S: Welcome to Marketing Speak. I’m your host Stephan Spencer. I’m really excited about today’s episode because it’s a little different from the rest. In this episode, I’m the one getting interviewed instead of me doing the interviewing. The person who’s interviewing me is none other than the inimitable Jay Abraham, yes, the marketing legend, the godfather of marketing, who I interviewed in a past episode. Hopefully you’ve listened to that already. If not, go ahead and listen to that as soon as you finish listening to this episode because it is fantastic. Jay is going to be interviewing me and we’re going to be talking about SEO. If you care about getting high rankings in Google, you’re going to want to listen to this episode. Without further ado, here we go.
J: This interview is a privilege and pleasure and something I’ve been looking forward to for the last three weeks I’ve been travelling. Stephan Spencer is what I call the real saint. He’s somebody who doesn’t teach it theoretically but his whole background is doing this. He’s a master of SEO, done a lot of other nuances. He built a company that serves some of the largest, most successful corporations, and formidable competitors in the sector. He created proprietary algorithms and mechanisms that drove massive traffic but also drove massive quality and convertible traffic. He understands probably more reality about the world of online marketing for real entrepreneurs, not people who are dreamers. In theoretical, he’s very graciously agreed to really open his heart, his mind, and his knowledge base to entrepreneurs here who don’t really have a clue and give you some guidance that will make a profound difference, and not just your success but at how your market sees you and how you reach more discerning prospective buyers and stay connected. Stephan, it’s an honor and pleasure. Thank you for doing this.
S: Well, thank for having me.
J: I don’t do you justice so without being immodest, give us a little of a background, so that people can appreciate where you come from. Bees to bees to people who basically are telling you can make a trillion dollars in your underwear while watching Oprah out of one eye.
S: Right. I’ve been in this space on online marketing for the last two decades, since 1995. I dropped out of a PhD program. I was studying biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin Madison to start an interactive agency, it was called Netconcepts. It got acquired in 2010 by Covario and Covario then got acquired last year by Dentsu Aegis. They are an agency conglomerate, multi-billion dollar company. I also am the author of a book called Google Power Search, co-author of The Art of SEO, co-author of Social eCommerce.
J: It’s massive but it’s replete with really actionable and meaningful instruction.
S: Absolutely. This is used as a textbook at universities. It’s used by newbies and beginners. It’s also used by SEO experts as a reference book. There’s a lot of actionable advice in there. I don’t believe in fluff. This is my most recent book, this is Social eCommerce, which is also published by O’Reilly. It has a great deal of case studies, and again, actionable advice, insights around all sorts of social media including Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus, StumbleUpon, Reddit. You name it and it’s probably in here. Google Power Search is my third book which I don’t have it handy here but that one is how to be a power user of Google. I found everything from confidential business plans and marketing plans with Google within seconds, to force to research reports that costs thousands of dollars normally. It’s all just at your fingertips if you know the right kind of Google queries to type in.
J: Your background is being on the front lines of real online commerce or really demanding, big clients who weren’t just play acting in doing this, correct?
S: Right. Clients like Zappos, Nordstrom, Northern Tool, and more recently since the acquisition of Netconcepts, since I went off on my own, again, that was Zappos but also Chanel, Quiksilver, Sony Store, Bed Bath & Beyond, Bloomberg Businessweek, CNBC, those would be some examples.
J: Those are some good starts. Okay, with your credentials and your expertise fully established now, take off the gloves and we’ve already talked in advance. I’m going to take you down a path but I’m the advocate of the audience. We have an audience that’s represented by a lot of diverse entrepreneurs; large, small, multitude of categories. Many of them don’t even use the full force or any other force of your expertise. The ones that do probably unknowingly, undeservingly, and unintentionally underutilize it. I guess the first question I’m going to ask that you’ve already been given permission to tell me my questions aren’t the best ones and to replace them with better, is what’s the first sort of context people need to understand in order to really maximize the power and the worth of all this with their business? Because there’s probably a distinction that’s a big flaw in thinking. What would it be to start with?
S: Right. Think of Google as the operating system of the Internet. Just like Windows is the operating system for your PC or the Mac OS is your operating system for your Macbook. It’s the most efficient way from point A to point B, a Google Search. Having the upper hand and really thinking of this in a strategic way of how can I, manipulate is not the right word, but how can I influence the Google Search results, not just my own listings, but the listings of the other sites, the “competitors.” Because if you think of it like a chessboard where you’re playing chess and you’re able to move not only your pieces but also your opponents, that I think starts to get the real opportunity.
