Jeff Oxford is the founder of 180 Marketing, an eCommerce SEO company, and the founder of LinkHunter.com, a DIY link building tool for eCommerce sites. Over the past 10 years Jeff has worked on more than 200 SEO campaigns for both small startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been featured on Forbes, Internet Retailer, and other online publications, and is a frequent speaker at the Internet Retailer Conference & Expo.
Welcome to the podcast Jeff. Thanks so much for having me.
Oh, yeah, not a problem. Not a problem am super excited to talk to you about SEO and that's going to be the topic of today SEO link building content marketing because. You know, it's a forever changing industry. I guess you could say and so it's one of the things that you've got to constantly stay on top of so, I know you're going to Enlighten us on all things search engine marketing specifically for e-commerce companies.
But before we get into all of that, why don't you tell us a little bit about your background and how you specifically got into what you're doing today? Sure, I'll give you kind of the quick rundown. So you graduated college and started working in retail and just wasn't really feeling it. So I left and I was trying to hurt all this stuff about how you can make money through e-commerce.
And AdSense else is background 2010-2011. So I started a fantasy baseball blog that kind of just taught myself SEO so you get traffic. So, you know, I would always go on Mars and watch Rands whiteboard Friday videos and kind of just self-taught learning them. Nation, and that kind of just that was the start of it and then that kind of spiraled into me trying and e-commerce sites.
My first e-commerce site was made back in 2011, and I had just graduated college. So I start a e-commerce site selling beer pong tables because really all mine was the only place you could get. Now the rest was history after that started working for a company full time and then work my way up to managing a team and then back in 2013 left to start when any marketing.
So where we only work with e-commerce. So not only do we consult but just me personally, I've had my own e-commerce sites, no dropshipping beer pong tables then also Drop Shipping 3D printers. Okay. Gotcha. Gotcha. Yeah, that's interesting. Yeah, you kind of a definitely have a diverse background there.
From the selling the beer pong tables to you know, you name it and then a little bit of SEO now and yeah, I mean these days you've got to be flexible. You got to be able to to you know, make those Transitions and you know, go where you have to go. So I'm yeah, that's awesome part of this. Just also practicing What You Preach to stay sharp and anybody can read a blog post anybody can watch a video but until you're actually doing it or even doing it for yourself, you know, that's when you really learn what works and what doesn't.
I'm glad you mentioned that actually because and I said some good advice for those listeners out there that are actually shopping SEO companies or SEO agencies or just SEO people in general may be one of the first questions you want to ask them. What sites do you have? If you know if you're an e-commerce company ask them.
Do you have any Commerce sites that you've optimized? Can I check them out? And if they say no then you know, even though they may have done it for their customers you like you said it is a difference for doing it yourself because. You know, you have a of course a bigger larger invested interest in that performing well, and you can really see.
What all somebody has done if they're doing it for themselves? So yeah, I'm glad you mentioned that that's definitely something that people should ask you'd be surprised how many digital marketers have never even created their own website whether it's like WordPress anything like that and one of the first questions I ask when I'm hiring someone is do you have your own website whether it's like a blog or dropshipping side just anything that showed us some passion or interest there.
Yeah, definitely good to know and so you let me know a great piece of advice for our listeners now today. Of course, we're going to be talking about, you know, search engine marketing link building a Content marketing, but with regards to search engine optimization. I know, you know personally from being, you know on the internet for almost 20 years now with a business search engine optimization has truly changed over the years.
So really what should an e-commerce business be focusing on now to improve their search engine rankings, or is it just one thing or you know, there's many yeah, so, you know, it's always kind of been this game where stl's are trying to reverse engineer what Google is doing and how the algorithm works and after years and years of getting insights from Google and people testing to a correlation studies.
It's pretty clear that the top three ranking factors is how many links are going to your. In the choir those links. That's the first one content. So, you know the quality of your content and then three this is where we get a little on the technical side is rankbrain and let me elaborate what rank brain is.
So a few years ago. Google had this big update that they called rankbrain and I'm just going to kind of distill it down with rankbrain. Google's going to look more at your time on site your bounce rate your pages per visit your usability. So all those metrics on how are people interacting with your pages is now becoming more and more of a ranking Factor.
