Ryan Freeman is a 5th-generation small business owner, and the founder of Strider, an online marketing agency designed to serve small and medium-sized businesses. He is also the publisher of Canadian Florist magazine. Ryan is a popular speaker at business conferences, writes for a number of publications, and loves sharing his insight gained through 24 years of online marketing.
Hey! Before we start, could you quickly tell us about yourself and briefly describe your role at Strider?
Hello! My name is Ryan Freeman. I’m the president of Strider, the online marketing agency I founded with my wife, Janis, in 2008. Strider is focused on providing support and online marketing services to small businesses and nonprofits. We work with clients in the USA, Canada, the UK, and Australia.
What were your initial thoughts and planning before starting Strider?
Looking back, I wish there had been a lot more thinking and planning. I had a lot of freelance work coming in, more than I could handle, and with the expanding scope of online marketing, I knew I need to bring on more people with skills different from my own. The need and motivation were good, but I should have planned better for implementation and ensuring continued revenue growth.
How did you get introduced to digital marketing, more specifically SEO?
In 1994 I was doing freelance IT work for a few small business clients. Since I was the “computer guy”, it was assumed that I would know about this internet thing, and could build websites. Naturally, I agreed – and promptly got to work on figuring it out!
Was it difficult for you to find new clients for your company when it started?
Finding new clients has always come in waves, and the first year of Strider was no different. We had some success (more on that in a moment), but also struck out with things like networking groups and local advertising. There were some barren seasons that were quite scary, especially because the responsibilities of agency ownership were so new.
What was that one campaign that did wonders for your brand? In other words what helped you kick start your revenue growth?
Our growth and stability came from finding a particular niche and digging in hard. We established a recognized brand, built up an online community, and support events and education within that niche. In turn, we were rewarded with a client base that extended to four continents and helped us to build relationships with some awesome business owners.
How do you think SEO has changed over the last 10 years?
It’s funny, but as much as SEO has changed and matured since I started marketing websites back in 1994 it also is more and more the same. Google keeps coming up with more and more in-depth techniques to achieve the same goal: relevant results from trusted sources.
How does your team convince a new user to opt for your services over your competitors? How are your services better than your competitors?
We offer the usual range of Online Marketing services (SEO, PPC, Facebook Ads, Social Media, Email Marketing) in a way that is personalized for each client. Our solutions are tailored for the unique needs of each business we work with to get the best results according to their goals.
What features do you think are missing in mainstream SEO tools? Are there any processes you’d love to see automated?
SEO tools are always amazing me in how they continue to evolve and iterate. I remember when a simple keyword suggestion tool or variation generator was exciting! Just recently I an event where some new content analysis and suggestion tools were launched, that is really cool. But as nice as these tools are, they will never replace the human element. The ability to add context and nuance to data and automated suggestions is something that will likely never be fully programmable. But it’s fun to watch the tools get better and better!
What would your advice be to people who are looking to take up digital marketing as a career choice?
Work on being an effective story-teller. Marketing is about telling the story you want to communicate to elicit the response you want from the right audience. When you have that mindset, you can learn about technical details, and platforms, etc., with the right perspective.