Good Copy that Checks-Off Google Boxes

blake akers

Blake Akers is the owner of Webology, a digital marketing agency that started by “knocking on the doors” of local small and mid-size businesses. The company focuses on using Google for organic and paid search, providing scientific SEO, testing, and data analysis on the organic side and split testing ad campaigns within paid search.

Today, the agency takes its focused expertise and works regional verticals, e.g. roofing and niche legal firms – companies that typically have a high cost per click and a high per lead value . . . companies where Webology, because of its tight industry focus, knows the business.

Webology’s intention is to work exclusively with one company in a vertical in a geographic market. Blake claims that, if you know how to rank a local roofing company website, you get a lot of leads on the search engine results page (SERP) – those from organic search and those from the Maps Pack (3-pack). The Maps Pack is the group of up to 3 businesses that appear in a box at the top of the page, after the advertisements. The Maps Pack is a valuable piece of real estate . . . studies suggest if a the SERP has a local pack, that local pack will get the majority of the clicks, but the Maps Pack alone will get over 40 percent of the total clicks.

How did Blake get Webology so well-launched in such a short period of time (3 years)?

Branding.

Blake researched SEO to figure out what it took to rank a website locally and get leads for small- to mid-size businesses. . . starting with his company. He asked some critical questions:

How do we write really, really good copy that sells, but also checks off all the boxes in regards to competitor averages?

How do we enhance a page for users and still fit the averages that Google is looking for?

He started getting some answers when he reviewed everyone else’s “best practices.” But, the true answers did not come to light until after he dove deep into data science, assessed competitor averages, and identified and implemented advanced SEO strategies. This knowledge gave him the tools to help his own company grow . . . and a product he could sell to his clients. He has used his own company website a number of times to beta-test new ideas that later get rolled out to customers.

If there is one thing he would change back at the start, Blake says he would have gone after more client reviews and worked even harder at building up his brand. Today, he is a lot more proactive about reaching out to his clients and interviewing them to get those valuable endorsements.

To contact Blake, visit his company’s website at: https://webology.io/, email him directly at: blake@webology.io., or ask general questions at: info@webology.io.

 

ROB: Welcome to the Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m your host, Rob Kischuk, and I am joined today by Blake Akers, owner of Webology, based in Birmingham, Alabama. Welcome to the podcast, Blake.

BLAKE: Hey, Rob. Thanks for having me on.

ROB: Fantastic to have you on. Why don’t you start off by telling us about Webology and where Webology excels?

BLAKE: Webology is a digital marketing agency, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. We’ve been in business since 2016. We excel at Google. We excel at organic and paid search. On the organic side, we have a heavy focus on a new buzzword within the industry, and that’s scientific SEO and testing and data analysis. We apply the same thing, of course, to paid search with split testing, ad campaigns, and things of the sort like that.

ROB: Very cool. Within that, are you working with local clients, software clients, national clients? What’s the mix of companies that come to you?

BLAKE: When I founded the agency, we sort of bootstrapped things, so it was a natural fit for us to just knock on doors and really meet a lot of local, small/mid-size business owners and focus on that local space. Since then, we’ve branched out to focus on verticals like roofing and legal and take the work we do on a national scale and reach out to clients in different cities around the U.S.

ROB: Got it. So, you might not take on multiple, let’s say, roofing clients in the same market; you might just say, “We’re looking for a roofing company to represent in your city. Here’s the proof that we understand it.” Is it along those lines?

BLAKE: Yeah, that’s right. Starting out locally here in Birmingham, we picked up a few clients. We got the data that shows we can do the work, and then from there it made sense to branch out because – you kind of alluded to that you don’t want to compete against yourself. We try to maintain exclusivity where we can as far as if we’re working with somebody in say Atlanta or Nashville in a particular vertical, we try to stick to that one client and not take on another one in the same city.

ROB: Sure. It’s smart because you don’t have to learn a new domain all over again. What are some things you’ve learned about roofing that the rest of us might not know?

BLAKE: Roofing is a really good fit for a digital agency because they’ve got a high value per lead. A residential roof can be anywhere from about $8,000 to $20,000. It’s a double-edged sword. You’ve got a high value per lead, but you’ve also got a high cost per click in that space. That’s where organic can really excel, because if you know how to rank a roofing company website locally, you can pick up a lot of leads both from the Maps Pack and also organic.

