Show Note Links:
Here are my 3 core takeaways from this interview:
1. How to Learn SEO Fast
Measuring the number of mistakes you make is not a very good measure of development.
You could make the same number of mistakes continuously, or that number of mistakes could rise continuously, and your level of knowledge and development could increase alongside it. That’s often the case.
The thing that you should track is how good you are at learning from mistakes. You can make a hundred mistakes in one week, and then you can make a hundred mistakes in the second week. The thing that isn’t acceptable is to make the same mistake more than once.
You do that a lot at the start because you can’t quite isolate what really it was that you specifically did that is not quite working.
Some people fall into the trap of trying to avoid problems and mistakes as opposed to embracing the art of failure and actually taking those learnings and applying them.
Your goal is to be very good at knowing what you’ve done wrong.
2. The Most Dangerous SEO Mistake You Can Make
No matter how much theory and content you consume about SEO, you will never realize the nuances involved within it until you start doing it.
There’s a fundamental jump from the creation of great content to getting results that is often missed. A big part of this is backlinks.
They start a new site. They create a bunch of content. They’ll often say, “I’m going to publish five blog articles a week for the next ten weeks.”
You start doing that and you very quickly realize after 6-7 weeks that barely anything’s ranking. Maybe you get semi-lucky and a few things are trickling in, but, based on your expectations, it’s usually never getting close to where you would expect it to be.
A lot of people try to answer the problem with more volume. Imagine that in the context of paid advertising. You spend $100K and you get really bad CPA (Cost Per Action). Would you decide to spent $200K right after that? You would never do that!
Some people try ramping up to 10 pieces of content or 20 pieces of content a week, but there’s a cost associated with this, whether it be time or cash. When it still doesn’t work, then they realize: I need to do something different.
People fall into the trap of trying to do twice as much of the thing that isn’t working and hoping it will deliver results.
3. Explain SEO to your CMO / CEO (The Easy Way)
Distill the information important down to what stakeholders want to hear.
I don’t need to be sharing with Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, the minutia of a technical issue that we’re trying to fix. What Brian would want to know is, if we invest stuff into this, what’s the net result? Is it worth it?
Come to them and say, “Hey, we’ve got these 10 different things that we can do. There’s also a cost attached to these 10 different things. Here are the problems it will solve and why it’s worth it.”
Showcase a vision outside of an individual tactic.
Note: This transcript of the episode was machine-generated and has not been edited for correctness. It’s provided for your convenience when searching. Please excuse any errors.
Brendan Hufford – 54 matt barby seo for the rest of us
Brendan Hufford: [00:00:00] Great. Um, all right. It looks like we’re recording on my end. I’ll just jump in. Is that cool? Sounds good to me. Awesome, Matt, thanks for joining us for a hundred days of SEO.
[00:00:11] Matt Barby: [00:00:11] It’s a pleasure.
[00:00:12] Brendan Hufford: [00:00:12] Yeah, absolutely. So I want to jump right in the question I always like to start with is how do you think about SEO and what I mean more specifically is how do you decide what to prioritize?
[00:00:24] Uh, whether that’s on a personal project or any, like if you’re consulting or even like working at HubSpot, um, how do you decide what to prioritize? Yeah.
[00:00:34] Matt Barby: [00:00:34] Uh, good question. Um, I think one of the things in SEO is there is often many different things that you could go after, right. And you can almost get stuck in, um, Analysis paralysis, the things I think we’ve all felt, stuff like that previously.
[00:00:56] Uh, there’s also things that often seem like they can potentially be huge wins and turn out to be a huge waste of time. I think that the way that I try to think about this as like, okay, what. What in general is the overarching goal here? The overarching goal is often not move keyword, correct? Right. The overarching goal is often whether that’s drive more revenue from Devon, the most that we can line up with salespeople, whether it’s more, uh, increase the average order size on the shopping cart so that we can generate more revenue from our eCommerce store, et cetera, et cetera.
