SEO: The Path To Building Your Business Without Any Advertising With Damon Burton

Penny ZenkerTake Back Time Podcast

Take Back Time | Damon Burton | Search Engine Optimization

 

Advertising can be a powerful tool for promoting businesses and products, but it does not come without a downside. As a business owner, it’s a smart move to build a successful business without paid ads, and that is possible! Today, Damon Burton, an SEO consultant, explores the area of Search Engine Optimization and how to harness it in building your business without any paid advertising. As the Author of Outrank, Damon shares his insights about structuring content for credibility and how that helps you outrank competitions. His success leaves footprints that you might want to follow. So, join Damon in this informative episode as he shares his key to success in building a business.

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SEO: The Path To Building Your Business Without Any Advertising With Damon Burton

As you know, on this show, what are we looking to do? We’re looking to help you to work smarter. That’s the name of the game. I’m excited to have someone who thinks smart and he’s going to help you work smart. His name is Damon Burton. Over a decade ago, Damon Burton, a husband and father of three, beat a billion-dollar company by outranking their website on Google. We all want to do that. From then on, he realized that he was onto something great. He went on to build an international search engine marketing company that worked with Inc. 5000 and Shark Tank-featured companies alike.

Having started his business right before the 2008 recession, Damon is familiar with navigating growing businesses during confusing times, including tripling revenue during the pandemic. Since founding the company SEO National in 2007, Damon has been featured in publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes, Buzzfeed, and USA Weekly. He helps big and small companies make more in a month than they used to in a year. Give me some of that. I like some of that. Welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me. I appreciate the intro. I’m looking forward to talking.

Yes, you got into this because you beat this billion-dollar company on Google. Google’s always changing. We all know that as well. Let’s start there. You’ve had a great history. What do you say to somebody who says, “But it’s always changing,” and how do you know what’s coming up next?

You are correct that, technically, Google updates algorithms on a regular basis. It can do small updates often daily, but the big ones are maybe every couple of months. If you simplify SEO, let me give a quick context for people who might not be familiar with SEO. It stands for search engine optimization. Your goal is to get your website to show up higher in the search results for words that you can monetize, but you do it without paying for ads. You do it by increasing the credibility of your website. When you talk about these algorithm changes, if you focus on three simple things in the world of SEO, you don’t have to get distracted by the algorithm. The problem that people run into is they get too caught up in trying to game the system.

If you look at it from three core pillars, 1) How good or bad is your website built? For example, does it load quickly? Is it mobile-friendly? 2) Content. You can only show up on Google for what it can read. Do you clearly communicate the services and products you offer and why you’re better than the competition? 3) External credibility. It’s like a popularity contest. Do other websites mention your brand? Do they link to your website? Each of those links counts as a vote towards that popularity contest.

Out of all these algorithms in the seventeen years I’ve had the agency, every time one rolls out, I’ve never had a client get penalized or get dinged. In the worst-case scenario, they’re neutral, but more often than not, they’re positive and up as a result. If you simplify it and focus on solving the problems of your audience and presenting yourself as the authority that you are, then you don’t have to get caught up in what’s changing and when.

I love that answer because, so often, we make things more complicated and complex than they need to be. Also, you’re right. So many people are trying to game the system. Give me the shortcut. That’s in anything in life. The fact is that in so many areas of life, there is no shortcut. You’ve got to do the work. If you know what matters for that objective that you’re achieving, it can be much simpler if you focus on those things that matter. Drop the mic right there.

Thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

That being said, which one of those three is most important?

When you talk about which one’s going to influence your visibility can get you shown up higher, it’s going to be the latter two. It’s going to be the content and credibility. The thing to keep in mind is your content and your credibility will only be effective if you have a solid-built website. For people who are new to SEO, a good place to start is to make sure that your design is simplistic. As you said, too often, we overcomplicate things. Consistently, in my experience, and in tons of countless studies, the most simple minimalistic designs outperform the most visually appealing designs. The reason why is because the more fancy stuff we add, the more we complicate and dilute the message.

For people new to SEO, a good place to start is to ensure that your design is simplistic. Click To Tweet

Start by having a clean, clear website that in the call to action only have what you want the customer to see. Don’t add an image unless it serves a purpose. Don’t add another wallet text unless it serves a purpose. You want to keep it simple so that your users and visitors only find the thing that you want them to sign up for or buy. Once you have your design done, then you put that behind you. No matter what you focus on long term, you have to have a solid foundation.

