EP 48 - Jason Berkowitz - SEO is Not Dead: Why SEO is Still a Crucial Part of Digital Marketing

Awesomers Authority - We'll talk to subject matter experts that talk about various topics that would be of interest to other Awesomers who are listening including, but not limited to, starting a business, running a business, best marketing ideas, sourcing in China, organizational development, tools to help your business be more profitable and much more.
Since 2009, Jason has been an active leader in the New York City digital marketing community, founding two successful firms, Break The Web & SEO Services New York. Since inception, Jason has managed marketing campaigns for some of the most significant brands in the world and carries a unique philosophy when it comes to campaign success. On his spare time, Jason can be found falling from the sky as an amateur skydiver.

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SEO is Not Dead: Why SEO is Still a Crucial Part of Digital Marketing

A successful SEO campaign can deliver more traffic, increase customer and leads as well as help your business get to the next level.

Today’s Awesomers guest is Jason Berkowitz, founder of Break The Web and SEO Services New York. Jason has managed marketing campaigns for some of the world’s most significant brands. Here are more key points on today’s episode:

  • What is NLP (Natural Language Processing).

  • How to keep up with Google's ever changing algorithm.

  • Why Amazon can be following a similar path to Google in regards to customer and search experience.

  • What to do if your website is not ranking.

So listen to today’s episode and learn expert insights about SEO and Digital Marketing and how it can help your business.

Welcome to the Awesomers.com podcast. If you love to learn and if you're motivated to expand your mind and heck if you desire to break through those traditional paradigms and find your own version of success, you are in the right place. Awesomers around the world are on a journey to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. We believe in paying it forward and we fundamentally try to live up to the great Zig Ziglar quote where he said, "You can have everything in your life you want if you help enough other people get what they want." It doesn't matter where you came from. It only matters where you're going. My name is Steve Simonson and I hope that you will join me on this Awesomer journey.


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01:53 (Steve introduces today’s guest, Jason Berkowitz.)

Steve: You're listening to the Awesomers.com podcast episode number 48 in our growing series. Our daily drops are just keep adding up, don't they? Our tradition as we've established over these last 48 episodes. All you have to do is go to Awesomers.com/48 to see relevant show notes and details and perhaps even a link or twos that we throw in. Sometimes we're forgetting the links. If you notice that by the way just go to our page and comment, leave us the contact form and leave us a comment tell us what we did right or tell us what we did wrong. Either way we welcome your feedback. Now today my special guest is Jason Berkowitz. And I really enjoyed my conversation with Jason because we got into some of the nitty-gritty and some of the history behind SEO. Now a little background on Jason, little context. Since 2009 Jason has been an active leader in the New York City Digital Marketing Community. Founding two successful firms, Break The Web and SEO services New York. Since the inception, Jason has managed marketing campaigns for some of the most significant brands of the world. And he carries a unique philosophy when it comes to campaign success. In his spare time Jason could be found falling from the sky as an amateur skydiver. This is not a chicken little story. We definitely are not worried about anything fallen from the sky. And we talked about in the episode SEO is alive and well. And I believe that some of the techniques that the Jason shares and some of the concepts that he shares within this will be very instructive to any digital marketer or E-commerce entrepreneur or really any offspring who wants to understand the internet in general out there. Hello Awesomers, it’s Steve Simonson and I'm back again. And today we're gonna talk a little bit about a classic ancient art of SEO and I've got Jason Berkowitz on the line with me. Jason how are you?

03:09 (Jason starts to talk.)

Jason: Doing great, Steve. How about yourself?

Steve: I'm good but myself and my audience would like to know how did I do on your name. Do I get the pronunciation right? Because I…

Jason: You got it right. It's usually the telemarketers from third world countries that usually butcher it. For some folks they like to reference the Son of Sam.

Steve: I was wondering how many minutes it would take to get to the Son of Sam reference but here we are. I love it. So the reality is most of those telemarketers for me seem to be calling on behalf of the IRS and they're doing me the favor of letting the IRS is about to send the police to my house to get the money from me. I don't know if you've had this. Always crazy. Was just simply  load up some apple gift cards for at the target store. I go down in target, I put on Apple gift card together and that's how I pay the IRS. And I can do it all online.

Jason: The IRS also hires like professional voice overs and people that genuinely sound like like robots of sorts like a futuristic. They really got it together.

