Stephan Spencer offers some unique insights into Search gained from his multiple decades of experience in the industry. In this 60+ minute conversation with MarketMuse cofounder, Jeff Coyle, their discussion covers a wide variety of SEO aspects.
- Strategy vs tactics and how the two get mislabeled.
- Breaking down content team silos.
- Top 3 things site owners should do to move the needle.
- Best practices for product pages.
- The importance of intention and staying focused.
- Negativity avoidance and why it’s better to focus on positive outcomes.
Not your run-of-the-mill SEO conversation!
How do you think about strategic insight and how do you bring strategy to a team?
Stephan believes many things get mislabeled as a strategy when it’s just merely a tactic. Some things that people call a strategy aren’t really strategic at all. When working with a new team it’s important they know how you work and that the way that you operate is very strategic and involves a great deal of critical thinking.
Many loopholes have been closed.
When you have no desire for a site’s longevity or you’re not working for a big brand, there are many tactics that you can employ. It’s easy because you’re not worried about the consequences. Stephan offers an example of link building using a very old post. “An old blog post many years old, hasn’t been touched since it was written in 2007, can be turned into a link to a commercial website that has low trust and low authority. How ridiculous can you get, that it wouldn’t look at all abnormal to Google.”
Intention is everything
Stephan explains the amount of synchronicities that you get in life corresponds to your benevolence. “Karma’s real! It applies in business and in SEO. It’s an all encompassing universal law.”
Trying to trick or manipulate people or search engines, in the case of SEO, won’t lead to the ultimate reward. You might have some short-lived success, if you’re lucky.
When you see people working in silos, does it guide you or reinforce your mission?
Stephan tries to look at it from a 30,000 foot view perspective. Ultimately, whatever you do needs to pass muster and add value. AI-technology can help immensely in the creation of content, but can that output create value? As he puts it, “If you’re comfortable putting your name to it as the author or the editor of it, then by all means crank way.”
Your content works together to tell the story of your expertise and authority. “You wouldn’t take work done by an outsourced writer or a search engine optimization professional and not review it and just throw it up on that brand’s website without having any checks and balances.”
On staying focused.
You’ll spread yourself too thin if you’re trying to do a million things. Stephan relays a story about how Warren Buffet would have his executives come up with their top 25 projects. From that list he would make the pick their top 5 – the other 20 they were not allowed to work on.
You need to stay focused and not get distracted. That means you’ll need to be brutal in your decision making and have to say no a lot.
How does that fit with your approach to consulting?
That means you can’t support everyone with their entire priorities list. Start with how you start your day. If you have big, hairy, and audacious goals and yet your day-to-day activities are spent in trivial pursuits, you’re not materializing your dream goals. Neither are your clients.
Be careful about practicing the negative in your life
Stephan believes that “if you focus on the negative, your reticular activating system in your brain is keeping tabs of examples out there.You’re actually focused on it and you’re attracting that into your brain. You’re also releasing bad neurochemicals [that fire and wire together your brain].”
Being in an action, you have to take action.
Positive expectations are just a start. But you can’t sit back on your couch and expect positive outcomes just because you dream it. You need to participate – get out into the world and take action along with having that positive expectancy.
What are the top three things website owners should do to move the needle?
Create content that’s likable, linkable, and shareable. Get yourself optimized and create content that wants to be free and it’s not. Stephan give the example of turning a podcast into a transcript, and taking that transcript and turning it into a long-form post. He also suggests that you can do the same with video content.
What best practices would you follow for product detail pages?
The key here is to think about the uniqueness of your product versus competitors who sell the same product. To differentiate yourself from the rest, you’ll need to create valuable resources – not just to get the sale but also for post-purchase. Stephan offers an example of a bedding product and what can be done to build out numerous pieces of high-quality supporting content.
Stephan Spencer, SEO Expert, Author, and Speaker
Stephan Spencer is author of Google Power Search co-author of The Art of SEO, and co-author of Social eCommerce, all published by O’Reilly.
Stephan founded Netconcepts in 1995 and grew it into a multi-national SEO agency before selling it in 2010 to Covario. Stephan is the inventor of the pay-for-performance SEO technology platform GravityStream, now part of the Rio SEO toolset.
Stephan’s recent SEO clients have included such retail giants as Zappos, Sony Store, Quiksilver, Best Buy Canada, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Chanel.
Stephan is a Senior Contributor to Practical Ecommerce and to MarketingProfs.com, and a columnist for Search Engine Land, Multichannel Merchant, and The Huffington Post. He’s also been a contributor to DM News, Catalog Age, Catalog Success, Building Online Business, Unlimited, and NZ Marketing magazine, among others.
Stephan is a frequent conference speaker on SEO and other online marketing topics for the American Marketing Association (AMA), Direct Marketing Association (DMA), Shop.org, Internet Retailer, SMX, IncisiveMedia (Search Engine Strategies), O’Reilly/TechWeb, PubCon, ECMOD, IQPC and IIR. His thousands of speaking gigs have taken him around the globe – everywhere from Berlin, London, Toronto, Santiago, Sydney and Auckland, to New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and places in between.
Long term success in Search requires deep strategy and critical thinking. Tactics that exploit loopholes can bring fleeting success until that loophole gets closed, which they all do eventually.
Staying focused on the big picture is a constant challenge in today’s environment with the multitude of distractions and promises of instant success. But you can never go wrong creating high-quality content that’s likable, linkable, and shareable.
Jeff Coyle: Hello, welcome to another MarketMuse content strategy, webinar, and today’s discussion is going to be about SEO outcomes over outputs. And I’m Jeff Coyle, the co-founder and chief strategy officer for MarketMuse. And thank you for joining us again in this series. What, before we get started a little housekeeping, please ask us anything or almost anything you put it in the chat and we’ll get to it in line.
