015: Finding a Match in Technical SEO with Chris Long
Chris Long is the VP of Marketing at Go Fish Digital and has found himself there through a curvy road that began in finance in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. He’s learned a lot about key traits in a mentor, content strategy, and technical SEO along the way. Be sure to listen to this episode to hear how he customizes his strategy in all things mentorship, technical SEO, and more!
Key Points + Topics
- [2:30] Chris Long got his degree in finance from the University of Pittsburgh. Looking back, he finds it hard to picture himself following the traditional finance career path. After a couple of internships, he realized finance wasn’t for him long term. He found his way to digital marketing and has since realized through his experience both at his current company and in the industry people in digital marketing come from a wide swatch of experiential and educational backgrounds.
- At his first job in digital marketing, he was at a very small company – just him and two others. He was the only person working on marketing and would work day-to-day with the business owner. This helped give him an inside look at how a small business operated and how marketing folded into the larger environment. This shows that a key element of your first job is not just what you do but who you work with and how they can mentor you.
- [7:05] According to Chris, a mentor can (and should) be different things to different people. There is no one-size-fits-all way about it. They should be someone to guide your path and open up doors for you, allowing you to progress in your career. A mentor should focus on getting you to perform at your ultimate capacity. As such, it is ideal for a mentor to know you very well and how you work, and how to coach and adjust you to reach that point.
- [8:05] Some of his most influential mentors have been members of the board of his current company, Go Fish Digital. It’s been interesting to see how each of these people has their own experiences and unique expertise. Brian is very process oriented. Daniel is very creative and thinks in-depth about the future of marketing. He was the first to inspire Chris to begin speaking at conferences and how to use storytelling in that environment. Dan is very good at technical SEO and helped bring Chris to the next level of skills in that role. Chris wants to encourage people to always be observant and open to learning from the people and situations around them.
- [16:30] Regarding mentoring processes, Chris is a big proponent of the monthly one-on-one meetings. He references High Output Management by Andrew Grove for the format and tactics within those meetings. Often people view the one-on-one meetings incorrectly, believing it to be for the manager. In reality, this meeting should be for the employee and allow them to talk about the problems and challenges they’re facing so their mentor can help direct them on how to solve them or connect them with those who can.
- [12:45] What does “success” mean? To Chris, it is relative to the person. The traditional view of success is to climb the managerial ladder in hopes of making it to VP or C-suite positions. And that is a great success for many people. However, some people just want to be the best individual contributor they can be. They want to be the best data analyst possible. They want to be able to delve deeply into complex and interesting problems to solve them. The managerial role is not always the best for all people. And when you promote someone not fit for those responsibilities, not only do you end up with a less-than-ideal manager, but you’ve also lost one of your best individual contributors. That is important to keep in mind.
- [15:32] Chris now mentors the SEO and Analytics Teams at Go Fish. His roots and experience are in technical SEO, so that is where he feels he can offer the most knowledge. He is often working with these teams with other mentors at the company to see where their talents lie and where there might be some skill gaps.
- [18:45] Most of his past mentors have had a sort of innate curiosity. It feels contagious, especially when it comes to problem-solving. Chris has tried to take this trait into his approach as well as instill it in those he mentors. Additionally, he found it helpful to focus on being independent and self-sufficient. You must be willing and able to search for the answers to your problems first. Finally, empathy is key to a successful mentoring relationship. You need to be able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to figure out why something isn’t working.
- [23:24] Go Fish Digital knows you must tailor your SEO strategy to each client. For large sites with hundreds of thousands of pages, technical SEO must be your roadmap’s guiding light. When dealing with sites of scale, it’s important to ensure Google can efficiently and effectively crawl those sites. For other clients, you need to be more focused on strategy. News clients, for example, don’t need you to worry about creating content but instead shift your focus to creating editorial calendars and finding content gaps and opportunities for structured data.
- [32:25] Chris is a frequent contributor to many publications and posts to LinkedIn often. His choice of topics is both external inspiration and internal curiosity. He finds himself drawn to the experimental stories when someone thinks, “Hey, let’s see what happens if we disavow every link to this page. How might that impact traffic?” When it comes to getting a client to sign off on those types of tests (and writing about them), it’s important to start with low stakes. Getting buy-in is much easier if the environment aligns with the risk.
- [36:12] A true success story for Chris is seeing a good SEO become a great SEO. Seeing someone join his team as an intern with little SEO experience but plenty of hunger and drive to learn more and watch them evolve into an SEO devotee has been great.
- [40:15] Chris is incredibly active on LinkedIn, sharing content and commenting on posts often. He tries to share the content he would be interested in reading. If he finds a post about a new tool, software, or technique, he wants to share that with others. If he can find a story about a new way of communicating SEO to others, that’s even better. Finally, he will always have an appetite for technical SEO and the future of SEO and share information on those topics, as well.
Guest + Episode Links
Danny Gavin 00:05
Hello everyone. I’m Danny Gavin, the founder of Optidge, a full service digital marketing agency, and the host of The Digital Marketing Mentor. Today I’m with Chris Long. I’m a huge fan of Chris. First saw Chris I think back a couple years ago. It’s data search in Dallas where a lot of my guests, our first guests are coming from. So Chris is the VP of Marketing at Go Fish Digital and Award winning digital marketing agency specializing in SEO, link building, PPC and website design. Chris is a sought after speaker at many conferences and provides amazing SEO insights almost daily on LinkedIn. I mean I feel like in you know, with me I’m get my coffee, turn on LinkedIn and there’s Chris every day which something really cool to check out. He’s written for MAS search engine land search in the journal and is really passionate about SEO data and analytics. Today he’s joining us to delve into mentorship, SEO strategy and how to be a leader in the world of SEO Chris, how are you?