Steve: I thought it was the new and cool IRS having the robots that call you. But yes it's a really rampant problem out there. I don't know about you but I'm getting hit what telemarketers four or five, six times a day at this stage. Are you getting the same kind of thing?

Jason: Both on a personal and business level. They're calling up business lines, the emails from those in Spain especially from “SEO” companies that claim they can rank us on page one of Google. Well we're already on page one of Google. So that I was doing research, maybe a little bit but yes those IRS calls I'm getting a lot of my personal phone. About student loans that we can help recover your student loans. Thankfully took care of mine a long time ago. Professional level, you get a lot of IT calls. People in IT hosting which, we're a remote agency not relevant at all.

Steve: So yes it's really, it's a shame and I'm taking us down a little rabbit hole here. But I think many of us can identify with this idea that our phone, in fact my phone rang not ten minutes ago. And happily I think it's t-mobile that I use and on it says scam likely right? So now I don't even pick up right. It's like I don't see the number it just says scam likely, it's like I'm skipping that one.

Jason: I've ever had those calls where they spook, they get really close to your number by like off by one or two digits. They're smart I'll give them that as people are gonna answer they're like wait what?

Steve: They are super smart. Very smart indeed. In fact I've had a variation of that where somehow they got a copy of a bank wire I had done. And they had made an email address that was very close to my email address, just off by a letter to send it to my bank as I can't, “Quick I need this wire to go to this bank.” You know instantly very insistent, very urgent and definitely not my normal voice. And my banker is like did you send me this email because this looks weird. And of course it was these brilliant scammers. In many ways they're quite brilliant but quite insidious and disgusting as well.

Jason: Creative.

Steve: Yes that's for sure. Alright well that's been our trip down a scammer lane. And now we're going to turn gears and talk a little bit about you. Now I've already read in a bio to the audience a little bit about your background and so forth. But maybe in your own words, you could kind of tell us who you are and what you do?

6:32 (Jason talks about his origin story.)

Jason: So me personally, I am an SEO specialist that's what my experiences in regards to search engine optimization but I also operate an inbound marketing agency that focuses on traffic generation for companies of all different sizes we offer. SEO is our primary core service offerings with various systems of processes that I've really built out for the agency, paid media, Google, Facebook ads and PR are some or a big assets and core services that we offer.

Steve: Well that's a full service for sure. So in the show notes to everybody we're gonna put in these websites. But I want to call out SEOservicesnewyork.org is the SEO company is that fair to say?

Jason: Yes, there's a little bit of a backstory to that domain but we all know it's easy. Some people know especially if they're learning about us. That it's easier to rank on Google when your domain name is the search term you ultimately want to go for. So back in about 2010 that's exactly what I did and happens to be a huge traffic driver for us. So we continue to hold on to it and the problem is it’s not very brandable. Can't really make a company called SEO services New York, kind of sounds stupid. So we have our parent company which is Break the Web, breaktheweb.org.

Steve: Yes. I love the breaktheweb.org that conjures up all of those the viral videos right. They broke the web right? So that's a very clever agency name and I think checking out both of those sites is worth it to the customers out there. Just to kind of understand some of the background and some of the services offered. But yes, let's talk about SEO a little bit. And actually I'm going to tease this. So where to cut to a break but I've read a bunch of articles over the past five plus years that pronounced SEO dead. And I can't wait to talk to you about that and get your opinion. We're gonna do that right after this break.


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Steve: Hey we're back again everybody. Steve Simonson and I'm joined today again by Jason Berkowitz. And I just dropped the bomb on him. Maybe he didn't know but all of the not all of the meeting, but many media many bloggers, many Talking Heads have pronounced the SEO is dead. And maybe I'm the one breaking the bad news to Jason. What’s on you Jason?

Jason: Yes. As you just mentioned it. I actually just sent an email to our head of operations and unfortunately I said sorry.

Steve: So tell us how this this idea got started, that SEO is dead. And then and what you guys think about that today?

