Welcome to Rankwatch’s Marketing Lego thought leader interview. Today we will talk to Jesse Ringer, CEO of Method & Metric, about his journey from dreaming of becoming a copywriter to spearheading a successful digital marketing agency. We also talk about Automation Tools, CRM Software, and one of the most overlooked SEO strategies — tune in to find out what that is.
Hello everyone. And welcome to another Marketing Lego thought leader interview. My name is Harshit, and I’m the Director of Business Alliances of two brilliant marketing SAAS tools, RankWatch and WebSignals.
My today’s guest is a highly experienced marketer, Founder, and Head of Search of the agency ‘Method and Metric’, Jesse Ringer.
Jesse, a big welcome to you and a pleasure hosting you today.
Perfect. Jesse, please tell us about your journey. I mean, how you were like as a kid, and how you got to where you are today?
And so, it was always something that has been in the back of my mind. Outside of that, I did regular kids stuff — a lot of snowboarding. I grew up in Ottawa, a pretty cold city. So, you know, you get used to winter sports — hockey, snowboarding. Yeah. And then, later on, skateboarding and things like that.
And so, after high school finished, I moved west to Vancouver and Whistler, BC, where I ended up spending quite a few years being a snowboard bum — filming snowboarding and doing everything I could to be on a snowboard. And so, after a few years of that, I decided it was time to grow up a bit. And I moved to Vancouver and got into marketing and SEO just by dumb luck.
I was looking to become a copywriter, and that was proving quite difficult. It was shortly after the big recession in 2008. And so, a lot of companies weren’t hiring as freely as they once were. And so, a friend approached me to help manage their website that’s like a little, well, not a little, but a local spa doing massage therapy and Botox and skincare treatments.
And so, yeah, I kinda fell into doing SEO for them, writing content and optimizing their website. And it kinda grew from there.
I think you started with your self-branded agency and then moved to the service.
And it had always been something that had been in the back of my mind, but I always very quickly talked myself out of it. And, just that conversation kind of catapulted me into being, “maybe I should do this”. And so, yeah, a few months later, I rebranded the agency to Method & Metric, and five years later, here we are.
What was the best part of agency life altogether? What was the one thing that you enjoyed most?
And so, that brings us a lot of interesting folks. I find that so fascinating and largely inspiring because people have made businesses out of the most random things at times (or random to me, at least). But, you know, there are countless ways to build a business and build something that you’re proud of.
And that always really inspires me and fascinates me. And so, yeah. I think that’s a big part of why I love doing what we do.
Brilliant. Let’s talk about Method and Metric. What good offerings do you have? What verticals do you serve?
We’re a very data-driven agency. So we focus a lot on making sure that we’re held accountable for analytics and performance. And then, we also tie in conversion rate optimization. So we feel that SEO and CRO are very much tied together because you can rank number one for any number of keywords. But if they don’t bring any traffic and don’t help increase revenue, then those keywords don’t really help you in any real way.
So we think about the whole buyer’s journey or website visitor journey. We want to rank the website higher in the search results and make sure that it’s the right terms so that we’re reaching the right people who are more than likely to convert on our website.
So whether that is leads, eCommerce purchases, or even downloads, those are the things we’re thinking about. So the whole journey of optimizing the website and then finishing off with conversion optimization and building a solid website that people want to trust and work with or buy from.
Gotcha. And Jesse, any specific industry that you prioritize working with or is it open for all?
We also work with a lot of small and medium-size businesses, some startups, but also service-based industries. And so it’s kind of all over the place. I mean, as I said, we’ve worked with some really interesting brands. We’ve done dating sites. We’ve done late in life, pet care, cremation services. But we’ve also done printer equipment and community centers and different types of lawyers and law firms.
So yeah, it runs the gamut, but I would say software is a big one for us.
Let’s talk about the line processes you have in place, how exactly the onboarding happens, what the first 30 days look like for your client, how you communicate, what channels you use, and what process you have.
Some clients love to be available only by email or only by phone, or just on slack. So we try and figure out what those look like, make sure that we’re able to define the timeline, hold ourselves accountable, and make sure that we know when the deliverables are coming.