Chris Long 01:50
I’m great. Good to be here Danny and thanks, thanks so much for having me and appreciate the state of search throwback. I think it was one of my first national like SEO conference. So I always hold a very special plate and place in my heart for state of search because that really kind of was the. Thing that got like open up even more opportunities that was it was really awesome to do that two years.
Danny Gavin 02:11
And I remember like, yeah, I think you were like on the mainstage and you seemed like cool as a cucumber. So I would have never have known that was like one of the first biggies. But that’s amazing.
Chris Long 02:20
Yeah, it was a great experience, i think it was on a link equity topic. Yeah, that’s where I met like Paul Shapiro, a lot of people who i still consider mentors to this day, so.
Danny Gavin 02:30
Let’s talk about where you went to school and what you studied sure so I went to school at the University of Pittsburgh from oh nine to thirteen i studied. Finance you know, it’s one of those things like looking back, it’s really, it was really hard to picture myself like going with that career path. It’s kind of like. You know, you’re asked right after high school, what do you want to do? You feel like you’re forced to make a decision. So I’d always been drawn to math or set of propensity to know, like how kind of money worked. So finance seemed like a very natural fit for me. Ended up taking a couple of the internships, one for Merrill Lynch and one for a very local municipal bonds company. And that is the shortest job I ever had. I think I left it in a single day. It’s like I got there. I realized it was not the right fit. That kind of ended that with that career path for me. So then it. Left me as a recent graduate kind of wondering, hey what am I going to do next? I what does my career trajectory look like? So I degrees in finance. We all find within digital marketing that what’s really cool is a lot of people come back with such diverse backgrounds. Like we have people in our company with majors in. Poli, Sci and dance and all these unrelated majors that maybe aren’t directly related to marketing.
Danny Gavin 03:43
It’s crazy, the diversity and i like the fact that because it’s open for so many different backgrounds, it just provides that opportunity for so many. You know, I have my course where I’m teaching a lot of people the basics and fundamentals and everyone always wants to know. Like, you know, do I need a degree? Do I not? If I’m more analytical and more creative, is it a problem? But, you know, as people get to learn more, it’s like, oh wow, there really is room for everyone and a space for everyone to kind of make that niche in the world of digital absolutely that’s one of the great parts about, you know, digital marketing, SEO, whatever. It’s like. This is really almost like a good artistic blend of like, you know, creative and technical rights. Like you can be creative person, think of creative ways to ideate content, to promote content, to earn links or you can be super technical and figure out, hey, I’m going to write a Python script to scrape down site. And get their navigations or improve or like run scripts through Google ads. It really spans the board. And like you said, if you can use your diverse set of background, figure out what’s like most is important to you. And then really from there figure out, you know, where do I fit, like what do I enjoy doing in this kind of broad spectrum.
Danny Gavin 04:53
Although you can have any background, obviously you have like a background in finance. Do you feel like that has added a certain edge to you in especially now where you’re like more at the VP level? Or do you feel like not necessarily?
Chris Long 05:07
Yeah, that’s a good question. You know I think and saw in some ways yes, it’s like this the propensity toward some more math related things i think does help right especially if you’re talking about flags you get like forecasting and really figuring out, hey, like how can we model out like what if we do this, like what’s organic traffic going to look like? I think there is some competitive advantage there really i think one of my biggest competitive advantages or one of the biggest experiential advantages I have was when I started, I worked for like a very small business and when I had the business I worked for before, this was when I started. It was me, the owner and then one other person. There was really three of us and I was the only one doing marketing. You know, I was doing a lot of different things. I think the really great part was that I got to really work day-to-day was like a small business owner and like talk to him and see what he was going through, like talking through the problems of the business and it really, it’s like it really when you have that level of access, you know that’s it really gets you to understand marketing not just from a marketing perspective but how it folds into like the larger business perspective. What did SEO mean to him and his business specifically and like really? Getting his perspective more which I think helps you know sort of be well my career understanding you know hey every manager I’ve had kind of what’s their perspective and also our clients as well. Hey if I’m working with whether it’s an enterprise company or a small business owner like understanding hey what are they thinking like what perspective of search or. Google ads or PPC or they take him right. I think that was a really beneficial just to kind of have his perspective of what it was like to run a small business and really work so closely with him in the in the early days.
Danny Gavin 06:45
So the key that I’m hearing is that first job, obviously it’s about what you’re going to do, but it’s also who you’re going to work for, right. And do you have a mentor, right? So it’s pretty cool you in a way like that first job you had that person that you could listen to. Model look up to and I think that brings us to a really great segue into our next section about defining a mentor. So Chris, how would you define a mentor?
