After discovering the effectiveness of the methods used by SEO expert Brian Hong, I knew I needed to pick his brain. He is the CEO of a top SEO firm in New Orleans called Infintech Designs. Brian himself has over a decade of experience in developing and implementing search engine optimization techniques, and his support team is a veritable treasure trove of marketers, content creators and technical pros.
He also makes sure everyone is at the top of their game and that they all stay on top of new developments and technologies regarding SEO and their respective fields, and that includes himself. This becomes very obvious if you read the Infintech Designs blog, which offers great reading for marketing officers and business owners alike. And those of you looking to get a customized and in-depth look at your site's current SEO standings and potential, Brian offers up honest and uncannily accurate SEO audits.
As you can imagine, I had a lot that I wanted to ask Brian in this interview. However, his expertise shines through with impressively succinct answers that the interview didn't need to be very long. I'd personally like to thank Brian Hong for sitting down with me for the following interview:
ME: Infintech Designs puts an obvious emphasis in helping local business succeed. What startups local to New Orleans have you worked with that we might know?
Brian Hong: Some of the more notable companies out of the New Orleans area that I've worked with include Joule Solar Energy and Iconic Protein. [Joule Solar Energy] is ranked as one of the country's fastest growing companies in Inc. Magazine and [Iconic Protein] has seen explosive growth and is already in over 1,800 stores.
The thing is, though, that working with small businesses of all sizes and industries is a real passion of mine. That being said, I've worked with hundreds of small businesses in New Orleans that range from massage therapists and law offices to mobile car detailing and dentists. I also don't limit myself to New Orleans, and my clientele can be found in every corner of the US from Seattle to Florida and all sorts of places in between.
ME: You've proven to be consistently effective in the SEO methods you and your team have honed over the years. I'm pretty sure you've seen your fair share of ineffective SEO firms over the years, what do you think separates an effective SEO provider and one who just falls flat?
BH: It's kind of funny, no matter who you ask this question, you'll end up getting a different answer. When it comes to my small business clients in competitive industries, the disparities between a good and bad SEO firm boil down to whether or not the service works.
For me, it's more about whether the optimizations used are done the right way, and that ends up meaning a lot more than just being an expert at SEO. You have to really be determined to stay educated in digital marketing as a whole. Meanwhile, a good SEO firm will look at new technologies and communications channels like social media, paid search, video distribution and others, then use all of them for their strengths. It might sound odd, but SEO these days is more than just optimizing for search, and an SEO firm that can only do that one thing is, in my opinion, not worth hiring.
ME: That absolutely makes sense. Alright, as we all know, there are many things local businesses must do to see their online rankings rise. Which aspects of digital marketing do you think are the most valuable for small businesses to do?
BH: Small businesses looking to conduct business online need to have website that's optimized. Easier said than done, of course, since that optimization should apply to every facet of the site. For example, speed should be optimized to load as fast as possible. Likewise, content should be optimized to be engaging and convert visitors to customers while being seen as, well, optimal from Google's point of view. We use that as a starting point since any SEO, SEM, social presence, press release or any other marketing approach is useless if the site itself can't convert customers.
ME: I don't think I've ever looked at it that way. So as an SEO who looks to keep on top of and discuss trends and changes in the industry, how do you think startups should approach marketing over the next year or two?
BH: As complex as SEO is and can be, digital marketing in 2016 is best when it is tested against Google's perceived parameters. Everyone thinks they can trick or beat Google's algorithms. When they do that with a client's budget, though, they're just wasting the business's money and most likely just going to get the website's rank penalized. However, as mentioned earlier, there still is a huge difference between the various SEOs out there, even between those who strictly stick to Google's guidelines. It's best to build SEO campaigns around proven split testing and research to ensure avoiding the penalty box and gaining the targeted traffic every business needs.
Most importantly, small businesses should be careful to hire SEO firms that actually understand how business works and how to address their clients' needs. Similarly, no startup is going to succeed online these days if they don't treat SEO as a fundamental part of their online presence.
ME: Seeing as Google is always changing their platforms, that all seems spot on. For those startups out there that want to take SEO seriously from the get go, what milestones do you think they should strive for to be seen and rank well on search engines?
BH: (laughs) Hire the best combined SEO and web design firm in New Orleans! Okay, joking aside, there are five things that I think are necessary for a digital marketing campaign to be truly successful.
First, the site should really be professionally designed with visitor engagement and customer conversion in mind.
Second, backlinks from high authority sites that are topically relevant to the startup are a must.
Third, valuable content must be published on a regular basis.
Fourth, use social networking. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and so on.
Fifth, use video marketing.
ME: Last thing - some small businesses with multiple owners or upper management have a hard time getting everyone to agree on their SEO strategy, much less stay adamant in their attempts. How do you think the person in charge of a company's marketing ought to keep their whole team committed?
BH: Everyone needs to have it hammered home that SEO isn't an end goal but a way to achieve goals. Seeing as every business has competition on some level and that Google makes literally thousands of modifications to their algorithms every year, absolute perfection in SEO is for all intents and purposes a statistical impossibility. That also means, though, that there's always something that can be improved for a site's optimization.
Think of it like road construction. If a street gets built then never sees any repairs or maintenance, it's going to fall apart and become a liability. SEO is the exact same way and should be viewed as a necessary investment for any business small or large that wants to actually succeed in their online pursuits. But, also like good road construction, the best SEO comes from firms that take their time with a top-tier team. If you rush the work, someone is bound to get hurt. Or in the case of a business's website, they're going to lose money and time instead of seeing traffic flow uninterrupted.