Jason: Was a couple of thoughts behind that whole SEO is dead movement. If you want to even call it that outside of big major publications. Usually people that are cleaning SEO is dead are trying to sell another traffic related service. Where they can bring me traffic whether it's LinkedIn ads, paid media, real-time bidding all the different sorts of marketing tactics are out there. So that's usually one side of the spectrum that's the SEO is dead. Maybe another side of the spectrum is that SEO is not like it used to be back in the day. SEO was very easy to do, click of a button you rank in two weeks max and it was just spam sent spam. And it's really not the same anymore and it has changed. And made SEO campaigns a lot harder to implement or even execute. And for that reason people who are now willing to adapt or evolve as the marketing tactic evolves they say it's dead. It's too much work, too much time, too much resources involved, it's stupid and then for what for Google to be just pushing ads as much as possible. And be buried all the way down the listings which yes a little bit of a concern with some SEO industries industries that are late performing SEO. But that's another side inspection. Other one is in regards to the big publications that are posting about SEO is dead, are likely publications that are reporting on in either a new marketing tactic a new platform. That's like a social media platform like Quora for example. Which we do advertising on Quora sometimes. Yes it's interesting but they're trying to showcase the next best thing with a good PR type post. As well as might be coincided with a Google algorithm update which kind of shook up the industry a little bit. Okay Google wiped out every single website in this specific industry. There you go SEO is dead and I have a Google home, it goes off sometimes. Sorry about that, every time I use their brand they say, “hey I'm here”. So in regards to SEO publications and SEO is dead. Yes they're either it usually coincides with an algorithm and that's that. I had another point of that but I lost it.

Steve: So first of all to kind of recap that I definitely would reinforce this concept that first of all consider the source right? There's a bunch of clickbait type of headlines out there. Let's consider the source. If it's somebody selling some alternative to SEO, you've got to at least start to ask yourself what's in it for them right? With this pronouncement.

Jason: There's always a motive.

Steve: Yes there has to be. And the second is this idea of oh now it's harder right. It used to be easier, now it's harder. So maybe it would be more fair to say that the brain-dead SEO is dead right? You can't spam the page with invisible white text and suddenly rank anymore. And that's probably better for the customer experience, right? The search experience is ultimately what the search engines are responsible for and it's gotten better. Do you agree with that premise that it's gotten better as they've updated these algorithms, despite our pain?

Jason: 100% and the point I was gonna make before is that a lot of people think that there's a misconception. That people think that Google hates SEO which they absolutely do not. Obviously their goal is to draw people to ads that's how they generate revenue. But they know that out, proper, good, unique, trustworthy, search results people will lose trust in their platform. And they do know that people are skipping the ads primarily and going to the organic search results. So Google likes SEO but they like good quality SEO. Kind of what you mentioned is all about providing their users with answers to questions that might take them to Google.

Steve: At the end of the day the formulas very simple for Google or any other search engine assuming they exist. We'll just pretend that they do. They do in other countries at least. When a searcher makes a search query they want to produce a relevant actionable and something that the searcher will say thank you search engine, Google or otherwise you did your job well. If that's the experience they want to deliver. And I think in fairness to them they have improved that experience substantially over the spam days of the past. Do you agree with that premise?

Jason: I agree 100%. If you've looked back at the search results back in 2010, they're very very different type of websites you see are usually one-page websites that just have really long form pieces of content. Where every other word is that specific search term. It was just a really bad experience overall and I'm personally a fan of what they're doing. Because it allows us to hone in our evolution eyes techniques a little bit and provide what's really going as opposed to weaning out the crappy SEO companies.

Steve: Well the reality is and I've been online my first sites went kind of live in 1996 and we got pretty good at SEO probably in the early late 90s, early 2000s. But it turns out that really great content works back then and it works today right. And do you feel the same way? The good content it still has the opportunity to be rewarded.

Jason: I feel content is half of the SEO campaign, 100%. In regards to on-page SEO which is 50% on-page SEO and off page SEO. Absolutely Google is very good at understanding. They call it NLP (Natural Language Processing) really understanding words in context. Surrounding words just to really understand what the contents about. If a company like Grammarly could exist, it's very easy for Google to also maybe, I wouldn't be surprised if they actually have a partnership with Grammarly or something. But to use the same type of filters within their algorithms to look for bad grammar, see if it's a third liberal country writer or natural English speaker writing. Amazing content that's resourceful and maybe even also analyzing the styles of tone. Is it purely educational? Is it laid-back fun and exciting to read? Is it a list post just to get clicks? Hey all the different things. They definitely have improved that experience with quality and you can even Google natural language processing. And they have a specific landing page where you can throw in a paragraph of text and see what they deem as the overall context of that paragraph. They take words, every word from that paragraph is sorted into a category of sorts or an entity. It's really neat.

