Welcome to Marketing Lego Thought Leader Interview. Today we will have a word with Jeff Oxford, Founder & CEO Director at 180 Marketing, about his journey and how he came up with his agency. We will also talk about the valuable insights on the E-commerce SEO process, link building, and more.
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another marketing legos thought leader interview. My name is Harshit and I’m the Director of Business Alliance of two amazing marketing SaaS tools, RankWatch and WebSignals. And today’s guest is a highly experienced e-commerce SEO expert, founder and SEO director of Digital Marketing for 180 Marketing. Jeff Oxford. Jeff, a big welcome to everybody and so happy to host you today.
Okay. Jeff, let’s talk from the very beginning. I would love to know what you liked as a child and then how you ended up founding your own SEO marketing form and doing so well.
Got you. What year was this when you were basically building blogs and trying to generate income from Google ads and all together?
Got you. And are those websites still active?
People were stealing credit cards, buying my product. And so I got hit with $25,000 in chargebacks. I lost $25,000 in one month. And after that, I’m like, you know what? I don’t want to learn about the operations of e-commerce sites. I don’t want to learn about fulfilment and distribution and sourcing. I’m just going to focus on what I enjoy. And that was the SEO side of it. So ever since then, I’ve just focused on SEO and just focused on it for e-commerce sites.
That’s brilliant, man. And how did the idea of basically establishing your own marketing firm come in and how did that… What is the source of inspiration there? What gave you that kick?
Nice one. And what are the good things now the agency offers, apart from the e-commerce SEO solution? Is there anything else that you guys do?
So it made it really easy to close deals and pick up more e-commerce clients.
I really respect the decision for the fact that SEO service is, to be honest, the most stable recurring revenue engine for agencies as well. It’s long term. You need big commitments. Plus it takes time, builds momentum. But then the ROI that you post is exponential. It’s like both win, win a thing from a client point of view as well as for the agencies as well. The churn rate again, in the SEO industry, it’s pretty decent compared to the other digital marketing niche altogether. Makes sense. You will need developers for SEO implementations, too. Do you have everyone in-house or how exactly do you operate?
How much sound sleep do you get at night? Because you have actually sorted out a lot of things which are pain points for especially agency employees altogether. In the middle of the night, clients call up because of X, Y, Z things. My website is down and stuff like that, but you’re not reaching them to that level. You’re really keeping it safe for yourself and the other stakeholders of the agency or different.
Got you. I would love to know your onboarding process for clients. Then let’s talk about your in and out process altogether for them.?
Got you. And how much time do you usually spend on the analysis during that stage altogether? Just right after your discovery call and you’re trying to prepare a proposal for your customer. So you need initial analysis, right?
Got you. I’m sure based on the client’s goal as well, you must be calculating some of the other ROI for them as well. When will they achieve the, what do you call it, breakthrough? Then the positive ROI altogether for the investment that they’re making with the agency? What happens in this scenario, just in case you have committed, say, 12 months and X, Y, Z revenue, how do you do that? Do you commit to the revenue? Do you commit on just rankings? How exactly do you do?
Got you. So, like, on your onboarding, you must be setting up some benchmarks that you’ll be achieving in six months, just in case. These are the metrics that we’re going to achieve in the next 12 months. What happens just in case those metrics are not met? How do you deal with those situations?
Got you. Let’s talk about the latest Google’s update, Google product review, and how exactly it is impacting e-commerce sites.
Got you. Any other latest trend around the e-commerce side in SEO, basically?
Got you. Which platform would you recommend? Because I know for the web, Shopify or Magento sites, it’s usually difficult to match the really high standard rate of support of Vital. And to core web writers. To be honest, because you understand technical SEO so well in Shopify and then even on Magento as well. There are certain limitations when it comes to solving the technical SEO things. It’s not 100% possible. It’s not that… Just like you might hear, they do not provide that level of flexibility that a WordPress site would do. What’s your favourite platform when it comes to SEO friendly?
Got you. I used to own a Shopify site and the biggest struggle that I had was around this thing, the tag pages.
So, that was creating duplicate instances for me. I couldn’t do anything for that, I believe. But this was pretty long back, a few years back. I’m not sure whether you can do it now or not.
Let’s talk about during your discovery call, you must stumble across a lot of common mistakes that the previous agency or if they had an in-house team might be doing. What are those common mistakes that you spot at an early stage when you get the client on board and how to avoid them?
Got you. And then content must also be one of the issues because a lot of e-commerce have multiple pages and they do not put good word count on their product pages. That’s again… Maybe on category pages anyways, the e-commerce sites are a bit ticy on them. They’re not able to put too much content on the side.
Got you. And how do you make this decision? For a specific targeted page, what should be the ideal word count? How do you come up with that decision?
I’ve seen a lot of tools now. What they do is they study the top pages ranking for a specific keyword and then give you a recommendation just by calculating the average of those pages and give you a recommendation. This is something that ideally you should focus on, bare minimum. Do you use something on those lines or you use… Seriously, does use, but when it comes to the end of the page altogether and what do I work on?
There’s a lot, man.
Got you. Let’s talk about basically some automations that you prefer using just to scale up the SEO, either the analysis part or the implementation part from your end.
That’s so cool, man. Keyword research, I would love to know your process. Right now, one of the biggest challenges that I see is clustering and bundling keywords together. That’s a pain point.
