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lang="en-US"> Paul Sera, CEO of Next Gen IT Consulting on Local SEO, WordPress and Shopify
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Paul Sera, CEO of Next Gen IT Consulting on Local SEO, WordPress and Shopify

Welcome to Rankwatch’s Marketing Lego thought leader interview. Today we will talk to Paul Sera, founder of Next Gen IT & Digital Agency, about his journey of creating a successful digital marketing agency. We also talk about Local SEO, WordPress, and Shopify.

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another marketing lego’s thought leader interview. My name is Harshit, I’m the director of business alliances of two awesome marketing SaaS tools, Rankwatch, and websignals. And I’ve got a very close friend of mine joining me from Australia today.
Paul Sera, founder, and owner of Melbourne-based digital agency NGITC. He’s also an automotive enthusiast and organises drag racing events called no Excuses, and runs his own apparel brand, Radial Life. Paul also is a good mentor and trains a lot of other business owners, and has some brilliant courses on his self-branded site, a big welcome to you, buddy. I’m so happy to host you today.

Hey, mate, thanks for having me today. You can see the cheeky little plug I’ve got there. You can see my little logo.

Let’s start from the very beginning of your journey bro, to let viewers know more about you, the place you were raised, what were you like as a young child, and how you made your way up 20+ years of professional journey so far.

Yeah, a little bit over 20. So giving me my age here. So you guys know that I’m not that young anymore, but don’t let the bald head fool you. I’ve always lived in Melbourne and I was quite lucky from a very young age to be able to race go karts, probably from the age of nine years old, I think. And along that way of racing go karts, I met a lot of now VA supercar drivers in the Australian scene because that’s where the stepping stone to get into the next part of racing was. So I was very lucky in that aspect. But I feel like that the racing of go karts taught me a lot of self discipline and the right attitude because it’s the kind of sport where, you know, like any other sport, if you’re going to be good at it, you’re going to be focused, you can’t mess around, and especially when you’re driving a go kart so fast around a track, you’ve got to mentally be prepared. And I think all those years of racing, if I raced from the age of nine till 18, roughly gave me a lot of experience in my personal life, which is a really good start to then lead me into my technology career, which I started in 1999, which is how many years ago now? 23 years ago.
Yeah, long time ago. So I started off as a basic IT breakfast engineer. But it’s quite funny because the whole time through my schooling career, I was actually building websites. Back then in the 90s and no one really built websites back in the 90s, but I don’t know if you remember I don’t know, you might be a bit young for this, but I don’t know if you remember GeoCities. You could actually build free websites on GeoCities, and back then we had no money to host websites or anything, and I would build websites and stuff like that. Back when I was probably 15 years old, maybe 14 years old. And it’s quite funny because I still remember in year eleven coming to class one day in IT, because I knew more than the IT teacher, obviously.

How exactly are child labor laws in Australia?

Back then IT was still really new, right? So people didn’t really understand IT that well. And what I found is that, from a teaching point of view, they really struggled to understand anything to do with IT. They just basically followed a textbook. So when it came to year eleven, I remember sitting in class one day and they said, for the next three months, we’re going to be building your own website.I’d already built my own website. I spent that three months doing other things because I’d already built the website and I never told him.And then I showed her this website, she’s like, Dude, this website is amazing.
I got the A+ for it or something like that because I was trained and I already knew what to do, whereas everyone else was sort of just trying to work out how to do it. And this is probably before your time too, but I remember there was an editor that I used to use called HotDog. Obviously now we’ve got WordPress and we’ve got all these other kinds of tools to use, but there was an editor called HotDog, and I still remember downloading it on my computer back in the early days. And back then, if you downloaded stuff into your computer, you didn’t know what happened. You might download something at the computer before you know it, it just crashes. There were that many viruses, there was no security. There were many people hacking people’s computers. Again, something you’re probably not familiar with is a thing called Netbus.I don’t know if you ever heard of Netbus, but basically people would send you a game called whack a mole and it would literally just open the ports on your computer so they could just connect in and just hack in and just do whatever they wanted.
So there was all this malicious stuff happening because there was no security. You could literally just do an IPC share to a computer and log on and just connect to any computer in the domain because you’re talking Windows95 and no one knew anything about it. Then obviously technology got smarter and we got smarter. So with all those IT knowledge and skills, I actually started off as a desktop engineer in 99, but I basically migrated to a server engineer a year later just because of my skills and my knowledge. And I think because I had such firm knowledge in 99 to do that kind of stuff where people are like, this is pretty impressive. I was basically running the network for my first job within the first year, which no one really does. And then from there I basically just went from Network admin role to network admin role, while I was always building websites in the back end for myself, because I always had, like, my own little business that I had going on.
So I was always building a website for me or some friends in the early 2000s, and then sort of moved myself into a role with a Fortune 500 company where I was actually looking, we had generic job titles, but you could say that the role was like an IT architect. So I basically developed and designed architecture for technologies globally, set the standards for the company globally, and then delivered that to the IT teams. Even though my official job title wasn’t an IT architect, I was a subject matter expert. I was on the government’s boards, and I was a technology owner. So the certain technology that I owned, which was a Microsoft tool, I was accountable for and responsible for the whole organisation with over 70,000 computers, that was a big part of my career.
Seven years, seven and a half years gone there. And then I got the golden handshake in 2014 where they said, the whole IT department has been outsourced. And yeah, so I started NextGen Digital, which is just like I just said to myself, I want to focus back on web design. I’m so good at IT architecture and IT support, but I want to work with smaller companies again. I loved working with small companies. I love helping small to medium businesses. I feel like you can bring so much value because they don’t have the knowledge. Someone who’s got this knowledge, who’s come from an environment with 75,000 computers won’t even look at a small or medium business. So I was like, I want to take on the 10s and 20 people environments. I want to take on the small guys because I can come across really affordable. I can use cloud computing, I can build their website, I can do their SEO, and I can actually give them a whole infrastructure in one hit. So they can just say, let’s just go for the next gen for everything. And that’s how it started. And we were doing websites and we’re doing SEO and all our IT infrastructure, but we just found that over the years, we were so good at touring websites and so good at SEO that we actually just evolved to purely web design and SEO.
We still do social media, marketing, and all that kind of stuff, but we found that we were so strong in those areas that we kind of stopped doing as much IT support. Because really, these days, I mean, I still set up infrastructure for customers, but it’s quite easy. It’s all in the cloud. Nothing really goes wrong. It doesn’t really need too much maintenance. So as long as it’s a small company that has, like, under ten users, it normally runs itself. Once you’ve got more than ten, you still have to get a bit involved so obviously I’m a little bit more hands-off with the infrastructure stuff now because I’m so busy with the website and stuff and I’ve got someone to manage the IT infrastructure for me. So that basically brings us up to where we are.