[00:01:35] So I think bucketing out individual. Experiments if that’s, uh, one of the, uh, the buckets that you’re going to be focused on, on an SEO point of view that are going to improve, move something that’s already existing.
[00:01:51] So an example might be, um, we have a bunch of traffic coming to these two to three product pages that are generating a large amount of revenue.
[00:02:00] We see a little bit of area of growth. We’re going to test out these. One, two, three, four different experiments to maybe move rank on a little bit of them, um, and get them pulling in more traffic, just purely from that.
[00:02:13] Then, then we’ve got like the new to net new opportunities. Right? We see this opportunity that we literally have nothing to build upon.
[00:02:22] Um, right now, uh, maybe. So for example, a recent project that might seem a HubSpot, we ran. Well, which was like a net new thing was there was a bunch of untapped search volume around business templates, right? We tend to combat a ton of people that are looking for like templates for businesses in general, across content.
[00:02:45] We didn’t have a whole lot of that way next to no coverage from a search point of view. So we built out huge content directory. That’s kind of focused all around ranking for a bunch of different business types. It’s net new and
[00:02:59] then there’s the it’s broken. We need to fix it, lock it right. That one often gets filled up pretty quickly with the more that you do in these two buckets.
[00:03:08] And the, I think the key in such is understanding. Which is more of a priority. Everything always feels like it’s on fire, but is it truly on fire? Is it hiring you and stopping you from doing these two things? And then the reverse, if you do stuff from these two buckets, will they be less effective?
[00:03:31] Because something in this bucket that’s broken is inhibiting that from why. Okay. Right. Like, okay, we’re gonna roll out and localize. Uh, a hundred of these pages on our site, that’s in English into French, but I hate track lines broken, right? Let’s fix hate Lang in this bucket before we tackle some of the localization efforts head, it’s going to be a lot more effective, right?
[00:03:55] We have cruel problem crawling problems, and we’ve got a bunch of cold traps that are being a current because of a pagination, but we also want to roll out this massive new content campaign. It’s probably fixed pagination first so that this content campaign can actually stuck an index better, et cetera.
[00:04:12] So the dependencies is one big piece in that there’s layers to that. And then I think that that’s just basic prioritization. One just quick thought on prioritization. I like to start with using, um, Preexisting prioritization frameworks. So I like to use the PI framework, which it like the guests renamed a million different times.
[00:04:36] There’s ice. There’s like all kinds of variations, but, um, priority importance is right. Like how much of an impact do we believe this can make this individual? One thing that we’re going to do based on a linear scale wants 10. How important are the pages or the assets that we’re going to be touching to our overall business.
[00:05:02] And then how easy is it for us to roll this out? Create an accurate store stack, rank them. That’s your starting point. And then I think there’s a number of other things that come into play where it’s like the dependencies, like, what do we, what do we feel like makes sense to group together and roll out in one batch.
[00:05:20] And that would be like the typical way I start to think about things. So just to very quickly summarize experimentation building upon things you already have going after net new opportunities, fixed problems, and then prioritization off of those three.
[00:05:37] Brendan Hufford: [00:05:37] Awesome. That’s incredibly helpful. Um, it’s also helpful that you have a framework, so then you can kind of revisit that every single time.
[00:05:45] It’s never like a, how does this feel? Because feelings and especially, I would imagine you have a lot of, um, Stakeholders and a lot of input from people. Uh, so which I do, I mean, being, I work on the agency side of things, but with clients like, whew, there’s a lot. I mean, we have our internal stakeholders, there’s them, there’s, there’s a lot, uh, which is fine, but, uh, having a framework that you can continually reference and then communicate, that’s interesting.
[00:06:12] That’s something that I’m going to like. I think more about is like, how can we better communicate with clients by like using a framework that they’re familiar with versus like, well, we think this based on our expert opinion, which can be super patronizing and we don’t want to do that.
[00:06:24] Matt Barby: [00:06:24] And a really nice thing as well, to touch on, which I didn’t really touch on that you have alluded to Brendan is around stakeholder Stripe.