It’s really a good fit for us, and it really pays off to know the industry and to be able to say your manufacturers are GAF, IKO, CertainTeed, and a few others, and really talk to a roofer and speak their language. It helps us to sell that service as an agency.

ROB: I imagine some of them have maybe even been burned by trying to work with someone to help them market, and they probably might not have gotten much out of it if it was someone who doesn’t know that world.

BLAKE: That’s right, and also specifically speaking on roofing, you really have to spend a lot both on paid and organic to really be effective. It can also be a difficult space because it involves a lot of homeowner education and saying, “Did you know that your roof might be paid for by insurance because of the storms that rolled through recently?” Coming up with a compelling offer can be a challenge, and also educating their ideal client on what they might be eligible for.

ROB: Yes, I have been through that very experience. We were very glad to have our roof paid for by insurance.

BLAKE: Yep.

ROB: We liked that. Switching gears a little bit, you also mentioned legal. When I think of legal and when I think of marketing, I think, in almost any city, there’s probably, it feels like, about a half dozen lawyers that dominate every media channel you can imagine, and then there’s the rest of the lawyers.

For you, I’d imagine in some cases you might love to get the one whale lawyer client, but I imagine you also in some cases work with some of the lawyers who aren’t those first six buying every billboard, every bus, every radio ad, everything. How do you cut through the noise for someone who’s not spending 9 times everyone else on their marketing?

BLAKE: I guess for us, one thing that’s really helped is finding legal clients that understand at least the value of what we do, and they’re willing to work with us on stuff like on a local level, an exact match domain actually works really well. So finding the attorney that’s okay with their website URL being their area of practice and maybe having the city in there as well, and just really letting us dig into the technical SEO and having a lot of control over content and making changes on-page.

That helps us cut through the big spend with billboards and traditional ads and things like that and get that buyer intent from Google fairly well, as long as they’re willing to work with us on compromising some changes on the webpage.

ROB: Do you find the ones that are successful are maybe in other niches? Or are there even unexpected success stories in that monster trial lawyer category?

BLAKE: We haven’t worked too much with trial lawyers, but I can speak on accident and injury attorneys particularly. In that space, what we’ve found is a good fit is maybe if you’re dealing with these big law firms that have big budgets, maybe find a niche. Find something like serve the Hispanic community locally, because if you’ve got attorneys on staff that speak Spanish, that can be really beneficial to reaching out to them. Also, Spanish language keywords are much easier to rank for locally. So that’s one particular fit there.

We’ve also done a lot of work with trust formation, probate law and stuff like that. I think that’s an area of practice that a lot of people haven’t really embraced digital so much on, so it’s been a good fit for us so far.

ROB: For sure. I have a friend who’s in the immigration law space, and it’s kind of night and day. You can probably tell even better than I could, looking at the Google search results, you can tell who is focused on digital and who is accidentally in digital. It’s almost bimodal. There seems to be hardly anyone who’s just halfway trying in the middle. Have you seen that dynamic?

BLAKE: It’s funny you mention accidental, because you have a lot of these law firms that have been around for so long that they’ve got an aged domain. It’s 20 years old, it’s established with Google, so they don’t have to work as hard as we do with a new law firm. So, it’s funny you mention accidental, because we do see that a lot in the SERPs as far as sites that rank because they’ve been around for a long time.

ROB: Blake, something I don’t hear every day on this podcast is firms with a focus on local and SEO marketing that were started within the past few years. How did you come to start Webology, and in those niches, when you did, and then what do you think are some of the advantages and disadvantages of that timing?

BLAKE: It’s kind of a funny story, and it involves real estate fraud. I’ll go into that in more detail, but I’d been planning to start a web design agency for several years. I had just taken on a new position with the company I was with, and it required us to move. The day before we’re going to close on this house, the neighbor walks over and says, “Hey, you know this house floods every year, right?”

So here we are, looking at it from the standpoint of “Do we try to find another house? Do we figure that out, or what do we do?” We went back to the hotel, had a beer, and said, “Maybe it’s time to go ahead and start the company we’ve been planning on starting for a long time.” So that’s what we did. We packed up a U-Haul truck. We went home; I sold a web design project from the cab of the truck on the way home. That was the end of 2016.

I found out real fast in this agency space that if you don’t have an established brand, it’s hard to sell a website, and it’s also difficult to scale up because revenue from one-off projects isn’t really good. So, I did a deep dive into SEO myself and figured out, what does it take to rank a website locally and get local leads for a small- to mid-size business?