There are lots of parallel engines running in your life, like no excuses, you keep on organising that event, then your own apparel brand – RadialLife, then you’re mentoring as well through yourself branded site. How do you get time, man?

It’s funny because I actually talk about some of the stuff in my courses because I’ve actually built something you’ve missed as well. I’ve actually built the courses to help other entrepreneurs and help other business owners and also help people with their personal life and help people that even are working for someone else that wants that promotion or something. So that’s a really good question and something that I try to help people with a lot.
Obviously, there’s a lot of work. Obviously, you can’t work 100 hours a day. You’re going to end up being sick. I find that I do things to make sure that I can manage my day properly. I do a lot of goal setting, a lot of priority setting, and I’ll basically tackle certain priorities at certain times of the day. So if I say to you my best, most performance part of the day is 11:00, then I’ll hit my most important part, like the important task of the day at 11:00. So that way I can just block it out. And right now, my phone’s on. Do not disturb. Same kind of thing. I know what customers are calling me, but sometimes it’s okay to have a phone on Do Not Disturb. Typically customers are okay to wait half an hour and they understand when you’re good at something that it actually takes a little bit of time.
So I found that structuring my day really well, writing down what I need to do for the day, making sure that I can set a priority on those tasks and then getting those tasks done. But one thing is like you mentioned, because there’s so many different areas, it can be really hard because you just feel like you’re changing gears all day. You might be working on a complex infrastructure problem, then you’ve got complex SEO problems and you’ve got dealing with people for merchandise, clothing, and drag racing events and stuff like that. So as soon as you know, you pick up the phone for someone talking about RadialLife for merchandise or drag racing events and you’ve got this complex code in your head, or you’ve got something complex in your head, you’re talking about a network topology for a customer. It literally can throw you out a little bit. So you’ve really got to get your train of thought and spend time just understanding mentally how to reset. Because if you pick up the phone and you’re deep into something, you can really throw off track.
And what I found is I make sure that I go for walks every day. I don’t care how cold it is to make sure I go for walks every day. I make sure that I go out for a coffee every day or just get out of the house. I don’t really drink coffee, but I’ll have a charlotte or even a juice or something. I’ll make sure that I go for lunch as much as I can just to force myself to get out. And I think that as long as you get out of the office and you clear your head a little bit, an hour here and there, half an hour here and there, I don’t think anyone is upset if you don’t call them back straight away. My customers understand that he’s busy and he’s got things to do. Got a team behind us as well to do stuff. I think it’s just about keeping yourself fresh, healthy, good food, and a mental good positive mindset.

Let’s talk about NGITC. You’re doing website design development a lot on that front. SEO again is a big part of service, and I would love to know, when it comes to website development, which platforms do you leverage, you like working with, or developing for your clients?

