Below is our recent interview with Linden Schwark, the Founder & CEO of Vancouver SEO Agency:
Q: Could you provide our readers with a brief introduction to Vancouver SEO Agency?
A: Vancouver SEO Agency is digital marketing company based in Vancouver that I founded in 2014. The company specializes in Google SEO, but also offers other services such as Adwords management, web design, influencer marketing, social media management.
Q: What makes SEO so important for any online business?
A: Google has more than 90% of the search engine market share worldwide. If a business’ customers are searching online for what they need, and their website isn’t showing up in the results, it’s a huge problem – they virtually don’t exist. It’s also important to recognize the stark differences between Adwords SEO, and organic SEO. Adwords can get a company to show up on the first page with an ad right away, and they will only be made to pay every time a click leads a searcher to their website. Great, right? Except there’s two major drawbacks to using this strategy alone, you need good conversion rates to make a profit, and there’s a defined growth ceiling because almost nobody clicks on ads (typically no more than 10% of clicks). The idea of SEO as it relates to Adwords is to increase the quality score that Google gives pages your company is using for their ads, which allows them to appear higher among the ad listings.
On the other hand, organic SEO is all about pushing a company website up onto the first page of naturally appearing SERPs (search engine results pages) and searchers put a lot more trust into these results over ads, making up 90% of the click share on average. There are three main benefits to organic: firstly, once you’ve ranked for a search, Google is essentially advertising for you for free. Having a consistent flow of free leads coming in from Google means higher margins, and a good conversion rate is an advantage, not a make or break difference. Secondly, higher trust for the organic results equals higher click-through and conversion rates than a traditional ad. Searchers have become accustomed to Google serving them the most relevant results first – they’ve learned to trust the top results – that’s why nearly all clicks go to the top 5-6 natural results. Finally, branding is a key benefit of organic search, why? If a company wants to be the leader in their industry, they’d also better be at the top of their SEO. Not only does ranking at the top of searches get your brand in front of thousands upon thousands of viable clientele, the PR opportunities are also important to recognize. If a writer wants to write about your industry wants to interview, or mention, some of the industry’s top leaders, they often search google and contact the companies that show up there – this happens more often than you’d think, and clients I’ve worked with had this happen all the time. There are a lot of major benefits to having the top spots in organic, not just the revenue.
Q: Why would a business fail at SEO – isn’t it simply following the rules?
A: Every business can succeed in SEO and build their organic traffic, but it is a question of investment – some companies can justify large investments into their SEO because of their product lines and service areas(national, international, or eCommerce companies).
Here are a few things to think about before you decide to invest in your SEO:
• Check the search volume for your main industry keywords like “packaging machinery” (UberSuggest on Neil Patel’s site makes this easy,) take a look, is the search volume in the hundreds? thousands? tens of thousands, or more? These main keywords usually only represent a fraction of what’s out there for you in terms of keywords, but it will give you a sense of how much traffic you’re missing out on by not ranking for those searches.
• What’s the CPC (cost-per-click) other companies are spending on these searches? (UberSuggest again) If it’s really high, it means that your competitors are converting customers from it well enough to justify the spend – that’s a great sign that these keywords have buyer intent and convert.
Not everyone is allowed to be on the first page of Google – otherwise they’d be serving millions of results for every search.
• How competitive is my industry? Every business can find indirect way of driving traffic and leads with SEO outside of their main industry keywords, but it’s worth taking a look at who’s currently ranking for your keywords. Do you see companies that aren’t very well known, have crumby websites and have mediocre content, or do you see Wikipedia, Apple, CNN, BBB, Yelp, and huge industry sites taking up most of the page? If you see that the front page isn’t filled with large, international authority sites which you’d have no hope of ranking against, there’s a good chance SEO would be a great investment.
Now, as far as following the rules of SEO, Google gives ranking benefits to websites complying with good webmaster practices – like using SSL for your website, having fast page speed with small download packages, and structuring your website in a way that not only makes sense to a user, but Google bots too, it’s a topic that’s deep and complex. Google doesn’t even entirely understand how their ranking algorithm works anymore after implementing machine learning, but we know the general programming of what it’s looking for to decide what it serves to the searcher. At its absolute core, SEO is about making it easy for search engines to understand what your website is about, and making the user interaction with your website positive, but the days you could rank by just improving those two things are gone – it’s common practice now, albeit there is a big difference between someone who knows how to do this well vs not. To get ranked today, you need to invest properly into a quality white-hat (google policy compliant) link building campaign, and just so you know, this isn’t something you can outsource to an offshore freelancer, this needs to be done right in order to avoid penalties to your site and actually get results. The reason link building is so important is that Google looks for signals about the value your website is giving to the web – they’ve found long ago that the more quality links a website has, the more likely it will give a positive experience to the end user over a website without any links. Links have long been the #1 ranking factor that Google looks at to determine who gets served to the searcher first – which means you need them, lots of them. If you’re not actively building good, relevant links, your SEO with FAIL.
Q: How do you stay ahead of the curve in an industry that is changing so frequently?
A: By having worked with so many different websites across north america, I have the privilege of having large data-sets to work with and test to understand the updates Google puts out – I call it my “SEO laboratory”. Google keeps almost everything about their algorithm updates a secret to try and prevent individuals (like myself) from trying to manipulate the search results, but they do sometimes give generalized statements on what the update was meant to accomplish. Obviously, these generalized statements result in a massive amount of speculation in the SEO communities and I find that many times, some of the big names in the industry miss the mark entirely, because my data tends to show otherwise. A large data pool gives me the advantage of finding the pattern shifts in the algorithm – is it putting more value towards social shares, meta titles, schema, SSL, page speed, image alt-text, link types, anchor text distribution, content length? Normally, you’d have to guess about what changes were made.
One example of that in the past was that the SEO industry quickly deemed “exact match domains” (domains that contain keywords like buysupplements.com) to be spammy and was causing websites to drop in rankings. Then when the next update came out, I noticed that there was a significant surge in rankings for those domains. It was the opposite, google gave a lot more credit to these domains because they realized that if a website committed to a keyword in their domain, it was usually highly specialized to that specific topic. Even to this day, many in the industry believe that exact match domains are bad practice.
The way I stay ahead of the curve is through data, data and trading more data.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: I’m proud of the systems I’ve built and the results I get for my clients. Its a great feeling when you have that one-on-one relationship with a business owner and they’re thrilled with how much things have improved for their business and their lives. I’ve always had an aspiration to keep moving forward with my company and my skills however, and even though working with entrepreneurs personally is something I love to do, eventually I will have to transition into large scale projects with corporations my team and I would be working with many people, instead of just a couple, and the results you get are just numbers, not a significant improvement in someone’s life. I think I’ll always be working with passionate entrepreneurs at some level, but I’d be doing it less, and in a way, that’s a bit sad.