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For this episode of E-Coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Spencer Bunting, CEO of Red Shark Digital, a full-service marketing agency located in Greenville, North Carolina. Spencer delves into the dynamic landscape of digital marketing, highlighting their expertise in SEO, website design, and the transformative impact of Webflow. Addressing the power of AI, he foresees its role in enhancing efficiency across marketing strategies, from content creation to coding assistance.
Watch the episode now for more insights!
Conversions are value-added transactions. It’s like an attention transaction; the currency is the user’s attention. You’re adding value first.
Hey, hi, everyone. Welcome to your show, E-Coffee with Experts. This is Ranmay, your host for today’s episode. Today, we have Spencer, who is the CEO of Red Shark Digital with us. Hey, Spencer.
Hey, how are you?
All good, yeah. Thank you for taking out time and do this with us. Spencer, it’s great Sorry, I’m happy to be here. Great. Spencer, before we move forward and pick your brains, why don’t you talk us through your journey a bit? Then how did you end up founding Red Shark Digital? What do you guys do? What is your bread and butter? We can take it forward from there on.
Yeah, sure. Red Shark Digital, we are a digital marketing agency located on the East Coast in the United States. We’ve served the entire nation. We’ve got a couple of clients up in Canada as well. We have a client over in Africa too, so I guess we do have international clients there. I’ve been with the company for about eight years. It was founded by a couple of other gentlemen. I was fortunate to join as a designer early on within the company, and then they allowed me to grow and move into operations with Cielo. Then they transitioned out of the company, allowing me full vision and ownership of the company with regards to the operations, they still are the principal owner in the sense of where we go. We serve clients within the side of all industries and verticals, primarily the main battery and healthcare in the higher education space. We have some in the B2B space and B2C space, but those are our three verticals there. And then our bread and butter truly is SEO, all facets of it, as well as website design and development, primarily within the inside the Webflow space currently and a WordPress background.
However, we pivoted to Web flow first about our development services, and SEO and search as an integrated search agency are our primary marketing services.
Brilliant. Spencer is an award-winning website designer and is now the CEO of Redshark Digital. You would have witnessed the evolution of web design trends, right? Could you share with us your perspective on the most significant shifts you have observed in the industry so far?
Yeah, I think one of the shifts is they have been for a long time, but they are more now living beings in regards to websites that good companies and great companies are iterating on consistently. We’ve found that our clients have three take-off-free personas about the hands-off. They want us to do everything. The editor who we need to account for is going into the manager and content and the hands-on who’s going to be conducting some of that maintenance and building those projects. How that translates down into design and the actual design concepts, because I’m a designer by trade, is allowing more modular systems, so building in a more modular way. It’s no longer what it used to be just a banner, section with three cards, banner, testimonials, video section, maybe, contact form. Right now, the rise of the bento box trend and the bento box allows people to break each feature of one service out to appear as individual services themselves, really allowing every piece of their business to establish its own identity and sell its value of it. A lot more motion specifically, it was Video Heros three, four years ago.
If you didn’t have one, you’re doing it wrong because no one looks at Sliders. Now we’ve got Static Heros, which you’ve got motion-down, highly interactive sights. Right now, the trend is leaning more towards, you’re seeing a lot more of an implementation of 3D elements via platforms like Spline to make that accessible to the world and making it very easy to bring in that interactive business there. In general, to wrap it up, it’s always moving, but it’s moving in a way that the design is moving to be more modular so that it can move and scale as a site scales. It’s not just, Here’s a beautiful thing, let me launch it. I have to design with utility in mind and then the aesthetic on top of it.
Yeah. We built Webflow, is great. We love Webflow. We’re a Webflow partner agency and have been using Webflow for about four years, been to a little over 100 sites on the platform so far, and we don’t see any turning back with that. But before we were there, we were WordPress primarily and some Shopify. So something from WordPress into Webflow, It’s like someone taking a backpack off of our back. We were able to move extremely fast through a lot of things, especially for probably 80 % of the projects we build, which are marketing-based, static-based type of websites. There’d be a blog here and there, and a few collections that are going on. But for the most part, about 85 % of our projects could be built on Webflow. We were able to build our projects there much faster in a capacity. We would take a 10-week timeline or eight-week timeline, and drop it down to 4-6 or 3-4, depending on what it may be. And also allows us to build out more modular in a way that we can bring in one of our marketing team and they can go in and perform more technical things and say the WordPress plugins were loud or our developers would have to go in and do all together as well.
That’s what we found. We’re able to move more efficiently. They reward teams in collaboration working on a thing, whereas other platforms we work with are very siloed with a few to such that we can do what they need to do.
Great. You have been an SEO for quite some time now, Spencer. What do you feel are some of the advanced techniques or nuances that most businesses overlook during their online strategy?
