Ryan Cote is Director of Digital Services at Ballantine, a family-owned 52 year old marketing agency. Ryan started to sink his teeth into digital in 2001 and, since then, has handled client campaigns stretching across all digital marketing strategies. He has a specialized focus in search engine optimization.
Please introduce yourself and where you work.
Sure thing! My name is Ryan Cote and I’m Director of Digital Services at Ballantine, my family’s marketing agency where we specialize in both direct mail and digital marketing.
The company was founded in 1966 by my great uncle and my grandfather joined in 1968. My father and uncle now own the business…and my 2 brothers work at the company too!
How do you think SEO has changed over the last 10 years?
SEO used to be so backlink and anchor text focused. On-page optimization was optional…it was nice to do and definitely best practice, but honestly, not 100% necessary for good rankings.
SEO now is a much more complicated and complex strategy because there are so many things that contribute to organic visibility: backlinks, load speed, good content, strong on-page, no technical issues, brand authority and more.
How did you get introduced to digital marketing, more specifically SEO?
Back in college, around 2001, I started to dabble online by selling things on Ebay. This quickly turned into an obsession that led me to affiliate marketing and creating eCommerce websites.
Being I wasn’t in a position to spend money on traffic, I naturally started to read up more on SEO and learning how to do it. Being that SEO has changed so much over the years with Panda, Penguin and Google’s various algorithmic updates, I’m still learning!
What are the services you provide to your clients?
Ballantine’s services have evolved over the past 50+ years. We started out strictly handling just direct mail, but over time we’ve added to our capabilities as marketing has changed and as our client’s requests have changed too.
We still handle a ton of direct mail, but we’re also now heavily immersed in copywriting and graphic design as well as all things digital: SEO, PPC, social media, content and marketing automation.
What strategy according to you will prevail in 2017 for SEO?
I think in 2017, and even 2018, backlinks, on-page optimization and quality content are still crucial. But I think the websites that win are the ones that also have very strong usability and engagement.
Google’s algorithm seems to be rewarding websites that have strong click-through rates and engagement metrics such as time on site and pageviews. And that makes sense because Google’s mission is to rank the best websites, and the best sites typically attract visitors and keep them engaged.
What would your advice be to people who are looking to take up digital marketing as a career choice?
Digital marketing is a great career path because companies are spending more and more budget on digital. Also, the options for digital marketing are constantly growing as new platforms are released like programmatic, new social sites, and don’t forget about artificial intelligence. So with new strategies comes the demand for people or agencies to provide expert guidance.
That said, my best piece of advice would be to have a general understanding of digital marketing overall so you’re educated and knowledgeable, but to specialize in 1 or 2 specific strategies. You want to be the go-to guy or girl for something. If you’re a true specialist, you’ll land clients easier and you’ll earn more. And don’t forget that these 1 or 2 strategies can change or evolve over time as digital changes and evolves.