Yeah, I’ve really gotten attached to WordPress and Shopify, and I’ll start with WordPress first. The reason why I like WordPress, it’s quite funny because typically people have the wrong impression about WordPress, and the reason why they got the wrong impression about WordPress is because so many I’m going to say web designers out there. Right.
Because one of the issues and I think we’ll talk about this a bit later, but one of the issues we have in the industry is a lot of people work a full-time job, and then someone will call him a friend and say, hey man, I’ve got like a building company. Can you build me a website? And because this guy’s got a full-time job earning good money already, he just goes, yeah, $1,000, or whatever it is, and I’ll get it done for you. And the problem is because this guy’s got a boss, he can never deliver that website. One, he never delivers a website. Two, he uses a basic template or copies another customer’s website. Three, that he doesn’t ask the customer what they want. Four, he doesn’t spend enough time researching, developing, all this kind of stuff.
So when we started doing WordPress, we started doing something very different, where we give like a three mock-up design where the customer can go, oh wow, now I can actually see what I’m getting.And then the good thing about those mock-up designs is the customer can actually leave a comment on that.
They can pick their favourite design and say, leave a comment on the design. They can sit down and have a marketing meeting. Hi, Paul. I love it. Just change photos, colour changes, text, and it’s really collaborative. And we found that working with customers in a really collaborative way they really appreciate it. Because one of my biggest struggles is when I started next gen, the first thing I said to people when they wanted a website, what happened with your old website? Because you get a lot of redesigns and they’re like, my web designer just gave me this and I don’t like it. And this happened time and time again, and it was my aim to stop that happening.
I don’t want to just give you a website. I want to give you an experience where you can sit with us and you can get what you want. And that’s what I tell people. I tell people all the time. I say, Give us a 50% deposit to start. I don’t want the other 50% until it’s completed. Because you won’t not be happy. Because at the end of the day, you’ve signed off on it for you to sign off on it. You’re happy with our job. You’ve agreed on it, you’ve ticked off on it. We don’t just give you a website.
So we’ve never once we’ve built hundreds of websites, don’t even know how many we’ve built, and we’ve never once had a customer not pay the next 50%, because they’re always happy with what we built from. Because I make sure in our mockup phase that they are 100% happy before we go ahead. So that’s one thing I like about WordPress. We don’t just use templated stuff out there. We actually do a proper design and we’re priced accordingly to make sure that’s done. We also make sure that we code each section so that the whole website, the usability, is properly mobile friendly, so it actually works contextually when you load it on a phone, works on whatever browser you use it on. We don’t just do these backyard jobs where people just use a cheap website.
We make sure that everything works properly, so it’s a user experience that’s optimised and customers want to be on it, want to stay on it. It’s quick and converts from there for a brand-building exercise, or even convert to the contact page or call them. So that’s one reason why I like WordPress. And then we came across Shopify, which is how old Shopify is? I don’t even know how old it is. But Shopify hasn’t been around that long in the scheme of things, right? What, ten years, eight years? I don’t know, something like that. And then we came across Shopify and I was like, wow, I really like this. Shopify is great. So we realised that there’s two things in Shopify that I like. One thing is us as an agency, can build a website if someone wants a professional website.But a good thing is if you actually get a customer that hasn’t got the budget and has got a new product that they want to actually scale in the market and they don’t know what they’re going to do with sales, they can actually build their own Shopify store which is great because they can do the basic design and layout. And I’ve told some of my customers, like, look, if you really don’t have the money, build it yourself first. And I’ve actually got a course on how people can build it for a pretty cheap price, so they can do A to Z.
I’m getting the store built, and then once it’s built, if that product actually takes off and you make X amount of money, come to us and we’ll rebuild it for you and make it look professional. So that’s the reason why I like Shopify. It makes things so easy for people to use, it’s so easy for customers to add products. And I typically give everyone like an hour of training on how to use the back end. And it’s quite funny because by the time we’ve gone, just say I’m building their website from Shopify. By the time I’ve gone from step one to step ten or whatever it is, to get the whole website designed and developed, by the time we’re ready to go live, I typically sit down for the training. All right, what do you need to know? And they’re like, I just taught everything myself. Because over the time of looking at the back end and having the products in that they’ve literally already taught themselves how to add a discount code, how to add products, how to do all that stuff. We do all the hard stuff.
We’ll do all the shipping, we’ll do all the payment gateways, we’ll do all the hard stuff, or anything custom coded wise, or anything to do with the sign. And I do the easy stuff. And I really like Shopify because it helps the customer save money. And we’re all about people saving money. We don’t want to take a lot of money. We want to make sure that we’ve got a relationship with that customer for a long time, because we want to be there to support that customer throughout the whole lifecycle of the business. We don’t want to be one of these web designers or agencies, do a one off job for them and never see them again.We want to make sure that we’re there for the long run of that customer to keep them happy and align with their web design or digital goals in the future.

During your design stage be that be Shopify or WordPress, you do take care of the mobile aspect a lot, which is fair and makes a lot of sense, because Google shifting towards mobile indexing, all of those things happening. Google kind of likes prioritising mobile sites, so that makes good sense. Any other SEO factor that you consider apart from mobile first during the development stage, please let us know.

It’s pretty funny because a lot of times when we take over new customers, or when we take over a customer that has been going elsewhere, for SEO, it’s 2022. I still see people without secure certificates. I still see websites with no HTTPS, and I’m like, how are you surviving with no certificate in this day and age? People don’t want to give their credit cards over. It’s something that’s not secure. Google, it’s a big ranking factor. That’s probably one of the biggest things that I still see today that people that aren’t doing right, they’re not even buying a certificate, which at the end of the day, it’s cheap to buy a certificate. You don’t even spend much money on it. I think another factor a lot of people don’t realise is typically they’ll start a new business, and I wanted to rank on Google day one, and they don’t realise it’s actually a long time process.
So SEO is a time game, but more importantly, the domain name. They bought the domain name yesterday, and they want it to rank today. And we know that a domain name doesn’t rank overnight. It needs to have some history or some age with Google. So we try and buy aged domain names where we can. Or typically if a customer calls me and says, hey, I’m about to start this business in six months time, I’m not ready to commit yet financially. I’m like, stop buying the domain name right now while I’m on the phone. A domain name is literally in Australia, it’s $14. So if you’re not willing to put $14 aside for a domain name six months before you’re going to start the business, that can be the difference between a ranking quicker and later. And I’ve told all my customers this when they ring me from that first day of concept phase of them starting their business by the domain name straight away, just get it once you know what the name is going to be, buy it and get that in place.

I know that you mainly cater to SMEs, is that the only criteria, ideal client qualifiers, or do you look into other factors before getting a client on board?

Yeah, look, we are pretty boutique. We like working with clients that actually want to develop, want to grow, and want to scale. We don’t want to really work with someone who just we won’t work with someone who goes, I just want something quick and cheap. As soon as they say to me, I just want something quick and cheap, I’m like, we’re not for you because we’re not quick and cheap, because we do a proper job. And I don’t want to put my name on something that’s not right. I’d rather not do it because what I’ve found in the past is I’ve actually had customers come to me and they’ve gone the quick and cheap path, and they haven’t even been able to put their website on live because it actually makes their business look worse. We’re a bad website that actually hurts your business.
When people jump online and see this business that looks like it’s been put together really poorly. It’s going to give them a negative experience and give them a negative. Why would I want to spend my money with you when you’re not even spending your money in X, Y, and Z places when your competitor is? So I typically tell people we don’t do quick and cheap work. If you tell me, hey, I’ve got a website today, I need it tomorrow, we literally can’t help you. We’ve got a process to follow, and our process is strict because we need to make sure our quality is right and everything is right.
I don’t want to give you a website and then you go to me, hey, what the hell is this? This is a mess. We won’t do that. Other web designers do, and I won’t put my name against that. So we do actually qualify our clients. We don’t just take on work. We actually make sure that those clients we actually make sure, one, we’ve got room to work with our clients because we’re quite busy. So we’re very boutique and we can’t always take clients. There have been times where we’ve had to reject clients, but we also understand that we want to work with clients that actually understand our vision and want to grow with us and want their business to scale, not just a quick, cheap, and basic job. We’re not about that.