Yes. For SEO, I think there’s some misinformation out there around what the input signals to up to today’s modern web with helpful content updates coming through. There were a lot of scarves around that, I guess you could say, but going through. But it’s always been a mindset of if you start writing your content and you write that content with the mindset of, I’m going to add value to the person who’s reading it if you already have that intention in the beginning, you’re already doing the right thing. It’s like prioritizing the human when it comes to the content being read, even if it’s not a human writing it, prioritize the human and the value that’s there. If AI is writing it for you, read it back through, and make sure it makes sense and adds value to the conversation that’s happening. From a technical standpoint, Google won’t come out and say, and Bing won’t come out and say, but we all know it’s true the semantic basis, an entity-based SEO is a thing.
And if we keep that in mind, it’s going to help us automatically grow because we’re helping the search engine know what type of content it is. So it’s making sure your sections are labeled appropriately, you’re making sure you have structured data that’s there. And even there are some things removed from that. But that’s again, one of the reasons why I’m not being paid by Webflow, I’m not an ad for Webflow. But that’s one of the reasons why Webflow is great, there are collections for a blog collection for blogs. You’ve got your article, you’ve got your headline, you’ve got your thumbnail, you’ve got your thumbnail, you’ve got your thumbnail, it goes along with a published date, edit date, etc, All of that can be added inside your custom code right from the page of the head. And then you can easily know the team knows how to do it with a 15, 20-minute training from someone. They all know how to do it. They’re able to go in and take that. You can copy straight from Google, drop it in, and replace those values with CMS values. Now, your thousand blog pages or whatever, they all have relevant structured data that’s there that’s going to help build that entity-based SEO.
Again, telling Google you care about your content, you care about your users who are consuming that content, and ultimately they’re going to be rewarded. It’s leaning into who’s using it. It’s all going to come down to links are gold, content’s golden, and linked content is crystal out there. But at the end of the day, your site has to be very healthy. Technical prowess is where we learn about some secret sauce.
Lovely. For businesses, while we all talk about a lot of ranking, SEO, and PPC, conversion is what is the key criterion, right? How do you ensure, Spencer, what are the key strategies that you implement for effective CRO conversion rate optimization?
Yes, we typically take it away from the site. We’re having a conversation about conversions, about what success looks like, is how we typically label it. We typically remove ourselves from our deliverables. We look at it from an objective. We try to surface the problem someone might be coming to us with, or maybe come to us and say, Hey, I want to double my existing user base. I want to increase my revenue with them by 25 % this year. I also want to double my revenue overall. I don’t want to get twice as many customers total, but I want to increase my existing by 25%. Our objective is to attract new customers and convert new customers without isolating the existing customer base. We have to position ourselves in a new area while also maintaining an identity. Okay, so what does success look like? Success looks like increased revenue by here and here. Then what’s it going to take? It’s going to take us allowing users to self-identify. Then we get into what the details are. What are those details? We need to update our hero section to help you to self-identify quickly. Are you this or are you here for this reason or are you here for that reason?
We need to have landing pages and pillar pages that support those sub-topics or those topics in general where people can get more information. Oh, you are are for me. You actually can solve the problem I have for this particular machine or this particular service I’m looking to implement or I’m looking to have done at my home or a procedure I need because my doctor referred me here. You self-identify quickly, you validate quickly, you provide more information to them, you give them opportunities to convert all along the way. Here’s value for you, and it’s about looking at conversions as a value-added transaction. It’s like an attention transaction, and the currency is the user’s attention. You’re adding value first, just like going to dinner. They bring you food before you pay for it in most sit-down restaurants. It’s the same capacity. If you’re giving value to the user, you’re selling yourself to them and then giving them the opportunity, presenting them with the initiative to convert and pay for that value with their attention, with their conversion for you to continue your conversation. Again, we typically strip it back up to the global objective and everything has to point back up to make sure the conversions are happening.
Now, from a more micro level, if a page isn’t converting, we lean into, are there CTAs clear? Do we have too many CTAs? Are they conflicting with one another? Do we have a hard CTA, a SOMTIA CTA, and then a newsletter sign-up? Okay, it’s three different things. What do we want them to do? Let’s make it much more clear. Here are some opportunities we can introduce this quickly. We can impulse convert quickly. But from a top-down perspective, we want to make sure every piece of content, every section, and every page is anchored back into that objective and what success looks like for it.
Brilliant. I know this has happened with us quite a lot as well, where a single page would have a lot of CTA’s without the actual call to action not being clear about what you exactly want your customer to land up with or the next action to be. I can completely relate to that. Spencer, SEO strategy for, let’s say, doing international SEO, wherein it can vary across different regions, countries, continents, and languages, and then all of those parameters come into the equation.