J: It’s a great vision of marketing. I like that metaphor. It’s not a funny game and not a whistle game. It’s a very serious game but you have to decide, you’re in the game whether you acknowledge it or not. You can either decide to be a spectator and watch, you can be a victor, or you can be a victim, right?
S: That’s right.
J: Okay, so let’s take that first realty. Your job really, and one of my colleagues said this in a wonderful way. Your job as a business person, not to be vicious or malicious, but you want to put maximum advantage on your side, and you want to add the great maximum disadvantage on all your competitor’s side. That’s really what you’re saying.
J: Okay. In the world that you master, how do we begin to do it? What are we trying to accomplish? Take me on a journey.
S: Sure. We’ll start with Google. We could go to Facebook, we could go to all sorts of different destinations. Let’s start with Google though. With Google, you have 10 slots that you could occupy with different listings. Some of them could be sites that you control, some could be innocuous non-competing sites, some could be competitive, or haters, or otherwise negative sentiment listings. You want to move the negative sentiment and competitor type listings off of page one and replace them with positive sentiment listings, your own sites, your JV partners, etc. If you look at let’s say you’re occupying a slot let’s say high up on page one, you have a negative sentiment listing towards the bottom of page one, you would just want to promote something from the top of page two onto page one. The way that Google works is it looks for three different primary things. One is links, another is good content, and the third is good, solid, architecture. We can go into this.
J: Yeah, I’d like to. As you’re explaining, define whether all three of those are positives or negatives, or whether they could be positives and negatives.
S: They could be positive or negative depending on how—
J: Good. We’ll talk about it in a while.
S: We’ll circle back on that. The idea here is that with these three major pillars to SEO, to search engine optimization, if any three of these three pillars is weak, you’re going to have sub-optimal SEO. If you have some strong authoritative links pointing to your website, that’s going to help you to rank better. Now, let’s say that you are wanting to displace a competitor from the bottom of page one and replace it with something that’s on the top of page two, you could send some link authority to that listing at the top of page two simply by linking to it. You could link to it from your home page, you could do some public relations to get them, some press mentions in online magazines and so forth.
J: A couple of quick illustrative examples of authority or how you could do that. Simple but it would be value-based for the searcher.
S: Right. Let’s say that something that’s on the top of page two is an association website. It’s an association that is for the betterment of your industry. They’re doing pretty well but they don’t know how to do SEO very effectively. It’s almost an accident they’re even at the top of page two. If you help them with some link building to get more authoritative links that they don’t yet have, let’s say a press mention, or there’s an industry portal that’s really important and they’re not listed there, you can help them to get those influential links, boost them onto page one, thus displace your competitor or the negative sentiment listing that’s at the bottom of page one.
J: Cool, okay.
S: That’s just one example for kind of a strategic way to look at Google and SEO. Let’s move to another powerhouse online and that’s Facebook. When you’re dealing with Facebook, it’s much about strategy as it is about tactics and facts in the Art Of War sense you said, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. We don’t want to get too enamoured by all the technology and techniques available with Facebook. Let’s say you want to advertise, you could create look-alike audiences with Facebook, you could create custom audiences. There’s a lot of really geeky, tactical stuff. It’s very powerful when used appropriately. But if you look at it from a strategic perspective, like I have to create something that is worthy of getting shared, liked, if we’re talking about on Twitter, retweeted, on Pinterest, pinned, on Google Plus, plus oned, etc., it’s got to be worthy of getting spread around.
J: What is worthy? I mean, I know it’s going to be relative and it’s a dynamic concept depending on the audience. But what examples of worthiness be?
S: Well, I think a great definition of worthy is from Seth Godin when he defines the word remarkable. It’s simply worth remarking about. When he spoke about this in the Purple Cow, described the kind of a farm animal that people would stop their car, get out of their car, get their camera out and then go to the fence to take pictures, it will be a purple cow. You have to create purple cows. Something has to be worth remarking about with regards to that advertisement, that piece of content. Another buzzword for this is content marketing. If you’re not doing content marketing, creating remarkable content, and that’s what you are pushing out through Facebook, you’re dead in the water. Examples of this, well, it could be an infographic, it could be a viral video, a checklist, a worksheet, an ebook, a white paper, but there has to be something that is remarkable about it. It can’t just be a white paper. It needs to be a remarkable white paper in some fashion. Let’s take a video as an example because YouTube is the next thing I want to talk about and this would be a good segway. If you had a video that you uploaded to Facebook and that video was an interview about, I don’t know, let’s say internet marketing. That video might be informative, it might be useful, it might be notable but it’s not remarkable because it’s just a talking head explaining some important concepts. What might make it remarkable is to take a meme, when I say meme, a great definition for a meme, I heard this from one of the foremost professors on memes, and she described the meme as this, it’s a copy me instruction work that is backed up by threats and/or promises. A copy me instruction back in the day when email chain letters were really popular, you get a threat at the end like seven years of bad luck if you didn’t forward it to 15 friends.