After that, where I usually tell people to start is on the content side because most of us in entrepreneurship get in because we either have the coolest thing in our market or we’re the most passionate about it. Depending on one of those two things, share that in your content, explain why you have the best benefits for your product or service, why you created it, or why it serves a purpose, and how it can solve your audience’s problem.

Take Back Time | Damon Burton | Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization: In your content, explain why you have the best benefits for your product service, why you created it, why it serves a purpose, and how it can solve your audience’s problem.

 

Do you have to keep feeding that engine? Is it enough to have a bunch of static pages? Do I need to have a blog that goes out every week, month, or quarter?

A little bit of both. You need some baseline content. The way that I like to describe it is that you need some core pages. Those core pages are going to be what some people in the industry will call your money pages. Those are the pages that generally don’t change a lot. Once you get Your homepage, product page, and service page locked in, you can keep them as is. The reason why ongoing content is important is because that content needs to link to and reference those money pages. Those are supporting assets. Google will also look at it and go, “Penny writes consistently. She must be more of an authority and a thought leader in the industry, so let’s position her higher.”

There’s also a shelf life to content. Most of the stuff that you put out, regardless of the industry, has a lower probability of being evergreen. Some stuff can last a couple of years, but eventually, it becomes outdated and slightly irrelevant. There is value in consistency, but the key is quality. Usually, people ask, “How much should I write? How often? How long?” There’s no such thing as too much good content. Write as much as you can up until it comes to the expense of either quality or your sanity.

I like that last one. You’ve got to spread your activities around. What about ChatGPT is a pretty good writer and people are thinking, “Why don’t I get ChatGPT to write my blogs?” Is there any downside to that? Is Google checking?

There are a couple of considerations. I don’t think I have to talk about why AI is cool and appealing, but what you do want to pay attention. I don’t think enough people are talking about the quality control that you want to consider. If you can scale your content using AI and maintaining quality control, sure, have at it. The opportunities and the gaps that start to be exposed is AI in its current model is largely what would be called a content spinner. It’s taking and repurposing content, shuffling around synonyms, and it’s aggregating things that already exist. What happens is you have an opportunity for factual inaccuracies. That’s going to be more applicable to certain markets, maybe medical and legal.

What happens is you also miss the opportunity to tell your own unique story because this is all based on repurposed content. I think what’s going to happen is Google came out with an algorithm update in 2011. It was called Panda. What Panda focused on was mass-produced low-quality content. There are programs that are out there, they’re still out there called spinners. You paste in text, and people use it to take content from Wikipedia or their competitors. It would rearrange the paragraphs and swap out synonyms to create “unique content.”

AI’s current version is largely a better spinner, but at some point, there’s a good probability that Google will be able to identify a lot of these patterns. With that might come, we’ll call it Panda 2.0. I think Google’s trying to play catch-up here, but they certainly have some historical experience with trying to identify this type of scaled content.

Do you know you want to bring your unique brand message? That hopefully will have you not just using content that you’re getting from a tool like that, but it certainly helps to make it a little faster and structure some ideas. I definitely see some huge benefits for that.

If you want to use it for ideation, I think that’s fine. When it comes to the actual content output, that’s when you want to start to pay a little more attention to, “Does it bring unique value or align with your brand messaging?”

Do you use AI for anything else in your world?

Not in my agency, no. We’ll use it for the ideation, but that’s even a safety net where it’s after we’ve already gone through our other processes to go, “What kind of stories can we tell to align with buyer intent?” We have other tools that dig through data and say, for example, “Here’s what people are already asking about this industry that our clients are in.” We then can align the topics with pre-existing search demand and buyer intent. From there, we can leverage it between the, “What’s the customer’s unique story?”

If you think about the mega brands that have survived decades or maybe even centuries, we’ll say Coca-Cola or McDonald’s. Their brands are not embedded in our heads necessarily because of the quantity of the stories, but the quality and the uniqueness of the stories. It gives people the opportunity to stand out. So many people are embracing AI. If you can come in and tell your own unique story, it gives you an opportunity to stand out a little bit more.

I don’t know what I don’t know. What should I be asking you that I haven’t asked you yet?