That terminology. I mean I heard those different factors that you mentioned out there but summed up as rankbrain. I don't think I've actually heard that terminology before so I'm glad you mentioned that. Yeah, that was the name they gave to that Google updates. So and the SEO industry everyone calls it rankbrain, but for just kind of everyday person all that means is Google's looking more at usability metrics.
Yeah. Yeah, that's what it comes down to and that's what I tell people all the time when they're talking about what it's going to take to improve their rankings. The bottom line is kind of before you even think about. You know, like you said reverse engineering your sights of to appeal better for the search engines.
The bottom line is you've got to look at it from a user standpoint. How are people going to be able to effectively find my site go through my content? And you know navigating and get what they need to get and if they're not able to do that at a you know, at a very base level than obviously, you know, the search engines are not going to not going to rank well because that's one of the main things they're looking for.
They want to make sure people have a great user. That's exactly it Ireland. Their number one interest is providing the best results of their users and they can get some of that data from the search engine results page. So if you search a keyword in Google, you're going to see those ten listings and if you click on one hit the back button Google knows right away that okay, you went to this page.
You don't like it you hit back. This one probably doesn't deserve to rank where it is. And if you get enough of those signals over time that can actually move a page down if people are hitting the back button. A lot of Google finds people are clicking a listing and staying on it. That could also be a positive ranking Factor but Google smart and they go a step further and one thing people don't realize is Google owns Chrome the browser.
They also own Android between Chrome and Android. I think they have more data than they would ever need to get an idea of how people are visiting websites and interacting website. So I don't think that actually looking at people's Google analytics accounts, but I have read through the Privacy policies of chrome and Android and there's and they can basically use that data.
However, they want internally. That's what I thought and then those are the things that he said that people gloss over don't even realize that what yeah, they're they're tracking a lot of things on the back end of those browsers and they and the Android operating system that you know, like you said gives them the ability to really know what's going on and how people are behaving when they're going from from site to site.
It's pretty amazing how you know, like you said just someone going to a site coming from Google, you know off doing a search. Going to a particular listing there and then you know, they're not happy with what they see and then bouncing back if you get enough of those yet that that can definitely affect your rankings.
And so a lot of it is common sense. You know, what are you going to do on the site to make sure people have a clear idea of what it is that you offer and make it easy for them to navigate get around and provide them the information that they searched for us. So it's you know, a lot of it is just the.
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, so I you know with regards you mentioned creating links. So actually for people that aren't familiar with kind of that whole process and content marketing journal what really is link building and content marketing and what are some basic strategies? That any e-commerce business can start utilizing today.
Yeah, that's a great question. So link building even in 2019 is still one of the most important ranking factors. So Google is going to see how many other web sites are linking to your website. And what's the authority of those websites now when I say Authority if you get a link from The New York Times or Huffington Post that's going to have a lot more Authority than if you got a link to a Blog that's one created last week.
So the more links the site has the higher authority it has. And now content marketing is one of many ways. You can get links essentially creating really good content. It could be a video. It could be a blog post could be an e-book. It could even be this podcast. I'm sure people probably linked into your episode.
So content marketing is just kind of the art of creating really compelling interesting content that people want to share a link to so, you know, we only work with e-commerce clients. So we've kind of seen firsthand what strategies work best in the world of e-commerce. So with link building one of the things that's kind of tried and choose guest posting and this has been around for a while.
It's simple. I know Arlene you mentioned. This is something you've done yourself where you write an article for another blog and that article you include a link back to your website. So all those lengths they add up over time and it's a great way to get links if you want especially like if you like writing content or you have someone who can write content for you guest posting as well most Surefire ways to keep getting links with e-commerce.
We're dealing with physical products. One strategy that works really well for a lot of e-commerce businesses is product reviews where you find some of them blogs you say. Hey, I noticed that you talked about are types of products and what we do so we'd love to send you some in exchange for a hundred percent honest review on your website.
A lot of bloggers know they who doesn't love free stuff. So you send it to them. They get it. They're happy to get free product. I'll write an article on the site link back and that's another way to get links directly to some of your product and category pages. You can also kind of similar to that.