J: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
S: You might write on the quote tails of an existing meme. For example, seven minutes in heaven. Have you heard of seven minutes in heaven?
S: This was a kids game back in the day, you might get stuck in a closet with a female friend who you might have a crush on or something and you’re forced to stay in there with her for seven minutes, kind of like a spin the bottle game or something like that. Apply that meme or that idea to a viral video. So instead of just a regular interview, it would be a seven minutes in heaven interview. And this is an actual thing. These are celebrity interviews. They’re seven minutes in heaven. They’re filmed inside a closet. This one famous actor is interviewing these other famous people and he’ll just rotate in these different celebrities and have seven-minute interviews with them. There’s the hook. There’s the angle, is the seven minutes in heaven. That’s what makes that particular video series remarkable. If you’re doing a contest—here’s an example of a contest from awhile back, the TurboTax division of Intuit had a contest, a video contest. It wasn’t just a regular video contest where you submit commercials or something about the TurboTax software. The idea was you had to submit a music video and the music video was a rap music video. There’s some really funny entries. They had some very impressive prices like $25,000 for grand prize, $10,000 for second prize, etc. It was worth chasing after the prize money but what made it remarkable, one, rap music combined with taxes and the TurboTax software. That was pretty unique. That was a great angle. And then secondly, they got an incredible spokesperson. It wasn’t that expensive, it was Vanilla Ice.
S: Yep. So he didn’t have a lot to do. He was happy to do this. He charged only a very small amount of money. Intuit didn’t tell me how little it was. They just said it was very, very, small. A team of video people down to Florida and filmed him for an hour. They bought an hour of his time. And he was having so much fun that he gave them an extra hour of time. He was announcing the contest, the competition. He was announcing the winner, even though they didn’t know who the winner was yet. He was just making that announcement in a generic sort of way and then they would splice that in with—
J: Wow, cool.
S: It was very effective. It made the contest remarkable. Vanilla ice, and just the whole angle of doing this rap videos. There were some really incredible entries. The grand prize was fabulous. It just worked out really well for them and made them a lot of money. It was remarkable. And that’s something that worked very well for them on YouTube. Now, moving from Facebook to YouTube, if you were to create something that is remarkable in the form of a seven minutes in heaven kind of series or a video competition like the tax rap contest or just something that’s a unique notable hook to it, then you have an opportunity with the second largest search engine namely YouTube. It’s more popular in terms of search queries, more search queries on YouTube happen than on Bing or on Yahoo. That’s definitely something that needs to be on your radar if you care at all about the internet.
J: Okay. Go back for a minute and let’s fork in the road because you got paid and you got organic. You want to talk about both? You got earned media also which is very interesting. You want to sort of smash that all up for me?
S: Yeah, let me give you a framework. If you could imagine a triangle, at the top of that triangle, you have owned media. These are your online assets that you own and control. This would not only include your website but it would also include your email list, your retargeting list. Retargeting, I’ll need to define that for those of you who don’t know what retargeting is.
J: I don’t think they understand.
S: If you are let’s say on The New York Times website. You might see an ad that was for a company that’s very familiar to you because you were just at their website a couple of hours ago or a week ago. That’s retargeting in action. That ad might continue following you on other websites and that’s because those websites are displaying Google Ads, they’re part of the Google AdSense publishing network, the displaying network that Google has. If you are being tracked in this way then it’s more likely you’re going to make a purchase or you’re going to click through on my ad if you’ve already been on my website in the past. Having that retargeting pixel that tracks the fact that I’ve been to the website and therefore when I come back to Facebook, or to YouTube, I have a part of the Google display network of sites and I see more advertising from that same company, it begins to really have an impact on me. I just start seeing these guys everywhere and I think that I really should consider making that purchase. That’s retargeting.
J: It’s also very cost effective.
S: It’s very cost effective. It’s one of the best ways to create within Facebook what is called a custom audience. The only thing better in terms of a custom audience on Facebook than a retargeting list is a custom audience based on your email list of buyers. If you upload your email list and these email addresses are the email addresses that they used to sign up for Facebook, and most cases that’s the case, now you have a custom audience that is your buyers, your house list.