[00:06:32] What this piece does, bucketing things out like this, and then having a prioritization framework. It’s like a filtering system so that you can then
[00:06:41] distill the information important stakeholders across the business or clients and stakeholders within the the client’s business need to take from this, right.
[00:06:53] That they don’t need to understand for a lot of the time, like, I don’t need to be sharing with, uh, like Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, the minutia of a technical issue that we’re trying to fix. Like. What Brian would want to know is like, if we invest stuff into this, what’s the net result at the end of that for us.
[00:07:14] Is it all just the simple answer to the question of, is it worth it, right? And it’s like, that helps you distill that, and it’s the same, with the client, right? Like a slightly different dynamic. Cause maybe you come to them and say, Hey, we’ve got these 10 different things that we can do. There’s also a cost attached to these 10 different things.
[00:07:33] These are the buckets that they’re in the it’s broken. We need to fix it as I’m sure many people who have SEO clients is probably the toughest sell because sometimes that doesn’t necessarily result in a net gain. It prevents a future loss and it’s a predicted future. Also it feels even less tangible, but when you can tie that into facilitating or enabling you to do net gain like projects as a result of fixing that piece.
[00:08:02] Then you can create more tangibility and explain and articulate the value of that to someone. So I think there’s like a lot that happens in amongst all of this. Uh, the, that really helps like showcase a vision outside of an individual, just tactic.
[00:08:16] Brendan Hufford: [00:08:16] Yeah, definitely. We worked with a client that was on like a two year just kind of downward trend of just losing search visibility and yeah.
[00:08:23] Losing traffic. Uh, and just being able to kind of that first bucket it’s broken, like our win was just like hitting a plateau. Yeah. Before we could come back up like that. And they were like, is that really the wind here? And we’re like, yes, we’re not going down anymore. Um, I want to kind of hop over to, uh, let’s talk about beginners.
[00:08:42] Like people just starting out, we’re kind of talking about some more advanced things. Uh, I want to know, like, what are some of the mistakes you see a lot of beginners making, uh, when it comes to SEO?
[00:08:52] Matt Barby: [00:08:52] Yeah. Um, I would say probably the most common thing, which actually ties very much back into some of the things that we’re talking about here is, um, Aaron was in prioritization.
[00:09:06] And Sheriff’s specific example that I see time and time again happened within this. And in all honesty from people new to SEO, it’s one of those situations I think is a very good mistake to make, uh, and kind of creates a bit of a learning curve for people. But. For a lot of,
[00:09:28] no matter how much theory and, uh, content you consume and read around SEO truly until you start doing it is when you realize the nuance involved within everything.
[00:09:39] Um, so a big piece is often someone starts a new website. Uh, they get a firm designed up, they do that keyword research. They’ve researched all of that. Maybe they’ve stopped to get some of the basics and kind of feel good. And they’re like, right. What I’ve heard is I need to follow all these best practices to create kind of great content.
[00:10:03] And and then if I create enough great content I’ll rank, and there’s There’s a fundamental jump from the creation of great content to getting results that is often missed. And a big part of this is like, for example, Backlinks. Right. Like people will try to answer a problem that happens, which is inevitably they start a new site.
[00:10:29] They create a bunch of content They’ll often say, okay, okay. I’m going to commit to, let’s just say, I’m going to publish. Five blog articles a week for the next ten weeks, right? Like I said. And when you think about that, like logically from outside of a search point of view, it’s kind of a a logical way to approach a project, right?
[00:10:47] Like a lot of other projects are focused on output. So you start doing that and you very quickly realize after 6-7 weeks, that barely anything’s ranking, like maybe you get like, semi-lucky And a few things are trickling in, but based on your expectation, it’s usually always never like getting close to where you would expect it to be.
[00:11:10] So you’re like, okay, what’s going on here? And then what I see a lot of people do is they try to answer the problem. With more volume. It’s like the, when you think about the, the common cliche of the definition, insanity, right? So doing the exact same thing and expecting different results, you it’s one of the few situations with SEO, where people fall into the trap of.
