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PPC and SEO Integration: Strategies for Maximizing Visibility and Conversion

In Conversation with Simon Dalley

For this episode of E-Coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Simon Dalley, Director at GrowTraffic Ltd. located in Bacup, Lancs. Embark on a marketing odyssey with Simon, unraveling the intricacies of a two-decade journey. From decoding SEO’s evolution and the ethical intricacies of content creation to seamlessly integrating AI into daily practices, Dalley crafts a narrative that transcends traditional marketing paradigms.

Watch the episode now for more insights!

Including brand references is extremely valuable. It’s important to develop those things, remember them, and incorporate them.

Simon Dalley
Director at GrowTraffic Ltd.

Hey, hi everyone. Welcome to your show, E-Coffee with Experts. This is Ranmay, your host for today’s episode. Today we have Simon Dalley, who’s the Director at GrowTraffic with us. Hey, Simon.

Hey, thanks for having me on.

Great. Simon, thank you so much for taking out time and do this with us. Your journey, Simon, in marketing has been a fascinating evolution from database marketing to becoming a leading SEO consultant. I just wanted to understand how your early-stage experiences shaped your approach to the digital landscape. What pivotal moments led you to specialize in SEO?

Yeah, sure. I started out working for a marketing agency 20-odd years ago. We control the database marketing for Mercedes-Benz, their trucks, and the van marketing. Twenty-odd years ago in the UK, very little, especially in automotive marketing, very little was done online. There were a lot of physical publications going out. There’s a lot of looking at databases, finding the right cut of data, sending it out, and then understanding the interaction rates with that piece of content. Often you do things like include a voucher on a piece of paper that people would return, so you’d be understanding your return rate, and then aligning that to the successes that the salespeople were having in terms of actually setting up meetings to discuss fleets and vehicle purchases and all that type of stuff. That went on for several years. Then I started doing some PR, actually, through the same agency for Isuzu Trucks in the UK. When we started doing that PR, I started to notice how the links that I was building at that time through that PR were influencing the rankings of their website. It was that obvious how it was affecting things.

Bear in mind, this is the best part of probably not quite 20 years ago now, but 15 years ago. It was a different world. But yeah, that’s what got me into SEO, got me learning about it, got me reading about it, and started to implement it for the clients that I was working with at the time. Then I moved to a business that sold. Still in the automotive industry, but I was the brand manager, actually, at that time, for a company called We Buy Any Car, which is like a national brand in the UK. It’s a technology business that uses technology to understand how much a used vehicle should be worth, offers a price on it based on various algorithmic factors, and then brings it to a physical location and somebody will buy it from you. We did loads of stuff with them, but it was in that environment that I started doing a C as well. It’s a bit of paid search, which again, it’s the other side of search marketing, but again, reinforced everything that I was doing with my SEO hat on as well. Then from there, progressed into more agencies, more digital agencies, and dedicated digital agency roles.

This was at the time when businesses were coming online. They often had one rubbish website that was built in Flash and didn’t do anything. And those good practices, best practices of search engines, best practices of the internet, if you like, were just starting to come in. We were re-building the second website for a business because they built the first website in the early 2000s, and didn’t know what it was supposed to be doing. Then we were building the next ones that were all best practices, built in PHP, built all the navigation was all HTML instead of Flash or JavaScript and all the other types of stuff that never particularly worked back in the day. We were getting beyond the point where we had to cut images up into multiple different random sizes and shapes to get things to load. Things had just progressed and then obviously, in the next few years, it progressed further in terms of CSS and advancing, HTML advancing that way. I up GrowTraffic in 2009. I set it up as my side project. That’s why I was still working in full-time marketing. Since I discovered it when I was working on that I was usually a truck program, I’ve always been passionate about it and interested in it.