You can co-host a giveaway with the blog. We're not on that one blog you give some product to one of their readers. So that works well, and then on the content marketing side of things there's a few different sort of templates that we've we found work really well and content marketing one is what we call a top influencer.
So basically, what we will do is we'll take the tops. Like I'm Gonna Give You example here one of our clients. They sell beach house furniture and they're targeting interior designers interior design websites. So we found the list we created a list of the top 50 interior design sites on the web and we wrote a little blurb about each one just a few sentences.
We link to their website. We had a head shot of each person on this list and we reached out to everyone on this list and said, hey, we saw what you're doing. We love the content you produce some just. Recognize you my chain made our list and these people you're giving something to them. You're building a relationship and a lot of them were so happy to be featured on these lists that the link to it from their website the link to it from like a press or accolades page and share it on with their social media followers.
So that right there is kind of an easy way to almost turn your prospecting lists into a piece of content. Yeah. It's interesting that you mentioned that because that very strategy is something that we just did here here at Omni star. I kind of lead a lot of our business development or link building efforts here and we have several lists that we put out of different marketing apps because our blog is all about digital marketing and helping e-commerce companies.
Find the best strategies with regards to digital marketing. So we put a lot of lists out about the top apps to type of shopping cart app specifically and listed a lot of companies and we did that very strategy. We reached out to people that weren't on the list and ask them. They wanted to be featured and you know, you actually do get a very good response on that, you know, the response rate on those emails just asking people if they want to be featured is really high because these days as you said.
Getting their links out there multiple places is something that's really big and they know that that one Link at a time is really going to help. Their overall search engine rankings and so really great strategy and that's pretty ironic that we just employ that strategy here and house. That's great Island.
I'm sure it's working well for you guys and what's what's good about it is is not only do you get length, but you know, like you said you got great responses. It's a great way to build relationships. So if down the road. There's another piece of content you want to promote what you already have some influencers who know you and like you are probably be much more eager to share your content.
And if you just kind of came out from cold. Yeah, exactly. And then the thing with this type of email this type of Outreach email is you're offering them something really you're not really asking them. Of course, you may want to link in exchange a link back with the initial offer. The initial ask is just you know, you want to be featured.
And sure you know before you even ask them of anything, so that's a really a great strategy. There's one one other strategy. I'll share that works really well and it's also good if you're lazy like me and you don't like riding a lot of content. So this is what we call a collaborative post. What we'll do is we'll find a few different influencers that will reach out and say hey we'll writing an article about.
Do's and don'ts for beginners at interior design so we know something simple like that and we'd love for you guys to contribute and we can do is actually have influencers contribute to an article you're writing. So you can come to this Roundup of maybe 10 to 20 little contributions from other bloggers and influencers put in a post format it make it look nice and then promote it and you didn't really have to write any content these influencers did it for you and most of the time they'll actually link to the post as well.
So another way to get links and create good content while not even having to write much content yourself. Yeah, that's great. That's a great strategy because I know a lot of people that are listening or wondering sounds like a great strategy, but I got to come up with this content, you know, I got to write this stuff and we're have somebody write it.
So that's definitely a great way to. To go about doing it for sure. I'm now speaking of writing and actually speaking of content. I think it's a good segue for my next question. I know years years back. I used to always hear the phrase content is King and I we talked about content marketing but is it truly the still the same today or is it has anything shifted with regards to being a benefit in search engines?
I. That's a really good question. And I'm sure you probably remember the Mantra back in the days is just everywhere you go, you know content is came content is King keep creating great content and you'll rank well and I'd say that's mostly true but not a hundred percent of the story. So Google is getting closer and closer to their goal, which is the best content ranks the best and if you have really good content if your articles are more interesting than than your competitors.
Let me just kind of Segway just for a second to Define. What is great content because you always hear this mention but no one's saying okay, like what is great content look like, you know from from different correlations studies kind of looking at the types of content that ranks really well. It's usually content that's going to be a thousand or a few thousand words.
It's usually going to have visual assets. It's going to you might have, you know, graphs or charts or images. It could even have a video so it's having some types of media really helps improve your content. Breaking your content into different headers and subsections adding an angle to it can also help.
