Growth Hacking Interview Series #53: Eric Pratum
Eric Pratum is a digital strategist with a background in analytics, SEO, digital media, and nonprofits.
For the last five years, he’s focused specifically on nonprofit fundraising – having launched websites, CRO campaigns, and digital media programs that have generated returns often unseen in this space.
Prior to that, Eric managed eCommerce websites, built an online auction system, and engineered a social media analytics program back when social media monitoring was the wild west of the online data space.
How would you explain specifically what you do as an SEO?
Primarily, I focus on site audits, competitor reviews, and analytics.
I have some coding experience, but a lot of people have strengths there that I do not, so I spend most of my SEO time on tracking down fundamental site issues and helping my clients to fix them.
What is your primary marketing goal when it comes to delivering results?
Revenue. My clients are all nonprofits trying to raise money.
While better awareness, more traffic, etc all help, they have to at the end of the day raise more money as a result of my efforts.
Which new skills are most important for SEO’s to learn in the next six months?
At the same time that we’re seeing an expansion of the SEO world to encompass not just search optimization, but brand optimization, user experience, and a number of other things, I also believe that we’re fighting a constant battle of not losing sight of fundamentals.
There are a lot of SEOs that do not understand basic analytics for example. Similarly, there are some SEOs that only go into their fundamentals as far as simple on-page keyword analysis, or they focus on PageRank sculpting, when they should in reality not be overlooking simple things like proper file names, punchy titles, compelling, content, etc.
What do you find most rewarding about SEO?
My clients help those that need assistance – people who are homeless, suffering from addiction, recovering from a disaster, and so on.
For me to be able to help them fix even basic SEO problems and see increases in traffic and then revenue as a result is highly rewarding because I know they are able to do a service for their communities thanks to the financial donations my work helped them generate.
How do you stay updated with the latest SEO industry news?
I follow the idea of “Eat like a hummingbird and poop like an elephant”, so while there are a lot of places out there – blogs, forums, etc – with smart SEOs sharing and discussing real, valuable issues, that information is often hidden amongst bad information and yet another port, article, or thread on issues we’ve had answers to for years.
As a result, I limit my SEO industry news sources to as few sources as possible and instead try to make the most of the information they put out.
As an SEO, what is your favorite SEO hack?
I wouldn’t call it a hack, but frankly, it shocks me how many people don’t understand the value of prop URL rewrites, 301s, and canonicals. Nearly every site I look at has some issue with these.
Are there any particular SEO trends on the horizon that really excite you?
The increasing use of things like Knowledge Graph and answer boxes in really interesting to me.
Many site managers and SEOs find these efforts by the search engines concerning because they can often result in less traffic, but what I find exciting about them is the opportunity to establish my clients as the expert and top sources when I can help them become the sources for some of that information.
What are some of the top tools and apps in your SEO stack?
Things are simple for me. I use Google Analytics daily, Screaming Frog and Open Site Explorer weekly, and tools like SEMrush or SpyFu as needed.
How is your typical work day structured?
I often start and end my day with report checks, looking at things like Google Analytics to make sure that everything is running properly. The middle of my day is filled with meetings and projects like creative briefs, audits, report generation, etc.
Which one book/blog post would you recommend every SEO should read?
It’s dated, but Search Engine Marketing, Inc. is an incredibly thorough book, covering all of what was SEM at the time.
Despite it being dated and relatively simple compared to what SEO and digital media have become, I still recommend this book to anyone getting into the space.
What advice would you share with other SEO’s who want to become more productive?
Too much work goes undone or gets done wrong because of people thinking that their opinions are important. Results are important.
Opinions only matter after results are achieved. Put aside your ego and expectations and focus on what you’re getting paid for.
If you’re getting paid to drive revenue for a client, your title might be SEO, or your contract might have stated “SEO Services”, but your value is determined by how well you achieve the stated goal.
As a result, don’t focus on what you want to do and what you enjoy. Focus on the outcomes.
If you want to spend all day everyday doing SEO, but that’s not getting you to the client’s goal, you need to step outside of what you want to do and beyond your expectations and do what needs to be done in order to accomplish what you’re being paid for – be that copywriting, coding, design, or anything else.
Among the Google algorithm updates what is the most challenging one that you’ve encountered?
A lot of my clients have poorly structured websites and do not understand how this impacts them.
As a result, any update that focuses on thin content is frankly like a gut punch, but I am often thankful for it because each drop in traffic as a result of an algorithm update is a reminder to my clients that their websites are important and that I don’t tell them they need to do more simply because I want more money, but rather because it’s in their best interests.
If there’s one SEO Guru you’d recommend who and why.
Ian Lurie of Portent in Seattle is without a doubt one of the most impressive marketers I’ve ever met.
Ian’s presentations and blog posts are typically technical and highly actionable, but also driven by a strong philosophy and unique voice.
In addition, I often laugh at the jokes and commentary he intersperses throughout them.
I’ve had the opportunity to speak to Ian briefly a few times and visited Portent’s offices once, and I couldn’t say enough about how impressed I continually am by what I see of both Ian’s and Portent’s work.