If it’s directly relevant to our conversation and we’ll save some time at the end for rapid fire questions with our guests. While you’re at it, you’re going to get a note about archives. Here, you’re going to get the replay via email, go check out our webinar section on our site. It’s a link in the top navigation where you can get access to gosh, now probably a hundred recordings from everyone like Andy Crestodina, Pam Didner on sales enablement, Nick Eubanks on, keyword research tactics and 50 more than I won’t name right now.
So before the Go deep on that, but go check out our guests, webinars and appearances too. And I want to introduce him. He is an amazing author and amazing search engine optimization, professional and someone that I’ve, both been connected to as well as admired his career for ages.
Stephan Spencer, thanks for joining us. Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got to what you’re doing and your current mission, what you’re excited about.
Stephan Spencer: Okay. Sure. Thanks for having me, Jeff. I got started in the very early days of SEO before it was even a thing I started in 1995 and internet age and see that became a specialist SEO company.
And yeah, I was studying for PhD in biochemistry. I dropped out, started the internet company and then started probing, poking and prodding at the black box. That is Google. Once that came out, I wanted to figure out how it worked. Yeah. I thought the whole kind of scam of making separate doorway pages for each search engine was ridiculous.
And I was looking forward to the advent of a really smart algorithm. And that name came about in the form of Google. So I’ve been working on trying to reverse engineer Google ever since the fourth edition of the art of SEO I’m currently working on with my coauthors. And we’ve been warned by O’Reilly our publisher, not to make it any more than a thousand pages to the traveling 994 pages.
Apparently it, the bigger it is, the fewer copies you end up selling.
Jeff Coyle: Yeah, it’s standard issue. If you work at MarketMuse it’s in your reading material. The Art of SEO always has been, even, so I started in about 99, 2000, and I remember seeing stuff that was connected to the work that you’re doing even, early in that time. And it really feels, it felt like you had the mission of kind of quality repeatable strategy sustainable strategy, not like these bombastic wow.
Kind of hacks and tricks. And that was something that I always connected to. How do you think about strategic insight and how do you bring, strategy to a team or someone maybe you’re coming in at, on a prospect or as a first meeting with a consulting agreement?
How do you come and make sure they know that’s the way that you work, the way that you operate is very strategically and thinking critically about what is a good fit for them? Good fit for the way they could operate or they currently operate.
Stephan Spencer: So what I do is make sure that they can differentiate the tactics versus the strategies, because some things they will call a strategy aren’t really strategic at all.
They’re tactical. And then some things that they consider tactical would actually be strategic that happens less. A lot of things get mislabeled as a strategy when it’s just merely a tactic. And I love this quote from the Art of War. “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat” is my favorite quote from the book from a timeless book by Tsun Zu.
And if you’re going to now focus on the tactics, tricks the hacks, then you’re going to get slaughtered on the battlefield. It may not, you may win the battle but you’re not going to win the war. And so a strategy will always trump or leapfrog the tactics. And so if you’re coming up with a crazy, brilliant idea that no one else has thought of, because you have put a bunch of pieces together and come up with something completely new or an improvisation or innovation that hasn’t hit the market yet.
And back in 2003, nobody was talking about using a proxy server reverse proxy for SEO. And I was, toying around with with reverse proxy and using a proxy based rewrite rules in the httpd dot conf file and realizing that, oh, I could actually. Yeah. Do an end run around all the technical roadblocks that we were facing with these various e-commerce platforms, content management systems that were not very easy to re-engineer to be search engine friendly.
Blue Martini for example, was terrible as an SEO platform. So we were able to figure out, I was able to come up with a prototype just on my own, playing around with rewrite roles. But I don’t feel like I was on my own. I felt like I was inspired. I was connected. I had I don’t know some intuition that I had tapped into and I just happened to be in the right place, the right time playing with the right tools and then serendipity hits.
Jeff Coyle: I remember sitting in the blue martini office, trying to communicate some of those things to them at one point in my career. So I love hearing that example. That’s a throwback. So when your goodness gracious, yes. The and so many more similar, but the one thing that I connected with was you were, you were thinking about how can I take this thing that I believe in turn it into something that’s repeatable?
What are the tactics that you see in the market today? Maybe not maybe individually identified, but what are the tactics to generally, or conceptually that you see that you feel are misrepresented as being really great long-term strategy and, I’ll use very commonly we’ll see at, conferences or shows someone saying, here’s a way to hack or trick.
This is. And my response is always to say, that’s fine and well, and good. If you have no desire for your site to have longevity or you’re not working for a big brand. So if you’re rocking, podcasts and microphones for you.com and if it gets slammed, you go buy another domain and make podcasts, microphones, permitted burn.
If you can turn and burn, go for it. That’s not my choice. But that’s the only way that those types of tactics fit. And that’s one example. But what are the things that you see that get misrepresented as I can do it with this weird exception? Thus, it’s a greatest strategy.
Stephan Spencer: Yeah. A lot of the loopholes have been closed.
Yeah, just here’s an example. that would make my eyes roll whenever I heard it. So they’d scan for old articles, old blog posts that looked like. buy a link from the site, maybe it was a really old site hasn’t been updated for a long time, had a good authority metrics and so forth. And then they would approach the webmaster and say, Hey, I’ll pay you a hundred bucks.
Just take a phrase in this old article from 2007 or something. And turn that into a link to my money page on this website. How ridiculous can you get that wouldn’t look at all abnormal to Google like this blog post many years old, hasn’t been touched since it was written And suddenly a money term in the article is turned into a link to a commercial website that has low trust and low authority.
Yeah. That was never a good idea. And it may have worked for a little while, but that loophole is certainly closed now and has been for, I don’t know how long, and I never wanted to embark on that because the short-term tactics that like that one that may work for a period of time will end up getting you into a big hole that you have to dig yourself out of.