Chris Long 07:09
I think a mentor can be different things, different people. To me, a mentor is someone who’s going to act as a. Guiding path to opening up more doors and allowing you to progress in your career. There’s no one way about like a mentor doesn’t have to be the stereotypical. You work side by side with them every day. A mentor can occasionally check in and you know really get you thinking about things in different ways. Really a mentor is just is it’s about trying to get you to. A form at your ultimate capacity and really knowing like which knobs and triggers to turn in order to be able to do that. Now ideally you know a mentor is someone who knows you really well and to who knows how to how to specifically work with you. To me that that’s kind of what mentorship is really about, is trying to get and encourage people to perform capacity is about even maybe that they didn’t think they were capable of achieving.
Danny Gavin 08:02
So you’ve mentioned that. Some of your most influential mentors have been some of the board members of your current company, including Brian, Daniel, and Dan. I’d love to delve into that a little bit further. How have they been influential to you as mentors?
Chris Long 08:17
It’s been interesting to see all of them and how they have their own unique. Set of expertise, they’re all the like you said the board, the board members of our current company and they really all have different values that they bring to the table. You know Brian is a really good marketer, really process oriented but I came in you know I wasn’t initially I. Kind of what my own way and didn’t see I see there’s much value in process but over time usually taught me like hey here’s why it’s important because when you know you grow from a ten person agency to a eighty person agency process becomes just that much more important right working with him and like we’re looking at his thoroughness to how he approaches problems. Daniel on that hand is a is a great marketer he was the first one at our company to speak of Mazcon. He’s really good at thinking creatively about kind of the future of marketing and really was the first one that kind of inspired me where I. You know, I was working at this company for a year or two. I saw someone, you know, at my own company, was able to speak at conferences like modest cod and inbound and search love. And really, that kind of inspired me to be able to hopefully go out and achieve the same things he’s been excellent in, like, teaching, you know, hey, here’s how you come up with ideas for a conference. Here’s how you find innovative solutions, and here’s ways in which you tell stories about those innovative solutions, right. It’s one thing to throw a bunch of data in front of people and say, hey, here it is, but. How do you make meaningful insights and digestible stories? He’s really excellent at that. And then Dan as well. And Dan, just in terms of really technical SEL easy is one that really helped me take mine to the next level. You’ve worked very closely with me in terms of that, like thinking, like thinking about how Google sees a website, understands the website. How is Google, you know, even treating a I content like we’re still having those conversations today. Dan thinks very technically. About the web and then it has generally more technical background. So having those conversations with him has been just been really vital to me in my career.
Danny Gavin 10:19
I love that and I think there’s so many like insights there. It’s like number one. You’re in this organization where you’ve got in a way, like 3 mentors to look and learn from. That’s great, right? It sounds like each one is very different and but it provides you with this gallery to choose from when you need. You know, I feel like a lot of times when we look at organizations, there’s like that one guy at top, right? It’s cool how it’s they’ve kind of created a situation where there’s different people with different things to offer absolutely yeah. And that was that was the great thing for me. It was like it was cool to see you know, just different person, different personality is being in a leadership role and it and it didn’t feel like hey, this is, you know you need to be always the type A personality who was responding to everything within 30 minutes. You know some of them are more like. But others aren’t. So it was really interesting to be able to see kind of their different personalities and really kind of analyzing hey where are my weaknesses and where could I be more like Brian, where could I be more like Daniel. But if I’m doing some marketing or trying to create a process really i think it provided a great opportunity to learn and then that that’s one thing I try to encourage people to do too is it really is be to be observant, right. It doesn’t even have to be with like someone who you consider a mentor directly but like everyone. Has things that they’re, you know, they’re better that than you, right. Whether it’s communication, technical abilities, whatever the case is and really just to just to be an observer, right. Like you’ve seen someone who’s successful in your organization, whether they’re a mentor or not, like taking a step back to analyze, like hey what are they doing that’s making them so successful? Are they just a really they might not be the most technical person, but maybe they’re just. Really great communicator, really great at selling their vision. Or conversely, maybe they are the subject matter expert and they go really deep until they find the exact problem and they go deeper than most people will. And being honest with yourself and figuring out like hey, what, where could I improve in and what do I think my strengths are? Maybe I’m not the type of if I’m not the type of person who’s always going to be the best communicator, but. I think I can go. I do enjoy going really deep in terms of like technical SEO Maybe that’s a strength I need to really learn from them more and like how they process that out. I really encourage like observe their environments, who they, who they want to emulate and then really take it and like what does that person do so well, because often times I think that can be neglected.
Danny Gavin 12:37
Yeah, and that makes me think of another point. A lot of people approach me and it’s like, what’s the right thing to do? You know you can stay in your position and then get deep, right? You’re learning SEO but then you get deeper and you understand more technical SEO And then you can write Python And so on and so forth while other people look at success as kind of like going up the ranks of the ladder. Like, you know, I’m a manager and a vice president and you don’t necessarily, you know, get deeper in your knowledge. But now you’re managing more people like to you what does. You know, how would you answer someone like what direction should I go in? What you know, what is considered success?