Through trial and error, we evolved from “this is the best practices everybody says you could do” to let’s look at data science, let’s look at competitor averages and figure out what really, really advanced SEO looks like and how we can win against established brands that have agencies that have been working for a long time on their own SEO. That was how it evolved from there.

ROB: Interesting. Being newer, I imagine you probably were not in the game early on of some of the SEO tricks that worked 10 years ago and don’t work anymore. But I think there is this overall perception where there’s this balance of trying to serve website visitors well versus understanding the algorithm and trying to also please the search algorithm.

How do you think about that balance and driving success when you’re trying to hit a moving target both in terms of what the algorithms do and also what people expect as they become more acclimated online, more sophisticated?

BLAKE: That’s a great question. For us, we’re really heavy into content analysis and figuring out, how do we make a page better from a user standpoint while also fitting these averages that Google is looking for? It was interesting because when we started out, there wasn’t all this data-driven stuff. There weren’t tools like Cora or Page Optimizer Pro available.

I think the really good SEOs understood it fundamentally, and I think what they did was just look at maybe the top 10 or 20 competitors, what they had on their page in terms of HTML tags, how their copy read, the kind of words that were in there. Now we can really dig in and say, these are the terms that Google’s looking for for this page. This is what we need as far as page structure. How do we make a page that actually reads well and also checks off all these boxes that Google’s looking for?

That’s the balance I think we’ve found as an agency. How do we write really, really good copy that sells, but also checks off all the boxes as far as competitor averages, whether it be TF-IDF or LSI terms or just looking at the different HTML elements like heading tags, image ALT tags and things like that. It’s definitely a balance between the two, and I feel like we’ve figured out how to make that work.

ROB: Let’s dig down a layer, because when you drop some terminology that maybe everybody’s not familiar with, I think it’s probably worth learning a little bit more. You mentioned – did you say TF-IDF? What do we need to know there? How can we be smarter about this?

BLAKE: I guess the easiest way to put that is if your primary keyword – I’ll go back to roofing – if your primary keyword is “roofing Atlanta,” you’re trying to get traffic from people searching for roofing companies, there’s all these related terms around it. There’s terms like “shingles,” “flat roof repair,” “cedar roof.” There’s all these related terms like “contractor company” and things like that that relate to what you do but aren’t exactly “(roofing company) (city) (state).”

So we look at those averages and how they appear on competitors’ sites and we try to match those averages as close as possible. That’s really the gist of it: looking at what does Google look for in your copy, and trying to put as many of those words in there as possible so that your copy reads like a roofing company website.

ROB: That makes sense. This is just an aside and me being a little bit strange but I wonder if, being over in Alabama, if you’ve run into folks who have tried to do SEO in Mobile, Alabama. I have a curiosity about that topic and I wonder if you know anyone.

BLAKE: I know a few agencies in the area down in Mobile. It’s funny because that’s where I was actually moving to and it fell through for us. But no, not directly.

ROB: Okay. To me, it seems like in the era of mobile phones and mobile this and that, I just wonder when people are typing in “mobile” if Google has a whole other algorithm for Mobile. Just one of my weird curiosities after doing this for a little while. We don’t have to dig in.

BLAKE: We haven’t worked down there and tried to do SEO, but I can imagine, yeah, that would be an area where the algorithm would get confused. You’d have a lot of work to do, to say the least.

ROB: Right on. Blake, what are some things you’ve learned as you’ve been building Webology that you might do differently if you were starting over from scratch today?

BLAKE: I think the most important thing you can do if you’re trying to start an agency from scratch is really focus on building your brand and building your trust signals. For us, I think it would’ve been wise to go after more client reviews and that sort of thing early on and really build the brand up. Also, figure out the few things you’re best at versus the many things that people want. Really focus in on a few core services and a few core industries.

That was a lesson I learned the hard way, because when you start out, you’re going after every account possible. That’s not always a wise move. I think it’s more important to not have to reinvent the wheel every time you sell an account. If we know the legal space, we know the roofing space, we know local SEO really well, then it’s easy for us to onboard a client and really show them positive results in the first few months versus if we’re having to take on a new account in an industry we don’t know. There’s a lot more work that goes into figuring out that niche and figuring out how we make this effective in this particular niche.