If they are making any changes to their website or have any marketing campaigns coming as well. That’s another thing that we’d like to uncover. In terms of communication, we include all of our clients in a Slack channel, as well as Google drive. And we use Asana for our task management. Those are kind of the main areas that we like to communicate.
Obviously, email is still the easiest way, but slack at least gives everyone insight into the communications and what’s going on with everyone else because not everyone on our team is involved in every aspect of the project — that wouldn’t be sustainable. And so we want to make sure that everyone is abreast of what’s going on.
Generally, we have two or three contacts at a company within a marketing team. So we like to include them as well so that they can quickly answer any questions that we might have.
And Jesse, do you have pre-made packages for your customers? Or is it like tailor-made services for your clients?
And then we offer like analytics setup. So that’ll involve Google tag manager, Google analytics, and Google search console, making sure that they’re all working together, that we’re tracking everything that we need within that platform and obviously what the client needs. And then from there, we’ll develop an AB testing strategy to help improve conversions, and then we’ll finish it off with a content strategy as well as a backlink audit and acquisition plan.
So that’s generally the standard package, but again, not every client needs all of that all the time. And so we kind of have to iterate around what they need.
So, it’s mainly like done-for-you tailor-made services. And post your auditing, you come up with pricing and all that stuff?
Because there are so many engines running — even if you are just offering one service, say SEO, you need content writers; you’d need developers to implement and resolve those technical errors together, right?
So do you have every person in-house working on so many things, or do you still, as an agency, have people on contract, or do you outsource that work? How exactly do you operate?
It’s really easy for SEO companies to kind of hide the work that they’re doing. I would say that our industry is not inherently transparent. And so, we try to do everything in our power to make sure that we’re as transparent as possible. So we do keep writers, especially on our team, so everyone has a firsthand touch with the client. We also have a user experience and design expert on our team and a technical SEO lead.
So we try to make sure that the work we’re doing is catered to their skillset, but also making sure that we minimize any outsourcing, any contractors so that we have work in-house as well. And that just ensures quality control, transparency, and the ability for our clients to get in touch with whoever’s working on their website at any given moment.
Jesse, what’s the current churn rate of the agency, and do you have any specific retention programs that focus on that specific area?
If we’re doing just one-off projects and then going “Hey, here you go” and “see you later”, it’d be really easy for us to just create a simple template cookie-cutter process that doesn’t really work for everybody.
And so most of our clients are on a longer-term retainer, which gives us the opportunity to build that relationship, creating the trust that I think is essential in these kinds of relationships.
But also it gets clients results because we’re working with them weekly and daily. They see results, not necessarily faster, but definitely in a way that’s quite noticeable.
And so percentage-wise, what’s the retention rate you’re looking at?
And then the other half is relatively within the three to six-month range right now. But in terms of retention, I would say about 70 to 80% of our clients stay on beyond the initial contract.
Let’s talk about some of the common mistakes that you identify when it comes to SEO or during your initial audit. And how to avoid them?
So like an SEO agency that does content, workshops, conversion rate optimization, and technical SEO, it has all of that on a single service page.And this is probably going to get a lot of backlash from the designers listening to this.
But it’s really ineffective for SEO, but also really ineffective for your visitors to get the information they need to make a smart decision. And so that’s one of the biggest challenges for sure is trying to get companies on board with having one landing page per service offering.
And so that’s probably easily the biggest one right now.
Do these businesses even manage to rank by focusing on multiple services and broad categories, all on one page? Do they even rank?
And which platform do you prefer when it comes to SEO optimization, specifically technical SEO, because that’s the toughest thing to implement, right? Which platform do you prefer?
One that I kind of struggle with is web-flow right now. They’re beautiful websites, but because you’re customizing the backend, most designers overlook the necessary functionality you need for good SEO, and that’s certainly challenging because the designs and the sites look so good.
But they’re just not functional enough. And so there are things like that come into play. But WordPress, I would say, is by far my favorite because we can customize any of it. We can get into the code; we can make the edits that we need to make, but also, the themes look great.
And the other part, too, is that most people have worked with WordPress. And so you’re not tied to a developer or one person or team to make changes to your website. And I think that’s hugely essential in any business, regardless of whether they work with us. WordPress is pretty accessible for most people.