Chris Long 13:12
Success to me is really relative to that individual person. I guess it’s like yes you have people who want to climb the net ladder and go from associate to manager to senior manager to director, VP, president like so on and so forth. Like I think obviously that’s definitely that’s the traditional way that we view success right. We don’t plenty of people. There are plenty of people who are they want to go where success to them is. I just want to be the best SEO or the best PPC analyst that I can be. Just let me allow me to have time to work on interesting client accounts, to go really deep on problems, to configure really complex search strategies for clients, right? I think it’s really a matter of being like reflective and being like truly honest with what you like if you really love to manage, if you really love to manage people, then yeah, the management track is going to be a great track for you. However, I think I still, there’s a ton of value in the individual contributor track, right, the value. Being able to be a subject matter expert, be able to sell your vision to clients, right to be able to form strategies for them and I think is also super valuable. So it’s really a matter of like what is important to that individual person. I truly think there’s no one definition of success. You know a great a great post that I’ve read on this especially with them. Digital marketing’s careers. This is Byron Fishkin, where he basically talks about the fact that his wife was in a role, she was a great individual contributor and then she was promoted to be a manager and then. You know, over time they found out that might not be the best fit. So really and really what his point is that organizations are so frequently trying to make great individual contributors into managers. But really that’s an error in two different ways, because one, you may promoted someone into a management position who really, maybe that’s not a good fit for them or even what they want. And then two, you lost a great individual contributor, you know someone who was performing at a really high level for you haven’t back filled that right. I tend to think less linearly, like the success is only being like you know, manage like manager and plus and above and you get the managing people. I think success is really, you know, what do you want from a career, but you can wake up and enjoy doing the work. Like to me that defines success.
Danny Gavin 15:27
That is so true and thank you for sharing that with our listeners. So who do you mentor in your current role? My mentorship kind of, you know, evolves in different ways, right? A lot of it’s the Vaso team at large go fish to drill. That’s kind of where I’ve like, I kind of grew up my roots, so I have a lot of like good knowledge there. I’m really trying to figure out and work a lot of times working with the team and saying like. You’re going to hey, where there are areas that you’re strong in, where there’s skill gaps, what could you be improved? Also working with our VP of SEO Brian, who really heads up a lot of the SEO mentorship specifically on our team. So he does a great job of really being a resource of them, providing trainings, really understanding their problems and really figuring out like hey, what are you going to face in daytoday situations and how can we best equip you to. Be more confident when those situations, even if they are more difficult to arise. A large part of its SEO team and we’re also working on as well. So the analytics team at our company as well as really figuring out, hey, there’s an analytics problem like how do we troubleshoot that? How do we implement something that we maybe not have before for an individual client?
Danny Gavin 16:32
Do you have any specific processes or strategies that you used to help ensure that mentoring is part of your company culture?
Chris Long 16:37
One, we have monthly one on ones with it with every single employee, right? And that that’s one of the best ways to ensure that it happens. I believe it’s another book. It’s called high output management by Andrew Grove. Could be wrong on the I’m on the author. But anyways, he basically talks about how like the one-on-one is really essential for. Or company culture right. A lot of times people I think at the one-on-one of raw people sometimes think it’s for the boss or the manager to really talk to like you know to talk to the individual employee. But really it should be reversed. Really the one-on-one is that individual you know team members time to really talk through their problems with their with their manager. How can their manager act as an Advocate act as a way to help them. Overcome some of the hurdles that they’re having. So maybe they’re having problems. Figuring out something technical with the manager can help them figure out how they can get the resources they are to overcome that. Or a specific client problem. Maybe the manager doesn’t even know, but it’s just their role to connect them with the right people. Maybe the team members having problems getting something pushed through internally. So maybe the manager can be a step, can act as a source of being able to do that, and once again connecting with the right people and figuring out. How can we solve this problem together? So I think a lot of it, I think the one of ones are think they maybe can get a bad Rep, but they really provide. We feel like our team members the great opportunity to meet with their individual managers and have their managers help act as a career growth path for them.
Danny Gavin 18:05
I love that and I love switching it on its head. I heard from, you know, from others. That’s why it’s really about that person when it comes to come to the meeting, they need to have like their agenda and these are the things that I want to cover, right? It’s not just like this empty space where like. You know, the manager or the mentor is just asking random questions, but it’s got to be planned and get the most out of that time absolutely yeah. And we very much view it as the team member, the team members meeting and less so the managers meeting like ideally, right, ideally the more the team member is talking more, talking through their challenges, talking through the obstacles that they’re facing and the manager is acting as a path to kind of clear that up for them and really help them progress in terms of that.
Danny Gavin 18:45
Are there any traits that you’ve experienced from your own mentors that you knew you want to embody as a mentor yourself?
Chris Long 18:52
One, just a natural curiosity for things because I think that’s contagious, right? Like to be truly, genuinely curious about what, whatever it is, whatever career path you’re on. Once again, if we’re talking digital marketing, whether it’s SCO, PPC, like analytics, whatever the cases, be truly curious about, hey. Why is Google treating this way? Like why are we seeing this weird indexation issue or hey, this thing isn’t tracking properly like let’s I’m interested to figure out why. Like I think that’s something that a lot of my mentors have had. It’s kind of been passed on to me just this like natural native curiosity to really problem solve and really at the end of the day that that’s what a lot of us are doing. So I think that that’s one of the foremost traits I’ve seen in mentors is really like passing on that like that native inherent curiosity that they have. Something I tried tried to also teach. Think another one that almost a given for most mentors is really just the ability to be independent and really like be self-sufficient at figuring out answers right? Because no if you for thinking the traditional like. Career ladder, right? Well, the higher up you move, the less people you’re going to have to lean on to be able to figure out that answer. Like at some point it’s going to have to be you to be the one. So you know guide and figure that out. So the more equipped you are to be able to do that, the more skillful you are being. And you might not. It doesn’t mean you have to know the answer right away. But if you’re resourceful and. I’m really insistent on hey I’m going to get this right answer. I’m going to look through help documentation, I’m going to ask others. I’m going to like reach out on LinkedIn and ask you about semi industry for help. The more resourceful you can be to find answers really is conducive well to mentor to mentorship rights. That’s a trait I found in almost all my mentors there. They’re less likely to not have looked up the answer or come to come to meetings with problems without kind of. Having done some of that initial life work, at least empathy as well, empathy I think is one of them. That’s probably one of the key right to be able to put yourself in that other person shoes, right? Like, if someone’s you know is not producing work, it’s at the level you’d expect them to like, really. Trying to figure out like, why that is right. Like, is it, is it a motivation issue? Is it a technical issue? Did they, do they maybe know the answer, but they just don’t feel confident enough in front of, you know, whoever to be able to bring that. So, like, really? Empathy, I think, is also a huge skill for all mentorship and something that’s, you know, it’s going to go if you can really refine their skills and learn how to be more empathetic with others. They see things from their perspective and that that’s going to take you a long way in any field.