And it’s costlier to dig yourself out of a hole than just to do nothing.
Jeff Coyle: Yeah. I think that’s an awesome example where if someone’s not familiar with the zombie outreach, her however zombie link outreach, which is a sites that aren’t being maintained, you somehow can influence getting paid cheap page changes happening and thus trying to manipulate, that type of approach is, I love the way you described it.
Cause it’s saying this. I have an example of it working, but it’s that cheating side of it is time correlative, right? So over time, it’s not going to, because it’s just, it’s not, it’s a nonsensical thing. Let’s say, if it was a broken link and they always did point to you and you go back and fix it, that’s one thing.
But if you’re creating this shift in link velocity, or this shift in the way your site is perceived in an unnatural way, you should have an expectation that’s going to catch up. It’s not a great strategy for a long, for a brand longterm. And then, know what you’re getting into before you’re selling that as like a service.
And I love that example. So yeah you
Stephan Spencer: know, intention is everything. Intention is everything. So if you’re trying to trick the search engines, if you’re trying to gain unfair advantage and hope you don’t get caught you’re you would be uncomfortable sharing what you’re doing with the Google engine.
You shouldn’t be doing it. That’s a high risk activity. It’s not ethical. Not that there’s a there, there are lots of arguments. Ethics is a slippery slope or whatever, or whereas Google’s ethics, don’t be evil. The about was dropped a long time ago, blah, blah, blah.
That sort of a justification for doing stuff. That’s sketchy. It doesn’t fly just because one person is shoplifting doesn’t mean and getting away with it doesn’t mean that you should start shop, uplifting yourself. You’re always being watched, not necessarily by enclosed caption or what is this, the CCD cameras, whatever you’re being watched from above.
And if your intention is pure, then you get rewarded. So this is a little esoteric, spiritual kind of concept, but the more benevolent you are in everyday life, the more synchronicities you get. So if you’re, if that’s your north star is I’m going to be more and more benevolent, then you’re going to get more and more synchronicities and more miracles, more magic happening in your life.
And it might be a chance meeting with somebody who ends up being your business partner, and you make a huge amount of money. It could be a certain tool that ended up getting that, that kind of change. It turns the tide for you and your SEO and online marketing who knows what that synchronicity or that serendipity is, but you get rewarded.
Karma’s real. And it doesn’t just apply in life. It applies in business too, and an SEO and. It’s an all encompassing universal law. So your intention of trying to trick or manipulate won’t lead to the ultimate reward it’s going to lead to pain. It may not. It may work for a short time, but that’s my north star is that is my north star.
Like how it, my revealing light and what I’m doing. Am I revealing light and what I’m doing, I want to reveal light in everything I do in this podcast or webinar discussion in presentations. I give on stages and in blog posts in books that I write, I want to reveal light. So how are you revealing?
That’s an important question.
Jeff Coyle: Yeah, I man you’ve gave a few examples of how that manifests, but one that’s very common in my experience. And I’d be interested in your experience consulting and such as is, you are working with maybe a mid-market to enterprise organization.
And when you walk in the door to speak with them, they’ve already brought darkness either in the form of silos or the way that people perceive their work. Because there, it hasn’t always been strategic. It hasn’t always been with the goal of breaking silos. It’s often been, hate the term and you’ll probably cringe when I say it like SEO content, or SEO content over here, or we don’t own that part of the. Or things like that, that those are my trigger words, by the way. Cause I, I’ve been standing on top of the quality content soapbox for a very long time. But those are my triggers because so like you said, by not bringing light by not, we’re not doing the things that you know are appropriate for this business.
You maybe alienate yourself or make yourself fighting against when you do have the opportunity to amplify, why those people have jobs. If it’s an editorial lead, they are awesome. They are subject matter experts. They are beautiful at their craft. How do you make them better? How do you amplify the whole business as a function of your work?
And I love that. That is the way that you think it is, that when you go in and you see a silo like that for these purposes, is that kind of guide you or reinforce your mission.
Stephan Spencer: Yeah. So I kinda try and look at it from a 30,000 foot view perspective. Like not just is this serving the user, cause that’s Google’s go to phrases, serve the user or write content for the user, et cetera.
And if you again goes back to intention and intent, if you’re trying to create something with as little effort or cost as possible to dominate in the search results and the SERPs, then that’s not a benevolent intention. Whereas if you’re using whether it’s Jasper or GPT three or whatever, to write content, and it has to meet a threshold where it’s quality enough that you would.
Comfortable putting your name to it as a, as the author or the editor of it, then by all means crank way. It’s not spun content, then it’s quality content. So I don’t care if you’re employing a content writer or you’re utilizing an algorithm, an AI or machine learning algorithm to write the content.
As long as it passes muster, it adds value. It essentially reveals light. If it’s a great article out there’s an example here on coffee, chronicler.com of the ultimate guide to the Aero press. I don’t drink coffee, so I don’t really care about the arrow press, but I know that article is it’s in-depth it’s been quality checked.
It’s comprehensive is a very. Substantial piece of content, very valuable. And I don’t care if an algorithm wrote it or human because it passes muster.
Jeff Coyle: I love that. It’s
Stephan Spencer: your take on it too, but
Jeff Coyle: no, it absolutely is it you’ve nailed it. And it’s you wouldn’t would you take work done by an outsourced writer or a search engine optimization professional and not review it and just throw it up on that brand’s website and throw it up on, changes without having any checks and balances.
That is a bad idea. No matter what the source, and that’s what we’re starting to see the perspective of, I know in certain business areas, I think it’s I forget the quote, but it’s, bullets then cannonballs, right? It’s fire away, blast away and see what works and then clean it up.