How do you approach the unique challenges of internationalists? Ensuring that the websites are not only ranking but also resonating with the diversified audience across these regions or countries or the languages that they speak can be different as well.
Yeah. A big piece is localization. When you’re leaning into establishing what their actual markets are in, then we’re able to establish what sub-directories we need for those languages. We utilize a couple of different platforms to allow us to do localization for content in that regard. Most of them prioritize and appreciate SEO and they don’t conflict it. Webflows recently introduced SEO localization as well through machine learning, which is pretty intriguing. Not only is it converting the language and the written text, but you’re also able to change the asset. So if you have an infographic that’s in French, per se, and you need that to be in Spanish, with this out of the Spanish-speaking locale, you’re able to change that asset to be a different version of said asset so that all of your content, not just your reading content, is adapting for the locale where they are. We’ve been leaning into a lot of that more in general for areas that may not need to be the entire site in Spanish, not Spanish, excuse me, that’s just the language for the example. It may not need to be in an entirely different language, we will run specific landing pages that may be in different languages and try and get those ranking and driving traffic to them for users to then convert to a different language if they need to from there.
But those are specifically created for a specific locale based on that locale as issues and locale-specific problem points that our particular client may satisfy and solve for them. So localization is very important, very important. But then from the actual topics we’re ranking for, we’re trying to rank for where we build our keyword clusters, etc, It’s all based on the individualized approach to the problem within a certain region that may be there. The name of the game is establishing topical authority, but that topical authority is built up by different subtopics depending on where they may be and the intention behind going to get that particular product or that particular service, etc. Understanding the audiences and their needs and then aligning the subtopics with it, and then allowing the technology, the technical side to support what is most important, again, being helpful to the user. We don’t want to write for something that is in a language they can’t read. We want to rank for something where it’s very easy for them to switch languages or based on their actual regional proximity, their GPS coordinates, and things, we’re able to put them within the directory that aligns with their either device’s native language or the native language of their ISP.
Brilliant. Spencer, I cannot let you go without asking this one. AI hit us, what, around the same time last year? It has made us change quite a lot of things internally, how we function, and all that stuff. What is your take on AI, Spencer? Exciting times for sure. But where do you feel we are headed?
Yes, I’m AI right now. I just fly on the frame. It’s just Eddie Ray-Ray.
I was about to ask How much do you use?
Yeah, AI for us, and now it’s been, I remember what came out, it was about a year ago now. It was about a year ago that ChatGPT came out, which took a lot of people by storm. Say it all. We just tweeted. He just tweeted about that.
He was always there.
But again, he tweeted, A year ago today we were putting the final touches on our release for tomorrow. That was talking about ChatGPT coming out. I remember distinctly having a conversation with our team. We were still remote at the time. I was having a conversation with them. I was like, Look, I said, I’m not going to tell you this is going to take your job, but I’m telling you as marketers, we need to understand that this is going to foundationally transform every part of our lives. And it’s going to start with our lives. It’s going to start with marketers’ lives and agency lives because really smart business owners and really smart business owners are savvy marketing directors within their own companies, etc, in-house teams. They just became much more powerful that they’re not having to have the overflow with agency work, etc. They’re able to execute a lot of that work in general. From a macro standpoint of AI, I think AI is going to be powerful for humans to take that harness, that power, and take it seriously and utilize it to make them better and move much more efficiently.
With regards to the microsite, it’s making it work the best to allow us to become more efficient in things like shifting to more of a comprehensive, in-depth, strategic content brief. We’re allowing our strategists to spend their time writing in-depth content briefs with a lot of information, and then having AI go in and write a bulk of that copy to begin with, and then going in and conditioning it after that. We’re not typing in, writing a blog on this, or giving 37 blog topics. We’re doing the strategy from the human side, and then allowing the initial first step and up to the exert of effort and energy to be from AI. Then we go in and finish it off with the human perspective and the human, polishing to make sure it makes the most sense. So our creative side, AI is their first step. They go in, I’m working on a creative, I’m working on a campaign for a Seltzer brand, give me 15 slogan ideas or give me 15 examples that I can do for white-style photography, and they just list out and they’ll list. That’s okay, that’s cool. 1, 2, 3, 4.
They’ll hop in Mid Journey, they’ll hop in DALL-E, they’ll put in those prompts to get that back with just some visual storyboarding and some things like that. They’re able to ideate much faster when utilizing AI. For businesses, we see a lot more automation, so making more custom onboarding. We’ve utilized some things with Airtable and OpenAI’s API to allow us to bulk create items within seconds that wouldn’t have taken days for a strategist, like when we have a site that has 2,000 titles and meta that are needed, and we can do that with some strategic formula and a strategic prompt. We work for two or three weeks to get perfected, but we can confidently write five or six hundred, seven hundred titles and meta in five minutes per page and go through and review them as a human. But even if we were to sit there and write them, if someone could write one title and metaphor a page per minute, a 60 per hour, 600 pages, that’s 10 hours of work that’s done in 10 minutes. Then we allow that person’s time to go do that again for the next project.