[00:11:36] Trying to just literally do twice as much of the thing that isn’t working and hoping that that will then deliver results, that you, you imagine that in the context of a paid advertising, you spend $100K right. And you get really bad Cost Per Action And it’s like, Whoa, this is really bad. Tell you what? Let’s spend $200K Right? And like you would never do that, right. That that’s often the problem. And then like, people will round up to 10 pieces of content per week and 20 pieces of content a week. There’s a cost associated with this whether it be time or cash. And it still doesn’t work. And then they realize, okay, right. I need to do something different I need to pivot.
[00:12:19] And more often than not, this is more of an authority problem. Right. And maybe that’s solved with like structuring out link-building programs in amongst some of this and getting the understanding of when things do begin to go, right. And you hit that inflection point. You realize there’s a number of different leavers that need to be pulled and, uh, for the different stage that you’re at and as such campaign.
[00:12:44] Different leave as a more effective, right. That the key to being email@example.com, right? Incredibly authoritative millions and millions and millions of backlinks. And without really doing a whole lot actively on link building. Um, even though we do still do active link building.
[00:13:05] We still get a huge amount of lakes. We don’t really need to worry about links that much our focus can actually be more on the volume and output side of things. And we see results from that. Now I start a new side project and a brand new domain that does not work for me. And I need to like pop more in, on the East side of things and pull that lever.
[00:13:25] And then similarly, when you’ve got like eCommerce stores and you’ve kind of really, you’ve hit a point where you’ve saturated for certain product pages, for example, saturate a lot of the net new available gains you can make in sense of traffic. You know, you need to think now about UX conversion. How do we squeeze more out of the visits that we’re getting to time to answer conversion metrics?
[00:13:47] So I think that’s the big piece is understanding the leave and pull and what the leavers are. Um, And that’s tough. Uh, but over, over enough, like periods of time, you’ll, you’ll get it exposure to under like different projects. The, the thing that I do often recommend is when you’re starting out in such try to take on maybe one, two or three very different projects, even if they’re more just passion projects so that you can then see the nuance involved in not only which different leaders, DePaul, but different industries, different types of projects, and they all come with their own, um, individual, like things that you you’ll learn from that.
[00:14:32] Brendan Hufford: [00:14:32] Yeah, I think that last step is especially valuable just because so many people get caught up with following the advice of, uh, people who ranked number one for SEO or whatever, and the only SEO they’ve ever. I mean, I’m not, I have strong feelings about this, uh, but the only SEO they’ve ever done is SEO on their SEO blog, building links from other SEO blogs.
[00:14:55] And what people don’t realize is that like it’s, it’s way easier to get a link to your. Blog about search then from another blog about search, because you both get the reciprocal nature of backlinks and you you’re both speaking the same language. But if I reach out to, if I’m trying to build links to a client, that’s an attorney and I’m trying to figure that out.
[00:15:14] And I reach out to another attorney’s website and I’m like, Hey, here’s, you know, can we write for each other? And I’m like trying to pitch something and build a relationship. They could be like, what,
[00:15:22] Matt Barby: [00:15:22] what are you talking about? Oh, yeah. Why would I do that?
[00:15:24] Brendan Hufford: [00:15:24] And then
[00:15:25] Matt Barby: [00:15:25] yeah.
[00:15:27] Brendan Hufford: [00:15:27] Use the script that the SEO guru told you to use.
[00:15:30] And you’re like, this script doesn’t work and it’s like, well, it works for them because they’re an authority. And they like all of these things, what ends up happening is yeah, like you said, like what works in one industry and what works for one person may not work for everybody. And I think that
[00:15:44] Matt Barby: [00:15:44] the, you know, the.