Danny Gavin 21:28
And it feels like when you are empathetic, people listen to you better, right? They like you kind of create that bond of connection. So like sometimes when you’re giving over something to someone else, it’s hard to get the idea across. When the other person sees that you’re actually looking at them and trying to understand the situation, they’re a lot more open. For feedback, yeah, I think.
Chris Long 21:46
A lot of times just expressing empathy, you’re more listening as opposed to talking at the person, right? So it really you’re coming at the solution together as opposed to butting heads immediately. I think that’s just one of the initial hurdles that they were able to break into. I think it just allows you to better figure out the source of whatever problem is going on like a lot faster, right? People are more likely to be. Open, honest, transparent. If you take a path of empathy as opposed to, hey, this isn’t done the way I like it needs to be this way, right? It can work like that, but it’s a very shortterm solution in my opinion. Oftentimes I think longterm change, although it might take a little bit more work on everyone’s part to lead with that kind of empathetic nature. I think that’s just crucial to getting longterm changes.
Danny Gavin 22:33
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Chris Long 23:38
I think the approach has to be custom tailored to whoever you’re working with right now. That is the biggest thing if you’re setting SEO strategy, it needs to be very tailored, right? So if you’re talking. The sites that are bigger and larger. So if you’re working with a huge like ecommerce site that’s like hundreds of thousands, millions of pages, you’re going to need to have a technical SEO approach and really that should probably be you in your road map. All things being equal, that should be one of the biggest things you’re working on. Because if you have millions of pages, do like their problems with indexation, crawl rates, site speed, all of that right? You need to be taking a custom look because. Is that when you’re dealing with scale, you need to be able to, sure. Google can crawl that scale as efficiently as it possibly can be. That’s really helpful to have. However, if you’re working with different types of clients that we work with a lot of news clients and that is a completely different approach. It’s so technical in some ways, a lot of it’s more almost strategic, almost strategic where it’s like, hey, you know with news clients don’t have problems writing content. They’re one of the few clients that you’re not forcing to get content out of. They have. A bunch of editors and graders who can create that, so you’re more of working with a K Now our strategy shifts to how do we create editorial calendars? How do we really figure out what where the content gaps are like? And how do we really inform what you’re going to do for the next year from an editorial perspective? Also, how do we work up with specific creatures, like top stories, right, like freshness starts to matter. It matters everywhere in my opinion, but it matters a lot more for news organizations. How do we implement like live blog posting structure data? So there’s different types of strategies once again that might all break down in terms of like what type of SEO you are. If you’re a technical SEO you’ll probably do really well working with the Big e commerce sites. If you’re a content driven SEO you might enjoy working with four news organizations or more standard WordPress style sites. Or really that content strategy is going to be the key piece of success.
Danny Gavin 25:24
So do you actually get through to news organizations? An SEO strategy where it’s like, okay, we know you want to write stories, but like, look at it from an SEO perspective first, where it’s like, hey, like, this is where you don’t have a lot of traffic from and you really should write, you know, more stories in this area. Are you actually influencing decisions at certain organizations?
Chris Long 25:43
Yep, absolutely. So, yeah. And a lot of, and it’s been really great to see because I think a lot of news organizations are starting to realize just how important it is, right where, you know, they see their competitors ranking in top stories, which most times is in the, you know, Canonical number one position. And they start to ask themselves, hey, how do we get our stories written there? And then you take a look and say, well, hey, you know, you’re writing, you’re writing these stories about these topics, but you’re not really highlighting like the main piece. You’re not highlighting the main topic in the title tag in the subject line are yours are you wrote a story yesterday. But in order to be in top stories that story needs to be written within 24 hours. So we’ve worked with a lot of clients in terms of by building out their strategies. What we find works well is really having a collaborative approach. If you’re not like hey what stories they want to rank for and then what’s their current say architecture and then working with them to set a strategy for hey these are the rules for your editors every time they create a new story. This is what the URL needs to look like. This these topics should be in the to end the H. One and the title tags, you should update the story this frequently and really acting as an internal advocate for SEO amongst like their newsrooms. We found that to be a pretty effective approach and that that’s exciting to me because it’s one way you can like scale content, right? We have all these different raters who can contribute and all get them thinking to have kind of an SEO mindset with every article they create. Even if you only increase their efficiency by 10 %, well that that’s a large lift across the entire organization.