J: That’s cool.
S: If you could imagine, now you’ve got in addition to the owned media at the top of the triangle of the email list, the retargeting list, the website or websites that you own, you also have earned media. The earned media is like your search engine optimization stuff. Whether you’re targeting Google, Bing, Yahoo. It also includes organic listings on YouTube and other more specialized search engines, vertical engines is another way of describing it. There are vertical engines for job hunting, for all sorts of different things. In addition to SEO, you also have social media marketing, specifically the organic side of social media marketing. If you put out what’s called a clickbait article onto Facebook, “The 19 Things That Must Be On Your Bucket List Before You Die.” I just made that up, that’s just an example of a clickbait that you would see as you’re scrolling through your Facebook news feed. You don’t have to advertise that article in the Facebook app manager or power editor, you can just put it out there organically, not pay Facebook a dime, and just let it go as far as it goes. Sometimes these things go viral and they don’t need help in terms of putting money into it through Facebook advertising. But in most cases, I would say you’re also going to augment this with Facebook advertising budget. That’s organic, unpaid, social media marketing. That goes in earned media as well.
J: Earned means literally earned by the quality or to the value it represents to the market.
S: That’s right. It relies on the audience to upvote or somehow provide a signal to the algorithms that figure out where to rank this stuff that it deserves greater reach. Another example of a social media platform is Reddit. Reddit has upvoting capabilities. It is like in the top 10 of most popular websites on the internet. I just heard a keynote from Alexis, co-founder of Reddit at Internet Retail a couple of weeks back. This is a very powerful influential website. When you have cultivated relationships with influencers who have a great deal of power on that social platform, then it’s like you have PR on steroids. You have public relations power just beyond what the normal people would have. For example, I have a power user that is a good friend and a collaborator on various projects. She is in what’s called The Century Club on Reddit. You probably have never heard of The Century Club.
S: Most of us would not have heard of it unless you’re kind of in the upper echelon of power users on Reddit. A power user who is in The Century Club has enough link karma points that it’s greater than 100,000. That’s very, very large. That means they’re going too regularly hit the front page with whatever it is they submit. They could drive literally millions of views just on a submission that they’ve spent five minutes writing or creating a description on and posting the link to. They have a great deal of influence. These are the kinds of people that you want to have in your back pocket or you’re just kind of really strong relationships with. It’s kind of like the, I forgot the influential journalist name from the Wall Street journal. It’s like having those kinds of relationships. Then, if you move off of owned media and earned media onto the final stage of this or third element, and that is paid media. Now, you’re taking into account things like Facebook advertising. Many of these social platforms have paid advertising opportunities including even a BuzzFeed. You can do sponsored articles on BuzzFeed. You can do paid stumbles on StumbleUpon. There are promoted pins on Pinterest. Pinterest is a huge opportunity. It’s often times an overlooked social media opportunity. Now you can advertise on that platform as well as do organic social media marketing. Not only can you publish or post pins of infographics and comics and inspirational imagery and so forth with quotes associated with them etc., and let’s say wedding photography and product photography and so forth and so on. Anything visual can get posted to Pinterest and it’s more of an evergreen opportunity. Whereas Facebook, once you post something, if it doesn’t really quickly take off, it’s kind of dead. Its half life is very short whereas on Pinterest, it’s a lot longer. Stuff that you post that’s really high quality like a really high quality infographic with a concept that’s very complex and displays it in a visual format that’s very compelling and informative, that can do really well ongoing for a long period of time.
J: Pinterest, how fascinating.
S: Google AdWords is the most well-known out of all the paid media. It’s definitely a fairly saturated market. There’s still opportunity there to do sponsored ads in Google and also to use Google’s display network and get onto websites that are appropriate, relevant to your industry, to your target market. That’s how you could get advertising to show up on The New York Times website for example is through Google’s display network.
J: What do you need to know though now because it is less—in the wonderful, early days of ignorance and wine roses, and bliss, you could almost do anything almost anywhere. And I come from the same phenom with the infomercials. But now, I hate the word savvy, you have to be strategic enough to know where to go, where not, what to do. What do you have to know in order to intelligently, if not optimize it, at least properly strategically bend it whether it’s monetization or whether it’s some other goal?
S: I would say savvy is not quite the best word to describe this, I’d say more discerning.
J: I like that.