So those are just some quick tips. If you're wondering, you know, what is great content look like how can I create great content? Those things can really help you get there. So that's kind of the first step, but you could have the best content on the web. But if no one sees it it's not going to do you much good so content is King as long as people see it and that's kind of what I've noticed is a lot of e-commerce companies.
They spend all this time creating really good content. They're creating blog posts, maybe the videos and infographics but there's no promotion going on. So I think if you're going to spend all this time creating content, you should spend at least the same amount of time promoting it, right? Yeah.
Definitely. I kind of thought about the. The old saying that says if a tree falls in the forest and nobody's there to hear it. Does it make a sound I think it you can apply this definitely too good content as well. If you know you can make the best blog post in the world, but if you're not getting it out there it almost doesn't really matter.
You know a few tips if someone has content they want to promote it more just submitting it to social bookmarking sites like Reddit can really help. So that's one place to kind of get the ball rolling reaching out to relevant bloggers is great. If you have a tool if you have a link tool like Maas ahrefs or Majestic you can actually see.
Who's linking to similar content and then reach out to them and try to get them to link to your content so that can also work really well. Yeah. Yeah, that's awesome. Those are some great tools for sure. Now of course content is definitely the way to go and you know creating links to this content and different sources its sure the way to go but you know link building as we mentioned earlier.
It's a process, you know, you getting one Link at a time. And it can be time-consuming. So the question I have and I know a lot of businesses are thinking is you know, do this is something that they should dedicate in-house in-house resources towards or is this something they should do in house and especially if they're you know kind of have a lien staff or maybe they're only a Solo solo entrepreneur.
They're running their own e-commerce site, you know doing a million things like we all are what would you suggest? Yeah, that is a really good question. And I think either way it's important to have some link building going on because you know eCommerce sites. They live they live by online traffic and Google is pretty much the number one source of traffic online in order to get that traffic you're going to have need to have linked so it can be done and house.
It's just going to be a little bit more of a learning curve because either this the person who's doing this the entrepreneur or if they have like a VA. There's going to be some training going on. There's going to be some trial and error. There's going to be some reading some articles. It can be done though.
It's you know, it's links buildings at the point. Now where you could have a VA you could give them a resource, you know backlinko.com. It's probably the best resource for anyone who wants to learn a link building so you can just have them digest a few articles there and just try what you learn. So that's that's one option that the tool link on tor.com that I built was actually made for solo entrepreneurs that don't know much about link building.
I want to get into it. So. Pretty much has all my link building process has built into it. So if you don't know link building, you can kind of get started finding website sending your email pictures and getting links. There's also a lot of good agencies out there. It's just the one thing is linked Elena's it takes a lot of time.
And so anything that takes a lot of time it's going to be expensive. So for some people it can be difficult to get a positive Roi on a link to link company or SEO company that's focused on link 2 Link. So if you ask me, I think at least trying it and house could be the way to go, you know, whether.
Going on up worker online jobs that pH to find a VA or even having an intern do this. It would have them digest some content have them try it out. And if you can't get it to work, maybe that's the time to put a little more money towards it and go with an agency. Right? Right. That's a great piece of advice because I always recommend especially for you know, let's say solo entrepreneurs that have a you know, lean staff that it's only themselves or maybe a few other, you know, If you're doing anything marketing, it's always good to try it yourself.
And then what you can do is anytime you're trying it even at the very beginning when you're trying something. I'm document all of your your entire process. And so you know from Step 8 is z what is it that you're doing? And if that's something that this, you know, you're successful with our you see that you know, okay.
This is this seems like this can work. I can definitely build a link at a time. You'll get several links by going through this particular process. I can hand this off to like you said of the a, you know, somebody or freelancer from up work or whoever but I think it definitely makes sense to go through it yourself.
So you can kind of work out the Kinks because there's some things that I know you'll be of course be able to improve and then also if you do hand it off to let's say a VA get their feedback if they're saying okay this seems to be something that you could be done that can be done differently and make your tweaks along the way because it's always good to.
