What I say is a guest post and what someone else says is a guest post, the quality can be massive. Unfortunately, when you talk about guest posting, a lot of people just chuck them in the garbage bucket. Whereas good guest posts on good quality sites are great and we build them for our clients. What is a quality website though, depends on who you ask. We go through the normal stuff. We go through Recheck that it’s got traffic, that the traffic is not manipulated in any way. It’s got what we would expect the DR to be. We don’t build links on DR. We will happily build a link that is a DR5 if it’s on a real website that has real traffic and it is relevant. Whereas I know a lot of agencies won’t do that, we will do that. But yeah, to bring up what I said earlier we’re never anyone on the team asking ourselves, should we build this thing?

We always ask ourselves this question. If Google or whatever other search engine you wanted to rank on didn’t exist, would we still want this link? And if the answer is no, then really you don’t want the link. It’s just a good quality check. And a lot of our processes and every metric that we measure a link on can be manipulated to look fake. A lot of it is just looking at the website. Is this a real legitimate website? For example, a lot of people will look at a website and they’ll see too many ads on it and they’ll go, don’t want to deal with that. Whereas we look at it and go, okay, well, this is a real business. It’s not a guest post farm. Not necessarily. It doesn’t always mean it isn’t a guest post farm, but do they have some other way to monetize other than just selling their links? Are they what we would call a real business? That’s just one of the things we look for. But to reiterate, I think all of the most common link-building methods can work. It’s just people need to ask themselves what is a quality link in their eyes.

Because you can build great links, guest posting, you can build great links. You should do initiatives, you can build great links, but you can also build very bad links doing HARO. You can build great links by doing digital PR. We don’t do a lot of digital PR. We do a little bit here and there, but it’s usually quite out of the budget for a lot of our smaller clients, to be honest, because they’re not simple things to put together. At least if you want to do it right. But yeah, in terms of quality link building, I think all the methods can work. It’s just what is a quality link. I think people need to be honest with themselves. Is this a quality website or not? I think most people are honest. Sometimes they build things that aren’t what most people would define as a quality link. I know I suffered on and rambling on a little bit there, but it’s something we deal a lot with.

Great. Just taking a little bit forward, Richard, what is your perspective on guest posts versus niche edits?

I like both. I think any natural link profile needs a mixture of both. I think whenever we do niche edits or link concessions, we try and add something to the page. It’s not just a case of picking text on a page and adding, and enforcing it to make it work. I know it works doing it that way. I just feel better. For example, if we have a client and we build them an asset that has value in terms of likability, internally links to our main service pages, it has a target term that feasibly can rank for something that’s not necessarily a service that is closely related. I like to build those. Then when I’m doing outreach for the niche edits, we can add something to the page. I’m thinking of a bad example at the top of my head now, but you could, Here’s a guide, like an additional guide that goes into X, Y, and Z, and is more in-depth than that post. I feel a lot better if I’m adding something to the page as opposed to just inserting the link. That doesn’t seem natural to me, but it does work that way as well.

It’s just something that we do very little of because I just feel better when I’m adding something to the web for a page than not if that makes sense. But I do both. In terms of what we do more, I think we do more guest posting. I would have to check in all honesty, but I think so, yeah.

Great. It was a fantastic conversation, Richard. But before we let you go, just wanted to ask you, given your extensive experience, what is that one piece of advice that you would want to give to businesses looking to enhance their SEO efforts?

Yeah. I think with SEO, if you’re not familiar with SEO, it’s looked upon as the dark arts. I think what people need to understand is we need to build a website list that’s easy to use, it’s simple, we’re not trying to do any tricks. If you’re slightly tweaking keyword diversity, you’re probably wasting your time. I think just building a good foundation and answering all the questions that your potential customer could want to or potentially want to ask is a good start. Then how you organize that becomes a little bit more technical. But I think just building a good foundation with all your about pages, a supporting blog, all your terms and conditions pages, GDPR, all that stuff, that’s a good base to go off. I think in terms of link building, it can be, again, go back to the design, a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous. I would like to just give link-building advice. It’s all over five seconds. But I think what I have done, and I can’t remember who gave me the idea, was if you have no experience with link building, how do you start? And we always tell people to get in touch with us later down the budget.

We always tell them that if they’re going to do link building, write a list of their top 50 dream websites and then go through what content they link to. Can you create something similar? And if so, I’ll reach out to them. But make it real. Do a manual email. But just that’s what I would do. Create a list of our top 50 dream websites and I would send them and see what content they link to and then build out similar content or see if there are any gaps in there. That’s how I would approach it, not talking about DR, referring domains, link toxicity. I think that’s the safer way to go if you’re not going to go all in on link-building. That makes sense.

Yeah, absolutely. Great there, Richard. It was a lovely conversation. Thank you so much for taking your time and doing this with us here. We appreciate it.

That’s all right. Thanks for having me.



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