S: You have to be very discerning in how you spend your ad budget because it can go really fast on Google. For example, a very competitive keyword like mesothelioma which is a very, very expensive keyword on Google. It’s a rare form of cancer that if you have it, you probably got it from asbestos exposure. The ambulance chasing asbestos type of class action lawsuit lawyers would go after that search term and drive up the price to $50 or $100 a click, it’s just insane. If you want to cost somebody a lot of money, just do a search for that and start clicking on the ads. It’s crazy. You could spend stupid money is what I’m saying. Be very discerning in how you spend it. For example, you might get a better deal on Facebook than on Google or you might get a better deal on Google’s display network by handpicking the sites that you have your app displayed on versus the search network or you might get a better deal by handpicking specific more long-tailed keywords in the search network on Google than the more obvious generic keywords, or you might get a better deal by really expanding what’s called your negative keywords list in Google. When you advertise, let’s say you buy the word shoes with your ad and let’s say you’re Zappos, you don’t want let’s say on a broad match, I know I’m throwing some different terminology around, but let’s say you’re buying shoes and related terms, that’s broad match. That would mean you would also pay for advertising that comes through people searching for things like free shoes or used shoes, or I don’t know.
J: You’re paying for a lot of things you don’t want.
S: Right. Brake shoes, horse shoes, snow shoes. Things that are not shoes. You’d be paying for that. You don’t want to do that. You want to create a negative keywords list and specify these are the words I don’t want showing up in the search query. Things like brake, horse, snow, free. Thus, you’re going to save money and have a higher return on your investment on your Google ad spent. This sounds sophisticated, and it is.
J: It also sounds very programmatic.
S: Yes, a lot of it is programmatic and tools generate a lot of these stuff for you. I could use a tool and a service provider to create a really massive negative keywords list. You can add up to 10,000 negative keywords uploaded to a campaign in Google. That’s amazing but you’re not going to sit down and do that yourself and come up with 10,000 words. You’re going to be at the keyboard for a very long time. You use tools, you use technologies, you use service providers to help you build this stuff out. In this day and age, I would not try to do Google AdWords advertising all by yourself. At least not initially, maybe after several years you can bring that in house but it’s not core competency for most business. You go to an expert who can set up all the whizz bang technology and so forth, use all the right techniques, as well as give you the best strategy as possible, set up the machine essentially for you and then it just runs. They keep an eye on it and tweak it and optimize it but then once it’s kind of on auto-pilot, maybe then you could start to transition it in-house, get training from the service provider, that expert, and then eventually take it over.
J: We’ve had some private discussion about the quality of experts in different price ranges and propositions. The vast majority of people who are going to be watching this or not going to be deep-pocketed multi-million dollar corporations, but how do you discriminate and carefully select someone to assist you who’s not going to bury you or who isn’t going to be dangerous to your wealth?
S: Right. This is a very important issue, because especially when you’re dealing with SEO, a bad choice, a bad hire can cost you your entire reputation in Google. It’s possible. Let’s say that you outsourced to a link building firm in India your link acquisition, they could create a situation that is almost impossible to clean up where you would have to contact all the webmasters of all the websites that have linked you that have negative link equity or have negative reputations in the eyes of Google. That would be a massive cleanup operation. It’s like trying to put the horse back in the barn after its escape. It’s pretty tough.
J: What do you want? What are you trying to accomplish and how do you not just discriminate and select but also I’ll use your horse analogy, keep the bridal launch so they don’t go crazy and do—I’ll give you a terribly sad example. When we first met for dinner, I told you that I was innocent and trusting paid somebody who sounded like they really were Jay Abraham’s [00:40:01]. Embarrassingly, they didn’t pay attention and everything I was sending out said LOL and everything that would be the antithesis of who and what I am and how I would communicate. What do we have to do? Also before, I’m not letting action but I think that what I have learned is you can’t put something that is strategically critical to your business on absolute auto-pilot. You may not understand it but you have to keep pulsing it and aware of it, and you have to have enough working understanding to know it’s congruent with what you’re trying to accomplish. That may not be what you believe but I believe this is making that mistake myself.
S: Absolutely, you need a trusted advisor. Talking about the strategy of predominance. If we have somebody who is at the helm, a digital strategist who is that trusted advisor and can make sure all the messaging is on brand, that the implementation of the strategy is on target, that’s the most important hire of all. Whether that’s a person that you have a contract with, they’re an outside contractor, or it’s an agency but you’re dealing with the thought leader there and not just an account manager or an analyst but the thought leader at that agency, or it’s somebody that is on your board who is a true digital strategist and expert. Malcolm Gladwell’s definition, I put in the 10,000 plus hours and all that. Now, you’ve got somebody at the helm who can make sure that your interests are protected. And then also look for new opportunities that may not be on the radar of a traditional service provider or traditional agency, even a specialist agency. For example, an online marketer who you might be working with you could tell you all about using the right technologies for doing webinars but they don’t know that there’s this very popular thing out now that I think has a lot of potential, it’s live casting. It’s doing almost like a Jerry Lewis telethon and it’s over a longer stretch of time. You might have multiple special guests on there. It’s all live and impromptu and it feels very real, like a reality show.