It doesn’t work with. It works maybe with businesses, right? You put out five businesses or five websites on mass and then see which ones are working and then roll through. But when it’s content, your, all your content works together to tell the story of your expertise and of your power. And when someone reads that page, that’s awful, the negative impact on the brand is dramatic. And then that same thing manifests. So again, if you’re publishing content that you’re not proud of, I see this, I have a four square that I talk to folks a lot about prioritization. And I’d love to hear about how you prioritize projects. Quick wins business goals, risks, and then I don’t get to control my strategy.
My se my CEO does, I just do what they say I’m right. And the risks are, one of them is I’ve got pages that I don’t like, they’re not high quality, but they get traffic. So I’m afraid of. Common, that is where the in businesses. So how do you think about, prioritizing projects for search?
Is it completely ROI focused? Is it, we’ve got to get ourselves into a state where we’re delivering value and, showing folks that we are, bringing light to the world instead of what we have been doing in the past, how do you prioritize, fixing the tire versus, driving the car with that with three tires, w what do you do to tell that story
Stephan Spencer: it’s really about impact and legacy and re revelation of light.
So if what you’re doing behind closed doors, it passes muster, nobody’s watching you and you’re going to do it anyway. I F if you would change that behavior because you are being watched, then you had to look at that and reconsider it. For example, this is something I was surprised, but not surprised to hear.
If you swear at your Amazon echo and nobody’s there to hear you. And it’s an inanimate object, right? It’s not like a sentience AI. It is a really dumb AI, and you’re just laying into it, calling it names, being really nasty. Who’s being hurt by that. You are, and I’m not just saying that metaphysically or metaphorically, you are literally hurting your brain.
And here’s how it works. You change the wiring of your brain. And this has been shown through brain studies. I actually learned this from Amy Africa, who has these brain research labs. She’s studying user behavior her and her team or her brain scientists. And she told me about this, like the science proves it, don’t swear at your Alexa device.
You’re going to change your brain in a very bad way. So make sure that you’re squeaky clean and all your behaviors because that’s changing your brain and and in a very positive way, and also changes your destiny. That’s not just the wiring of your hardware of your brain, but it’s also the karmic brownie points you get for doing that.
So if you’re going. Do something shady. You’re gonna, you’re gonna pay a penalty and various forms. Let’s talk about like the way that you might pragmatically prioritize a bunch of activities if you’re just trying to figure out what to do first and what power and frigging figuring out what not to do and what to do.
I think it was Warren buffet who would have his executives come up with their top 25 objects. And he would make them pick the five that or the top five. And then the 20 that were not picked, they were not allowed to work.
Like, why that’s that? Number six is a really important project. Not going to, it’s not going to get touched it’s you’re not allowed to touch it. Cause you got to stay focused. What’s the book called the one thing, right? Gary Keller. What is the one thing that if I do that it most either easier or irrelevant, unnecessary, so be focused and on, and this was a mistake I made and I would be so scattered.
I tried to do so many things. I’d have a bazillion browser tabs open. I still do that to some degree, but I was trying to climb them out. And as I’m halfway up the mountain, instead of climbing all the way up the mountain, I would try to bring everybody up with me to where I was at and halfway up the mountain.
And that doesn’t work, that doesn’t it doesn’t help anybody get to your goal. So begin with the end in mind and actually follow that through if you’re trying to do a million things, then you’re spreading yourself too thin and you’re not gonna, you’re not gonna achieve anything. What’s the the adage that somebody who is a perfectionist has the same standards that somebody who has no standards because nothing ever gets done. So focus focus, and it means you’re going to have to be brutal on your decision making. Yeah. In a kind way. Of course, know, you’re going to have to say no a lot.
Derek Sivers has a whole book on the, about when to say yes Lei or no, it’s not a hell. Yeah. Then it’s no oh,
Jeff Coyle: I look kind and I love find them brutal. Yeah. I love the kind of brutal reference. It’s something that I’ve struggled with throughout my career. It’s not being con not of any kind.
I’m pretty, I pretty naturally do that, but I’m not wanting to support everyone with their entire priorities list. And when there’s a lot there’s, and then when you’re running a company or a founder, a founder or whatever, you always have a pile of projects. And I still do. I still struggle with wanting to do a lot more.
And I think everybody does. And I think it fits well with an SEO situation where you’re in a company perhaps that has 10. And you want to help everyone, if you’re coming at it from a, a benevolent situation, and you’re coming to you saying, I want to solve everyone’s problems, but you over here, you’re first, I’m going to get you done and then move on to the next, a lot of times that has to be your unfortunate reality and you have to set those expectations.
And so how does that fit with your approach to consulting? Because I know that you w from, just if anyone was not familiar, you had businesses and then, for the last, quite a bit it’s been about your personal brand. And it’s both your personal brand with your message and your, your, how your motivations, but also, how your personal brand drives your consulting.
So how do you get into that when you’re setting expectations for our client and making sure they know we’re going to be focused, we’re going to get stuff done. I’m not doing everything.
Stephan Spencer: Yeah, it’s a high, the expression, how you do one thing is how you do everything, right? So if you have these laudable goals and be hags, big, hairy, audacious goals and yet your day to day is spent in and the trivial many instead of the the critical few, the vital few, then you’re not materialize your dream your goals.
So start with how you start your day. And I started with a morning connection. The prayer is our prayer, which Moll affair and. I can see a bigger picture. I don’t start my day by checking my email, at least most of the time. I avoid that because that’s somebody else’s priorities. So if you’re if you have big dreams and you’re basing what you do all day long on your inbox, those dreams aren’t going to happen.
Cause you’re running off of somebody else’s set of priorities. And if you also, conversely, don’t have a big dream what the Peter Diamandis refers to as the MTP massively transformational purpose,
you’re not gonna achieve your sole mission. And MTP is a really important thing to figure out that massively transformational as mine is to help elevate the consciousness of humanity and that. The nest is an SEO guy. How is he going to elevate the consciousness of humanity? You got to dream big, so don’t make small dreams, make them big.
