Welcome to Rankwatch’s Marketing Lego thought leader interview. Today we will talk to Mr. Luke Tobin, founder of Digital Ethos, about his journey of creating a successful full funnel marketing agency. We will also talk about Digital Press Releases and Link Building importance in Marketing.
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s Marketing Legos Thought Leader Interview. My name is Harshit and I am the director of Business Alliance of two brilliant marketing SAAS tools Rankwatch and Websignals and today’s special guest is the founder of one of the UK’s fastest-growing marketing agencies called Digital Ethos. Luke, welcome to the show. I’m so happy to host you today.
Luke, please tell us a bit about yourself, about your journey. You’re an investor, you’re a marketer, you’re a mentor, you plant a lot of trees. How are you like as a kid and how did you get to where you are today?
And I thought, God has got to be a way of, like, syncing this together and being more of a true partner for that client. So anyway, I had that idea for years, didn’t do anything with it, and then in 2016 decided to form Digital Ethos. It was just me in my bedroom. I’m back in here today in my bedroom with a few freelancers and started to scale up from there, which was great. And in early 2018, I hired my first full-time member of staff and now we’re at 55 people and it’s been an amazing journey. We’ve got multiple UK offices, we’ve also got a Toronto base, and we’re in Germany. And, yeah, it’s been a rapid but exciting journey and obviously sort of touching on other bits that I’ve got involved in. The success of the business has allowed me to really look at other things that I’m passionate about. So, sustainability, Eco-tech, and I’ve started to invest now through my own company, towing capital, in startup ventures and businesses that I think have got a purpose and real meaning.
Perfect. Let’s talk a bit more about the agency. What is the core expertise and what is the team in our case? Right now?
And like coming to the development part. What are the platforms that you guys leverage? Is it limited to WordPress or is it more?
Oh, that’s so cool. And who’s an ideal fit to be a client of this? And are there specific criteria that you go through? And what scale of businesses are you guys mainly catering to?
Look at what that looks like from a sales and growth perspective and then almost reverse engineer that battery strategy and look at which channels then help to drive that growth from a growth engine perspective. And the marketing elements almost become secondary to the business solution, providing that we give. So marketing intelligence and business intelligence pieces are really pivotal. So a whole mix of clients in that and we’ve got international, national, regional, local. It’s a real range and we’ve never sort of specialised in one niche. We’ve kept ourselves fairly generalist deliberately, even though a lot of the books you read and a lot of the advice you get is to specialise in one thing. The diversity has given us, I think, more security during COVID and it’s also given us a real breadth of knowledge to be able to help a range of different customers.
That’s true because that’s why it does work in a way, because say for example, if one channel isn’t working or if things go south and whatever your commitments are with the client, that something like that particular channel is not doing just as well, at least you have some other engine running that could take you to get that client to that particular goal altogether. So that’s why I believe and I also like the approach, the long-term approach that you take. So again, from the agency’s point of view, I’m sure that must be giving a stable recurring revenue as well for the retention rate of the agency.
From this long-term strategy that you do to kind of improve the retention rate of the client.
So four weeks of the month, in the second month it’s three times and in the third month, it’s twice a month. So a bi-weekly call is where we end up. Some clients prefer to have something like a monthly and some will ask for a weekly to continue, but we have to try and balance the workload. So ideally it’s that four, three, two and that tends to give us lots of touch points with that customer to really engage them, really settle them and really just build security around the relationship.
That makes sense. I think relationships are the key to all things. Anything apart from that, I think one of the other things that might be working in your favour would be because you are a full-stack agency and for most like every service, the client can rely on you guys. So that also kind of minimises the whole listing and works in your favour, right?
Let’s talk a bit more on the digital PR front. That’s one of the main services that you provide and I would love to know what different kinds of PR services you offer to customers.
Got you one question about it is usually the PR content, they do carry that sponsored tag. What are your thoughts on it, with respect to SEO? And it carries that sponsored tag backlink to your client site. How’s the impact and what are your thoughts about it?
And that’s the best thing about digital PR that’s so good for your branding, right? Even if for any of your business keywords, say a PR article about your brand on XYZ Media site is ranking high, then also getting your visibility, you’re still getting your fair share of referee traffic to your site and turns into a positive ROI altogether for your business. Right? So investing in disruption makes perfect sense. But how do you decide when is the right time for a business to invest in digital PR?
That’s true and that’s very wise actually. Personal branding is extremely important and especially when you’re launching a new business person behind that particular brand anyway has that skill or expertise or launching that particular brand, right? So leveraging that first makes better sense and then you can kind of build onto the new one on top of it. So that makes perfect sense.
And how do you go about doing the PR evaluation altogether? Like measuring the success of a PR campaign, what does that process look like?
Let’s talk about SEO. One of my favourite niches in SEO is link building. Are there any of your favourite link-building techniques that you practise more and kind of enjoy doing?
There are lots of things that we do in the agency, but the things that I think are the most successful are like genuine content-driven newsjacking-type stories that get initial traction and picked up quickly.
What are your views on one of the low-hanging fruit that I’ve seen, and a lot of businesses and even marketers kind of like not leverage that as unlink mentions about? So that, again, is something people should do. Do you practise that and do you use any of the tools to kind of track those things down?