I’d been contributing to the online forums. I had been reading lots. I don’t know when it was that I got my Moth T-shirt, but I got that quite early on, having made so many contributions to SEO Moth. I was doing this in my spare time. I had customers from all over the UK, and it was a great time. We were doing various interesting things, building microsites for people, creating content for people, doing a little bit of the content farm manipulation that was going on in the 13, 14 years ago about that type of time. Then we progressed onwards. The big algorithmic updates started coming in from Google which was quite painful for a lot of businesses. Quite a lot of work I did probably 10 years ago was SEO recovery. Recovering from all the negative or bad SEO, not negative SEO, but the spammy stuff that a lot of people had done for a lot of businesses, and that sustained us for a while. Then my wife started working for the business full-time in 2014. That’s when we started to go a bit more niche. We went a bit local because that was easier for her to deal with.

We also just started growing the business from there, focusing on different things. We wanted to create a business that was more orientated towards our local community and beneficial in some ways to society and not just ourselves. I think we brought in a bit more of an ethical approach to it there. Then, oh God, then, what was it? 2000, another director joined the business and we decided at that point that we were going to not run it as we had done, which was with ourselves in the business generating the work and then having a bank of freelancers around that would do the work for us, but rather we build an internal agency ourselves, and that’s what we did. We have up to 12 employees. What was that? About a year and a half ago, something like that. That’s the size and scale that the business has got up to. We’re in the process of buying a building. Now we’re buying, It’s an old Church of England Church. We’ve been buying it for a while, but we’re about to convert it into an office for GrowTraffic and also some, We’re going to create a digital hub in it.

We’ll have some like-minded businesses in there. Maybe videographers, some developers who do things a bit more techy than we do, and then other businesses that are a bit more digitally oriented. Within that space, we’ve got a big training space. We’ve got plans for a podcasting studio, a little room, and also a photography and video studio in there. There’s so much going on at the moment, but it’s been interesting times as well. We’ve experienced the COVID crisis, the pandemic, and all the pain that went with that. In the UK at the moment, we’re experiencing fluctuations in the economy due to Brexit, due to inflation, and things that the government has or haven’t done over the years. So yeah, it’s an interesting time at the moment, but we are growing out of it.

Lovely. Quite a journey, I must say, Simon.

Great. Yeah, it’s good. It’s exciting, isn’t it?

Absolutely. Simon, juggling roles between writing articles to selling display advertising, is quite the content creation adventure you could ask for. What storytelling lessons did you learn during that time? How do you read those lessons in today’s content strategies?

Yeah, I have several different key people within my journey, if you like, and their advice about writing content always comes back to me at various times. I remember when I worked at the Automotive Marketing Agency, they also owned a publication called Professional Van and Light Truck Magazine. The editor there crafted the way that I write content. I used to always give me feedback on it. There are things that he used to say to me about the way I’d been taught to write in school and university, and he used to correct it, reduce the length of my sentences, and make everything much more snappy, a bit more concise. Over the years, I’ve adapted that further, but then also worked with various marketers that I’ve worked with who have instilled things about features and benefits and talked to me about how to use fear and greed as a methodology for getting people on, as well as looking at wants and needs and desires and all that type of stuff that flows in. Specifically structuring things as well in terms of how to get somebody through a piece of content and get them to take the action that you want them to take at the end of it is so important.

But then, I suppose I’ve done branding as well. Branding has been a part of my marketing journey. As many people would tell you, I’m so focused on ensuring that branding shines forward from pieces of content that I’m involved with. But also in the culture that I developed for businesses, I’m focused on creating a unique brand language for the business I work with and being able to talk about the story of that business and through the branding that we’re putting out there. An example of GrowTraffic is when we call the members of the team, we call them grow foes. And the reason, they’re GrowTraffic, But what we did was we put a poll out on Facebook, I think it was, over the years, and somebody suggested it, and then we got people to vote for it. And that’s just one indication of how things get stuck and become part of that journey, part of that story, part of the brand history. I think it’s really important that you develop those things and remember them and you’re able to incorporate them. From an SEO perspective as well, when we think about SEO and the importance of being able to demonstrate your experience, expertise, authority, trust, and all the rest of it within content, you need to be able to show, that I’ve been there, I’ve done it.