And then the universe conspires to help make those happen. Like in the book, the Alchemist that’s the running theme. Did you ever read that book by Paul?
Jeff Coyle: Hello? Yeah, I know. I know the book. I have not read it, but I do. I know of the book now.
Stephan Spencer: Oh, fantastic book. I just recently listened to the audio book version.
It’s read by a Jeremy irons, the actor. Oh my
Jeff Coyle: gosh. I’m definitely listening to the audio book now. Okay.
Stephan Spencer: It’s fantastic. He wrote it in 12 days. So at 150 million copies, he wrote it in 12 days. How did that happen? He plugged into the universal. The fabric of creation and the muse and channeled that book.
He doesn’t, he didn’t call it channeling, but it’s as if the book was already written and he was just tapped into it. We all stand on the shoulders of giants, whether it’s Paulo, Coelho, or SEO practitioner. But yeah, it’s, it all starts with how you start your day and do you make your bed, for example if you, there’s some studies that show that just making your bed helps you to be more productive and effective in your day.
I’m not saying that I make the bed every day, but I do my morning connections every day. I do my evening or nighttime connections at the end of the day as well. Those are for me as essential as brushing.
Jeff Coyle: That’s awesome. I think it’s great advice. And I know when I know my track towards being in a good place all starts with those types of rituals as well.
For me, daily affirmations when I don’t do them for a while, I’m like, oh wait, that’s having a negative impact. And so absolutely appropriate. My MTP by the way is I want to set the standard for content quality. So that’s and if you give me on a bad day, it is, I’m going to rid the world of bad content.
I can flip them depending on who is in the elevator with me say, I that’s basically what I say. Yeah,
Stephan Spencer: I’m going to give you a hard time about that. I pushing against something that’s negative. You’re actually focused on it and you’re attracting that into your.
Jeff Coyle: I know that to be true.
I’m gonna I accept that hard time and I appreciate I would much rather be setting the standard for content quality and driving people to think critically about how to make sure what they’re writing is delivering information gain. So it’s not
Stephan Spencer: a spiritual or metaphysical explanation or reasoning for this.
If you focus on the negative, your reticular activating system in your brain is keeping tabs of examples out there. And so it’s going to reinforce that in and make you feel not so good wow, there’s a lot of ad content. Oh, there’s even more bad content. Cause you’re looking for bad contents, like buying a car.
And that make and model suddenly shows up on the freeway everywhere. It’s because your reticular activating system is tuned for it. So yeah be careful about practing the negative in your life. And another thing too about this is if your brain is or the negative stuff, then you’re also releasing bad chemicals into your your, the neurochemicals that neurons that fire together wire together.
And so you’re actually doing some bad stuff here, your brain pathways, by focusing on the negatives, don’t keep it positive. Even when you see terrible stuff happening and like to extrapolate this out to a global level, you, Steve war is happening and. Tragedies travesties and so forth, even positive mindset.
This is still a friendly universe, even if it seems like it’s a dark time we’re going through, wow. Everything is their highest and best good. You just have to zoom out far enough sometimes to see it.
Jeff Coyle: Let’s, it’s very inspiring. And it’s this thing about, pragmatism, like you talked about prioritization, pragmatism, but also the positivity.
I think it, it it puts the puts the book down on, the difference between toxic positivity and actual, guided positivity. So I love that. Yeah. And then
Stephan Spencer: by the way, there’s the law of attraction, which is real there’s, it’s wooed is a lot of people, but it is real, but it doesn’t excuse you from.
Being in an action, you have to take action. You can’t just expect positive outcomes and sit back on your couch and do nothing. So it’s you’re a co-creator of your reality. So you have to co-create, you can’t just imagine it. You just can’t expect it or hope for it. You need to be in the world of action of getting stuff going and also having that positive expectancy at the same time.
So it requires both and, Tony Robbins is a really inspirational guy. He talks about how being outcome focused such a game changer as well. So Luke back-end, we were talking about earlier about intentionality and so forth. If you’re outcome focused, instead of activity focus, you’re going to get a lot more.
Yep. Everything that you have on your to-do list is worthy of your time. So maybe you’ll never get to rewriting the meta descriptions on a 50,000 product pages, maybe at least until there’s an AI. That’s good enough that, that that content passes muster and that’s okay if it doesn’t
Jeff Coyle: That’s great. That’s, I think working with intentionality being harsh to yourself, but kind about what projects and priorities that you’re going to approach and then doing, being that same, and maybe you do have team members that need support with their prioritization.
I think doing that in a very thoughtful way. I always need it. I need that helping hand sometime I need people to say are all of these things truly delivering the right outcomes. And and I also like to provide that, I think if you’re in that space with your team or even with your clients, that can be, I think it’s something that sometimes can hurt a little, but in the end it will yield huge benefits.
So before we get into, I want to talk about a little bit about your experience with art of SEO. And then also I wanted to do a deep little deep dive into Google power search, which are two books that you authored or coauthored. So let’s start with art of SEO, cause I’d love to know how that got started.
And then I know you’re working on the fourth edition, if I’m not mistaken. And I’d love to know what didn’t make the cutting room floor on those edits and little bit of information there. So
Stephan Spencer: all fun story about how that book even came about. As I said earlier alluded to earlier, the more benevolent you are, the more synchronicities happen in your life.
And what happened with the book was I presented at the search engine marketing conference SMX advanced, and the session that I pitched was give it up. That was my idea. Yeah, in the day. So what at Danny Sullivan loved about that with your sharing your best, most well-kept secrets as SEO experts.
And of course, because it was my idea for the panel. I had to bring my best ideas and tools and tips and so forth things that most people weren’t aware of, because if it’s not a. Everybody’s doing it. And then I don’t think it meets standard of a give it up session. So I shared some really amazing tips and tricks.