Let’s talk about your client journey. What exactly the first 30 days looks like in your organisation from a client’s perspective altogether, and what all good programs do you have for your customer retention? I mean, in the agency business, that is something that I feel is a very slippery edge altogether. And your churn rate in marketing agencies is pretty high. If you’re running a SasS, your churn rate would be 3 to 4%. Maybe if you’re doing a poor job 10%, but not more than that, but exactly opposite in an agency business, like I’ve seen a churn rate of 50%, 60%. How do you deal with those situations and what are good programs you have to get your customers engaged?

Yeah, I think one thing that people forget is that a customer actually becomes a friend at the end of the day. They’re not just customers to us. We actually see them as friends. We keep in touch with our customers like we would with our friends. We talk to them, we go out for dinner here and there. We make sure that we have a great relationship, because, again, we’re about building a long-term relationship. We don’t want just quick website development. We want to make sure that we’re there for the long run with our customers. So early on in the relationship with a new customer, we make sure that we keep the communication nice and clear, keep the communication channels open, and reach out to the customer if they need help.
I understand that customers are busy sometimes, and they don’t have time to reply. Just make sure that you’re following up with emails every couple of weeks just to make sure, hey, Matt, for example, haven’t forgotten about you. Whenever you get a chance, just reach out back to us. Whenever the customers got time. I find in the digital marketing game, they’ll normally contact you outside of their business hours because if they’re a trade, for example, or they get a business to run nine to five, they’re so busy with their business, they don’t normally ring until six or seven anyway, or maybe even 5:30, where they say, hey, Paul, sorry I’ve been so busy, I’ve now got time to call you.
So I feel like once you build that relationship with your customer, there’s a lot more trust. And then to seal that trust off, do a good job. At the end of the day, if you’re not doing a job, they’re not going to trust you. So I feel like over time they see the work you’re doing. And especially when I said to you. We do a mockup phase process and stuff like that. After about two weeks from starting a web design. And they can see the mock-ups and they can see things that start to happen and they get excited. And they start getting emotionally attached to that job because they’re like. Well. Now I’m seeing a vision of my business. And I feel like that sort of helps us build the relationship because they sort of understand, okay, these guys are on the right track of listening to my project scope. And typically when we build a mock up, we’re pretty much 90% there with what the customer wants. We’re close.
Sometimes we even bang on the first go. Sometimes there’s one or two times that we’ll go back to the customer and get it exactly right. But some customers can be really fussy, and so they should be. And it’s really good because they can actually see what they’re getting. And I really like the fact that we build that journey with them. So that’s what I think is the key is communication and relationships and then moving forward to keep that relationship is bringing value to the customer, sending out tips and tricks, keeping in touch with the customer, sending out improvements. Like, we will randomly just send them out random improvements. Hey, your website has been writing great this month. There are a few improvements we recommend doing X, Y, and Z.
We’ve already done all the research for them. All they need to do is give us approval. And the fact that we do that for them, typically the customers like, wow, I didn’t even know that was a problem. Like, thanks for identifying it, because you can imagine that as a project manager as well. I’ve got project management back end. I’m always making sure that everything is aligned and things shouldn’t reach the customer. If we see a problem with something, we typically cut it off at the feet before it grows, and that way we can set up a customer. We saw this happening. This is what we’re suggesting to do to fix it. We just need your approval. We caught it nice and early. Let’s get that sorted. So that might be something with a Google update or something like that, or even just the change of content, the website change of traffic, or even some websites, for example, might be getting so much traffic that they may need to change server host. So we might need to optimise the speed of the website. So I feel like as long as you’re staying on the continual development life cycle of the digital marketing side, the customer is always happy.

You’re so big on the local SEO front. I would love to know your process. What are the steps that you take when you get an SEO client?

When we get an SEO client, there’s so much bad work out there, and I’m so surprised about how much bad work there is, how much bad and cheap work there is out there. So the first challenge is always aligning their expectations of price and the right way to do it.
For example, I get so many people coming to me going, hey, I’ve got this website. I’ve already got an SEO guy doing it. And I say, all right, cool. What are your agreed keywords? And I say the whole website. I said, no, it doesn’t work like that. What are the agreed keywords? And they’re like, the whole website. They’ve just SEOed it. That to me is a massive red flag. And I see this happen all the time. A lot of people will take their money and not do anything with it and just say they’re SEOing the whole website. But that’s actually not true.
You don’t just SEO a whole website unless you sit there and you come up with a list of agreed keywords. So the first thing we do is go, all right, let’s look at your website, let’s look at your competitors. Let’s talk about what services are important to you. Like, some businesses only have three or four services, or one or two services. That’s fine. Some businesses have 20 services. So we typically say to them, what is your most return on investment service? What do you make the most money from? And then we start with that service. So what we’ll do is we’ll do an analysis of their website keyword report on their website. We’ll do a full audit of their website, which shows them speeds, meta tags, image optimization, alt image text, all that kind of stuff backlinking, competitor backlinks, all that kind of stuff.
So we’ll basically sit down and bring this analysis to them. It does take us a little bit of time, because obviously we do so much in-depth work on making sure that report comes out correctly. And then what we do is just send it to the customer. We sat down with them. Sometimes I’ll even share something like a video so they can watch it at their own time and just say, this is what we suggest, this is what we’ve noticed. These are the keywords. This is where they currently rank. These are the high competitive keywords. These are the good ones to rank for. These are some long-term keywords that you probably haven’t thought about ranking for. And typically most customers are like, wow, this is way out of my depth, because their older agency didn’t do any of this for them.
And the first thing I tell them is and I even say to them, even if you’re not going to come to us for your SEO, make sure that whoever you go to is doing this for you. Don’t just go for the cheap guy that’s going to SEO your whole website, because that’s incorrect. Make sure that they’re following the processes. They’re Google Safe. Make sure they’re following all those technologies and processes so they’re not spammy, they’re not doing the wrong things. They’re not using malicious cheap backlinks, and they’re actually making your website rank and grow.

How frequently do you report to your customers? Monthly? Is it quarterly? How exactly does that happen?