J: Is it different than live streaming?
S: Yeah. Think of it like a telethon. People like Andy Jenkins, and Frank Curran have done these quite successfully. The idea here is to take the traditional webinar and turn it on its head and make it feel more like TV than you’re watching somebody’s powerpoint.
J: Yeah, I like that. I like that.
S: Who’s going to come to you and say, “Hey, this should be on your radar.” If you don’t have a digital strategist, someone who really has their finger on the pulse of what is up and coming, you’re not going to be able to proactively go to them and say, “Hey, have you heard of this thing yet?” Because how are you going to find out about it?
J: That’s great. Let me ask you something, for just momentarily; let’s put that hire, that expert in suspended animation. If I wanted to keep a pulse on what was happening, what was true, what was viable, what resources would I be best acquiring both static and perpetual? By that, I mean if it’s a subscription or reading a blog or it could be like I would say anybody in their right mind would be foolish not to acquire all three of your books because they’re quite profound and they’re written not trying to sell anything but sell people on using the opportunity to its absolute strategic maximum advantage and perspective. Your books should be, and I’m not trying to self-serve you, but your books should be the first thing people should get. What else in resource should they monitor, should they subscribe to, should they go to, should they talk to?
S: The thing about being discerning is you don’t know what you don’t know. You could hear about this new let’s say webinar technology where you could fake people out and make it seem like it’s a live webinar but it’s not, it’s pre-recorded, even the Q&A is pre-recorded but it seems like it’s live. They’ve missed one of the details of it. Let’s say somebody calls in, dials in to the webinar and connects 10 minutes after the hour. It should have been 10 minutes of missed content then but because the webinar software wasn’t fully thought though, it starts at the beginning. They’re like, “That doesn’t seem right.” Next thing you know, you’re outed on social media.
J: They don’t realize that if you try to gain the system, you most probably will get a very bad outcome.
S: Yeah, exactly.
J: And the wonderful thing about it, I think you talked about pre-eminence. There’s a force upward momentum that is to me, I like, that has a high tendency to cause a higher level of ethos and integrity, honesty, and authenticity almost whether people like it or not.
J: Which is interesting.
S: That is true. Back to that question of where do your folks go to for a trusted resource or to exposure to trusted resources. I would say the first place, and this is not the cheapest but it is the most valuable, would be a Master Mind or multiple Master Minds.
J: People don’t realize, they just think, “Oh my god, they’re expensive but they really aren’t if you,” and there’s this great quote and you and I have shared it. “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” You want to be in a room with people that have so much more experience, that are already understood, tried it, extended time, tested many variables and are able through contribution, openness, sharing and collaboration, to save you a fortune, to save you frustration, and to care enough to give you guidance that’s based on their real world empirical experience.
S: Right. You want to hang out with a peer group of people you want to become, not people who are looking up to you.
S: A case on point, I was in what was called Tec now known as Vistage, this was many years ago. I was in a peer group with people who are similar sort of size business. One ran a soccer center, another ran like a small consultancy and so forth. I wasn’t really learning much from them. I was not aspiring to become them. I realized this was not a valuable peer group so I dropped it and then I joined Tony Robbins’ platinum partnership and then I got to hang out with billionaires and people who had a growth and contribution mindset more than just making money.
J: It elevated dramatically your sense of what was possible, your sense of purpose, your sense of worldview, didn’t it?