Like for example, back in the day when Google was, it was grouping results together from the same site and dented and denting. The second result, I figured out that the indented result wasn’t actually at, let’s say number two, where it showed visually, it might be at number 10, it was grouped to be with the other listing from the same site.
So it was number one in number 10, it would show up as number one and number two. So then I would just go in and change the parameters in the search URL ampersand number equals nine would show nine results per page of the 10. And if that, and then I’d just keep iterating equals 8, 7, 6. Until that indent dented listing disappeared.
So what happened was, I would find that let’s say a competitor is at number one and number two is actually number one, number 10 because it dropped away. And when I did not make work nine, then I’d look on page two and I would see what’s on maybe position 11 or 12. And I could send some link equity to a non-competitive page on the top of page two, bump that on to page one.
And that would knock the competitor off of page one for their second listing. So they’d be number one, number two, and suddenly they’d only have one listing and they wouldn’t know what hit him. And that was a pretty ninja technique back in 2008 or whatever. Nobody knew it. I even asked the audience like who’s used that or known of that technique.
Oh, like nobody
Jeff Coyle: that’s so fun. We had an internal process for it and we had an internal process for it. We called it the free ride. We were eliminating your free ride. I love it. That’s cool example. Yeah.
Stephan Spencer: Okay. But here’s where the benevolence coming because I shared my best stuff and I knew that SEOs would use this and call it their own and would would wow.
Their prospects and they wouldn’t give me credit and that’s whatever, like information wants to be free from Kevin Kelly heard that information wants to be, so I made that information free and. I got huge karma points. Cause what happened next was a few weeks later, I’m at the SCS Toronto conference speaking and Rand Fishkin, who was also on the panel with me at SMX advanced really solid tips as well on the give-up panel.
But he came up and hugged me in the speaker room. I had never really spoken to the guy. So that was a surprise to me. And he told me to SMX advanced a few weeks ago that give it up I was amazing and we just hit it off. We had a great conversation and in that conversation, we decided to write a book together.
And by the end of the can we even had a Riley as our publisher because here’s another synchronicity. Danny Sullivan just happened to be at the foo camp conference, friends of O’Reilly conference at that moment. But when Randy and I contacted Danny and said, Hey we want O’Reilly as our publisher. And we’re going to write a book together.
And he’s oh, guess where I’m at
right now? And that same day, we had a verbal yes to proceed. And that was originally called the SEO cookbook. But with Jesse, one of the co-op authors to do the art of SEO together. And the rest is history. Rand was an author on the first two additions, and then he dropped off. He got busy with other things, but yeah, it was all because I was over and people would think just from surface level, hearing me share my tips what are you doing, Stephan?
This is your best stuff. And it wasn’t just two or three tips. I had nine and they were all new. And everybody else was giving like two, three, or they weren’t even really secrets. They’re like, it’s common knowledge. It all works out in the end.
Jeff Coyle: That’s awesome. I love that example and everything.
Everyone needs to live by it. I’ve always said, the number one rule of being a great founder is giving. And I do, I live by that at conferences. If you’re speaking, if you’re speaking of, something that, I like to try to not say MarketMuse in my presentations and, just to make it all about giving away, MarketMuse, MarketMuse biggest.
Say it all. You want that when you can say it every day, all day. So no. And the other one, so I want to get into you talked about like tactics, I love the free ride. This is quite ironic because I mentioned the free ride, which is what we referenced that I got back. Ages early knowledge storm days for me to one of my coworkers on Twitter, because people were literally talking about that on Twitter yesterday.
And so there was, this is all ironic and it all comes full circle. You can fact check me if anyone looks at my replies, it says, oh, we used to call that the full, the free ride to a few of my knowledge storm colleagues and
Stephan Spencer: talking about that, and it just so happened that it was yesterday, like these sorts of
Jeff Coyle: weird, so weird
Stephan Spencer: non-random is our ramp by if the more you start noticing and appreciating these coincidences, the more they start happening it, Elon Musk for a long time said that we’re living in a simulation.
We are, it’s not the kind that the Yuan Musk. It’s a benevolence simulate mission. And I don’t want to get to a religious here, but the idea of benevolence and being mindful and intentional, you could be agnostic. You could be atheistic. It doesn’t matter. You can test it.
You can see if extra benevolent in my next week, what wa or I haven’t done in their messages. No things are non random. Like every, either everything’s random or nothing’s random. And I subscribe to the principle that nothing is random because really nothing is so you can start asking for examples or evidence of that, right?
There’s this. Called evidence. These are mediums who prove without a shadow of doubt, that they’re real and they’re connected to the matrix, right? So I interviewed Karen Noey for my get yourself optimized podcast, the personal development podcast I do. And she’s a famous psychic medium.
And one of her clients her client’s father died and they couldn’t find the money. He, they knew he had stashed away a lot of money and they were going to sell the house and they couldn’t find it. They tore the whole house. All right. She tunes in to the father and he says, it’s in the attic and it’s in a certain corner and you actually have to go behind it’s in the wall and you have to go behind the pink and slate.
And it was a lot of money. It’s so cool. It’s been awhile.
Jeff Coyle: So that’s wild. Giving away your, your good stuff, I think really matters. And I feel that I feel strongly that’s like the manifestation of what MarketMuse does, cause this is a lot of my kids’ stuff. It is the, how, difficulty is dumb until it’s personalized because things could be hard for you or easy for you. And so I like that’s how I bring my, my perspectives and my tricks and stuff is in a way for everybody to transform their businesses, you do that with books and in the, Google power search.
I thought it was a really cool idea. It was all the ways cause using Google well, is it is. Being able to use a search engine. And I, I studied in, I studied computer science at Georgia tech usability theory, and I did a lot of information, retrieval search engines, ad servers, and all, everything in between being able to search good in search well is as tough as, being able to write great content in some ways.