Look, we do a monthly report, but we also do have incremental updates during the month. So if there’s been a recent Google update, which just happened recently, we’ll typically be in touch once a week or once every two weeks. Some customers decide to me, look, I don’t care, I don’t want to know. Just give me a monthly report. I’m happy. As long as I’m ranking good, I’m happy. But some customers are hands-on.
Some customers want to talk about keyword analysis. They want to talk in-depth about keywords. They want to talk about the stagnation of keywords. So once you start hitting position one, page one, and you’re basically at the top, what other things do we do then? Do we start implementing new keywords? Do we change the strategy? All these kinds of things. So it really just depends on the customer. Most of my customers are really understanding and they know we’re really good at what we do. And they sort of say, Paul, just do it. I don’t care, I don’t want to know. I’ll pay you.
I just want good service. And they do get good service, but you do get some customers that are really hands-on, and I really enjoy it because I enjoy educating them. And they may have what I say to them, for example, just say your industry is concrete, right? I said to them, look, your industry is concrete. You do your job great. If I want concrete, I will come to you. I want my driveway done. I’m not going to try and concrete it myself. I’m a technology guy. But when you need SEO, I’ll do that for you. Don’t try and do it yourself. Because I’ve had some customers that have tried to do things themselves and have bought cheap backlinks. Or they’ve gone to the wrong place. And they think that they can do it themselves. And they’ve actually basically caused more problems. Because if you spam your backlinks from high spam domain names. And then we have to go in through the Google console. Disavow those backlinks. And actually restructure the whole strategy. Which actually costs more time.
So they don’t understand about the main authority, they don’t understand about page authorities, they don’t understand about the technology behind SEO to actually make something great. So when we come into it, most of my customers are just like, this is over my head. I just want to see the result. And typically, if they were on page two before you take them on and you get them on page one in the first two months, they’re normally pretty happy. And then obviously, it’s our aim to try and get them in the top five and top three, and then obviously top one. And typically that comes down to budgeting as well, because you can’t get everyone on page one, position one, if they’ve got a small budget.
So obviously it depends on their budget and what we need to do to get there, especially in really high competition keywords, like you smash repairs, asbestos and all those kind of industries, because there’s so much competition, you might get one keyword with 7000 searches a month, and there just needs to be more money spent in guest posts and blogs and all the backlinking strategy. So that can be a little bit of a challenge sometimes, getting that over the customer to understand, yes, you have been spending this much, but this is what we need to do to get the keyword there. And in three or four months’ time, once the keywords are there, you’ll see the business slowly start going up with phone calls.

JPaul, just like you mentioned, Keyword rank tracking is one of the good KPIs that you report on. What are the other factors that you look into?

Yeah, look, I think another thing is a lot of people forget about his website speed as well. So we always make sure that the website is speed friendly, because that can happen over time where they’ve had a poor development done, or they’re just on bad hosting. So as a metric, we’re always looking at the speed of the website and making sure that that’s optimised, always making sure that the text is continually optimised. And sometimes that needs to be updated also with all the Google updates and stuff like that. So we’re always making sure that we’re aligned with anything that Google recommends as a safe SEO strategy, that we’re aligned with that, and we’re making sure that we’re holding those metrics accountable so that we can get the website to where it needs to be done in a safe and controlled manner.

Do you also keep track of goals on analytics or something on the search console front or the GMB?

Yeah, of course. Things that we look at too, is when we take on a customer, it’s quite funny because I had this customer come to me. This is directly related to your question. They came to me in November or December, and they were getting about 60 to 70 phone calls a month. I don’t even know what month it is, I’m that busy. We’ve got so much going on. So in June, and now in the last six months, they’ve gone from 60 to 70 phone calls a month to 150 to 180 phone calls a month since they’ve been on our SEO strategy. So we’ve doubled their phone calls. And I think the GMB is great because we can see the website clicks, we can see the phone call clicks, we can see the visitors on the website and just overall traffic.
So we can actually look and go. Before, the website was getting this many hits a day, now it’s getting this many hits a day or a month. It’s getting this many phone calls a month. And we can really measure those metrics just to make sure that we’re growing. And some customers, again, they’re just paying for SEO. They don’t really understand or really care. But once you actually sit down and go, you came to us in December or November with 60 to 70 phone calls a month, and now you’re getting 150 to 180, it blows their minds because I know it depends on the industry. Not all industries get that much. Some get more, some get less.
It really depends on the industry. But it really blows my mind, like, wow, no wonder I’ve been feeling like my phone going off the hook lately. And I simply laugh and go, Look, I’m going to say sorry, but I’m not actually sorry. I want to make your phone go off the hook. I actually want that to happen. I got to the stage where once I had a customer ring me and he said, paul, can you just stop doing what you’re doing? I said, well, like, if something happened to something wrong, he goes, I can’t keep up with the work. I laughed. That’s what I’m here for. I want you to not be able to keep up with the work because I want your business to grow. And what I want you to do is look at your business model now and transform that into where it needs to be in the next five years. So align yourself with the work that’s coming in and don’t be scared to take that chump if it works there, take it when you’re busy.
So it’s quite funny that that does happen with some customers, where they actually do get too busy and they panic a little bit and they’re like, oh, I can’t keep up. What should I do? What should I do? And that’s another thing we’ve got to work on. That is actually a challenge as much as having a bad website is having a website that’s doing so well. It’s getting so much traffic and so many phone calls that actually can disrupt their business to the point where their business may not align with the traffic that they’re actually getting there from their SEO strategy. And sometimes mentally they haven’t actually prepared or structured their business right to align with our growth.

What is the most important local ranking factor? So basically like the area you focus most on for your local customers.

