Welcome to Growth Interviews!
Welcome to Growth Interviews, the fun, stimulating and engaging series of conversations driven by digital business growth.
Our mission is to provide insights and ideas from world-class professionals on the topic of growth and to cut through the noise of so-called marketing tips and tricks, revealing the money-making strategies behind e-commerce.
Each episode is an intriguing challenge involving an insightful expert who reveals some of their best-kept secrets, which you can use right away to boost your business.
In this week’s episode of Growth Interviews, we invite you to join our conversation with Clayton Wood, a world-renowned expert who’s been in the digital marketing, coaching, personal branding and search engine optimization industry for over 10 years.
Clayton has built 2 multi-million dollar marketing brands from scratch with no investment, managed thousands of online marketing campaigns across the globe and has helped startups be profitable in three different countries.
Clayton is passionate about communicating the impact that technology has in online marketing, and how inbound marketing helps achieve goals for brands, their families and their communities.
Our interview is an insightful overview coming from one of the best experts SEM, SEO, who’s sharing best practices in inbound marketing, machine learning, consumer tracking techniques and tools and more.
SEO is on the rise as the best strategy to keep a tight budget and also to be on top so prepare to take down some impactful strategies and smart advice.
Automation and AI, the Future of Paid Advertising
Valentin Radu: Clayton, the first question for you is what’s currently exciting you in the digital space?
Clayton Wood: You know, we were recently at a growth day in Milan in early June and we heard Massimo from Ad Espresso, someone raised their hand and asked Massimo, “Where will the future be of paid advertising and social media advertising?” And he said automation and AI, and I totally agree with them.
I’m very excited for marketing over the next five years to get to the point where the AdWords projects, the Facebook ads projects, the LinkedIn ad projects are so smart that all you have to do is put in a keyword and put a budget and then those platforms will intelligently put your ads in the right places with the right vetting strategy and not waste your bunch of money. Now, this is exciting because if you’ve done any SEM, paid ads, whether you’re an agency or a brand and you’ve tried to do ads, you know that it’s complicated. It takes a lot of time. It takes some experience, understanding the platform. They’re not exactly user-friendly. And this is a challenge for a lot of mid-market brands out there. And I think that will change. I think advertising will become very easy over the next five years because of the automation from those big companies.
Marketing is changing at a fast pace and the predictions for its future look really exciting as digital smart platforms for smart and easy ad management are being developed.
Paid advertising will be easy to implement and manage, leaving room for the development of in-depth strategies.
Stop Guessing, Start Listening to Your Audience
Valentin Radu: Yeah, I think this too and that’s why we are completely obsessed about building AI, machine learning and understanding how to get rid of the hard work and how to extract the value from the process, the huge processing part that the machines are having. However, we are still far away from that. We still see bad targeting and clickbait ads which lead nowhere. But what’s your frustration, Clayton?
Clayton Wood: It’s tracking. It’s really tracking. There is a lot of guessing happening. And if you’re in the audience listening now and you’re just getting into your paid advertising or driving organic traffic from Google, there is a lot of guesswork. What’s frustrating to me is that we can’t quite close the loop between things like cross-platform tracking from phones to tablets to desktop or the journey of the user. A couple of years ago, this retargeting thing came out and it was really exciting and splashed into the industry. And that helped sort of closed-loop for the first time ever, you could track what happened or at least influence what happens after the person bounced off your website. It would be like you know, sometimes, in the restaurants when you’re going down the street, they have somebody there with the sign following you down the street asking you to come in. Kind of like that.
So, there’s been some steps in the evolution of closing the loop of the customer journey and there are some very big innovators in this space like Salesforce like HubSpot trying to do marketing automation from start to finish. But my frustration I guess is when we’re seeing people guessing and then being frustrated about why doesn’t it work. Well, maybe we didn’t know our audience. I see a lot of people guessing because we didn’t know the audience. So, guessing is probably the most frustrating part for me.