Danny Gavin 27:06
Kind of a funny thing and I hope you appreciate this, but so I recently spoke. With the news organization about SEO while I was like delving into their website, I was looking a lot of articles and a lot of the articles do not have like header tags and header structure. And it’s like so backwards to me because it’s like i know when I teach about header tags it’s like yeah you guys know newspapers and this is how you know you got your main title and subtitles. So just so weird like looking at all these articles like where all the header tags, they’re just why aren’t people using them? And so yeah, I think there’s just so much room to grow obviously for certain organizations absolutely yeah. And is it super interesting to see? It’s like actually I actually did a review. I used to live in Pittsburgh for about four or five years and I did an analysis of like there’s two main publications, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette and the trip live. One of them, the trip live invested in SEO like they went digital way before the other one. So they really invested it started like to publish most of their articles online. I think they might even switch to fully online. Now at this point while the Post Gazette, it was the number one publication, they were slower to adopt and just looking at the historical traffic, the triple the trig is just severely outperforming the quote unquote bigger newspaper because they adopted SEO so much faster. So it’s really cool to see like there’s kind of historical case. Stays and then line them up with like, hey, what are those businesses, internal thought processes and how quickly they jump on the digital train. That’s really great case study for people who maybe you’re taking a risk and you’re the early adopter, but you know 10 years down the line that can really pay off.
Danny Gavin 28:38
I know the following question is going to be a little bold, but do you think it’s going to be the same with a I and chatty BT for news organizations, in particular the ones who do it, adopt it. And obviously there’s ethics involved. And you know, we’re not necessarily saying like pumping out full articles, but do you think like the ones who do adapt it? Are there going to be the winners in a couple years from now and the ones who are scared that you know they’re going to be left to the wayside?
Chris Long 29:00
I think it’s a good question. I think there’s some nuance. I would say the people in general, investors who adopt and aren’t afraid of technologies like Chat GB T and utilize them to their full advantage are going to be the winners moving forward. If you can use it to improve your processes, you can improve it to that right structure data more effectively, to ideate content, to really scale like what you’re able to do. You are going to be more efficient. Like everyone should be running to chat GB T and using it to its full efficiency. As soon as possible. I think where it gets a little more touch and go is the content creation standpoint. Now Google has come out and said that a I if it’s valuable a I generated content is okay by them. We’ll see if they stick to that because everything else the helpful content update shows us. It was almost like a stance against a I content say hey this content needs to be not just written for search used to be like actually helpful to users and really. Google is looking for a long term is they want content that adds that adds new information, right. So if you have things like original data, custom images. So I think it would be interesting, I think it would be interesting to see. I still think sites that really focus on having kind of like a unique value proposition and unique content are really going to be the big winners especially. As a I, content just gets more accessible. I think people who take them, who take the extra time to add data to their content to really make it more unique than something that an A I producer can spit out. It’s going to be, it’s going to be huge competitive advantage. But there’s absolutely no ignoring the fact that like a I and the search results is here to stay, especially if Google and Bing start rolling it out directly into their.
Danny Gavin 30:39
Platforms to be continued. So you transitioned last year from senior SEO manager to VP of Marketing. You’ve always been an SEO evangelist. How has this shift changed your focus at go fish as you’re now viewing things from a more 10.000 thousand foot perspective?
Chris Long 30:56
It is harder because you know with any role shift right, you find yourself a little bit less in the in the marketing day-to-day and more like the operational day-to-day So really I think the one of the biggest challenges with that kind of shift is how to. Have more influence at scale within your organization. So before you know you might be you know you might be working on a specific SEO process and you know refining that and teaching the team how to do that. But as you take on more right as you should take on more verticals and then and are talking to other team members you kind of House of responsibility like grows in that way and you really need to figure out like hey how can you best like assert your. Opinions and influence and whatever across all of these different kind of realms. So that’s one of the biggest challenges just kind of like how much more you inherit and then like you’re kind of figuring out your ability to influence those different factors. That’s not i still love the I still actually love the daytoday of SEO that is one of the bigger role changes is just terms of like you’re thinking about larger pieces of the pie so to speak and really how to influence them and it really does become a lot more about like you know hey instead of this one individual. Tactic I’m going to start to develop this process that you know, 20 people can follow that becomes just more valuable with the more growth there is within an organization or within yourself.
Danny Gavin 32:20
So you’ve written for many different digital marketing blogs and publications. What does your writing process look like? Are you prompted by others with the topic and then you write to your expertise? Or are you prompted by your own curiosity and then research and write what you learn a?
Chris Long 32:34
Little bit of both. Yeah, it’s a little bit of both. The articles that I enjoy making the road most are spawned by some type of curiosity, right? Like what I really enjoyed writing that they didn’t get a lot of traction, but I still loved it was that a client who had individual log files and we were seeing that we reviewed the log files, google was crawling in certain Url’s, but then when we checked the rules and basically how we structured Google’s URL. We’ve actually told Google not to crawl those at all. So it’s kind of this interesting case study that led to me to kind of create a test and say, hey, does Google even listen to these? Those are the ones that really have fun writing where it’s like, hey, let’s form a hypothesis. Let’s test that hypothesis and then see what happens. Let’s test, let’s do something, you know, interesting to Google bots and then see what happens. One of my favorite pieces of thought leadership is written by Patrick stocks. He raised for a trust and he basically tested to see if links mattered for individual pages, So what he did was he just took it to the extreme. I’m just going to outright disavow links that I know go to these pages and then see what the impact on traffic is. So those types of articles are like my favorite to read and favorite to write. Someone just kind of has a interesting hypothesis and then takes it to the next level and says hey, what would it be like if we just completely disavowed this entire the links, this entire page or heck this entire site. So but it is a mix of both. I think it’s often times formed. Out of my general curiosity for the topic and wanting to explore more.