Get others feedback for sure. Yeah, that's exactly it. Just trial and error. Yeah, definitely now, we know that it's really hard to say where the future of course of search engine optimization is going because we don't know nobody knows nobody has a crystal ball, but he knows what Google has has cooked up in the you know in it in the future, but with all of your expertise and all the things that you're involved in with regards to search engine optimization.
Do you foresee any major changes? How search engines are going to be ranking sites coming anytime soon. I'd say that a lot of the rapid changes that we've seen. So I mean our land you've been doing this for a long time. You have seen just how drastic this this industry's changed. I mean from especially right around like 2010 to 2015.
We just having so many different updates like the panda update the penguin update. There's rapid shifts. I think we're starting to see less and less of that now that go as Google gets kind of closer and closer to perfecting their algorithm. There's not as many of these kind of huge major sweeping changes.
I really. I think know what does this mean for webmasters and e-commerce store owners? I think it's understanding what Google's goal is and kind of working backwards from that. So Google's goal. They want someone to search a keyword and the best results are going to be, you know, one two three in that order and they're getting really close and kind of goes back to we talked about earlier.
Let's just you know use your usability. I would almost recommend if someone's looking to improve their SEO it can be worth doing split test and doing conversion rate optimization. If you know if you're going to increase your site, so it really gives users what they want. It's easy to navigate. They can find your categories.
They can find your products. Your content is good. They're staying on the pages. They're flowing through that is now a positive ranking factor and you're sure it's important to get links and sure it's important to do your keyword research and and optimize your site and. Make sure there's no technical issues.
But then of the day you could have the best optimized site with the best title tag and the perfect keyword density and all the links going to it. But if that page is garbage, you're never going to rank. Well, yeah, that is so true. And I think that's that's one thing that I don't think really is going to change as far as Google just trying to find those sites that are very usable that where users have a good experience with regards to content get accessibility page load time all of those things.
I think are really not going to change because they just want to improve the experience as much as they can. Whereas I know several years back and it's in the early. It may not have been as much emphasis on that companies could really get away with just having you know, the hundreds and thousands of links going to their site and that site and they would just rank.
Well based on that but these days it's because of the aforementioned updates that you mention. It's not the case. You can't just do that doesn't matter if you're getting a million links to the site if it's if people are having a crappy experience when they're coming to the site. You're not really going to wait rank.
Well, yeah, that's exactly the kind of one more thing with that is if you look at YouTube if you look at YouTube's ranking factors, which is also owned by Google. The biggest ranking factors on YouTube is how much time are people spending watching the video. And you know how how many hours or minutes is that video generating?
So there we know for a fact that using these usability signals for YouTube. So it's pretty I would assume that they're also doing the same thing with their web search. Yeah. Yep. Definitely. I think they both go go hand-in-hand for sure. Well Jeff will I really appreciate you coming on to the e-commerce marketing podcast, you've definitely provided a wealth of information for search engine optimization and content marketing and I know these days it's something that it.
Via Commerce business definitely has to have a pulse on it for sure if they want to be successful. Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me. Yeah, not not a problem. And I don't want to close things out with the final question that I always ask my guests now and I'm always interested to hear the response on this one just to switch gears.
Just what is the one thing that. Audience members would be surprised to know about you. Oh, gosh me think here. Well one thing I used to be an archery instructor. So for just going for random list. I used to teach people how to shoot archery and then was an amateur competitor. Okay? Okay, that's awesome.
Yeah. I actually took an archery Class A couple years ago and it was it was pretty cool. It definitely is something it's not that easy. It's a lot. It's a lot harder than you think. Actually I bet you're your shoulders and back. The next day they did definitely you definitely use muscles kind of in a way that you typically don't with that the other one.
Yeah, that's awesome. That's that's definitely one thing. I would have guessed. There you go. We're great. Well, I appreciate that Jeff. And so finally if any of our listeners out there want to pick your brain and eat any more about search engine optimization or content marketing. How would they get ahold of you?
Sure. Best way to get a hold of me as just shoot me an email and my email is simple. It's just Jeff at one eight hundred marketing.com. Okay, great. That's pretty simple and thanks again for joining us today Jeff or in the e-commerce marketing podcast. Thanks a lot. Thank you for listening to e-commerce marketing podcast.
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Founder of 180 Marketing