If we’re talking about SEO specifically, usually the next thing is, “How long am I in this for?” All these different types of marketing have advantages and disadvantages, but the biggest thing to understand about SEO is realistic expectations. When we’re talking about those three areas of structure, content, credibility, the logistics behind making your website load quicker, making the design work well, and making it mobile-friendly, it takes time. If you’re in it for a quick fix, SEO’s probably not the right solution, but if you can commit to enough patience and time, it generally has a larger audience pool that you can tap into.

The other cool thing about organic search is that these people sought out to solve a problem or buy a thing. The intent is higher on search engines, so their conversion rates are usually higher. We can talk about different things like that, but you had a great intro at the beginning where it talks about, “Work smarter, not harder.” We can segue into, “I’m a big family man, a married father of three.” I’m a big fan of carving out personal time. For better or worse, I live and die by my calendar. I think that’s also the more strict you are with the time, the more freedom it buys you. It’s a little bit of a contradiction, but maybe we can talk a little about that.

Tell me about that. Tell me how you organize yourself to run your business and at the same time get that quality time with your family to feel balanced.

Whatever your priorities are in your life. In my case, it’s my wife and kids. Take and position them first in your availability. For example, my kids are all younger, so what I do is block off 7:30 AM to 9:00 AM. No matter what, nobody can get on my calendar at that time. I do the same thing in the evening, so between 3:00 and 3:30, 3:30 and 4:00. I have the opportunity to go pick them up or walk home with them from school. That allows you to prioritize the things that you want, whatever those things may be. It makes it easy to identify the opportunities in between so that you can knock out the rest.

Good strategy because you’ve blocked it out. It’s non-negotiable for you. I can tell that that’s a non-negotiable.

For sure, yeah. We go a step further. I apply the same thing to my team. I encourage them to do the same thing in their availability. All of our auto attendance on our voice lines, they automatically close off at 5:00. We go as far as adding in our contract. We have a full page in our contract that says, “Reasons not to hire us.” It’s good when you can communicate that to your clients, where you establish those boundaries, because newer entrepreneurs will get scared with this concept of establishing boundaries. They think that I need to be available at all times for everybody.

What happens is you end up burning yourself out. The more you burn yourself out, the less willing you are to deliver a good product to that client. Oftentimes, you get annoyed and so you under-deliver. However, when you establish a boundary, you can deliver your quality, but then I get more compliments than anything on that contract that says, “Here’s the reason not to hire us” because it positions you as the authority, so then you become more trusted, which creates a better engagement.

I think when we said boundaries, people respect it. It makes them think, “I should be setting this kind of boundaries. This is a great idea.” I think that’s clever. I have never heard that in your contract with your customers, you are very clear as to what your boundaries are. That’s powerful. They’re non-negotiables and that’s the thing to communicate because what happens is people do that and they’ll block some time off, but then they allow a negotiation, and then they, “This once I’ll let it in,” and then it becomes twice. Before you know it, that time isn’t blocked off anymore.

Whatever boundaries you define, you have to make sure you reinforce them as well.

It’s like a crack in the windshield. It starts with a little point and then goes out everywhere and takes over everything. That’s what happens. A crack in our discipline and our boundaries. Do you have any other apps? Everybody’s got their favorite app that saves them time. Not a calendar or those types of things, which I know are hugely valuable, but is there one thing that you use every day because it helps to save you time and be more efficient?

There is. I use an app called Things. Things is an app that’s specific to the Apple ecosystem. What I like about Things is you can have it on your computer or phone, but what it does is act as a simple tool to catalog tasks. You can prioritize them, you can set due dates, and things like that. What I like about Things is that they’re simplistic, minimalistic, and easy to use.

A good way that I use Things is, you know how all of us, most of us, we’re sitting there at it’s time to call it a day, you lay down and then there’s that thing you need to remember to do tomorrow. You repeat it in your head so you don’t forget it, and then you end up ruining your sleep because you’re constantly thinking about this. Things is great because then you can hurry and type it in your phone, get it out of your head, and then when I come to my desk in the morning, they sync together, so it automatically sends it to my task list.

What else? What would you say otherwise is your key to success and thinking smarter?

It depends on what position you’re in entrepreneurship. In the beginning, I think we’re all generally financially motivated. Things evolve as you get further down in your career. At some point, hopefully, you will be fortunate enough to get your base needs met and have some disposable income. That gives you some breathing room.

After you have that, then you start to reevaluate where you are and what your goals are. The why of why you’re pursuing entrepreneurship. Your path and your interests are going to change depending on where you’re at on that scale. For me, the biggest thing is freedom of time at this point, and then I like to bring my team along with me. I’m always trying to encourage them to implement the same things, implement the boundaries, and prioritize family. For me, the position of impact is more of my focus these days.