Since you mentioned Shopify, I also saw your course on Shopify around analytics. But any limitations you see on Shopify when it comes to implementing technical SEO and any areas that you feel should have been right up there?
If you want good, I don’t know, imagery and flow on your website. You’ve got to pay for it. But that being said, you can get into the back end on a higher Shopify cost account, and you can definitely get more customization involved. And that part is pretty good. But I would say if you’re just getting started with a website, Shopify’s amazing. And as you scale your business and grow it, it does grow with you pretty well.
Let’s talk about your technical audit process and any common challenges you face during implementation. How many parameters do you typically work around? That’s one of the key metrics many SEO agencies focus on.
But, I would say there are a lot of third-party tools that are getting a lot better at helping you analyze this kind of information and the data there. And so, our process involves page speed analysis, first and foremost, although there are some parties that think it’s not necessarily technical. A lot of it does come down to the specifics of that website.
So we’re looking at a lot of areas around how is the website communicating to Google? Is Google able to access that information, and is Google understanding that information properly?
Those are three areas that kind of guide our audits, especially on the technical front. So looking at canonical tags, looking at hreflang, looking at the index coverage as well.
Is Google finding a lot of erroneous links or a lot of content that is probably duplicate? Are we inadvertently sending Google to crawl a bunch of pages that don’t need to be crawled?
So we’re looking at things like that. And then also, yeah, tying that all back into like the mobile experience and page speed and making sure that we’re able to kind of consolidate as much of that load time as possible so that the pages load quickly and efficiently, and that we can also make sure that the content that Google needs to see in order to rank these pages is visible as soon as possible.
So that’s kind of like our main process. And we also look at things like redirect chains, broken links, server errors, and all of that stuff to ensure that the response codes are all dialed in and that we’re not losing little milliseconds here and there. And so trying to maximize all of that.
Any SEO automation that you use to scale up the operation because you work with big websites as well, and it plays a crucial role?
So that’s probably where we spend the most time — analyzing those elements. And this helps us identify if there have been any big changes in terms of traffic, and keyword rankings, but also, are there new sections of the website that got discovered by Google or pages, like the opposite, did we lose a bunch of pages and things like that.
So we’re able to then monitor uptime and downtime from those sites, response codes, and response times as well. So that’s a big one. Obviously, keyword rankings, we automate a lot of that and make sure that we have reports coming in on a weekly basis to analyze what’s going up and what’s going down.
And so those are obviously pretty vital. And then we set up a lot of alerts within keyword tracking software MOZ, I guess, and then also Google analytics.
And so any big changes on a week-to-week basis, we get an alert for that. And then also, you know, on a daily basis, if our traffic has had a huge spike or a huge decline, then we have those to notify us as soon as possible.
That’s brilliant. Are you automating your client reporting?
So each of those is custom-tailored to the client. I mean, all of our reports are custom-tailored to a client regardless, but these ones, I would say, are a lot more robust and insightful than the basic ones. Yes, traffic is good. Yes. Revenue is up.
Let’s talk off-the-topic; I would love to know your link-building process and which KPIs you keep track of. And even about your audit, the audit you do for your clients.
So our general audit, we’ll start with analyzing what that backlink profile looks like. We use a couple of, well, we use Google search console as well as ahrefs to compile all the data there.
And then we go through those and kind of manually check to see if these links are actually valuable. If they’re legit and that kind of stuff, then we look at other competitors.
We look for the gaps in terms of who is linking to our competitors consistently and not ranking to us. And we also do unlinked brand mentions, broken link cleanup, as well as guest posting and outreach in that space.
So with all that in mind, I mean, for us to be successful with backlink acquisition, we tend to be a little more entrenched with the company that we’re working with. And that usually comes down to having an email address with their domain on it so that we can reach out to them. And it doesn’t feel like it’s a spam attack when we do it.
We take a lot of care in personalizing every email and making it as easy as possible for the recipient to implement that email or that link change. So, you know, finding the page that it’s on, finding the exact anchor text and asking them to replace it with the necessary link, and by having a company email address that goes through, our response rates are a lot higher for granted.