Steve: It's fascinating stuff. Now of course me because I'm old and I've been around so long. I'm gonna ask to use that question about NLP but for the rest of you. You can google it.

Jason: It will go to dogpile.com.

Steve: Oh you remember dogpile.

Jason: I remember dogpile.

Steve: Spaceman we could go tit for tat on the old now no longer relevant search engine. So you know the this evolution that has happened over time has been frustrating for a lot of people right. There's a lot of people who had kind of the easy button on SEO and they got traffic. They noticed kind of overnight with some of these algorithmic updates that their traffic disappeared or at least dry it up to a level that made their business not as viable. What do you tell these types of folks?

Jason: First thing is, don't be impulsive and just chill, wait. Google has even admitted that immediately after an update there will be a lot of fluctuations and their own algorithm takes time to just let the dust settle a little bit. Usually the average time frame could be two weeks which is obviously the longest two weeks of anybody's life. But that's really the best thing if you have data just start trying to create correlations between, let's say you have three websites maybe in the same industry that dropped while two other websites either remain stagnant or improved. Try to find correlated data and make your own hypothesis especially as people will start posting within a couple days as to what the algorithm was about. Essentially Google is very unlike very likely won't admit specifically what it was about but you know use your own due diligence with that let the dust settle. We can see what happens. And then if you can't create your own data correlation go to the publication's, go to the outside sources and then use their material to create your own conclusions. And see if that worked for you and how to either combat that or rethink every decision that is on the list if you if you were spamming then you would rethink.

Steve: Well, honestly this is the thing that comes back to, I had a good friend and they had built a pretty substantial business. 20 million plus US dollars turnover per year but they had just a bunch of spammy backlinks on blogs that used to be very valuable. Would you concur with that premise that in the old days you could put backlinks on blogs and just in little comments and good juice from that right?

Jason: Oh yes. If you do it all within a click of a button.

Steve: Yes is a miracle and but they were outraged. When kind of Google eliminated that and not only did they eliminate it in some cases. They said you're on the naughty list. We see what you're doing. You're over here in the penalty box and although you can understand the frustration and the pressure to their business, they had to look in the mirror and go we were doing the spammy kind of thing. What did we expect? Do you think there's a point where people need to kind of look in the mirror and go ahead? Well what am I responsible for here?

Jason: It was weird. It's around 2011-2012, there was a huge shift in the SEO industry and at the time it's very hard. You would think that you would like people to be aware of what they're doing but when you really don't know any better. And that's the standard it might be hard to say what you could have. You couldn't foreseen this coming very easily. Now we can look back and say yes obviously. But if you don't know any better and that's the standard that's working across the board for Google. Primarily you're it's what works. But nowadays with SEO is I think most people do understand or at least that's what we do in our agencies really work extra hard to manage expectations. It’s that SEO is always changing and we employ the tactics that are well known within our agency, within our own data to work very well right now. And also continue to work in the long run because we have an idea on where Google wants to be. And you go to where they want to be. I think that allows you to foresee the future so to speak.

Steve: Yes. I did think there's probably a couple cases. You make a fair point which is a lot of people especially if they hired outside agencies that are like hey I can get you to rank really well. It's like okay cool there's a thousand bucks or ten thousand bucks or whatever the case is. And now I'm rank it well. I see no evil. I hear no evil and that's fine. And honestly as you pointed out it worked at that time so why wouldn't you do it? And this is one of those challenges is once those behaviors changed. By the way this also applies for those Awesomers out there listening, to Amazon. Amazon reviews what worked from 2010 to 2016 doesn't work anymore. You can't incentivize reviews and even to this day, it's now August 2018. Don't know when people listen to this but that's when we're speaking. Reviews are still disappearing from that timeframe almost like a retroactively penalty assessment. Do you ever get into the Amazon space and see some of these same types of behaviors?

Jason: Oh we actually have never done an Amazon campaign. I'm in the know-how because I would say my closer network. But I am very aware that what was it even a few months ago Google cracked down heavily on... Amazon, sorry have it. Amazon cracked down really heavily on reviews from people that trying to determine from their algorithms that weren't incentivized.