Overall things going to transform how things are. If we as humans accept it in the sense of, Hey, this is something that’s going to help me be more efficient, I think it will allow it to be managed much more. It will allow it to be managed very efficiently and not be the thing that might be the bogeyman everyone wants to look at through the scary windows. Then I think a great way to start with it is like, How can I utilize the top AI platforms? Not even the obscure ones out there, which because everything now has AI, but the top AI platforms, how can I utilize those in my day to be my first step? How much more efficient will I be if I can just say when I’m ideating something, if I say, Hey, give me five ideas for this, versus, Let me spend 20 minutes thinking of an idea to not like it and go do another idea. One stat before I finish talking about this crazy to put it in perspective, Shopify as a whole just crossed over utilizing, like Shopify’s developers crossed over utilizing, It’s a copilot, it’s a coding assistance AI.
They just crossed over their millionth line of code written by Copilot, which is just crazy to think about since it’s been implemented, they’ve used it to write over a million lines of code. That’s the amount of human hours that would have taken us to do is insane. It’s making the world much more efficient already, and if you don’t pay attention to it, you’re going to get left behind.
Absolutely. Great, lovely. Spencer, before I let you go, finally, I would like to play a quick rapid-fire with you. I hope you’re game for it.
What was your last Google search?
My last Google search was AR View for Android phenotype. We have a client that built some, They build covers for sensors that are on aircraft. We’re creating an immersive environment for a showbook they’re taking. We’ve had to take their design files from their Solidworks team and convert them into 3D objects. Usdz is the one for ILS, which I could text to you right now. You could open it and put it on your shelf and look at it. But we have 20 people here at the agency. No one here has any Android device at all. We need to test that as well. That was my last Google search was ARB for Android dial-sites. They’re not very exciting, but that’s it.
Okay, what’s written here on your hand?
And what does it mean? It’s just to commit to passion. It’s just to when it comes to preserving your energy. It sounds like when I wash my hands, I see that if I’m eating in a mirror, I see that. Just commit to passion it.
Lovely. All right, let’s say if we were to make a movie on you, Spencer, what genre would it be?
Yeah, I get told all the time that I look like Jack Black, the comedian, the actor from my school of rock, and different ones like that. It would probably have to be a comedy, but it would probably be a little bit of dark comedy at times. There’s a lot of dark comedy and the production is like lowbrow humor, but it’s a dark comedy and they’re really dry, smart ass like the femur and not deep cuts, but you got to be paying attention to catch it. The second time you watch it it will be much funnier. It’d be a comedy, but it would be a roller coaster for sure. There’s been a lot of jobs, a lot of places, a lot of things, a lot of exciting moments across the 32 years I’ve been on the Earth.
I’m sure. Okay, the last one, I’ll not grill you any further. Where do we find you, Spencer, on Friday evenings after office?
Yes, Friday evenings, ironically enough, I’m a 5:30-7:00 guy when I come to the office. I leave my desk at 5:30. I typically leave my desk at 7:00. I’m up with the team, whatever that’s when I find most efficient because I don’t overexert and be exhausted at the end of the day. I have three hours before the team gets here, uninterrupted focus time and working, and then I’m able to be present for the team because I work for them, they work with me. That’s our mindset when I’m working. On Fridays, I leave the office at 6:00, or 6:15 ish. I do not open my laptop again until probably the next day, around noon on Saturday. I go to a restaurant that’s about 20 or 30 minutes away. It’s far enough away from work, decompressed from work. Ironically enough, one of our key members there, his parents owns that place. My family is, We’re all an hour and a half, 50 minutes from one another in the capacity. My parents, my aunts, my uncles, etc, we’re all one hour from each other like this weird star pattern. At any time, we typically have dinner around 6:37. At any time there can be me and my wife, there can be my aunt and uncle, or my aunt and children, and there can be my parents.
It’s like we just met here on Friday nights. We don’t text each other. No one says, Hey, you going? It’s just known. We have family dinner here on Friday nights and it’s going to be a mix of whoever’s there. That’s right. Every Friday night for probably two or three years now, it’s been like this thing of that’s where I’m at. If you’re ever in Eastern North Carolina and you’re looking for me, I’m not of eating the Italian place out in the country.
Lovely. Perfect family man.
Great. Lovely, Spencer. It has been a brilliant conversation and I’m sure our audiences would have benefited a lot from the insights that you shared tonight. Thank you so much, yeah. I appreciate it, man.
Thank you for having me.
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