Get to know Tony Zeoli, Founder & CEO, Digital Strategy Works

July 4, 2023 | Interview

Please introduce yourself and where you work.

My name is Tony Zeoli and I am the founder and CEO of Digital Strategy Works, a digital strategy and WordPress web design and development agency based in Asheville, NC. I am also the founder and co-organizer of WordPress Chapel Hill Meetup.
I got involved in digital media, web development, and multimedia production in 1995 when I launched my first company, Netmix, which showcased DJ mix sets (mix shows) submitted by the world’s most influential DJs. After selling Netmix in 2000, I went on to work producing websites and managing web development for Cablevision in New York City. In 2005, I joined StarStyle, a fashion startup linking styles seen in media with online retail, as VP of Music Services, where I developed an application to match styles seen in music videos with their retail counterparts.
Given my experiences in digital, I began to get requests from others to build their websites. I’d been working with WordPress since it’s inception, so in 2009, I launched Digital Strategy Works. My agency has evolved from simply developing WordPress sites to incorporating digital marketing, search engine optimization, and social media marketing strategy into site builds.
And, I frequently present and train on SEO strategy for small business through WordPress workshops, meetups, and WordCamps.

How do you think SEO has changed over the last 10 years?

SEO has changed quite a bit. Ten years ago, it was enough to launch your site and drive traffic through keyword optimization and backlinks. Today, your site now has to be secured with SSL, be completely mobile responsive, and page speed is optimization is critical.
Google is also looking for sites that provide the very best answers to a user query. How To pages and answering FAQs are crucial components to a site’s success. We also have better tools to measure site performance, generating a deeper understanding of how our customers convert from organic search.
Today, SEO incorporates all facets of the web production experience. From creative writing to video production and technical concepts that can be difficult for the layperson to apply, there is far more to SEO than there ever was. It’s become it’s own science, just as integral to conversion as Pay Per Click and Social Media Marketing are.

How did you get introduced to digital marketing, more specifically SEO?

My introduction to SEO came through my friendship with the Michael Torbert, creator of All In One SEO Pack, and Steve Mortiboy, who manages all aspects of All in One SEO’s parent companies, Semper Fi Web Design and I met Michael and Steve back in 2009, when I flew down from New York City to attend WordCamp Raleigh. After learning a big about basic SEO techniques at WordCamp, I began to apply All In One SEO Pack to my own sites and sites for my clients.
Over the next seven years through today, I knew to stay relevant, I couldn’t just build WordPress sites for a living without integrating a 360 degree marketing strategy for my clients. I began to research and train myself on the many different aspects of digital marketing, including SEO. Now, in my web development practice, I work with my clients to educate them on digital marketing techniques, how to set goals, how to measure conversions, and how to work with the myriad of tools providing them with the best opportunity to achieve growth through their online presence.
I’m not a developer, but do understand what I’m looking at when it comes to code. SEO is something that I can do without having to be a developer and positively affect our client’s sites. It’s really rewarding to watch site stats go from an 80% bounce rate to 10% bounce rate overnight or increase organic search traffic 140% in a matter of days, once I’ve reworked a client’s site that was not properly optimized in the first place and by someone else who claimed they knew SEO.
Being able to see how my work directly affects my client’s lead generation, conversion goals, and ultimately revenue is extremely rewarding, because you can measure and track performance and know that you were the one to ultimately drive new business to your client’s sites.

What are the services you provide to your clients?

Right now, we mainly focus on WordPress web design and development. In that process, we plan an on-site and technical SEO strategy to ensure the site meets fundamental benchmarks prior to and at initial launch. We do keyword research, backlink campaigns, content writing and media production, and develop a local SEO strategy if it’s a local business. We also work on landing page optimization, email newsletter marketing, social media management and marketing, and WordPress and SEO training.
We’re not necessarily a branding house, because that is a creative competency that has its own unique aspects, but we do – from time to time – assist with logo design and brand aesthetics. An example of this is shown through our work on a website for Posana Restaurant (, a top restaurant here in Asheville. We’re working now on a website for OM Sanctuary, a spiritual retreat center in Asheville, and that not only incorporate branding and WordPress web design, but also the integrated SEO components, social media optimization, and a discovery process to find and implement a best of breed property management system.

What strategy according to you will prevail in 2017 for SEO?

I think technical SEO – page speed optimization, SSL compliance, mobile responsive websites, and deep, rich, informative and educational content will prevail in 2017. it’s not enough to keyword optimize today. We need in depth, long form, educational or information content to provide people with the answers to their important search queries. It’s retraining my client’s from thinking about what they want to say to their customers to thinking about how to best answer their customers questions or providing meaningful insights.
Here’s another example. Recently, we purchased a home. We ripped up the carpets and are removing the underlay exposing a concrete slab underneath. Now, we’re replacing the carpet with bamboo flooring. But, we have to ensure that we have a moisture barrier between the floating floor and the concrete slab. I’ve never prepared a concrete slab for epoxy coating, but I turned to Google for the answer. In my search, I found the answer in YouTube videos and on a number of websites, but the primary result Google returned was in its knowledge graph box, which showed me a step by step guide on what I need to do to prep the floor. I use a 13″ MacBook Pro, so within the 1024 x 768 window I view the web with, Google provided me with almost all the answers to my query, above the fold.
This rich, informational, how to content educated me on the process and helped me find a local flooring person who will now do the epoxy coating for us, because it’s clear from the instructions I am not qualified to do it myself.

What would your advice be to people who are looking to take up digital marketing as a career choice?

Everyday I see advertisements, emails, and discussion around coding. It’s all about coding. Code boot camps. Code hack-a-thons. We want to teach out kids Python in pre-K! But the fact is, coding cannot survive without digital marketing. How is it people will find all these software products built with code? There are thousands of apps in the iTunes store or Google Play store. How can someone use an app if they don’t know it exists? That’s where digital marketing comes in. We see digital marketing in our Facebook feed everyday. We see digital marketing in the PPC ads that top out a Google search query. We see digital marketing when we get emails to our inbox after opting in to a product or service. Digital marketing is everywhere and it’s only going to grow. I would say it’s a safe career choice and there are many colleges and universities rolling out digital marketing programs. That’s not to say you must have a degree in digital marketing, but it doesn’t hurt to get formal instruction – whether through a degree-granting or certificate program.
In 2010, I moved to North Carolina to work on a digital news project at UNC Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication. During my time there, I supported a program in the Public Relations class to educate students on digital marketing tactics and techniques. In addition, we were teaching students about PPC and Social Media Marketing in the student-run digital newsroom.
I’m on a lot of job boards. Every week, I see 15 or more jobs for Director of Digital Strategy or other digital marketing and social media marketing positions. I’d say it’s a good career move for non-developers to pursue digital marketing as a career. It’s both creative and analytical, so one should have a sort of combined left brain / right brain ability to be creative while working within structured data. You have to be creative to plan a campaign and you have to be analytical to understand and assess its impact. You have to be able to write copy, but also run stats on conversions or organic search metrics. Not everyone is capable of both. At smaller companies is where you have to have both skillsets. When you get into larger organizations, you can surely specialize in just analytics. Or, just PPC. Those organizations have the money to pay people to do one thing very well. But in the world of small business, you have to be a jack of all trades.

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