Closing the loop between different communication channels and the clients has been a long-time challenge for any digital marketer. With the latest technologies, various platforms that are better targeting the clients proved to be valuable and a clear technological trend towards automation is having the full attention of both marketers and developers.
All the new platforms that are trying to close the loop are putting customers in the center but the biggest and most important aspect still remains knowing the customer, and by doing that, every marketer should start with a thorough tracking.
The Perfect Growth Combo: Tracking, Testing and Up-selling
Valentin Radu: The next question for you, Clayton is regarding the eCommerce space. Most of our audience is eCommerce marketers, eCommerce managers. They are looking for growth. Therefore, they don’t have too much time. And maybe they are not so connected like you are in the SEO world. Which are your three growth tips that you would give to them? Three growth ideas for them.
Clayton Wood: Yeah, for eCommerce, there is this very specific type of thing that they’re trying to do right. They’re trying to change someone’s mind from the moment that they need the brand all the way until they become hopefully, a repeat customer. But there’s a lot of steps in that funnel, and sometimes, the funnel is days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months. It depends on the price points and the industry.
I’m working with a very large candy company in the United States called Sugar Pina and they sell some of the most expensive niche high-quality candies in the US, UK and Canada. The price point is quite high. What I’ve learned is that understanding that customer journey would be the first tip. So, I would say start with great tracking platforms all the way from Google Analytics to the backend, all the way from your order fulfillment and email marketing. All of that tracking is really critical. If you have holes in your tracking, I don’t think you can be successful as you could be if it was tight and taken care of. Point number one is analytics and tracking.
Number two is you need to know your audience. You have got to test your audience. I talked about guessing earlier and there’s no sense in guessing about your audience. What do they like, what color do they like, what is this demographic like? You do some really great customer persona exercises and build customer personas around your real audience. And then from there, you have to A/B test. It is critical to A/B test and to onlymake data-driven decisions. So, number one is analytics and tracking. Number two is to know your audience. You have to know your audience with A/B testing and building campaigns customized for them.
And I would say number three is a very American thing to say which is upsell and upsell. If you’re an e-commerce shop and you’re a product especially in the West. People are comfortable with the understanding that they’re being sold especially in North America. There are emails coming at us all the time everywhere. And that’s okay but it needs to be some sort of customized upsell. If you can have a customized upsell, you can probably convert a percentage of more customers. So, I would say don’t be scared to upsell as number three.
Marketing strategy is dedicated to business growth and the digital environment has new tactics that should be considered:
👉 Tracking – using tracking and analytics for every platform and channel where your clients meet your product is crucial for understanding them better and meeting their true need
👉 A/B testing – no matter how good and deep your profiling and buying persona is, it is critical to A/B test and to only make data-driven decisions
👉Up-selling – all the marketing efforts are concentrated towards successfully selling but in the process of selling, besides the immediate need of a customer, the option of complementary or better products should be created through up-selling tactics.
Digital Footprint, Speed and Innovative Content
Valentin Radu: Clayton, regarding the SEO, we’ve been seeing some changes in the algorithms of Google and some ups and downs for websites in terms of ranking. So, in terms of organic traffic, what’s happening and which are some insights that we would give from your knowledge about what’s happening?
Clayton Wood: This is a really interesting and exciting industry, and this is close to my heart. I love search engine optimization. I love Google. I’m a big fan and I will say a couple of things before I answer. Number one is to go to searchenginejournal.com and follow them. Read the news about Google and what they’re doing all the time because it changes every day, every week. This is what got me started in the industry. I started a small agency and used Filipino SEO experts to help us fulfill our customers. I eventually moved to the Philippines for six years and grew a large agency up to 200 employees. And we learned through that period of time that content is really important and the strategy that you use with the content is really important.