What’s something that you’re working on that meets that bigger impact need?

We wrapped up a big charity, so I’m taking a breather right now. Around Christmas time, my wife and I did a big charity where we rented a big venue, brought in Santa Claus himself, and then gave gifts to 50 kids in the area that are underprivileged. That was a big thing that took a long time and was a big time commitment and emotional commitment. Right now, I’m enjoying the completion of that and taking a breather.

Is there anything else that you wanted to share with us that I didn’t ask you?

We can wrap up with some important simple things. With entrepreneurship, it’s important to give yourself the freedom to not know the answers. Especially with social media, that’s such a highlight reel these days where we see all these people with success stories. There’s some great quote out there by somebody that’s along the lines of, “Overnight success generally takes ten years.” There’s a lot of truth to that. Social media, we see probably year eleven, so it looks like it was an overnight success.

When we go through this journey of entrepreneurship and we see all these other highlight reels, it gives us imposter syndrome. We want to catch up and close the gap of success. We make unknowingly premature decisions. One thing that’s supported me with my career is giving myself the freedom to not know the answers and to explore and A/B test throughout different opportunities and see which positions I liked and didn’t like. From there, I double down on the paths in which I did like. Certainly, there are ways for people to find freedom of time and financial success quicker, but usually, it’s not as sustainable. Don’t feel obligated if you don’t know the answer. Acknowledging that alone often gives you a little bit of breathing room.

For sure. I remember one time in my career, I was doing a shift. I moved from Europe to the United States, and I tried some things out. Some different things that I was doing. I was speaking a little, coaching here, and doing some different things. I remember my brother. He was like, “You need to be more focused. You need to pick a lane and stay in that lane.” He gave me that feeling of Imposter Syndrome, like, “I’m not doing what I should be doing.” I started to get all worried about it. I woke up the next morning and I felt completely at peace because I was like, “No, I don’t need to know what that next step is yet. That’s why I am trying all these different things to see what connects and what fits.”

It wasn’t shortly after that that you find your path when you give yourself the ability to play a little in different areas and not to take it too seriously. He was putting all this seriousness on me. I was like, that wasn’t going to do it. That’s the first thing that comes up when you say that. I can relate to the times when you need to try different things, and that’s okay.

Ultimately, you’re going to find success when you find that lane to stay in, but you need to be confident in which lane you choose.

If you choose the wrong lane because it was someone else’s lane or it was someone else’s thought that you should do this or they say that you’re good at it, but you are drawn somewhere else, you need to make sure it’s your right lane before you start going down it. Sometimes, there’s a sequence effect, too. Sometimes, it might not be your time for that lane.

Yeah, I agree. Find the lane that’s appropriate for you and also appropriate for your chapter in life. That lane can also change.

Find the lane that's appropriate for you and your chapter in life. Click To Tweet

Thank you so much for being here. Why don’t you tell us where we can reach you and find out more information about you, your agency, and what other things you’re up to?

Thanks for the chat. I appreciate you having me. You can simply go to DamonBurton.com, and you can find everything there, including social media and a free copy of an SEO book.

Thank you so much. Thank you all for being here. I think we talked about a lot of different things. For those of you who are entrepreneurs and even if you’re an internal entrepreneur, you’re working for a larger company, you can still think entrepreneurially in that way. We talked a little bit about time. We talked a little bit about SEO. A lot of good nuggets here. Take some notes. Review. What’s that big takeaway that you can say, “This is the thing that’s going to make the biggest difference for me?” How are you going to put it into practice? My name is Penny Zanker and this is Take Back Time. We’ll see you in the next episode.

 

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About Damon Burton

Take Back Time | Damon Burton | Search Engine OptimizationOver a decade ago, Damon Burton, a husband and father of three, beat a billion dollar company by outranking their website on Google. From then on he realized he was onto something great and went on to build an international search engine marketing company that’s worked with Inc. 5000 and Shark Tank featured businesses alike. Having started his business right before the 2008 recession, Damon is familiar with navigating and growing a business during confusing times, including tripling revenue during the recent pandemic. Since founding his company, SEO National, in 2007, Damon has been featured in publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes, BuzzFeed and USA Weekly as he helps big and small clients make more in a month than they used to in a year.

 

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