So that’s a few of the things I would’ve done differently, is really focus on a few core services and a few core industries that we really can do well in.

ROB: Right. Asking for reviews, though, can be I think a little bit intimidating, especially when you look on some sites like Clutch, where it seems like the review process can actually be relatively involved. Did you just have to get over the fear of asking, or did it come naturally to you? Or did you find some ways to make it easier to ask for and get reviews? How have you evolved that?

BLAKE: It’s funny you mention Clutch, because that’s got to be hands down one of the most intensive interview processes for a client out there. I’ve listened in on their interviews, and they ask a lot of questions. They ask a lot of tough questions.

I think for us, it was just sitting down and figuring out, which accounts do we have the best relationship with? Which accounts have we done a really good job for? And just reaching out to them and saying, “Hey, I hate to ask, but this is probably going to be a 20-minute interview” and that sort of thing, and just letting them know beforehand it’s not going to be going to Google and typing up 3 sentences and that’s that.

It was in some cases kind of difficult to ask, but in others not. It really depends on the client and your relationship with that client.

ROB: That’s very sensible. As you’ve gone along, I think something that can be very tempting is as an agency, you’re looking for a lot of ways to scale, to grow accounts, and some accounts can only be so large unless you figure out a different way to approach them. I think that leaves a lot of agencies to want to go towards taking a small piece of a big national brand rather than being a bigger help to a local business. How have you looked at that temptation to increase account sizes to get small slices of ginormous pies as you look at growing Webology?

BLAKE: We have a medical client. They’ve got a small medical practice. It’s funny you mention that, because we literally hit a ceiling with what we were doing for them to where they said, “We can’t really grow much more. We’ve only got so much real estate here in this business. We can only bring on so much stuff.” So that’s a challenge, and that’s what led us to try to really reach out and build accounts in different cities.

Also, I look at going after larger brands as there’s advantages and disadvantages to that. One advantage would be obviously it’s an established brand, bigger budgets, that sort of thing, bigger scope of work. But then also, if you have that one or two big account situation where you depend on a few clients for a lot of your revenue, that’s a situation we didn’t want to find ourselves in. So that’s how we balanced it out. We want to have a bunch of smaller accounts all over the U.S. versus just focusing on a few bigger clients.

ROB: That certainly makes sense, playing back into that vertical approach. It’s really fascinating. It would be easy for a lot of people to dismiss some of these clients if they don’t know the market, or not serve them well, but in some ways you can create scale by doing similar things for clients who don’t compete with each other at all, and you know their market. So that makes a ton of sense. Now, when you think about what’s coming up – oh, go ahead.

BLAKE: I was just going to say that’s the advantage of working with small- and mid-size businesses. It’s a geographic thing. You can really scale up your processes and just rinse and repeat processes that really work well for the client and serve different markets to where there’s no competition issue between your clients.

ROB: Let’s pull on that thread for a second. How do you think about defining processes in a way where it’s not necessarily dependent on you or someone else who’s very key and senior to the agency and can actually serve this client well? How have you thought about defining processes that can be followed and scaled?

BLAKE: For us, I think it really gets down to me and a few other people in the agency really defining those processes and putting together a really good standard operating procedure that can be followed and can be something that someone’s trained on really rapidly.

I mentioned the scientific analysis and some new tools like Page Optimizer Pro. For us, I think that was really a game-changer because with those tools, you can take somebody with a fundamental knowledge of search engine optimization and not a lot of other training and show them the tool, and rapidly they become a really good SEO just because the tool shows you where you need to optimize and where you need to put your focus on.

So, for us, third party tools and having a good standard operating procedure that’s niche-specific to wherever it may be, whether it’s legal, medical, or roofing, that’s really been beneficial for us. As an agency owner, you don’t have a lot of time to really work on accounts so much because you’re having to juggle so many different priorities. It’s really important to have guidelines in place for your employees to follow and really know what to do on the account every month.

ROB: You’ve mentioned Page Optimizer Pro a couple of times. Anyone who’s looked at SEO tools at all knows there’s a ton of them out there, and it’s hard to tell the difference and it’s hard to tell why some of them haven’t broken out more. You have your Moz and your SEMrush and some stuff that’s been out there for a while – Conductor, that we bought for a while and then sold back off. What do you think Page Optimizer Pro has captured that these other folks may not have realized in their products?