So, here are the things that have changed with Google. In 2019, the behavior of the users on your website is a very big deal. So, if you have a website that people go to and they immediately leave, Google will demote you in the search results. They will rank you lower in the search results, so the behavior. If you have people that go to your website and spend a lot of time on your website, Google will raise you in the rankings. Google is really putting the responsibility of ranking high onto the website owner. So, we have to write good content. We have to give people reasons to come to our website with a really innovative info graph for example or help videos or a very strong FAQ or a very strong glossary for the educational system. It’s not enough to just have a couple of corporate pages and a blog and that’s the end of it. You have to make your website interactive.
We’re doing this very exciting project with one of my clients where we’re partnering with a research company that will survey thousands of people about changing jobs or how long they’ve been at their jobs. It’s a company that’s in the human resources or job creation space. And we’ve done the survey, we’ve come up with 50 questions that are incredibly important for this industry. And then, we’ve created a series of news releases around this data that only we have. And we’re inviting journalists to come and read it and comment on it and baffling to it and talk about it. If you think about it like your website’s digital footprint, how many pages are on the site? How many people are talking about your website? Do you have a plug in that is installed on all of your customers’ websites like MailChimp or Norton antivirus? Remember back in the day, we had these badges that said certify. This was an SEO, right? If you take a bite like a digital footprint and the larger your digital footprint it is of your website, the better you’re going to rank in Google. And that means people behavior on the website, which means how many pages you have. Everything combined is important.
So, the second thing I would say for 2019 is the technical aspects of your website. Your website has to be fast. Think about it. Google is obsessed with speed. Every time you search for something, they show the speed, 0.00019 seconds with the millions of results. This is important because they want their customers served quickly. So, your website has to load fast. There can be no broken pages. SEO is very technical these days and it is important to have a developer resource or someone with the technical mindset to help you speed everything up because if your competitors are faster than you, they will rank higher.
And the truth is in the time on site and the bounce rate. If we can test it very easily by looking at Google Analytics, if people don’t like your content, then you’re doing something wrong. You have to keep them on the page and you have to keep them engaged. Google is placing more importance on CRO as the main metrics for ranking websites high in the search results.
Every time I look at a project, there’s always this top group of keywords maybe 5 or 10 that are driving most of the traffic. It’s the 80/20 rule. 20 % of your keywords will drive 80 %of the traffic. For those keywords, if they’re getting 5,000 or 10,000 searches per month, it’s really important that you take position number one. Position number one gets about 2 % of the clicks. Position number two gets about 12% or 13%. Position one and position two, and then it drops down further from that. So, SEO can save you thousands of dollars that you will not have to run in paid ads if you’re smart and if you can create compelling content and convert clients.
Tactics for better SEO:
👉 the digital footprint of your website through qualitative content through various pages combined with a high level of interactivity on the website
👉 is crucial. No matter how good the content is, loading speed always puts a website in front of the competition. Serving clients quickly stays at the heart of the important tactic of getting ahead of others with speed.
👉 is not only important through the information it gives or solutions it offers but also through its capacity of emotionally linking the customers to the source of the information. Innovation is the key to keep them engaged both emotionally and intellectually.
Voice Search. The Future is Here
Valentin Radu: Clayton, you’ve been mentioning SEO and the fact that some keywords are more important than the others. Tell us a bit about your take on the voice search. Do you think this is going to skyrocket at some point? Do you think that the behavior of us human beings is going to be changing in the next few years or when do you think this is going to be changing the game?
Clayton Wood: Because Google is obsessed with making things easier for their customers, I think they’re pushing it right now. In a presentation that I do which you saw in Milan shows how much voice search has grown from 2017 to 2018 and it was something like 150% growth in voice search and it’s because of the Google home product, and the other sort of smart home type of products.
I think it will only grow. It’s already exploding. And if you notice in the search results when you’re on desktop, there are these boxes at the top of the search engines. If you type in how to tie your shoe, there is a box that shows the instruction without even going to that webpage.
And the way that you get ranked up there for that stuff is to write in your content on how to get a job and then, I’ll write the answer. So, if you format your content on your blog or your glossary in a question and answer type of format, you can write up there and you might even be in Google search. Somewhere around the world, Google might be verbally answering someone with their question with your content that you wrote on your website.