[00:15:46] Brendan Hufford: [00:15:46] Unfortunately the answer a lot of times, it’s like, you just need to do more. You need to kind of in, at the buffet of whatever you’re learning and like try everything and then you’ll figure out, Oh, this works here, this works there. I also like your idea about a. Like not a phased approach, but just when, when to pull which lever in Y um, tell me about like maybe somebody who gets that, uh, there may be out of the beginner phase.
[00:16:08] Um, I don’t fancy myself an expert by any means, but I’m, I think I’m, I’m, I’m hoping that I’m out of the beginner phase at this point, but what about somebody like me? Uh, what kind of mistakes do you see? People who maybe are a little bit farther along making.
[00:16:22] Matt Barby: [00:16:22] Yeah. Um, I think there’s, there’s a lot of mistakes that can be made.
[00:16:27] Um, I make mistakes on a daily basis. Uh, I think that the big key to when I think like, when you think about this and this is going slightly on a tangent, so I will bring myself back, but where I, this is something I find particularly important, a measure of like, Development and, uh, tracking your own progress, whether that be in search or any form of learning.
[00:16:56] I, I feel very strongly that measuring the number of mistakes you make is not a very good measure of development. I think that. You could make the same number of mistakes continuously, or that number of mistakes could rise continuously. And your level of knowledge and development could increase alongside it. And if I’m honest, that’s often the case.
[00:17:24] Now the thing that you should track is like how good you are. At taking learnings from mistakes, right? Like the, you can make like a hundred mistakes in one week, right. And then you can make a hundred mistakes in the second week. The thing that isn’t acceptable is to make the same mistake, like twice or three times or four times.
[00:17:47] And you do that a lot at the start because you kind of, can’t quite isolate out. what really it was that you specifically did that. is not quite working. And that’s why talking about when people are just getting started. They’ll have the answer to a solution with the existing problem of the, uh, the, the mistake in the first place.
[00:18:09] Your goal is okay. I need to be able to become very good at knowing what I’ve done wrong. That’s what I spend most of my mindspace doing whether that’s from an SEO point of view or a marketing point of view from a leadership point of view, all of these things, right? And like that’s when you develop. Kind of what I would kind of call, like the, especially in SEO is the intuition of an SEO.
[00:18:34] It’s like, you know, particularly great people that I’ve surrounded myself around and try to absorb knowledge from. They can look at things and just, they may not always be right, but they can get a general feel for stuff. I’ll I’ll find every now and then I’ll just look at certain scenarios and be like, I’m not a hundred percent right now.
[00:18:52] I’ll look into this but I kind of have a feel because I made that mistake before. Right. And some of the things that I see with people that are more developed and it become a stunt to get past that a phase is they fall into the trap of trying to avoid problems and mistakes, as opposed to like embracing the art of failure and actually then taking those learnings and applying them.
[00:19:23] And then the second piece, which for those people that do become better at doing that. I think that with SEO in particular, probably more than any other area within marketing, I would make an argument for. It can very quickly become all encompassing to you, right? It’s like you go down this rabbit hole of knowledge and such, and there’s so much nuance to it.
[00:19:47] And there’s this strange dynamic and such where you can truly never statistically prove really anything that you’re ever right. Think it’s interesting. That’s why there’s so many SEO experts, right? Like I can never truly prove. To like the degree that even backlinks what causes like rankings, right? Like the I’m pretty much, no, that is exactly the case, but I can never truly prove this because like, I don’t have the exact details of Google’s algorithm and no one will.
[00:20:23] Um, that’s like the beautiful thing about such is you’ve got to find the answers and there often isn’t just one single answer. But what happens then is you become so focused on such heads down like testing and trying to make these things work. That sometimes I find people lose sight of the end goal.
[00:20:42] And coming back to one of the things I was talking about earlier, right? It’s like, when you talk about prioritization, why aren’t you doing this? Specific experiment in SEO, right? It’s like, you’re not doing it to, to just raise rankings. You’re not even doing it just to gain traffic, like the grand scheme of things. You’re not even necessarily just doing it’s pre conversions, right? Like there’s something beyond this.