You know, people see these as spammy, and so it often is like a two to three follow-up process. And sometimes they’re just like, “oh, thanks for flagging that link, we’ll just take it down”.
And so, there’s like a lot of games like that. So it tends to be one where we are really entrenched with the client, making sure that we’re able to, you know, not have it as our sole measure of success.
Because again, like one link is not gonna necessarily move the ticker on all the rankings, but over time they do. So in terms of KPIs, we look at: One, are we getting those links? Two, this is obviously part of a longer gameplay, but is the domain rating going up?
This is one metric that obviously has a lot of issues. I’d say it’s pretty flawed, but clients like to see it. And it’s something that we can kind of help to measure against.
And then ultimately, are we getting more links, like more domains, more backlinks and just keep working on that because I think it’s quite challenging to tie new backlinks to keyboard rankings or traffic.
And then ultimately, I mean, this is also a third-tier goal, but what are the referrals like from those places? I know, we know that. Not everybody clicks those links when they’re there, but Google still uses them despite the fact that nobody clicks on these links, but we do like to be able to tie some of that traffic back to the links that we’re getting.
When finalizing a prospect site for your outreach, what are the main parameters you look after before reaching out to those media sites?
So are they doing content? Are they doing, potentially podcasts, or videos? Do they have active social media channels? That’s certainly part of it. You know, we look to see if they have a team in place and that it comes into like LinkedIn or even on their website.
Because those partnerships tend to be pretty helpful, because then they have a good understanding of the nature of SEO, and what it takes and hopefully has a real strong drive to make this succeed.
And so those are some areas that we look at some red flags on the opposite end of it are things like a small website or one with a lot of technical issues because that kind of communicates to us that they don’t have someone taking care of the website.
You know, this is a little one, but we look at what tags they have on their site. Like if they just have Google analytics, they’re probably not investing time or energy in other marketing efforts.
And so that’s something that we kind of look for, but also, you know, are they growing? That’s really helpful for us? Uh, how established are they? Yeah, those kinds of things. For sure.
For your guest posting process, do you also loop in your client? Concerning the content, we take approvals, and everything goes through them. Once approved, it goes out to that particular blog.
Like a lot of clients that we work with, we will give them the topic, we will give them the framework and they’ll write the content themselves and then we’ll distribute it again. This comes down to transparency, and this has always been part of our thing.
It’s like, we want to make sure that they know that we’re not just putting their website on, I don’t know, blog loops and shady websites and just spamming things. We want to make sure that they are aware.
Like we give them a list of every website that we’re going to be sending these out to make sure that we do our due diligence, to make sure that those websites are, in fact, reputable and reliable and are relevant to our clients.
So yeah, we give them a lot of transparency on that front. And they’re often involved in the content production and the final sign-off of who we reach out to because, at the end of the day, we’re just agents of that company. And so this is their brand, this is their reputation, and we’re just there to help.
And if we end up putting them in an awkward spot, down the road, over a short-term win. That’s going to look poorly on us but also damage their reputation. So it’s something that we think about.
We have a saying “leave a campsite better than when you found it”. And we apply that to our clients too — leave a website better than we found it.
And that’s how we always try to approach our work. So, you know, eventually, they’re going to move on. Or we move on or what have you, and wanna make sure that whatever happens there, they don’t lose any momentum from the work we’ve done. If they change partners or bring it in-house or what have you.
Are you doing digital PR as well? Because I’ve seen a lot of money-making, specifically keywords, and many PR sites, comparison sites, and aggregate sites through RankWatch. And they take up the top spot. Is it something that you offer?
So although we do some PR-related work, I would say that we don’t do it as a core service. PR people are a very different breed, and it’s more relationship-oriented than I would say SEO is.
And so, although I do think that they’re closely aligned, we don’t really offer it as a service. Yeah, but definitely it’s worth it. Like if you’re looking at press release services or other mediums like that, if you’re not focused on the backlink part, those things offer a lot of value, right?
Google’s gotten pretty good at downgrading press release backlinks. And so, it doesn’t necessarily hurt the backlink profile, but it definitely doesn’t enhance the backlink profile the way it used to. So PR should be focused on the actual offline kind of thing, rather than just trying to improve the SEO.