Voice Search uses the power of speech recognition to search the web for whatever subject. Consequently, all the information is available to deliver an answer, so the content from websites becomes very valuable for both Google and the website owners.
The development of voice search is going to be exponential in the next few years so SEO and high-quality content should be a strategic pillar for all digital marketers.
The Path to Success of the Digital Entrepreneur
Valentin Radu: Clayton, tell us some insights, a case study or a maybe a success story that you think it’s worth sharing.
Clayton Wood: If you’re out there and you’re an entrepreneur, I want to tell you that you have chosen a very narrow sidewalk to walk on but it’s the best path that you could take. And I have some really awesome stories about some failures and some successes. I met a guy 15, 14 years ago that was talking about this SEO thing and how you can sort of help people drive traffic by ranking at the top of Google, and I thought he was crazy. But after a couple of months of talking, I agreed to join with him and start a business. I left an office job doing accounting, was really boring work and started this thing called SEO. We started with our life savings at the time and did not do well at first. It was very difficult. We were down to less than 2000 dollars at one point in our bank accounts. And the biggest fear was that we would have to go back home and say oh no this is not working out.
We finally got like two or three clients. We worked for them with all our strength as much as we could, night and day. And then, when things started going well, we asked them for referrals. We just said, ‘Look, we’re almost out of business. We need some referrals. Can you please anybody that needs help tell us?’ And from that, we learned these principles of hard work and good work and grew and grew. And then we decided to move from the United States to Manila. We moved to the Philippines and this was the biggest culture shock that we have experienced.
We started teaching and training. We opened a training course for SEO. We started becoming involved in the community and hiring people, and this was during the time when Google really responded well to good content and fast loading websites and keywords and stuff like that. We grew and grew and started realizing that SEO is very content-driven and this was exciting. When I decided to move back to the United States, it was because I realized that if I wanted to have very well ranking websites, I needed American or Native English-speaking resources at least for English websites.
So, I moved back. I sold my shares of that company and I moved back to the United States and discovered Los Angeles. Now, I’m just consulting for four or five companies in Silicon Valley and it’s a really good time. But that time when we were almost out of money was this fight or flight, it changed my life when I decided that I don’t care what is the failure. I will not stop, and fear is a really good motivator. And I think that’s probably what helped me out. And then just really paying attention to Google and finding out what their algorithm is doing. If you’re an entrepreneur out there, don’t give up because it’s possible.
I believe that people just want to hire other people that are doing good work that are honest and that they can rely on. And if you’re a person like that, then I believe that you can have success.
Entrepreneurship in the digital world is a long road with ups and downs with some very important rules to follow:
👉 Passion and focus create excellence for the clients
👉 Hard, quality work is the very essence of growth even when all you see is setbacks and delays
👉 Client relationships are crucial and in continuous evolution
👉Change is the only constant and agility is the main ingredient of great decisions
👉Research, information and experience are the perfect mix to stay ahead of the trends
👉Perseverance and self-trust are the pillars of successful entrepreneurship
Machine Learning. Disrupting workplaces and pushing progress forward
Valentin Radu: Moving a bit forward, Clayton. I wanted to ask about your take on the machine learning. There are some voices that tell the jobs are not going to be available anymore because the machines are way more smarter than we are. And there are voices that tells, ‘Yeah, you know what? These are not going to completely replace us because the creativity will still be needed’. Machines are not able to understand what products to push or how to package the campaigns. What’s your take on this debate?
Clayton Wood: In history, there has always been two groups of people either welcome change or resists change. And without being too philosophical, I believe that the people who embrace change are the winners every time with the industrial revolution, I’m sure they all said, “Oh no! The factories are going to take our jobs. No, they’re going to provide more jobs.” The music industry with Napster and file sharing. The movie industry with Popcorn Time and all of this file sharing stuff.