BLAKE: Comparing Moz and Page Optimizer Pro is really an apples to oranges comparison because one is more of this broad toolset that you would use with Moz, SEMrush, Ahrefs to really see the whole landscape, like what’s going on with a site as far as technical errors that are sitewide, backlink profiles, and things like that.

With Page Optimizer Pro and Cora and a few others, you can really dial in on a particular page. That’s really, really important so that brands are working on it and saying, how do we make this page so competitive with on-page metrics that it’s just about impossible to beat? That’s something you could do manually, I guess, but it required a lot of knowledge. It required a lot of time.

And now with these tools, you can analyze the first 100 Google results and figure out what the averages are for each HTML element on the page for all your competitors, and then that allows you to optimize against that and really know what it takes to win and have a proven blueprint on how to rank a site.

ROB: It sounds like it’s a very specific toolkit that gives some very actionable things when you have a specific goal – which is to say, “Make this page rank, or possibly make this page rank for these particular keywords. How do I do that based on what’s already ranking?” It’s sort of a surgical tool like that. Is that what it’s doing?

BLAKE: That’s what it’s doing, and it’s funny because I came to know about it because I read this case study about the Rhinoplasty Plano SEO competition. That was basically you have a $1,000 budget. The goal is to rank for “Rhinoplasty Plano,” which is a competitive local search keyword. Kyle Roof, the guy that came out with Page Optimizer Pro, used his tool to put a page that had lorem ipsum dummy copy on it in the top three Google search results, and it stayed there for 6 months based on the competitive analysis that tool gave him.

So I looked at that and said, we need to do this with real copy and see how it works. So, we started out experimenting with our agency site. That went really well, and then we rolled it out to all our client sites. The results have been phenomenal. We pick the important service pages or product pages and the homepage, of course, and really do a deep dive of on-page optimization. Sometimes we spend 20 hours on a single page optimizing it, but the result is you jump up three, four, or five pages sometimes.

Or if you’re on Page 1, it’s really tough to get from like 7 to 3 on average, but with that tool, you kind of have the secret sauce as far as what it takes to get to that point.

ROB: So, with that tool you can sell some nose jobs in the Dallas suburbs, or anything else you want to sell.

BLAKE: Absolutely.

ROB: Perfect. Blake, what is coming up for Webology, and more broadly in the marketing and agency world, that you’re excited about?

BLAKE: For Webology, I would say we’re excited to really use those tools we’ve already talked about. We’re also really getting heavy into link-building and figuring out specific link packages for specific industries and that sort of thing.

When you get in the SEO space, a lot of SEO-focused agencies really don’t do enough link-building. There’s a lot of misconceptions around it, there’s a lot of fear around it. For us, we’re excited to offer that as a service and say, hey, we know the link types, we know the anchor text diversity. We know what it takes to really be effective without running into any problems with penalties and things like that. I’m excited about that.

I’m also excited about the industry in general because I think we’ve removed a lot of confusion as far as there used to be a lot of misconceptions on what was real and wasn’t real as far as ranking factors go. I think with a lot of this testing that people are doing now, we’re seeing what works and what doesn’t. It’s no longer just conjecture; it’s fact.

ROB: Right on. Blake, when people want to find you and when they want to find Webology, where should they look to find you?

BLAKE: You can visit our website. It’s just webology.io. You can also email me direct; it’s blake@webology.io. We also have info@webology.io if you want to reach out to that too. That’s more of a generic contact address.

ROB: Perfect. I hope that people will check you out, that they will do that. It sounds like if someone’s listening – really, lots of customers could benefit from you, but it sounds like you’re a kind of agency that some folks could partner with for stuff they don’t know, and maybe there’s a roofing company out there too that just doesn’t ‘know it and you could help them.

BLAKE: Yeah, absolutely. Or maybe even another agency that doesn’t have those resources to build links in-house. We’re really well-suited to do link-building at scale, so that’s definitely a good fit for us.

ROB: Fantastic. Blake, thanks for coming on the podcast and thanks for sharing your story and the history of Webology.

BLAKE: Thanks so much, Rob. I appreciate it.

ROB: All right. Take care.

BLAKE: You too.

ROB: Thank you for listening. The Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast is presented by Converge. Converge helps digital marketing agencies and brands automate their reporting so they can be more profitable, accurate, and responsive. To learn more about how Converge can automate your marketing reporting, email info@convergehq.com, or visit us on the web at convergehq.com.

 

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