SEO expert Damon Burton started his business right before the Great Recession in 2008. Most entrepreneurs would have been nervous about starting their business during that time period, but Burton says, “I couldn’t tell you a single negative thing from back then.” When he started his company, SEO National, in 2007 he was a budget provider for brands who wanted to increase their leads without increasing their budget. He and another employee grew the company to have solution for needs at the time. During the recession, he says brands couldn’t continue to pay a variable budget on paid ads.
He was able to get clients leads at a fixed cost because he was working with organic results instead of paid results, which proved to be great exposure and a higher return on ROI at a lower cost. Now, 13 years later, he has helped high-profile clients make more in a month than they used to in a year. He has worked with Utah Jazz’s Team Store and multiple Inc. 5000 companies, and he still has about a dozen clients who have been with him since the beginning. Connect spoke with Burton to learn how brands can build awareness without spending money and to discuss his new book, “Outrank,” which is a guide to dominating Google’s search results.
How can brands build long-term awareness without spending money?
The easiest ways brands can build awareness is through their SEO. Google wants to look good and show results for websites that satisfy the searchers’ query.
SEO can be put into two categories. On-page optimization is what you do on your website, which deals with mobile friendliness, page speed and structure. The other category is off-page optimization. The way you balance those is that most of your exposure is coming to the second category, but that category is only as effective as the first category is solid. It’s like building a house. When you build the foundation, you need a solid structure to establish everything else.
Off-page optimization is a popularity contest. So, you need to showcase your authority through content, and that’s an easy way brands can get ahead if they don’t have the budget for SEO.
How is building brand awareness following COVID-19 similar or different to when brands had to build awareness after the Great Recession?
The important thing right now is a trust factor and to double down on that. People like to buy and not be sold to. Everybody is scared with everything going on in the current economic climate. If trust was subconscious before contributing to a purchasing decision, now it’s almost conscious for a lot of people. By building transparency and sharing your knowledge, you increase your audience, eliminate sales walls and increase conversation.
People need to find how they can be the market differentiator for the time now. Whether that’s providing a better solution or a cheaper solution. You can thrive through a recession as long as you pivot.
Do you have an example of building brand awareness in this climate?
A new example in brand awareness is to sell without selling. A year and a half ago I deleted all my social media in respect to my family. After a month or two, I started thinking I am missing opportunities—but not opportunities like before because I wasn’t leveraging them to begin with. It opened my eyes to how I can reposition online. I turned everything back on and started to give free advice.
What other people can do is through social proof. They can get long-term sales but hopefully some short-term sales as well. Share your advice on social media. When I started doing that out of experimentation, it added about $150,000 in contracts in the first 12 months. Giving without expecting in return. There are several opportunities to monetize that in a direct way.
You have a new book “Outrank” out. What prompted you to write it?
I think I bring an interesting perspective to SEO and marketing in general. In online marketing, everyone is waiting for the shiny things. And where I found my success was sticking to the basics. If you talk about the SEO world, a lot of people have turn-and-burn clients. Most agencies are lucky if they have one SEO client for a year. So, I wanted to bring that transparency to the SEO audience because that transparency and sticking to the basics is what largely fueled our company’s growth.
I wanted to bring that into the book format and also a bit of an A-Z guide on how anyone can tackle SEO on their own. It’s a good qualifier for helping people and then also attracting the ideal type of people that I work with. But also give proof to the concept that if you keep it simple you can accomplish big things. The goal is to showcase the expertise.
What are some tools businesses can use to monitor their page performance?
There are two free tools that help businesses understand their page speed and how quickly their page loads. One of them is Google Page Speed Insights and the other is GTmetrix. Google Page Speed is more simplistic and GTmetrix is more tech savvy, detailed and tells you exactly what you need to fix.
For mobile friendless, there are two free tools as well. Google has a test called Google Mobile-Friendly Test and another tool is Responsinator. Responsinator is more visual compared to Google Mobile-Friendly Test. You can experience what your users are seeing regarding the resolution of small, medium or large phones as well as tablets and desktops.