Growth Hacking Interview Series #47: Chris Long

Chris Long is the Inbound Marketing Manager at ProFromGo Internet Marketing. He is an enormous fan of all things search.

He is constantly keeping up with the latest Google algorithms and analyzing new tools to help ProFromGo’s clients succeed.

Not only does he have an eye for great marketing campaigns, but he also takes great pride in being able to track the dollar return on each one.

Chris’s love of search marketing may only be surpassed by his enthusiasm for fitness and health. He can often be found running or biking on the South Side River Trail or lifting heavy things at LA Fitness.

When not exercising, he enjoys spending free time rummaging through his Netflix account or screaming his lungs out to no one in particular while watching the Steelers.

How would you explain specifically what you do as an SEO?

I am an “Inbound Marketing Manager” at my company. This means that I’m in charge of coming up with the strategy and direction of all of our clients’ marketing campaigns.

This starts by performing a detailed analysis of exactly who their customer personas are and what channels these personas frequently engage with in the digital world.

From there I begin to map out the strategy of exactly how we’re going to target these customers through content marketing.

Usually, it’s a mix of blogging, social media, website optimization, advertising, and email marketing. Of course SEO is a large part of this, but it’s only a piece of the equation.

What is your primary marketing goal when it comes to delivering results?

Revenue. The primary marketing goals differ from client to client, but at the end of the day this is primarily what we judge the success of a campaign on.

In an ideal situation, we’ll integrate our client’s CRM with their marketing initiatives so we can actually report to them which marketing channels are bringing in the most money.

Which new skills are most important for SEO’s to learn in the next six months?

Persona research is a skill that largely gets left behind or is treated as a side note in many instances.

In reality, your customer personas should drive just about everything you do from the design and layout of a website, which blogs you attempt to guest post on, and how you write the website copy.

It’s easy to lose the forest to the trees when you spend so much time trying to figure out how to manipulate the search engines and SEO is the sole focus.

If you don’t know who your customers are, you’re missing out on huge opportunities that exist beyond search.

What do you find most rewarding about SEO?

The fact that results are so easily measurable.

Even with just an intermediate knowledge of Google Analytics, you can track just about anything from video clicks to how many people downloaded a presentation from a complementary flash drive.

It’s a great feeling when you can directly see the results that your campaign has produced.

How do you stay updated with the latest SEO industry news?

I’m all about automation and efficiency so it’s vital for me to get the most important industry news in the shortest amount of time possible. I do this in two ways:

  1. Moz has a great bi-weekly email that aggregates their favorite 10 articles from the industry. In a single email, I know I’m getting some of the best online marketing news.
  2. I have a saved search on BuzzSumo that pulls articles with the most social shares from publications I read (Search Engine Land, AdWeek, Search Engine Watch etc). This allows me to see what news is the most talked about across multiple sources in one view.

As an SEO, what is your favorite SEO hack?

I experiment with Google Autocomplete when researching content ideas for our clients.

One hack that I learned from Rand Fishkin is that adding “_” before and after keywords actually produces different Autocomplete results.

Type in “Will Google” and then “Will Google _”. See? Different results.

Are there any particular SEO trends on the horizon that really excite you?

It isn’t particularly new, but I love how Google is getting better and better at it’s ability to evaluate quality content.

We’re seeing content we’ve created for smaller companies with low website authority actually outcompete much larger news publications in the search engines.

In the future, I think SEOs will have to worry less and less about building website authority before they can generate content.

Google seems like it’s starting to reward the best answer to a query on a more consistent basis.

Big brands won’t be able to rely on lazy content and smaller brands will have a chance to compete for much more competitive keywords if they take time to develop resources their customers engage with. Super exciting.

What are some of the top tools and apps in your SEO stack?

The two tools I couldn’t live without are Google Analytics and BuzzSumo.

I’ve been certified with Google Analytics for two years and still feel as if I’m barely scratching surface with its capabilities.

The incredible traffic segmentation ability in itself is enough to push this tool to the top of my list. Like most other SEOs, I make very heavy use of tracking URLs that give me exact numbers on how individual campaigns are performing.

BuzzSumo is fantastic when it comes to analyzing content and further developing what kinds of content your personas engage with.

I’ll work with our clients to figure out which websites their customers are most likely to be found on. I’ll analyze the top content on those websites taking notes on common topics, themes, structures, of content that performs well. Quality content is as much as science as it is an art.

How is your typical work day structured?

When you work for a small company there is no typical work day.

My weeks are comprised of content research and execution, networking groups, sales meetings, project management, and client onboarding & maintenance conversations.

The one constant is the content research and execution. Each week, I take a look at our clients’ current content strategy and evaluate what changes need to be made in order to drive results.

Today? I spent my morning doing this interview.

Which one book/blog post would you recommend every SEO should read?

To Get Good at Marketing, Think Like a 4 Year Old”. A lot of times I think SEOs just start the execution process without thinking about “Why” they’re doing it.

“We need to build more links to this website.”

“OK? Why?”

“So we can rank better in the search engines.”

“Why will ranking help you achieve your business goals?”

This article forces marketers to think about how each of their actions directly tie back to real business objectives.

What advice would you share with other SEO’s who want to become more productive?

Automate, Automate, Automate. The more processes you can automate (without sacrificing quality) the better your life will be.

Think about routines you commonly go through each week and take an extra hour or so to find out how to automate that task.

Have an email you send each week? Create a template for it.

Consistently logging in and looking at the same Google Analytics data? Create a dashboard that’s sent to your inbox weekly.

Oh, and stop checking your email all time. I’m trying to test only having my email deliver during select times of the day.

Among the Google algorithm updates what is the most challenging one that you’ve encountered?

To be honest, not really any. If you’re approaching online marketing and SEO the right way, these updates shouldn’t hit your clients that hard.

The search engines specifically lay out their best practices years in advance, so none of these updates really come as a surprise.

If there’s one SEO Guru you’d recommend who and why.

It’s a toss up between Wil Reynolds of Seer Interactive and Mike King of iPullRank. I feel as if they’re both more “traditional marketers” stuck inside an SEO’s body.

Reading their websites got me thinking beyond just rank & traffic. Their articles really take me outside the “SEO box” and let me see the bigger picture: earning revenue.

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