Because a lot of human touch. Automation is something which is not that great. Even though there are few tools out there in the market which do a certain job when it comes to automating this particular process. But I would love to know how exactly you go about it? And how much time do you spend on an average book client just to have that long, exhausting list of targeted keywords for them?
Well, congratulations. Google just did a lot of the clustering for you. So we would use that as a method. But the issue with that, it’s way faster and way scalable, but you miss out on new keyword opportunities. It’s only going to show you what you’re ranking for. It won’t show you what other opportunities to target that maybe your competitors are ranking for. So, our latest approach to keyword research is we will first build a massive list. And I’m talking about thousands of keywords using Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer. We’ll look at the competitors to see each other. We’ll look at the competitors to see what keywords they’re ranking for. We’ll make this massive list. And then you can use tools out there like Keyword Cupid that will automatically take this list and then group them all together using artificial intelligence. What it will do is for every keyword, it looks at the search results, it will compare how similar the search results are and automatically cluster them together. So, it’s the only way you can reasonably cluster 1,000 of the keywords. And yeah, it works out pretty well. So, you get the benefit of having a huge data set, but it’s also not having to be done manually.
Brilliant. What is the end of this process? How time consuming is it now for you?
That’s really nice.
And let’s talk about your link building process. What are the main key parameters that you look into before finalizing a prospect for link building or link building opportunity for your client? And what are the link building techniques that you usually leverage for your clients?
You see it, plummet. That’s a sign. Maybe it’s not. But it’s also like, as much as I would love to see the trend for every single prospect, if you’re assigned with finding hundreds of prospects and link prospects, you might not have time to run every single one individually and see the graph or the trend, you might just need to see what’s the metric today. So it makes it more scalable for prospecting. We also will check to see if the site has an About Us page? Is there a person behind the site? Do they have any contact information, or is it just a PBN or affiliate site? We’ll actually check their external links to see if they are linking to pharmaceutical sites? Are they linking to crypto sites? Are they linking to debt consolidation or Viagra or all these other shady things? That’s probably one of the best checks to see who they’re linking out to. And if you notice they’re linking out to a bunch of casino scammy sites, you probably don’t want to get a link from them.
That’s really nice. Trust Flow, Citation Flow, all of those aspects as well. Is it something?
Got you. Let’s talk about the tactics that you use.
Is it legitimate? As long as it’s not just a guest post farm, that strategy can work pretty well. I’d say that there’s dozens, if not hundreds of link building strategies, but I’d say those are probably the most powerful and consistent ones.
And do you also offer digital PR services to your customers?
Let’s talk about a few golden rules for e-commerce sites to become successful.
And I’d say in general, with an e-commerce site, many e-commerce sites have hundreds, thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of pages. Prioritization is very important. When you have all those pages, you have to determine where the few that can bring the most revenue. And you don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of focusing on pages that probably can’t drive much revenue and aren’t worth focusing on. So, really taking time to prioritize and determine which pages are important and then putting your efforts there.
Got you. Anything that you use, because schema markup plays a very critical role, especially on e-commerce sites. Anything that you use to scale that process up for your clients, or do you still do the manual?
Got you. Is an Orphan page a problem for e-commerce? Is that something a usual site for you or is it not?
Got you. Any preferred internal linking strategy that you mostly leverage? Because what I’ve seen in e-commerce business, most of the money making pages, definitely don’t have the natural tendency to get a backlink. So a lot of people use… Internal linking is something which is… If you do it right, you can still pass the juice to your main money making pages and get them ranking higher on. What strategy do you have for that?
Each of those links is going to be way more powerful, especially instead of being a top NAV element in the body itself. And that can have a positive impact on rankings as well.
That’s clever, man. Let’s talk about one of the more successful case studies where you’ve done wonders with the SEO wisdom. And what metrics, if you can share a few.
Then they were on Shopify, so we did a technical audit to see if there’s any technical issues and cleaned up. There were a few issues with broken links and canonicalization, so we got all that cleaned up. Then we created optimized content for all their top category pages. We did a bunch of blogging to increase their topical authority. So, we did research to see what questions people have about these products. And then we wrote dozens of articles to answer those questions. And then we also did heavy, heavy link building. We’re doing 20 to 40 links per month. And this is using the same strategies I mentioned. Product reviews, scholarship, guest posting, you name it. And it was a lot of work that went into it. But their traffic went from zero to 50,000 per month in just, I think, a little over 12 months.
And what was the deal after 12 months?
The domain authority.
Okay, that’s nice.
And do you consider both?
It’s brilliant. And what’s the Domain rating?
And Jeff, in your eyes, do you think social signals have an impact, a direct impact on your SEO rankings and moving you up, making you rank for really good competitive keywords? Does that help and have you experienced it so far?
Got you. And since you’ve been in the agency business for quite a long time now, any bad experience that you’ve had, even though you’re trying to keep yourself with all your policies nice. Safe, but is there any bad experience in the lesson that you’ve learned?
That’s true. I think we’re coming to an end here, Jeff, and I would like to have a quick rapid fire with you. Are you ready for that?
What’s something new happening professionally in your life right now?
Got you. And at what age do you want to retire?
What’s something you could eat for a week straight?
What’s your inspiration and why?
And coming to my last question, what is your last Google search?
Yeah, it’s going viral, man.
Perfect. Thank you so much for all the time, all the wisdom. I really appreciate it.