Since the world is moving into an omnichannel marketing approach altogether, and you’ve been an analytics expert, what I’ve seen, in my experience, is that attribution is always painful when you’re working with multiple channels. Any tips around that?
Because I mean, we’re performance marketers, right? Like doing ads, doing social, doing SEO, it’s all about dollars in and dollars out. And it’s all about being able to tie your work and effort to the marketing initiatives, right? And so attribution is really tricky. I would say one aspect to consider is getting away from last-touch attribution.
It’s largely unfair, especially in the omnichannel experience, but also the fact that the way humans, real people, engage with brands and interact is not linear, right? Like I could be looking at a website on my phone and then log in on my computer and take action.
Like I prefer to do my eCommerce transactions at my computer. It’s a lot more efficient for me, but a lot of other people enjoy doing it on their phones. But I definitely see how there are both sides of it, right? And, it’s really hard for present analytics tracking systems to really get a fair understanding of mobile versus desktop.
But then also like, if you texted me an awesome product and I bought it, that attribution just goes to a direct visit because we don’t know how that text message transpired, right?
And so it’s very hard to really fully engage in really understanding or trusting that attribution within our analytics platforms. So I say, you know, take it with a grain of salt, look at the multitouch elements, understand that somebody may have seen an Instagram post or your video on YouTube and then went to their computer and typed in your domain name and bought something from you and who gets the credit for that?
And that’s often going to be like Google analytics is going to be a direct visit versus that amazing content you created. So it’s hard, and it’s hard not to get hung up on it, but at the same time, I would look at how all of your channels fit into the journey before the purchase happens.
Like what content do people read a lot? What content, what pages do people look at? What social channels are growing? You know, those kinds of things will add to it, which is tough.
A lot of our goals and KPIs are all tied to revenue and leads, and interactions on the website. It helps that Google is often the biggest traffic source. So it makes our job a little bit easier. But again, if you’re in social or paid, it’s tricky for sure.
That’s true. That’s true. Let’s talk about a few of the CRO hacks for e-commerce websites that you can share tips around that will eventually help them boost their sales.
Let’s start with the products. So depending on how unique your products are, you may want to consider like if you’re selling clothes or a product that is pretty ubiquitous, like, I don’t know, microphones as an example or webcams like you’re going to wanna get really technical with the material or the descriptions of it.
And that’s because people are going to be searching for podcast microphones or webcams that are good outside, I don’t know, like those kinds of things. So get really specific with that language, if you have.
And I’m thinking very specifically around an online hobby shop that we work with that sells tons of Pokemon stuff, Yu-gi-oh, Magic the Gathering type stuff.
Those releases are extremely specific. And so, your product names are inherently specific. And the search terms that people are using are also very specific. And so there’s less worry necessarily about ranking for those keywords because your new release is only going to be for this, that product page is only going to be for this.
And it doesn’t really cater to the broader sense of the term. So if you have a lot of specific products, I would say just make sure those descriptions are complete. Be mindful of the URL that you’re using and that your metatags are dialed. A really easy overlooked thing to fix is your image alt text and your image file names.
I know that when you’re uploading hundreds of images, you don’t want to create a good file name for each one, but do it. It’s hugely helpful. And the same with the alt text is great for accessibility, and also, just be mindful of how big those images are.
They don’t need to be 500 megabytes for a little screenshot of a box, right? And so be very mindful of that.
On the collection front, I would say make sure you have a description of that collection. I see it a lot where they put it at the bottom of the page. That’s one way to do it. I haven’t seen any evidence to make it seem like that’s a bad place for it, but if you’re just doing it to rank for keywords like it’s not going to really help you.
We put ours at the top of the page. We make it really clear as to what that category is about. And cover some information there. Cover elements like, do you do pre-orders, do you do shipping across Canada for these products or shipping across the United States or around the world?
Those kinds of things give some relevant information about that collection or category — I say collection because that’s what Shopify uses — but make sure that you have links in there that are relevant to it.
If you have partnerships, or this collection goes really well with another one. You can link to those and help create that relationship better, but ultimately across the whole website, internal linking is huge.