I think what’s more really important here is just making sure we’re optimising the suburbs. So for example, if it’s trading, the suburbs are so important. For example, if they’re telling me that they want to get work around Chadstone, we’re just going to make sure that we optimise suburbs around Chadstone and make sure that we’ve got a proper landing page for each suburb. And then we can bring in multiple keywords, different landing pages depending on the suburbs. So what we typically do is we’ll look at Chadstone for a hub, for example, if Chadstone gets this many hits a month.
For a certain past, we’ll just use concrete, because it’s a good example. We’ll say concrete driveways Chadstone might get 70 or 80 hits a month. So we’ll use that as a hub. And then we’ll start to optimise the suburbs around there. Because you might get ten or 20 searches a month, but all those little jobs, you get one job, one job here, one job there in those little local suburbs. And that really helps optimise the local strategy. So suburb, then we start going a little bit further. We start going to places like Melbourne and then we go a little bit further to Victoria and then we go to Australia. So you’ve got your local, you’ve got your suburbs and your local, then you’ve got state and then you get national. So a little bit of a different process. Not everyone wants to be national. Some people do. It depends on the business.

That’s a wise strategy. A lot of businesses do miss out on creating those local pages altogether.

That’s a good point. Yeah, because what I find is people have forgotten about long tail keywords. They have. Because people are so obsessed with these keywords. Got 5000 searches a month. I have to rank page one for that. But I’m like, yes you do, I agree with you. But don’t forget about the long-term keywords.
Don’t forget about the ones that get 50 or 100 searches a month. Don’t forget because that’s still 50 people that are searching. It takes one customer to convert just one customer. And if you look at a concrete driveway, for example, you get one customer that comes through for a concrete driveway that you weren’t going to get. That’s your business right there, keeping your business surviving. So people always get the long tail, always want to go for the big complex ones. And I totally do agree in the long-term strategy, we go for the complex ones, but in the short-term strategy, we’ve always got to go for the long-term.

There’s also personalised content and location-specific content does have a better conversion rate compared to going broad. Local audiences would relate more to that.

It’s true. Because I want a photo printed, right, or something from a professional printer. And I look up printing Chadstone and I land on their website and I click contact us and they’re located on the other side of the city. I’m not going to go there. Right?
Because it’s like the location makes a big difference because if you have optimised the wrong suburbs to where your business is, you’re not going to get the foot traffic. You’re exactly right. So you’re going to make sure that you’re optimising the foot traffic that you can actually service. So that’s a big part of the strategy.
There’s no point sending traffic to another suburb if it’s not going to align with what you do. And it’s quite good for people who like concrete because obviously they can travel. But if you’ve got a bricks and mortar business, you’re not typically going to get someone driving 45 minutes to an hour to get your photo printed when they can get ten minutes down the road. So that’s why location is so important and people always forget about it.

Let’s talk about a few local SEO hacks that you feel that every business should use in order to basically boost their Google my business page rankings and get more calls, more benefit out of it.

Yeah, I think, look, making sure that you’ve got blogs happening. So a lot of people, some of my customers like it, we obviously blog for our customers. Some of my customers love blogging themselves. And that’s great. I like blogging myself as well. I’ve got my own blog. I think blogging in the long run can bring some really good traffic. It’s quite funny that you mentioned the whole GMB or the Google Business profile.
I’ve actually met a lot of customers that don’t even know that they exist. They don’t even know how to even set that up. And it’s quite funny because we typically just set it up for free here. We just do it for them. But companies charge quite a lot of money for something that really only takes ten minutes to set up. And it’s just really to set up the GMB business page with the Google Business profile. It doesn’t take too long, obviously, unless you’re doing an SEO strategy and tying that in. But typically if they just need a Google Business page, we just set it up for them. Here you go. You’ve got it.
I was having breakfast with someone on Saturday, and he’s another business owner and he’s only pretty new, and he said, how do I get my business listing on there? I just got to set up a business listing with Google. And we did it over breakfast together. He just went on his phone next and set it up. And I said, they’re going to send you a postcard now, and they’re going to verify the business. So I feel like businesses don’t even know that exists. And sometimes they engage an SEO guy just to get a business listing, and the SEO guy doesn’t do anything else and charges them monthly, and all they’ve done is set up a Google business profile.
So that’s something that I find can be a big problem. So yeah, understanding that, making sure that you’re posting on that page as well, your GMB or your Google business profile, making sure that you’re actually posting on it as well, just to make sure that you’re actually getting fresh in people’s minds. And then obviously you can use other off SEO tactics like your social media and stuff like that, to then bring that in as a whole strategy. You should basically have your whole strategy with the SEO and your social media and your website. You have your website in the middle as a heartbeat, and everything should be feeding into that website.

What exactly is the timeline that you promise to your customers to see good results when it comes to local SEO, and specifically in the cases when you’re starting from scratch like the business is new and you’re taking it off?

It’s such a good question because typically when someone realises they need to do SEO, because they start realising, my competitors doing so well because they’re doing SEO typical time, they’ve actually realised that it might have taken them two or three months, they want it done tomorrow.
So typically they’re like, is that going to rank next week? But especially when the domain is new, we can’t even see three or four months before it starts ranking really good. Typically within the first couple of months, it does come through the ranking pretty quick because we’re pretty good the way we do it. We make sure we do it in an SEO-friendly way or Google-friendly way, but I normally tell them four or five months at least to get it to a good place and even longer. So sometimes four or five months are in a good spot, but then you’ve got month after month after month after that. It does take some time. Sometimes customers come to me. Hey, we’ve been doing this for a month, what’s happening? We’re not on page one yet. But it’s such a long process because Google doesn’t want people to rank overnight. They want to make sure that they’re ranking the right websites that are spending the right money in the right areas with the speed and all that is there, like over 200 factors to make a website rank even more so if you’re not aligned with all those factors, how do you expect your website to rank?
And that’s the main age and authority and backlinking and blog posting and credit notability all that kind of stuff. It takes a long time when customers are really unaligned because they typically get an SEO guy telling them, I promise you position one, rank one, results. We never promise because you can’t promise it. And there’s so much fluctuation with keywords that we might have you on page one, position one today, and tomorrow you might be pushed on position two. And our job is to keep fighting that. We see fluctuations between one and three all the time, and that’s normal. And that’s what customers don’t realise because they’re not watching their Google rankings, for starters. And secondly, they’re not doing the right things, as in checking it from an incognito mode. It’s quite funny talking about this.
I still never forget this day. I went to this customer and told them that I bet the Google ranks. And they said, oh, look, we rank page one. And they just pulled it up on their thing. And I said, you don’t, because what you’re doing is Googling your business name, which no one does. No one Googles your business name if you’re a concreter, no one’s googling Harry And Bob’s Concreting, for example. They’re looking at concrete Chadstone or concrete driveway Chadstone, right. So I’ve had a few customers come to me, I rank first. And I’m like, we actually don’t, because one, you’re not using incognito mode. You’re actually just doing it through your normal browser, which has got cache on it and remembers your favourite website to go to. And two, no one knows your business name, so you need to actually rank for a keyword.