Danny Gavin 34:00
How are you able to find like willing clients for those tests? Or is it like you’ve got like your sandbox website that you know, set up?
Chris Long 34:10
Sometimes if it’s for an individual client, it depends on the stakes, right? If you’re going to do something, if you’re going to test something, especially for a client, you just start with a low stakes test, right? But sometimes that low stakes test is still going to provide you really interesting data or it’s a test that you really just don’t see really how it could almost go South. So a great example of this is we work with the once again a large news publication. They pay wall to every single article or hypothesis was hey like if you remove this paywall. You’re likely going to see improvements of rankings they weren’t convinced entirely internally but we did a test right. So let’s take you know 30 different articles remove the paywall segment out the rankings paywall non paywall and then we just tested measured the data over five months. So something like that it’s a lot easier to get client buy in because you know as SEOS but there’s not too much that’s going to happen if the if they remove that paywall. So truly thinking so when you’re when you’re talking to a test with you know your own site or a client say whatever the case is. You really want to think about which worst case scenario here. If worst case scenario is traffic could fall to zero then you want to start small. But if worst case scenario is, you know we think this is either going to be a neutral change or a positive one, then you’re oftentimes able to make that bigger. But then. And then for the ones where for the ones where you do an extreme test like if you were going to disavow links from an entire page or site or whatever, then you test that on your own site and a dev site you work on, we’ve been testing some a I generated content on some of our side sites to see if hey does it. Rank and it Google is you know Google is actually showing those in this is actually ranking them in the search results on sites that don’t have a ton of authority. So stuff like that. Then you take the higher stakes test on those smaller sites or if you’re doing it on a higher stakes sites, you do it in a very low stakes environment on a page. It doesn’t get a lot of traffic. So it’s always about figuring out like hey what’s the best environment for this individual test and that we find deep clients are generally amiable to doing that as long as the stakes aren’t too high.
Danny Gavin 36:08
O over your years working in EO, do you have a favorite success story you like to tell, especially if it’s with regards to mentoring or teaching others?
Chris Long 36:16
It’s not just one success story. I think it’s in terms of mentoring. In terms of mentoring, it’s really. Getting to see, just like the pro, I think it’s really good. I think JR Oaks wrote this in a tweet one time and it’s so, it’s so true. So there’s nothing better than seeing a good SEO become a great SEO And like that. I’ve gotten to see that several times throughout my career. We’ve had s e o ‘s come, in you know, people come in out of college maybe or with very little experience. They just have such a natural hunger to learn to natural drive that, you know, they start to get more involved in SEO Twitter, they start, you know, getting involved in some of the great slack channels out there. And really and really starting to educate themselves and then start applying that to clients. Like I’ve got to see that quite a quite a few times. It’s just been really great to see us. I think that’s one of the biggest, that’s one of the best ways to watch someone go from you know, maybe not even fully understanding of what SEO is to they start out as like an intern or something to really taking it to the next level. So i think that’s one of my favorite kind of kind of ways to see people grow is really. Watching someone go from hey just learning to hey, now they’re extremely strong SEO who’s been able to work on like some of our biggest accounts.
Danny Gavin 37:27
And I feel like you were like one of those people, right? You started off that way and then look where you are today. So when you can see it in someone else, it’s like super rewarding.
Chris Long 37:36
Yeah, it’s very rewarding yeah i started off very much on the content side of things that a ton of content experience coming into the job, but not a ton of technical experience. So that was. That was that was that was the most meaningful change to my career from an SEO perspective because maybe this is another good segue into good men but I’ve had other good mentors and you know not only Dan who works but Patrick who I mentioned earlier. I used to live in the Raleigh area and I used to go to a lot of the meet up groups. This is also a good you know a good piece for anyone who’s looking for a mentor right. Just like just go to those like go out get out of the house and go to those community events. Like there I was able to meet Patrick. I was able to meet JRI was able to meet Russ Jones like some of. Some of the greatest technical SEO minds just happened to be in Raleigh, north carolina and I was actively involved in going into the Raleigh SEO meet up and I was able to, you know, pick the brains of Patrick. If I was having a client problem, i might ask him. I actually was at a conference in September and just asked him the other day. Like I said, it’s just being out, meeting people, being social, just being, you know, genuinely interested in others. Once again, that empathy really can help you find some like great mentors along the way because SEO community is full of people who. Want to share their knowledge and are excited to share their knowledge. So it’s just a matter of like going out and like connecting with those people. Often times just kind of having kind of that kind of initiative to do so that was also why I would be remiss to admit if mine was not have part circumstance right. The North Raleigh north carolina is like definitely a tech SEO like bubble or tech SEO Hub I should say. And I was really fortunate to get to meet a lot of some of the greatest technical SEO minds along the way yes and we are so lucky to have the community that we do, right? Like i think, I’m not saying people take it for granted, but not every discipline and industry has such an awesome community where you can actually just, you know, reach out and say, hey got this issue or. You know, and people are so willing to help right and what other, like what other industry can you basically like learn for free? What other industry is there such an abundance of content out there? Or if you want to do any individual process from keyword research to link building, you know, I guess the problem would be there’s almost too much content. It’s hard to sort through what’s, you know, what’s real and what’s not. I think that’s a great part of the industry. It was like when I first came on like it was. You know there was. I found even then back in 2013 2014 there was a ton of different articles and you know distilled had set up a like a training course know the mods beginners guy was out there right. There’s just so many different avenues to learn. So that was one of the things that was really exciting and made it really accessible and.