S: Yes, absolutely. It changed my paradigm. I operated at a much higher level because I wanted to operate at the same level as my peers. You kind of adjust your thermostat to the peer group that you’re in and I found that that was indeed the case. I made significantly more money and much greater impact in the world once I joined a peer group such as the Tony Robbins platinum partnership. I also joined some other Master Minds and high level groups. Neil Strauss has a group called The Society I’m still in and I really love it. There are more specialized Master Minds as well. There’s one on wealth protection, asset protection, doing business offshore that I’m in, there’s one that’s about intimacy in your relationship that’s like mind-blowing and awesome. I’m in these come and go different kinds of Master Minds, some I’ll renew and others I’ll just replace with something else. This is such a powerful, fundamental principle that you are going to be in a group of powerful people. Not just like money power but in mindset power. It’s one of the 13 principles in Think and Grow Rich, one of the most important. I can’t emphasize this enough. Now, there are plenty of books, audio programs, home study courses and so forth that are great as well. But if in reality, all of these becomes shelfware, it just sits on the shelf, there’s no ROI in that. If a client hires me to advise them on their SEO or their social media and they don’t implement the strategy, if they don’t implement the SEO audit that I produced, the RIO on that is zero. That’s a shame. Don’t waste your money on things that you’re not going to reap the benefit from. You know, if you just connect with yourself, you’ll get an honest answer, do muscle test or something. “Oh yeah, I actually am not going to go through this program once I buy it. I really want to buy it now because the sales pitch is so good. But in reality, how much time am I going to dedicate to this home study course or to this whatever. Not very much, none.”
J: Truthfully Stephan, my life has been denominated by being exposed to people who are always on the front lines of capitalism, who are always way above my intellectual or financial pay grade. And I had to work really hard to not keep up but to grow up to those. I don’t know that I ever grew up to the standards but I found that that’s how you grow. There’s an adage, you grow or die and it’s true of everything.
S: I would add too that it’s not just about growing, it’s about contributing. Tony Robbins teaches about the six human needs. The two needs of the spirit, the four needs of the personality, the certainty, variety, love and connection, significance. Then there’s the two of the spirit which are growth and contribution. If contribution and growth are your drivers instead of significance, you’re operating at a lower level and it’s like running on low octane fuel. It’s not going to go well. Even if you’re not making a ton of money. I had just gotten my exit from my previous agency and I hadn’t seen all the cash come in yet and yet I decided I was going to build an orphanage or actually, I started with the idea of an orphanage and then morphed that into building a school. I built a school. I paid for it. I first figured out that I couldn’t do it on my own. There’s things like bribing officials and all those sorts of stuff. It’s just like outside of my realm of expertise. I partnered with a friend of mine who founded a nonprofit that builds schools in Zambia and I funded the building of a school and the operation of it for the first year. That was only $25,000. Now only, that might sound like a lot of money but the price of a car is what, $25,000 or $50,000. You’re able to spend less money building an entire school for dozens of children than it would be when you’re spending on that new car. For me, it was a no brainer. I’m still driving that same old car that I was driving back then because I don’t put the value to the car I drive. Some people are really into Maserati or whatever. Me, I want to build schools, I want to build orphanages, I want to build hospitals.
J: Let me ask you this because this has been exquisite and it’s transcended my expectation but I’m going to run out of time and I don’t want to run out of time before I run out of probative and simulating questions I can ask you. I have concluding three questions. The first one is what should I ask you that I didn’t because I don’t know and had I asked that, what would your answer or answers be? Number two, what would you tell everybody to do for second, third, fourth, whatever number you want? And third, what do you want more than anything else for this session, for people to get from it, that will haunt them in a favorable way?
S: Okay. I’ll try to remember all three of those.
J: You’re going to answer different three. I’ll bring something with a great crescendo that will bring this home to people.
S: One thing I’ll share is a resource that I think will be very helpful, when we’re talking about how to not to get snickered by the snake salesman. If you think about let’s say the SEO consultants that sounds like that they know their stuff but you are not an SEO so you don’t have the discerning questions. If you download a tool, I think I offer that on my website. It’s called the SEO Hiring Blueprint. If it’s not on www.stephanspencer.com, then just email me. My email address is on the website as well and I’ll provide that hiring blueprint. But the idea here is just ask some trick questions basically that you fold into or weaved into the interview process. Or you can ask them if it’s specifically about SEO and you’re hiring an SEO consultant or SEO in-house person, you might ask them about meta keywords and how—tell me more about meta keywords and how they work and how we utilize them. Because you have this little cheat sheet from me that says meta keywords never counted in Google, they are a complete waste of time and always have been, you have that little cheat sheet there that you could say, “Okay, you’re saying that these meta keywords are helpful and we should do keyword research and figure out what those right keywords are to put into it.” Okay, and you knew the whole time, you basically gave them enough rope to hang themselves so by the time they’ve answered that question, you know that they need to be shown the door. This can apply to not just SEO but also social media, to ecommerce, to conversion optimization, you name it. Paid media, etc. If you don’t have the questions, the trick questions to ask, go to an SEO expert for the SEO questions, go to a paid media expert for the paid media questions, etc. Get those three, four, five questions that you can weave in because making a wrong hiring decision, whether it’s the vendor or an in-house employee, is going to be one of the most expensive mistake you’ll make. Now, back to your three questions.