Steve: Yes there's been a 3-3 run so far of 2018. We call them review purges where it's like hey guess what, two million reviews were wiped out this, a two-day period. And there's been now three phases of it and I only bring it up because I try to help people make connections right. In my mind the way Amazon is evolving both as a search engine with their A9 algorithm and the things that you can do to move your product into better ranking are very eerily similar to what used to work on Google right. You can kind of spam the time a little bit with keywords and put them in a certain position. And get a little bit more ranking as a result of that. You can kind of work the bullet points to your advantage. There's a lot of things that are very similar to the old ways of Google and I've been to the mountain. I've seen the future I know what's coming. I think Amazon's gonna follow a similar path to Google which is always to reward the customer experience, the search experience and give them the best most relevant resources. And for this reason it's always best to kind of focus on delivering high quality content and relevant content. Is that how you see it?

Jason: I agree. Especially if it's not directly affecting their revenue stream again. I was on those sponsored listings and that's not directly affecting the sponsored listings per se. So why wouldn't they try to clean up the experience for users especially if people are still skipping the sponsored listings primarily Amazon. But yes.

Steve: It's quite similar you probably understand that the distribution of clicks on Google. In fact if you know some of those numbers off top you're a bit love for you to share them just any fresh numbers. But the organic listings always get more clicks than the ads and then of course the top position ads gets the most clicks. I don't remember at one time it was like 70%. The ad clicks were on the top ad. Do you have any memory of those or care to share any details you know about that?

Jason: I don't have any exact NORs because I remember when I was researching statistics every place you go to has different statistics.

Steve: And that's the third point.

Jason: I think though that when we do pay per click them and Google. As we don't usually like to bid for the first listing on ads. We like to go for the second one because people will. They are quite familiar with knowing that the first ad is automatically going to be an ad the first listing. So they might look at the second listing which is an ad technically, but a bit more eye-catching.

Steve: That's fascinating. In our paid search world occasionally because the top search still gets more clicks as a percentage. And I think that's borne out across a number of different publications. But we often will position ourselves for the second listing because it's a lot less expensive than the first listing because of the Dutch auction method right. The guy on number one is paying whatever penny more than the guy at number two. The guy number two only pays a penny more than the guy at number three and that's a very lucrative position to have a lot of clicks at a much lower price than the number one guy. So it's a fascinating to hear that your agency also uses that for marketing positioning.

Jason: But we go for number one but it's just something that we like to just look at for our own data collection sometimes. We’ll test one week maybe at number one test next weekend. Bidding a little bit lower to bring us to number two.

Steve: So yes. Again this is the best thing about the Internet is we can collect all that data and you can see the results. You can understand your cross for acquisition difference on a numeric basis. So tell me this Jason as we've evolved and we've gone through all these various things is is it a reasonable thing to think that SEO still can work today?  I think we've established that premise. SEO still works today. Yes?

Jason: 100%.

Steve: So when somebody thinks about how do they take their SEO on their own website and make it better what's maybe a first step or a typical problem that they would start to address?

Jason: Well if you already have a website built out and you're just trying to figure out why it's not ranking best thing to do is reverse engineer. Look at the competitors on page one of Google see how you can mimic on their website what they're doing. Or also take a look at the Google search results what is Google ranking. Are they making a home page, services page, content page, infographic lists category page, there's so many different variety of type of creatives. I would say that can rank on Google. First look at that if you're trying to rank your homepage and for a search term and all of page one of Google is articles. You probably should switch the targets a little bit to an article to follow within the pack specifically. So that's the first thing I do is, you create targets based on what Google's wants to show.

Steve: So this is a very important thing. And I want to reframe this just a little bit or at least make sure I stayed it and then you correct me if I'm wrong. But too often entrepreneurs especially if you're not familiar with SEO you may just go, “Hey I want my website to rank for these keywords. These are my target keywords”. Without understanding that each page maybe has its own target or set of targets for keywords. And is that what you're saying is? Is that each page should probably go after a certain target a set of key words or key words themselves?

Jason: That's usually the idea especially with blogs for example, when we're doing content marketing and creation or blog posts for our clients. We usually like to have a specific target but what is the reason behind this post? A. How are people going to find this post? and B. What is the goal of this post? Is it part of a funnel to lead them into the next stage or to a specific call to action? That's the first thing we look at and we usually try to target targets. Again what's the point of all this work if the targets aren't set and you have an idea where you want people to come from. Could be again SEO or ads and how you want them to interact on the page.