So how do you how did you get the idea for Google power search and what can you share maybe some advanced search operators that people still don’t look at? I’ve got so many I’m usually preaching on top of the sandbox about advanced search and how useful it is. But yeah. How did that come about?
And what’s your perspective on being a good searcher? Makes you a good SEO,
Stephan Spencer: great question. Okay. So the book came about because I wrote like a PD. For marketing profs to get published on marketing prost.com many years ago, it was all about the advanced search operators and the advanced search page on Google and so forth. And it was only like 24 pages or something that doesn’t qualify as a book.
And that’s all, it was for many years. And I was surprised how few people really knew the ins and outs of these search operators and these different parameters and tricks and so forth. The non equals nine thing is just a quick example of that. I could find things like Forrester research reports, Gartner group reports, Boston consulting, group reports, things that normally would cost thousands of dollars and they were just free on the internet just by simply searching in a clever.
For example, if you’re looking for Forrester research reports, I noticed that they usually had the term ended notes in them. Like instead of footnotes, it was end to notes. That’s an uncommon word. And then they usually had a section called grapevine. This was back in the day. I don’t think they do that anymore, but all of their, most of their reports had the word grapevine in them.
So it’s not hard to put into Google, forced to research and notes, great vine. And then to top it off a search operator file type colon PDF, because they’re always PDF documents and that will cut through all of the noise, all of it. So these are refinement operators to cut through the noise. It’s pretty.
Jeff Coyle: Yeah, I love that. And so
Stephan Spencer: the techniques that I shared at the, that conference SMX advanced, it was one of my, give it up. Tips is like finding actually, I think what I shared was here’s how to find your competitors business plan and marketing posts. And so instead of Forrester research, it was history was, and then confidential then business plan in quotes, then the word or in all caps or the pipe operator, each, either one works and then in quotes, marketing plan and then file type colon doc X or in all caps file type colon doc.
And now it’s all word documents that are, that have the word confidential in them that all have either the phrase. Business plan or marketing plan and had the keyword for your industry.
Jeff Coyle: Yep. That’s pretty now. You mean, and still work. They still works by the way. And there’s other ones where, there’s a word proximity.
You can look at words in between two words, Star’s a great one, but file type was always a part of our sales strategy at at knowledge storm. So this is, knowledge storm was acquired in 2007. Because we were getting people to want to generate leads with their white papers.
And if they were all easily accessible as PDFs they were going to have problems if they wanted to generate leads with those. And then the punchline on PDFs also is nobody tracks them because there’s no analytics unless you’re looking at your log files. So there was a one-two punch all down the road.
So yeah, file types of great thing. But everybody looking at this go find, first of all, email. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get a digital copy of Google power search. It will make you a better SEO. It will make you get things and learn about factors that you might not have. And if you can’t answer how star works file type verbatim filter equals zero if you don’t know, those are things that if you can’t get to that, get into this book and you’ll have a better respect for kind of the rewriting of queries.
And also the way that you could
Stephan Spencer: not longer, it’s 150 some pages there is, and it’s brand new. I just finished the third edition. I don’t know, six months ago, anybody think why are you giving it away stuff? And it’s on Kindle for 9 99, a paperback for 1495, whatever. It’s free for you guys because information wants to be free.
And I know that karma works in every aspect of life, including as an author, giving away free copies of my book. And it always works out in the end.
Jeff Coyle: That makes me very happy. And thanks for doing that. And everybody, please, if you’re listening to this or as a recording, shoot Stephan a note and get the digital copy of this book, even if you think, it all, guess what you think.
It all since me at seven Spencer at MCC me and we’ll we’ll give you a few like super secret advanced search operators or things that you can find. And we’ll see how that goes. I was I was on a conversation the other day and I was talking about there was a SEO that had doc, a documented article that said that Google’s results.
Aren’t tracked the clicks. Aren’t tracked by. Because you mouse over the link and it’s just a raw unwrapped link. And I was like, you should delete that article. That’s not true. So there’s, there’s a lot of things let’s talk about that. Let’s modify this article. And so again, if you’re not searching like an advanced searcher, you might be missing things in the way that you deliver your insights for your clients or for your internal sites.
So we’ve got a lot of questions and thank you so much, Cindy, that first thing that you wrote, isn’t a question and I can only imagine you’re speaking about Stephan. But thank you for being here and I’ve got to get a great question from you. She says, yes, likable linkable and shareable is the way that I think about my content.
And her question was what are the top three things website owners should do to move the needle, besides writing great content. Of course. So I guess I know that’s really general, but if you were looking at a brand new site, what are the most common Kind of things that you typically see that are going to have huge outcomes for SEO.
Stephan Spencer: Yeah. I’ll often see content that wants to be free and it’s not, it wants to be released to the world. Like for example, podcast show notes, pages that are just a short bullet list of five items that were concepts talked about. And the bio of the guest that’s thin content. You have the full transcript, hopefully if you don’t know and use otter.ai or something, to turn that audio into a transcript and then turn that transcript into a long form blog post.
So if you look at, getyourselfoptimized.com which is my podcast for that’s the website for the podcast, that’s on personal development, marketingspeak.com is for my marketing speak podcast Every single episode has a long form blog post based on the transcript. And it isn’t a wall of text. It’s broken up with images throughout that we pull from Pexels and Unsplash and so forth and click to tweets and pull quotes.
And every book that’s mentioned, there’s the book cover links to Amazon and so forth. So that, and we even have a checklist of actions to take from the episode. That’s a lot of work, but that turns an audio only piece of content into something really substantial that a lot of people can read pretty quickly without having to invest an hour to listen to the entire episode.