But all it is doing is disrupting and changing how things work with streaming services, with the way that we purchase, with everything. And I believe that’s happening right now. I’m an open source advocate. I think that if there is information to be shared, we should share it. I don’t think that there is a lot of value in trying to hoard everything towards yourself. Although there’s some value in proprietary information but I believe that knowledge and information is meant to be shared. This is how we collectively as a race, as a species, can elevate ourselves and accomplish new things. And it’s happening very quickly. You know, the advancement of technology in the last 50 years compared to the previous 50 years is exploding. So, where will it go in the next 50 years? I have no idea.
My business partner in the Philippines did a speech where he talked about and gave the statistics on how much content and data is being uploaded into the cloud over the past 10 years versus the previous 10 years, and it’s crazy. There is no end in sight. AI may replace some of the rudimentary tasks that we’re doing now. But doesn’t that mean that we as humans were meant for something more, that we should be spending our time doing something even more intelligent?
You can see a real practical application of this every time you go to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and put numbers in or do this work that’s very easy and rudimentary. This is a real world example. At some point, we should be strategists. We should be trying to create visions that will push progress forward. So, I’m excited about AI. I still think it’s a way off. I think there’s a lot of people talking about the future and that’s great. But I think it’s a ways off in terms of real world practical applications. We have to deal with governments. We have to deal with regulatory bodies. There’s self-driving cars but they’re still being regulated in a very strong sense. So, a lot has to happen for these things to change. I don’t think that it’s time to worry about robots taking your job. Not yet.
History shows that new technologies are disrupting old society ways and the outcomes have always been much more valuable than what they were presumed to be.
There are many talks around AI and the replacement of humans with robots in the workspace, but while robots may take on rudimentary tasks, humans will be drawn to more strategic and creative work that will push progress forward.
How Experience is Driving Collaboration in Digital Marketing
Valentin Radu: Clayton, how do I know that I’ve chosen the correct path by working with a freelancer which is a very cool consultant with a lot of reputation or with an agency that has a lot of high profile customers or hiring internally a team of talented people to handle my SEO or my marketing? What’s your advice to an e-commerce manager to make sure that he’s making the right choice?
Clayton Wood: If you’re the type of person that wants to micromanage the campaign and you just need some help doing the rudimentary tasks, then a consultant might be for you. If you want a complete hands-off solution where you’re not involved at all, then you’re going to need somebody that is experienced quite a bit. Remember that marketing is not just marketing experience. It’s manager experience, it’s customer relationship experience, it’s product management experience, it’s social experience. All those things are important. So, I would say interview, interview, interview.
If you’re looking for somebody that will sort of own the process, then an agency might not be for you. The problem with agencies is that oftentimes, the people at the top of the agency are very good probably and have very smart marketing minds. But if they’re hiring low level people to manage your accounts, these people might not have gotten hired because of their marketing experience. They may have gotten hired because they’re a people person, because they’re friendly, because they’re good looking, because they can manage the account. So, the niche that I fill for people with my clients is I’ll come in as the entire SEM or SEO project and I will own it. I will report to you. You will not have to wonder when you have some communications, I’m the practitioner as well.
So, if you want this type of relationship, probably a consultant is good. If you want an in-house person because you’re going to grow your SEO or your PPC to a very large situation, then maybe a full-time person sitting next to you is the best idea. But interview, interview, interview. At the end of the day, I personally think that the personality match is probably the most important thing. That and experience. So, if they’re not a person that you would not go have a beer with, maybe it’s not going to work out. You know, trust your gut.
Together with the emerging new technologies, a lot of new needs appear in the digital marketing workspace. New skills are needed from the digital marketing specialists almost every quarter and this high pace of development changed the way companies and specialists collaborate.
No matter how big or small a company is, its partnership with highly skilled consultants in the field of digital marketing is crucial to create real growth, both in awareness, as well as in business.
SEO has become one of the strategic pillars of every digital business. The focus now is not only on the content but on the quality of the content and the capacity of interactivity and engagement with the reader.
Innovation in SEO is now beyond mere content, spreading towards the dimension of the digital footprint, speed and level of relevance for voice search.
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