Danny Gavin 40:10
That leads to my next question, because you’re really part of this now. You’re very active on LinkedIn, you’re often sharing interesting insights and finds relevant to the industry almost daily. As many of you LinkedIn as a job search platform and not really the professional social media platform it truly is, how do you think about your approach to how you communicate on the platform and the type of content that you share?
Chris Long 40:32
Yeah so I think it’s simple as I try to share the content that I would be interested in and I think that. Really trying to think of like hey what would I wish somebody had told me down the line right. So like if I find a certain cool SE if I find a certain tool or a certain technique or have a way of communicating SEO like things. I think that some of the most interesting ones are yes like obviously the hey these are the technical SEO ones. These are also I was like the ones about just how you communicate SEO right? Screen recording. So I use the screen recording software that even just that little change was like fundamentally different where instead of having to write out long. Technical explanations. And I can just, you know, screen record something in 15 seconds and send it to you like we both understand you now understand it better. I don’t have to write it out fully like just those little things that you know, there’s no one necessarily like they’re out there telling you to do. I think those tend to make really good interesting ones to write about for me as well. I’m like I’m very interested about where the future of search is headed. So those are always good ones. And then yeah. So I think technically I feel so I think is there’s the. Some I think people would say that’s one of the biggest gaps in terms of skill sets. I think there is always an appetite to learn more. People want to know more technical SEO and what changes is making. How do I look at like a really large site that might intimidate me. Ecommerce sites are notorious for that. So I think that’s also just to. Interesting for me to go out and read.
Danny Gavin 41:55
About so you’re definitely the SEO expert as we wind down, let’s talk about personal development. What are your top three personal development books that you recommend to our audience?
Chris Long 42:05
Few that come to mind one how to win friends and influence people, which is one of probably one of the best personal development books I’ve read, right? Like, I think it’s there’s so much to learn from it. It’s written, you know, I think nearly 100 years ago. But all the philosophies still remain the same, right? Really once again, it teaches just basic empathy, how to really put yourself in the other person’s shoes, really how to always put terms and things of like their interest, right. I think that’s like you’re if you’re looking, if you’re going to be in management, if you’re going to be really just dealing with people, which any real role is, whether you’re an analyst to manager or not. That book has been absolutely crucial. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell was also another one that’s been fundamental to me and really changing my thought process really that when it comes down to is. Taking advantage of opportunities that are presented to you. His book talks a lot about how like early opportunity is and maybe, but that might seem small in the beginning, turn overtime into like large shifts, right? So he’ll talk about, you know, people who are born in certain years that end up it be more likely to become pro hockey players because of how they set the date ranges in the early years. But then the kids who are slightly bigger get more playing time, more coaching attention and you know it just expounds upon itself as you go down. So outliers is another really great one. In order to be able to kind of like learn those skills and how to talk to anyone is another really good one. If you if you’re interested in how to win friends and influence people, actually just finish that one up and it finds about 90 plus different tips about how to really network meet people. Empathize with them. Always kind of have something to say no matter what situation you’re in. A little bit more modern example of how to win friends, a little more applicable to what the situations you might work with are going to be.
Danny Gavin 43:47
So what’s next? What are you working on this year? Like what’s the big goal?
Chris Long 43:51
I think the big thing in at least in the search industry is going to be one everyone. Keeping their eye out for a I right and like I’ll be I’ll be very interested to see how that all plays out. How do people use it? How does that change customer behavior. I mean I think there’s no ignoring at that point that’s going to be one of the features for search in terms of me you know I’m excited. I’m excited to keep on contributing to the industry. Writing for LinkedIn, I’ll be speaking at Mascon in August and then also contributing to the our newsletter which is called the Splash where we give kind of highlights of different SEO news on a biweekly basis. That’s what I’m looking forward to this year. I think there’s going to be a lot of interesting changes coming to SEO and in a pretty short time.
Danny Gavin 44:31
And I can’t wait to continue hearing. Your perspective. So where can listeners learn more about you and your organization?
Chris Long 44:38
If you want to learn more about organization website gofishdigital.com as well. I post like as you mentioned I post on LinkedIn Daily at Daily. At this point you can follow me on LinkedIn, it’s Chris Long Dash marketing on LinkedIn. I also I’m on Twitter at go fish. Chris this is one of the different ways you can connect with me and like I said this flash news that are if you want to be kept up to date with all the latest SEO news and digital marketing news.
Danny Gavin 45:01
It’s been such a pleasure having you on. It’s so cool to I want to say like in person, not yet hopefully in August, but thank you for being a guest on The Digital Marketing Mentor. And thank you listeners for tuning into The Digital Marketing Mentor.
Chris Long 45:13
Yep, thanks so much for having me, Danny.
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