You can do that with video content as well. Also if you have a say a member area of your site, and you’re like we do these quarterly meetings for our clients and we, we videotaped them and then they’re in a members area. Take the best. stuff And make that free now create even free mini courses that are feeder courses based on some of that that video content apply the same strategy of long form blog posts based on the transcript of those videos, you’re going to end up creating a lot of value for people.
And then they’re going to appreciate that and they’re going to sign up. So it’s a, win-win
Jeff Coyle: rich media optimization. One of my passions. If you’ve got stuck behind a paywall fine, try it, make money with it, try to get, but also figure you can have many to one, many ways of getting in love. That example, we just called the seven planes of of rich media optimization, how the worst one is small summary and bad show nuts.
And you go all the way into what you described, you’re doing it right. That’s great. Thank you for that detail. And that is all a lot of times a quick, when your podcast may be PDFs, it may be a book you wrote to me. Support content or things like that, you can repurpose and get into a good place.
All right. Some other questions that hopped in what best practices would you follow for product detail pages? So these would be, I’m an e-commerce site, I assume in this case. Oh yeah, it’s a Tom. Hi Tom. So an e-commerce site best practices from Stephan’s point of view for e-commerce product pages.
Stephan Spencer: Yeah. So think of the the uniqueness of your product page versus the competitors who sell the same product. If you’re just using the same manufacturer supplied product copy that everybody else is using. That’s that’s the very low end of the spectrum, right? So if you want to create your own super valuable write up of product subscription cost.
That’s not the other end of the spectrum. That’s kinda mid of the mid road. I highly recommend you actually create a resource page out of if you’re going to write a book and you have competitors in the same genre and you go to their Amazon book pages and you read the the reviews that is incredible competitive Intel.
And by the way, that idea comes from Jay Abraham marketing legend, that’s just a brilliant idea. And why is it Amazon and not Barnes and noble or good reads or somewhere else that we automatically will go to to get that competitive Intel on our competitors book, because Amazon has the best quality and quantity Of this user generated content. Conversely, you’ll see some sites that they don’t even check the spam comments. They just let everything through. And so there’s Viagra links throughout the the comments and and review. All right, so you want to curate an amazing high value page of product copy, and if you can think of ways that you can add value, massive value for the user, and it just so happens to be, keyword rich and great for SEO.
That’s the best. Yeah, if it’s, let’s say it’s a product page and it’s about I don’t know, let’s say sheets, right? It’s a, it’s a. Nice Egyptian cotton sheets. You could have information about why Egyptian cotton. You could have some content around thread count, not just say this is the thread count of this of this sheet, but why it’s important and what it feels like compared to lower thread count.
You could have stuff about sleep quality tie in the quality of the sheets and the ability of the sheets to wick your sweat and how that improves your sleep over the decades of your life. There’s so much great stuff instead of just product specs and the boring, obvious stuff that everybody else is doing.
Jeff Coyle: Love it. Differentiation, create resources. Think about the maturity model of your category pages. Are they just blocks of different content or are you providing additional value pre-purchase and then also. Post-purchase as well. What content would someone want to read? And I assume you saw who had asked that question by your example because that’s really good advice for that person.
Anyway and if you didn’t, wow. We’re in some sort of mystical world. Okay. Another question
Stephan Spencer: here in the mystical world,
Jeff Coyle: are you serious? You did not see who asked that question. That’s no, that is bananas,
Stephan Spencer: bed, bath and beyond or something.
Jeff Coyle: He’s probably sitting here sitting at his desk with his mind blowing, not the bath and beyond however, the, he does have fine sheets and bedding products and of the sorts.
So that’s pretty wild. Amazing. There are no
Stephan Spencer: coincidences. There are no coincidence.
Jeff Coyle: It is mindless. When you said that, I was like, did he looked at, how did he see these? He’s not supposed to see these. But yeah, there was a, that was a while ago. So Tom the world is once you to focus on a user experience, I’m going to ask one more, just cause that was so amazing.
If you had a one section of the power Google power search book that you would want to focus on somebody who is just picking it up, first thing they look at, what would it be? And then to wrap it up, if someone who was just starting SEO, other than buying the art of SEO what are the steps that you would recommend to them?
And then we’ll call that a wrap.
Stephan Spencer: Okay. So the place that I would probably start. Okay. So I would inclination was to send you to the chapter about the search operators. There were other advanced research tactics. There’s. Stuff like market research strategies, there’s techniques for formulating search queries and so forth.
But I would actually start on second thought with the part that it provides, the context of why this is valuable and essential. So it’s in the introduction and the examples of how you can you can find different kinds of market research, information, different kinds of competitive intelligence information.
And I think it motivates people to see those examples of all right. I’m a car buyer. I’m looking to buy a car and I want to find some really ninja stuff. Wow. Me with an example. So those examples in that first section, I think will get you excited to want to read the book. So that’s what.
Jeff Coyle: Awesome. Chapter one is a good place to start that book. And I would I would also recommend thinking about what things you would want to accomplish with learning more about search engine optimization, anything you might think is black box. I would try to take stock of it too.
Art of SEO is a thousand page book as we discussed. But it’s a great reference. So I recommend everybody check that out. I also recommend everybody check out. There’s actually a question in the thing about why you need a personalized content audit from MarketMuse go do that from a book, a demo of our premium offering.
It gives you insights as to what you should be creating and what you should be updating, how much content you need to be creating and updating in order to cover a topic with high cost. Light bringing content and also make an impact on your business. So go check that out. I hopefully that helps out.
And thank you, Stephan. This has been awesome. Enlightening. I think everybody needs to take stock of what they’re bringing to the world and also take stock as to how many SEO motions they do every week that don’t impact their bottom line or impact the wellbeing of their business. And I think everybody should be inspired by those words.
So thanks again. I appreciate you at the time. All right. Thanks.