Internal linking is one of the most overlooked strategies. Would you like to share some tips on that?
But I would say internal linking is pretty important, and that’s not just about main navigation and footer navigation. I would say links within the content. If we’re talking eCommerce, all those links on the collection pages are really important.
But being mindful of how many you have on there, too many, and you start diluting the value, not enough, and Google doesn’t understand the context, looking at those kinds of things.
Look at where you’re sending users away from your website because those are also things that we kind of overlook.
You might be pushing people to go visit your social media account or watch a video on YouTube, and they go there and then they are gone. And so we want to be really mindful of that.
Another one I think that does not get enough attention is accessibility. So thinking about super navigation menus, they are big and beautiful. But if you are a user that has to tab with a keyboard or uses a screen reader, they have got to listen to all that.
And so being really considerate of the fact that not everybody will access your website in the way that you’ve intended and considering those other elements, watching videos where you don’t have the sound on, right?
Like if you’re on a bus or at a library, you can’t necessarily watch that video with sound or watch it in a way that is well-optimized. And so, be mindful of those elements too.
So making accessibility part of your process helps with SEO because a lot of those factors are things that Google considers, but it also just makes your website way more accessible to a variety of your visitors.
And so that also shows that you’re thinking about them and prioritizing their experience versus your own experience.
That’s nice. That’s nice. Since you have been in business for 11 plus years, I’dlove to know about a really successful case study you have had and a few metrics to back that success.
And she was brand new in the space, opening an office in the middle of the pandemic. And yeah, we really focused on her blog content, making sure that the website was well optimized from a lead generation perspective, making it really easy for people to contact her and book initial consultations and things like that.
But then we tied that in with the content, and within six months of blogging four times a month, we increased her traffic by 1000%, essentially adding 10 times as many visitors to her website as she started with. And it’s been exponential from there.
So that’s one that really, really stands out to me because, again, it was one where it started from nothing, and it was just her. And now, she has a team of five working for her, and the content just continuously perpetuates like more traffic and links and new business for her.
So that’s one that really stands out, because for small business owners, it’s hard work, right? And so, that one was super fulfilling on the other side of it too.
But yeah, we’ve had a lot where we’ve just grown their teams with SEO because, for a large part, we’ve been their marketing department. They rely on us to do a lot of that work, but we’ve, on smaller fronts, and these are more SEO-oriented things like getting clients ranking number one or owning featured snippets for content that we’ve created.
That is always one that our team gets super pumped about because it’s one of those things that it is like not. It doesn’t necessarily change the business for them, but you know, it shows we were able to solve the problem of getting a content piece to take that spot.
Ranking on some features altogether is a very good strategy. Lots of new features have been introduced. And then, how are you going to get that level of exposure for your clients? We are bound to target those.
I do it too. And it’s really nice when you see your name at the top of the list, and you see your website there. And so that’s certainly one way that clients can hold us to account, too, is like, “Hey, we don’t rank number one for this term.” “Why don’t we rank there?”
And so there are conversations like that, but it’s helpful for sure. But again, I don’t think ranking number one is the same. Like the winnable strategy as it once was, it’s obviously a goal, and it’s obviously a thing that we have to measure our success against, but there are so many other ways.
You don’t rank number one like my content doesn’t rank number one everywhere around the world. It’ll rank number one, maybe in Vancouver for a handful of terms, but it won’t rank well in New York or India or Australia.
And so there’s this thing that you have to be mindful of the fact that every search result is going to be different, and you won’t always rank number one.
But the goal is to be at or close to the number one as much as possible across as many markets as possible that are relevant. And then, going from there. So we definitely focus on traffic.
But from an internal perspective and a thing that clients can be like, “oh yeah, you’re doing the SEO thing.” Like, get those featured snippets up there for sure.
Jesse, we’re coming to an end here, and I would like to have a quick rapid-fire with you. Are you ready for that?
If you could travel back in time, what period would you go?
Do you prefer texting or talking?
Anything new professionally happening in your life?
What’s your last Google search?
If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
Fascinating one. And who inspires you the most?
Thank you so much, Jesse. For all the time, all the wisdom, and all the tips that you’ve shared in this session today with me. I really appreciate it.