And is the agency into paid guest posts, is that a service that you provide?
And when you do that, Luke, is there any specific criteria, like when you’re finalising a publisher’s site to do a guest post right, is there any specific list of things that you take into account before approaching that particular blog or not?
Is it like the literary traffic that you get from it?
That’s true, that’s why looking into the traffic, the traffic trend, the organic trend of any blogger before approaching that makes sense, just checking their history, whether they have been penalised by Google in the past or not, and you don’t end up becoming that spammy link altogether, that will come your SEO. Let’s talk about some of the tips that you can share because you’ve been mentoring startups a lot, right? And one of the biggest challenges that the startups have is they have less time and less money, right? And SEO is something that needs a lot of discipline long term. But are there any tips that can help them to deliver quick SEO results and still at least put their short-term goals of leads and traffic and then still have sufficient ROI? And for long-term goals?
If it’s more sort of D2C or local type business, again, leverage that network and try and do the things that are very inexpensive to start with. And then once there’s some budget or if there’s some money there, probably looking at some paid channels to acquire, there’s that sort of build versus buy approach, right? You can build organically, it just takes longer, or you can buy a bit as well. And the ideal, the sort of perfect marriage or harmony, in my opinion, for online success is having as many channels attributed to each other as possible. So really trying to leverage both would be the right approach.
And since you mentioned social media, and that’s one of the main services that you provide, how effectively do you think social signals kind of impact the SEO sign-up for business altogether?
I actually experienced it myself and like five, six years back, I used to run a blog, a woman-centric blog. And at that particular time, even the Facebook algorithm wasn’t that smart. So what I used to do is like in and around relationships, dating, all of that stuff, right-hand skincare, anything that resonates with the female audience specifically targeting us. And what I did was I had few people and the full-time job was just to find new groups on Facebook and share anything new, any new article that we are doing on a daily basis. And they were promoting it like crazy in a day. Around 800, 900, sometimes even like 1200 groups with tons of them on Facebook. And I’ve seen really competitive keywords around that specific genre, right? Abusive relationship or just the term relationship. I was ranking really hard and the SEO Skyrocketed, and I wasn’t doing much on the link-building from that particular time. And it was such a direct impact, and there were definitely some guidelines around it. They have to share it only on the open groups, on the closed groups, and most value out of it. But I think I was able to make that blog reach somewhere around 700K in monthly traffic in around eight to nine months.
The Dr was shit again, reached to something, I think it was 62 back then. That’s the level. And I’m sure now algorithms are much smarter, so the magnitude of the impact won’t be there, but still truly contributes. If you’re confident your blog article is getting shared multiple times, definitely you’ll get more value, you get more traffic, and more exposure. Right? So, yeah, it does impact your rankings too directly.
What are the main KPIs when it comes to SEO that you as an agency keep track of? Mainly your SEO analyst and strategist? And then what are the main KPIs that you refer to your customers? I’m sure there must be some differences there.
And let’s talk about one of the most successful case studies that you had, could be around SEO or any of the new services to back that success.
Rankings are in the hundreds now. So it’s been a really fantastic case study for us. And it’s a real omnichannel campaign that’s taken lots of moving parts and all departments in the business have been involved, which is quite nice because they actually feel connected then to the growth journey of that company as well.
And Luke, like the way people have been doing. SEO now has changed because the surf landscape has changed a lot over the years. The number of blue legs have been reduced significantly, and there are a lot of new features coming into play. Right. From your operations point of view, what all has changed and how are you guys trying to match and give that really good exposure to your clients, please?
But also maps position zero, the Snippets. It’s an ongoing ever-evolving process, which is where I think actually, for the industry, it builds a lot of stability in SEO. SEOs are needed more than ever, actually, when it was like quite a simple algorithm and there were a lot of SEO agencies making good growth and doing what actually arguably probably weren’t needed as much, right? You could have just gone and bought yourself a load of links and shot to the top of Google. Whereas now it really has become a lot more detailed around how you navigate the minefield and the ever-changing world of SEO.
Since you have been in business for a long time now, it’s been around seven years, is there any horror story that you would like to share? Anything that didn’t go the way you planned and didn’t work with the client?
So I don’t think that feeling of evolution and constant change is ever going to go away. I think that’s probably the thing I love about the industry the most as well. Because if this is cool, we’ve cracked it, we’ve got the blueprint for what success looks like. It would get pretty boring, right, whereas the way it works, and you wake up every day and you’re not quite sure what you’re going to wake up to or what new algorithm updates are going to come up or whatever, and that keeps it pretty interesting.
I think the best part about agency life is like, you always feel that you’re sitting on a roller coaster. It’s really exciting, definitely.
You cater to so many different kinds of businesses and stuff. There’s no other niche that would give you such kind of exposure.
I think we’re coming to an end here. Luca and I would like to have a quick, rapid fire with you. Are you ready for that?
What is your last Google search?
Nice. What is the best advice you ever received?
At what age were you given the happiest advice?
What career did you dream of having as a kid?
I’m sure SpaceX will fulfil you in the next few months. Please.
What trade most defines you?
Thank you so much, Lil. Thank you for all the time, time and valuable tips that you shared with the viewers. Really appreciate it.
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