Let’s talk about the most successful case studies you’ve posted so far and some of the metrics behind it that made you conclude the success story.

I had a customer that sells a certain product, and this particular product, he was selling 10 or 15 of them a year. And then he engaged us to do the job. And I said, Look, I don’t know anything about SEO, but I’m going to give it a try. And he went from selling 10 to 15 a year to selling 90 to 120 of them a year. So if his sales have gone up that much over the last couple of years, just don’t forget there’s one thing you can remember. SEO will increase your traffic. It will increase your business. You’ll definitely get sales. But from your SEO, you also then get word of mouth. You get repeat business as well. So someone might find you on Google, and as a part of that, they might actually go and tell ten of their friends, hey, I found such and such. And they did a really good job. And then that SEO traffic actually turns the word of mouth traffic and turns the SEO traffic.
Do you know what I mean? So it’s actually a whole strategy that works around everything. And this is where it’s quite important because he may sell 90 to 100 or 120 of them, and seven or eight of them might have come from Google. Some of them might have actually come from his Google customers that have actually told other people as well. So there’s actually some word of mouth in there as well, which is really important.
No one can discredit word of mouth. Word of mouth is by far the best way to get business. We all understand that. But Google ranking is so important because it will pick up those customers that didn’t know you and then can turn more word-of-mouth traffic as well. People tell people when someone does a good job, people tell people they do. When someone says, hey man, who did your website, they’re always going to tell them, I had a really positive experience with Paul. Use them. That’s what’s going to happen.

You’ve been dealing with a lot of eCommerce sites specifically on Shopify, and I would love to know your take. When it comes to SEO friendliness, I know, Shopify has evolved over the years. But what are the good things that you like about Shopify and some of the cons?

I’m going to start with the cons. I get people coming to me, customers coming to me, and they’ve got the cheapest, worst template in the world. So Shopify is very template heavy. And I understand that we can custom code, that’s fine. But if you actually buy a good template, they’re actually optimised quite well, right? Typically you can modify the template to make it a little bit quicker. What I’ve noticed is a lot of people come to me with the cheapest, cheapest or free template, and that’s just not going to rank. It’s just like having a Wix website or a Squarespace website. It’s just not optimised. So that’s probably one of the biggest cons I typically get. I’m like, look, we need to redesign this, retemplate it, get that happening.
But I think that Shopify is pretty good because it uses a CDN. So typically it’s already got a CDN in there. Obviously, WordPress doesn’t do that by default. And there’s a bit of a strategy you’ve got to put in place to speed up your website. So Shopify is pretty good when it comes to speed, and it’s really good for working from a user experience point of view. I find that the customer might land on the website, but then the user experience is what converts that sale. Rather than say, and don’t get me wrong, don’t discredit a WooCommerce store, because WooCommerce is great when it’s done right. People’s WooCommerce stores fail, WordPress WooCommerce stores fail because they don’t develop in the right way or don’t spend the right attention.
If you don’t have an IT team to manage your WooCommerce store, your WordPress eCommerce store, Shopify is the way to go 100%. But if you had an internal team of say one or two IT guys and they can continually update, maintain continually make sure that website is actually optimised, WooCommerce is a really great alternative to Shopify 100%.
I always prefer Shopify because it’s quick, easy and it does what it needs to do. But I’m not discrediting WooCommerce at all because when done right, it is actually very powerful. People need to understand that you need to spend time on it, you need to keep maintaining it. And what I tell people is this is the back end of your business. Stop discrediting your website, stop saying I don’t want to spend money on my website, when that’s what brings you the business. I’ve got eCommerce owners out there that are going, I don’t want to spend money on my website. But that’s where your income comes from.
No matter what you do on your social media marketing, no matter what you do on your SEO, no matter what you do here and there, if your website is not going to convert sales, we can get you as many leads as you want, but they’re not going to convert unless your website allows them to convert and has the right user experience behind it. Sends off, for example, has remarketing to do with improved coverage store offerings like automatic discounts and offering free things as a part of spend X and Get X kind of thing. So there’s a lot of other strategies you can do with Shopify nice and easily. Someone with barely any IT knowledge can jump in once we build a website and can really maintain and grow that Shopify store themselves, which I love. I love people saving money and I love saving people money. I do.

Let’s talk about one of the horror stories. You’ve been in the agency business for a long time now. I’m sure that’s something that happens quite a lot. Any hard-learned lesson from that?

