Growth Hacking Interview Series #78: Matt Antonino

Matt Antonino is one of the young-minded old guys of digital marketing. He started marketing his own businesses in 2003 and has been deeply involved in the SEO & marketing community ever since.

Matt worked at one of the largest SEO agencies in the world as a senior manager and helped over 2500 businesses grow and improve their marketing.

Recently, Matt opened his own agency, Stack Digital, where the focus is entirely on providing exceptional business growth results to clients using multiple marketing channels.

Trying to get a new business off the ground, Matt doesn’t sleep much these days.

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

While SEO is one of the multiple marketing channels we use, our primary SEO goal is to improve the rankings and therefore traffic, conversions and revenue, for our clients by targeting main keyphrases.

Improving the rankings comes down to two factors: onsite SEO & offsite promotion & link building/link earning.

After keyword research and some competitor research, onsite & technical SEO follows, focusing on those target pages that each keyword relates to.

We focus on titles, content, technical elements such as indexability, proper redirects and checking for anything that may block the site from ranking.

During and after onsite, we follow up with offsite work – mostly content promotion, outreach, citation & local link building and finding relevant niche sites for the client to be listed on.

This may involve research into the specific niche or into competitors and what offsite work they may be doing.

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

SEOs should be focused on learning how other areas of marketing work and can integrate with SEO.  The biggest change I’ve seen in 3 years is most agencies moving from “SEO agency” to “marketing agency” as a primary focus.

Don’t get trapped being that niche person who can rank a site but doesn’t know how Adwords or email marketing works at all.

Rankings are very useful, but a marketing strategy is never complete if you say “rank these 20 keyphrases and your life will be changed.” It doesn’t work that way.

What do you find most rewarding about SEO?

I love two things most about SEO:

1) the challenge. It’s always changing and I love that what worked yesterday may fall completely on its face today. We have to constantly innovate or we’re done in this industry. It’s hard to catch back up to where the bleeding edge is leading and

2) I love the wins.

When you see a client on page 1 for a massive keyphrase and it changes their business, you feel amazing. We ranked one client for a single word keyphrase “swimwear” and it literally changed their business.

They EXPLODED with traffic and have since grown dramatically. Nothing beats that feeling that you made someone’s life a LOT better.

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

I read from a selection of about 300 blogs – skimming & scanning mostly and then reading the ones that make the cut.

I also read the frontpage of Inbound.org daily and participate in the community there and on Moz. That pretty much keeps me up to speed.

When I get a few minutes I like to jump in Twitter chats but it’s too few & far between at the moment.

As an SEO, what is your favorite SEO hack?

Ha, ok … so I’ll answer this with a real website “hack.” This one’s tricky, so people may need to read it a couple times. Some website builders don’t give you FTP access, a way to add Analytics or any access for Search Console claim code.

Without some sort of hack you can’t claim Search Console or setup Analytics.

So what I found was that if you use the custom meta tag sections (the boxes for title, description and keywords) what happens is the CMS basically creates the

<meta name=”keywords” content=”  (CMS BOX HERE) “>

So I found out that if you put into the keywords section this code:

“> <whole Search Console or Analytics tag> <meta name=”keywords” content=”

Then the CMS would (usually) interpret that as TWO meta keywords tags (one is blank) and your whole analytics & search console tag would be placed into the header code. BAM, hacked.

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

I’m pretty big into SEO tools to get the job done. I couldn’t live without Screaming Frog or SEO Tools for Excel.

I use bookmarklets to speed up my common work tasks like Ahrefs & site: / cache: searches, and I really wouldn’t be as excited about doing SEO auditing work without tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs.

I also love automation tools. Zapier & IFTTT along with API integrations for Mailchimp make life so much easier as a marketer.

I try to automate anything I find myself doing over & over.

How is your typical work day structured?

Trello helps me stay organised, but otherwise I just have to laugh for a minute. I don’t have a real “typical work day” – I am everywhere doing as much as possible.

In my previous agency role, I would be doing audits, keyword research or helping others on the team answer technical questions, but now that I’m in my own startup agency, it’s just whatever needs doing right now.

I do recommend the Eisenhower Matrix (Important/Not Important & Urgent/Non-Urgent) for everyone.

Doing the “important / urgent” tasks is all I have time for at the moment, but when you can prioritise around this type of day, you’ll get the big wins done every time and ignore all the little stuff you could’ve said no to in the first place.

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

Great question! It depends. If you’re happily working for someone else and that’s your next-5-years goal, then I would say Excel for SEOs. Learn to do your job well and get it done quicker.

With the new SEO Tools update you can pull data from Moz, Ahrefs, SEMRush, Mailchimp and so many more places. Learning mid to advanced Excel will serve you very well.

However, if you’re looking to grow a business: Blue Ocean Strategy. Without a doubt the most important book for a new business owner to understand positioning.

Also, from a not just business perspective, I’ll recommend The Slight Edge. That book will change your life if you read, learn and follow it.

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

You have to want to become more productive in order to get there. If you want to get much more done, get Launchy.net, learn to use it and save a lot of time. Learn automation, Zapier & IFTTT.

Also, buy a gaming mouse and program it with common things like Excel, Ahrefs, notepad notes, etc. Use those quick gaming buttons at every opportunity and you’ll get much more productive.

Also, learn the shortcuts in all the programs you use. WordPress has a lot, Word, Gmail & depending on your CRM, that does too.

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

I think the latest Panda algorithm update, which seems like it has taken 3 months to roll out, will easily be the most difficult to overcome.

When you don’t have a “before and after” ranking chart to compare, you can’t see which clients dropped because of the update and which rose.

It’s harder to specifically diagnose what is happening when you don’t know who the winners and losers really are.

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

Aw wow … just one. I’m going to hurt some feelings with this, probably. Let me give this a shot in the best way I can.

I think if you’re not following Patrick Coombe or Matthew Barby you’re missing out just like those who aren’t reading Joel K or Karl Sakas.

However, if I had to give one SEO guru to follow, I’d say one of: Takeshi Young, Dr. Pete, AJ Ghergich, Gianluca Fiorelli or Aleyda Solis.

Sorry – I couldn’t possibly give just one answer to a question like that.

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