This is my thought process on what’s happened. Because that’s what AI is going to struggle to be able to replicate, not need somebody on the ground who has a hunger door and knows what happens if you get splinters in your finger from doing it. I don’t know. It’s a rubbish example but Jitok, it’s a rubbish example, but you don’t. It’s the type of stuff that perhaps an AI will struggle to replicate. I think that’s important to Wavid’s concept.

Right, and with AI becoming more ingrained in our digital experiences, how do you foresee content personalization evolving? And what strategies would you suggest marketers adopt in days to come? Because we have had it by the storm last year around the same time, and exciting times ahead for sure, every day is a new day. But how do you think the market should adapt? Do you use AI in your day-to-day life and how is it for you?

I use AI in my day-to-day life, yeah. I’ve been using it every single day since December last year. I use it for all sorts. I use it to help me generate content. I use it for writing plugins for WordPress. I run all of my reports through it. I’ve been thinking about strategies, again, to help me develop things. I think it’s a really valuable tool. I’m not against anybody using AI to generate content. I just don’t want to see anybody go into AI and say, produce me a piece of content with this title, and then,

Thinking that, Because it’s not. It’s that next stage. It’s the prompt engineering side of it. How do you go in and say, I want this, and then say, Great, you’ve done that. Now give me, how do we improve it? What’s the next thing that we need to do? Find my references to that. You can quite often with AI have spent hours crafting a piece of content that potentially you could have written in that amount of time. I think there’s an understanding that if you use it properly, it’s a tool that will be beneficial. It’s just not solely relying on it. I’m always conscious that there are certain quirks that it has in terms of the language that it uses, in terms of the way that it uses punctuation and some of the characters that it uses within the text. Again, you don’t copy it. You’ve got to use it as a tool. But it’s been great for things for us, various things. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes now. I’m enjoying using the pro version of ChatGPT and pretty much have had that since they launched it. This morning, for example, I was helping somebody write a blog and I quickly took their blog content, put it into ChatGPT, and said, Please, can you make me a photorealistic image that would support this blog?

And it produced the image. Great.

There you go. Put that on your blog post because it’s probably better than anything you’re going to find.

Absolutely. And then you also spoke about battling, Simon, earlier in our conversation. What would you suggest to anyone? Guest post, wasn’t Snitch at it? What is your goal to think?

Always guest post for me. So historically, I’ve done forum posts, I’ve done comment posts and comment links. I’ve done everything basically over the years, but I tend to stick. We tend to stick with guest posts where we can. Some directory submissions as well to support it, but primarily guest posts. And my rationale for that, especially in terms of niche posts, so my thought is if you put niche posts, niche edits into a post, then there’s always that potential that Google or a search engine will say, I’ve reviewed that content before and there wasn’t this link in it. So either discount it or penalize that link, however, it might be. And maybe it doesn’t do it now, but it could do it in the future. And so that’s the reason that I steer clear of niche edits. However, I know loads of SEOs that look like them and swear by them. I think my link-building process is also informed by my experience in the industry. As was said before, the things that happened 11, 12 years ago, and 10 years ago in terms of those Google updates, I have businesses where business owners were coming to me pretty much in tears because their business went over a week or so that

They had employees to pay, they had suppliers to pay. And the impact of the SEO that had been done for them over the years had caught up with them. And it was at that point that I always said, We don’t do that. We do it very ethically. We do it as straight down the line as we can. We will reach out to people, we will send. We do our research, we do our gap analysis on backlinks. We look at the domain authority, we look at the traffic, we look at the number of backlinks, and the number of domains that are coming back to our website. We’ll come up with a plan. How many domains do we need? How many backlinks do we need? How many have to have a certain anchor text to them? How many need to have do-foil, no-foil, user-generated content, and all the rest of it? But ultimately, we are then going to go and strategically, or that’s the strategic task side of it, the tactical, we’re going to outreach to people. We’re going to get in touch with genuine businesses in that sector that are relevant or publications in that industry.

And we’re going to ask you to contribute to the blog or the website and do something that’s beneficial to the readers and hopefully, the back of that will get a link back to the website. I also believe that, or I think that including brand references is valuable as well.