S: What did you not ask that I really would have liked you to ask about? Well, maybe what kind of machines and systems—because I’m all about systems, I’m a structure kind of person. What kind of systems and structures would really help me to leverage the opportunity to the best degree possible? Well, a system for social media and SEO might look like this, you have an ideation process every month where you fill the bucket of ideas with more so you’re never running low on kind of content marketing initiatives that you could release out there. You had the ideation process, you have the creation process, you’ve assembled a team of content writers, viral content writers, copywriters, and infographic designers, viral video creators and so forth. You’ve got your system for pushing out that remarkable content. You’ve got the power users with Pinterest, Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter and so forth. You have a technology for doing outreach to all these influencers that you don’t know yet on a topic by topic basis depending on what the topic is of the content that you’re releasing. You have these systems in place, these structures. There’s a lot of structure that you could put in place for paid media, for social media marketing, for conversion optimization, for improving the conversion rate on your website. You just need to get that trusted advisor to help you to architect what that system, what that machine looks like. That’s kind of an answer that you’re not looking for but there you go.
J: That’s great answer. I apologize for not asking it. Next, what are the one, two, three, four, five, whatever number that you would tell everyone to do right now no matter where they are on the continuum?
S: Right. Let’s differentiate the big picture things from the very specific, tactical, bite size chunk sort of things that won’t overwhelm the person watching this. I would love to give you all the big picture strategic stuff that you must do but I think that’s going to freak out your audience. Get that trusted advisor would be the first thing on the strategic list. But from a more tactical perspective, here’s some really easy things you can accomplish like today or next week, I think you’ll find a lot of value in. One, is to go to a site called NameChek, namecheck.com, and put in your brand name as the username and it will check all of the major social media sites, dozens and dozens of them, not just the big ones that you know of like YouTube, and Facebook, and Twitter and LinkedIn, and Pinterest but also the lesser ones like SlideShare, and Picasa, and Bitly, and Blogger and so forth to see if your username is available. And then if it is, you can click on the button and then go register it. If it’s taken, that’s a problem because this thing of cyber squadding doesn’t just happen to domain names, it happens to usernames on social sites as well. I would do that. That takes two minutes. I would also set up a retargeting pixel on your website. This should take only five minutes if it’s somebody who kind of knows what they’re doing in terms of Facebook advertising, they have a Facebook ads account set up. Because even if you don’t want to start advertising on Facebook for a very long time, this is an asset. If you remember me talking about owned media that you are not leveraging, you’re not building, everyday that goes by, you don’t have that retargeting list. Start now, take that three lines of code that Facebook gives you, copy and paste it into the header of your website. Now every time somebody visits and they’re logged into Facebook, which is almost always, they’re going to be added to your retargeting list so that at some point in time, when you’re ready, you can start advertising to that audience. Third would be to just pick up a few books that you’re going to either read or you’re going to listen to on audio, it’s on the topic areas of online marketing that really resonate with you. It could be a book by Gary Vaynerchuk for example, if you really like his style. He’s got multiple books like Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook and so forth. It could be Seth Godin if he resonates for you. It could be a more technical book like The Art of SEO. If you want a really thick read, my friend Amy Africa says about this book, “This is better than Ambien.” I don’t know if that’s a compliment. I’ll take it as one. A bit of a lighter read this is one, Social eCommerce book. Get some resources that you’re actually going to consume. It could be an online course. There are plenty of online courses. I’m actually working on producing an online course myself. I don’t have it ready yet but Amy Porterfield for example has a course on social media. There are plenty of good courses out there but if you’re going to buy, you actually have to go through it. Don’t just buy a book or a DVD just to have it sit on the shelf. There are three immediate actions sort of piece of advice.
J: Okay, last question. What do you want more than anything else for people to take away from this discussion?
S: Right. To separate out the strategies from the tactics, to understand that there are key distinctions that make all the difference. If there’s one thing that you’d take away and that is that you just need a more discerning consumer of information about online marketing that not everything you hear or see, or are told about by a third party is true. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it actually happened or it’s truth. Get that trusted advisor to help you sort through all the noise because there’s more noise on the internet than there is signal, way more.
J: You’ve been extraordinarily open about giving and informative in a very high-level expert way but you brought it down to very, very elegant and clear cut manner. I appreciate it on behalf of everyone, thank you, and I’m very blessed.
S: Oh thank you. I appreciate the opportunity, Jay.