I think probably the worst that can happen is sometimes, as I’ve said to you before, which is concrete as an example because it’s a good one. If I want a concrete driveway and you’re a concreter, I come to you because you’re good at what you do. Sometimes people try to modify their website themselves and they can crash it. It’s actually happened to a new customer I’ve just taken over where they’ve tried to update it before I touch their website. They’ve actually tried to update it themselves and they’ve updated WordPress plugins and have crashed the whole website.
Now their sales tool in the back, which is their website, the heartbeat of their business was down, so they’ve come to us to fix that. So sometimes I tell people, yes you can get in the back and yes you can do stuff, but be careful, especially when it comes to WordPress, Shopify is pretty good because people are careful. Adding and removing products is pretty simple, but WordPress can be quite complicated and people don’t realise that plugins are really powerful. They either build your website or they can make your website crash. And that happens all the time. When someone goes into the back end and they think, oh, I’ll save myself some money, I’ll just go update the plugins and crash, it’s gone. And with that, one thing we do is we give them a staging site as well when they work with us. So they’ve got a staging site.
Like, especially for the complex ones, they’ve got a staging site. So if we need to implement plugin updates, we can implement it in a staging site first, test it in an offline environment that still is like a live environment, that they’re not going to impact their sales. And once we make sure that we’ve got those plugins 100%, we can get approval and get them in the live environment rather than just going like a cowboy and just updating.
All of my websites crashed. What do I do now? Think about it. If you’ve got a website where they’re spending 20, $30,000 a month in marketing, especially Facebook ads, and they update their own website and drop it, that website might take a day or two to get back online if it’s that badly crashed, if there’s no backup. And they’ve made a lot of changes in the meantime, some of them, it’s hard to even restore a backup because there’s always so many changes in the eCommerce websites. You do need that staging website for the testing and stuff, so things take time. And I think I’ve always got to align customers that way and be careful what you’re doing on your website because you may have access, but you also can break your whole infrastructure.

I think we’re coming to an end here, bro. Let’s do a quick rapid fire. Are you ready for that? What was your last impulse buy?

I haven’t actually impulse-bought anything in ages because I’ve just been working so much, I haven’t really bought anything. And typically anything I buy is for the business, for anything good for the business. So I actually haven’t bought anything myself in a while and it’s something that I need to do. So thanks for reminding me because that’s very important. I need to go buy something. I’m going to put that in my notes on my phone.

What’s your last Google search?

We’ve only recently done it. I’ve obviously been working on my own strategies while I’m with the blog articles and that. So I’ve been working on my own optimizations and stuff like that as well. So I probably was working on that just before this call, I think.

Who’s your inspiration and why?

Not that I don’t look up to people, but I kind of look abroad at a lot of entrepreneurs and take notes from all the big entrepreneurs. I look at Gary Vee, Elon Musk, all those kinds of guys. I look at what they do. Not that it’s not an inspiration, because they are, but I don’t get to the point where I fixate on them because what I find is people do wrong if they fixate on things and then they actually make themselves feel worse.
So what I try to do is take value from all those people. What are they doing that’s valuable to me? But I also don’t get caught up with stopping looking at people’s lifestyles and making you feel like crap. Because people do. They look at people like, man, how come I don’t have that? And they get depressed. Let’s face it, there’s not many billionaires in the world. It’s hard to become a billionaire. And I feel like if you inspire too much to be them, you’ve also got to keep you a level headed. So I get inspired by them, but I don’t try to be like them. I just maybe will listen to what they say and I’ll take some of their good advice and implement it in myself.

Is anything new professionally happening in your life?

Just that’s probably the newest thing that I’ve been working on because I’ve only got the courses launched a month ago. So that’s probably the newest thing that I’ve got going on in my personal business. That’s new. Obviously, I’ve got a motivation mindset and productivity course, which is doing really well at the moment. I think it’s about a month old, and we already hit over 100 subscribers in the first couple of weeks. So I’m really happy with that.
Things are doing really well in that case. And it’s good because we’re actually getting really good feedback on where people are going, well, I didn’t even know this, or I didn’t even think of this. And we charge 29.95 AUD a month, and it’s under $7 a week. And I always tell people, speak to your accountant, because you may actually be able to claim it as training as well. So if you can claim it as training, if your accountant allows it and you can get value from it and it’s only costing you 29.95 a month, hey, what can I say? You’re improving your business, you’re improving your job, you’re improving your personal lifestyle for a cup of coffee a week.

If you could be anywhere in the world, where would you be?

I’ve thought about this so many times. See, I overcomplicate everything because I don’t know exactly where I’d rather be than Australia. I love Australia, but I love Bali. I love America. So the only thing that stops me from wanting to go to America is the healthcare system is obviously not like Australia because Australia, we’ve got Medicare.
So that’s somewhere where I’m always not sure if I want to be there. But I love Bali and I love America, and want to go back to my hometown in Greece or Italy because I’m half Greek Italian. So I’d love to go to summer in Europe as well. But you know what it’s like being a business owner. It’s so hard to holiday because you’re always so busy doing things yourself.

Actually, you are a social butterfly now. Being on TikTok.

Yeah, Tik Tok is doing really well. I’m really enjoying TikTok.

Coming to my last question, what’s one thing you would change about yourself?

I’d probably stop being so hard on myself because I am always my own toughest critic. And even when I was working in big companies, I remember being at a Fortune 500 company, and my boss turned around to me, going, Paul, you did an amazing job. And I’m just sitting there like this. He’s like, what’s wrong? I’m like, I could have done better. He sat there and praised me, hey, Paul, you got promoted. You got promoted to senior. I’m like, I could have done better.
I feel like I don’t praise myself for the work I do, and I know we do good work. I don’t get wrong. I do know we do good work, but I’m always my own worst enemy. I’m like, I did my own devil’s advocate, or I’m like, But I could have done this better. I could have done that better. So I feel like stopping so hard on yourself, and I feel like a lot of people are like that, too. One thing I’ve got to do is stop being so hard on myself and actually look at the positives and celebrate them. Celebrate the wins.

Yeah, that’s true. Definitely being hard on yourself gives you a lot more push, but appreciating all the good things as well is important.

It’s not good for your mental health. Like, if you’re hard on yourself, in all honesty, it’s really not good for your mental health. And over time, one thing I’ve done to myself is taught myself how to manage my emotions. That’s good. But it also comes with negatives as well. So if you’re not letting yourself become emotional about things, it can actually turn you into a bit of a robot as well.
So you want to make sure that while you’re maintaining your emotions, you’re not blocking them right out and becoming robot-like, you also want to be a human as well. So that’s definitely something to think about.

Thank you so much, brother. I really appreciate all the time, and all the wisdom that you shared in today’s session, and wish you all the good luck.

Thanks, Mate! Same to you. Appreciate it.

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