Absolutely. Now, coming on to PPC, a lot of times or a majority of it is a mixed bag of SEO and PPC strategies to create that synergy or the approach that not only boosts your visibility but also ensures maximum conversion opportunities there. How do you integrate these two strategies, SEO and PPC?

Yes, so before we start working with any client, we always perform an audit, which is an in-depth audit that takes about six weeks by and large, depending on the client. Off the back of that, we start to get a really good understanding of the keywords that we should be targeting through SEO, the keywords that we’re targeting through PPC, and the ones that will target through both. But I always talk to a client about their goals, their objectives, their time frames. If Christmas is coming up in a month and they need to sell a lot of stock in the next three weeks, then PPC is probably the only option for them at this point. They’re not going to be able to do what they need to do on SEO this year. They’ll be lucky if they can do it by this time next year for many businesses. Suppose we’re honest with them about it. It’s about having those tough conversations as well. Lots of businesses come to us and they think that if they engage us to do SEO, we’re going to get them massive rankings within six months. We are flipping around now saying we are having conversations about two years worth of marketing activity to get the decent returns that they are looking for from SEO.

Maybe that means that we have to integrate PPC in that as well, and to taper one-off and taper one in at various points, understand if the key time of year is December, then we have to shift the budgets around, put a bit more into PPC management, maybe a bit less into SEO. It does depend on the client or the business. The clients that I love working with are the ones that get SEO. They say we understand that this is a medium to long-term strategy. To begin with, we’re not going to see the returns that we would like to, and therefore just go away. If you think that you demonstrate how the strategy is performing over time, then we’ll review it every three months, six months, a year, whatever it is, and we can use PPC in the intervening period to just keep the inquiries coming in and keep everything ticking on there. Then if a business is aggressive as well, that’s when it’s really exciting, when they say increase the spend on everything.

Yeah, absolutely. Great, Simon. It has been a lovely conversation, but before I let you go, I would like to play a quick rapid-fire with you. I hope you’re game for it.

Sure.

All right, your last Google search.

I’ll look it up. I’ll be completely honest about this as well. It says that now. My last Google search was, there it is. My last Google search was, where does the UK rank? Where does the UK rank in the list of countries in the world by order of size? And it is number 80.

What would be the answer to that?

Number 80. The reason for that is I’m writing a thought leadership piece at the moment about China’s rise and the UK’s relations to that rise.

Lovely. Okay, great. Moving on. What did you do with your first paycheck, Simon? First paycheck of your life?

First paycheck. I think I went to the pub if I’m completely honest. I think I went and had a beer. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s how it went.

Great. Where do we find you on Friday evenings after office or after work?

Generally at home these days, I’m really lucky. I live in an old farmhouse. I’ve got horses and pigs and dogs and dogs and cats and various peacocks, various animals. Straight after work on a farmhouse, on a Friday, I tend to be doing something like mucking out or feeding animals. And before you know it, having something to eat puts my feet up, quite boring these days on a Friday evening.

I love the place you stay in man, that’s for sure. Yeah, great. Let’s say if we were to make a movie on Simon Dalley, what genre would it be?

It would be sci-fi. It would be sci-fi. It’d be quite scary. I have no idea who would play me.

Okay. The last one, we’re not really any pulled up. For your next vacation, any plans up there?

We’re currently planning a trip over to America. My friend’s daughter is planning to get married in Las Vegas sometime next year. We’re planning to fly out to Las Vegas, stay for a few weeks in America all in, probably get a car, and drive down from Las Vegas to LA at some point. Then my best friend lives in Tennessee. Now, he married a girl from America. They live in Tennessee, so we’ll drive across there. It takes about 26 hours to drive to his house from there, so we’ll probably have a stop or two. Then I’d like to show my son around Washington, D. C because he’s not been. Then I think we’ll drive up to New York, hopefully, then get a plane back from there. So yeah, three weeks round trip of America, that’s the one that we’re planning at the moment.

Lovely. I hope you have a great time there. Thank you, Simon, for taking out time and do this with us. I appreciate it.

Thanks, Ranmay. That was great. Thank you very much.

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