[00:21:08] And it’s like understanding the wider vision of everything you do and how such plays upon all of this. A lot of people in such fall into the trap of like, instead of saying like, Hey, there’s this like really fundamentally wrong floor with things like our copy with our conversion.
[00:21:28] Uh, you speak to people like Joel clacky, like a really interesting person that I always love to work with. He’s much more knowledgeable than me and a UX conversion. Copy. And he thinks in a very different way to someone who is like doubled down is like a very technical SEO person, right. Will naturally have a bias towards solving a problem with a 10 o’clock.
[00:21:53] Maybe Joel wolves start his path with like, what’s wrong with like the UX, the conversion. How can we get a break down this page from that layer? I think the key here is being able to begin approaching a problem with an approach that is just agnostic to SEO and like factors in every other variable that can be at play here.
[00:22:16] If you’re not comfortable with the, your level of knowledge and like being able to solve the problem that may not involve, like you tapping into a skill that you are really strong in. What could people that can bring people in and like learn from them and then apply that to future projects. So I think that’s like the big pieces, like trying to ensure that you become well-rounded objective and don’t just try and solve problems that lean into your core skillset.
[00:22:44] Brendan Hufford: [00:22:44] Yeah, the more I look at it like advanced, uh, people that I consider to be my superiors is maybe the wrong word, but people who are farther along than me is, and I I’m seeing exactly what you described is that like, they are really good at some other things too. Um, and what’s interesting is like, if we’re really honest, like all of that other stuff affects search brand effects, search UX, affect search, like it all matters.
[00:23:09] Um, it just depends on like what you talked about, like the different leavers that we can pull, uh, and when and why. Um, so this has been extremely helpful. Thanks for coming on a a hundred days of SEO,
[00:23:19] Matt Barby: [00:23:19] then my pleasure. I love talking about this stuff. Thanks for having me. I’ll read it. Of course.
[00:23:25] Brendan Hufford: [00:23:25] Cool. So I’ll do a cut there.
[00:23:26] Um, and then. Uh, this is going to be such a weird request. Um, so what I need you to do, or what I would love for you to do is record like a quick bumper that I can then slide to the beginning. Just intro your just quick intro, you know? Yourself, if you want to talk about HubSpot or traffic think tank great.
[00:23:43] Both either. I don’t care. And then just say you’re watching 100 days of SEO. Here’s the weird request. Can you clap first?
[00:23:51] Matt Barby: [00:23:51] Because what happened?
[00:23:54] Brendan Hufford: [00:23:54] Cause I recorded one with Tim solo and half of it was my face and I was just like, wait, we lost it. It was terrible.
[00:24:02] Matt Barby: [00:24:02] Yeah. So, um, I’ll. I’ll clap, then I’ll be like, Hey, I’m actually Dhabi.
[00:24:07] I’m blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And you’re watching a hundred days of SEO. All right, cool.
[00:24:18] Hey, I’m Matthew House Bobby. I’m the director of SEO. No, I’m not. That’s not my title. Let me just start that one again. Alright, nailed it. Okay. Can we use that? That’s gotta be,
[00:24:31] Brendan Hufford: [00:24:31] that’s gotta be the one.
[00:24:34] Matt Barby: [00:24:34] Okay. All right,
[00:24:35] Brendan Hufford: [00:24:35] let’s start again.
[00:24:42] Matt Barby: [00:24:42] Hey, I’m Matthew House. Bobby. I’m the director of acquisition at HubSpot and I’m a cofounder of traffic think tank and you’re changing 100 days of SEO.
[00:24:54] Brendan Hufford: [00:24:54] Nice.
[00:24:55] Matt Barby: [00:24:55] No, I still got my title. Right.
[00:24:58] Brendan Hufford: [00:24:58] I didn’t to the Ryan store or I kept telling him, I was like, alright, go. And then he would like pause for a second.
[00:25:02] I’m like, wait. And then we kept like talking over each other. And I was like, that’s that, that might be the intro. We might just go with that.