Steve: What a concept of hey let's figure out the desired outcome before we get started all this work. Yes what a pain. Too often entrepreneurs were pressed for time and we're kind of lazy. So we're like hey I need an SEO solution and they go to their spam inbox or they go to... they search SEO whatever on the interwebs. And they hear a couple guys and they don't do a great deal of diligence, due diligence. They kind of just want to skip to the end and get that box checked off. So what can you tell people about how they can avoid what I think is a common problem of just kind of skipping to the end. How can they do proper diligence to know if an SEO agency is worthwhile.

Jason: I would say there's a little checklist of sorts. First thing is to remember that there's a lot of money be made in SEO sales. So a lot of big repeatable SEO companies hire really good salespeople. So salespeople are good talkers which is fine by all means but it comes down to a the vibes you get. And if it sounds realistic on the results. The next one is by far the most important proof, can they actually deliver and prove that they deliver what they preach? Do they have case studies? Do they show client testimonials? I wouldn't ask for references that's a bit old school and we don't give references because we don't want our clients be bombarded with people. So we use testimonials on case studies to kind of and client logos huggles look kind of neat to kind of counterbalance that a little bit. Look for proof also look for time frame keep in mind that SEO is not an overnight success. If they say oh yes we can get you ranked in three months for this X amount of price. Those are two separate things. They have set prices and they have unrealistic timelines of execution. Then those are two other things that I would be very weary of especially because it wouldn't make sense to talk to charge a personal injury lawyer here in New York City. The same as you would, any commerce company. Just two different playing fields. The competition is very different and what's the average specific campaign is unique and SEO takes time.

Steve: I think that's really sage wisdom to just kind of reinforce out there. Anybody who shows up it's like we'll have you on page one by the end of the week. They're probably not telling the truth.

Jason: Guaranteed.

Steve: Yes it's nutty. Any unreasonable set of promises in the SEO world is almost without basis. Whereas saying hey here's a strategic look, here's what we've done as far as a background of your business, here's similar case studies. And here's what we're headed, here's what we think we can do. All of that is much more reasonable in my opinion. There is no silver bullet, is there?

Jason: No silver bullet, no magic wand, no shiny object in the SEO world. People like to look for shiny objects but yes. It's hard work, dedication and patience have the biggest things.

Steve: Boy those are the things I hate the most. Hard work, dedication and patience. Whew boy we've got the trifecta right there. One of the things that I recall about the way you guys approach things at least in your SEO services is that you don't look for long-term contracts necessarily, is that fair to say? To me I'm always nervous when a company's ok just sign this 24-month contract and I'll pave the streets in gold. That my spidey sense is tingling immediately. How do you guys approach things like that?

Jason: We don't do contracts. I'm kind of against it you do agreements of sorts but when we have a cancellation policy. But we don't lock people in for 6 or 12 months of contracts. The reason is, A. people hate paperwork, B. we have to earn the business. If we're not earning someone's business then there's something wrong that we're doing. And we should it be all about the numbers and trying to show okay this is exactly how much revenue we're going to get over the course of 12 months. Because then you're just leading to a bad experience. You're setting yourself up with experience as bad for a bad review, a chargeback or whatever. All these different things that could happen is it's really not worth the trouble. And our goal with our team is to earn the client's business. Each month we have to be doing something right. To meet the clients both expectations over deliver. And deliver the results and essentially when their trust each and every month.

Steve: I love it I think that that premise, that philosophy of earning the business on an ongoing basis is something that resonates with a lot of entrepreneurs and Awesomers in general. Where we're like hey I'll do my part you, do your part and we all can win here. So I really do salute that when we come back. We're gonna take a quick break and when we come back we're gonna talk about your approach to how you execute on these types of things maybe versus some of the other folks in the ecosystem of SEO. And you won't want to miss it. We'll be right back after this.


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Steve: Here we are back again everybody. Steve Simonson joined by Jason Berkowitz and we're talking about kind of all things internet marketing, digital marketing in general but particularly about SEO. Which is a subject that is near and dear to my heart and something Jason's been doing for an awful long time. Is that fair to say Jason?

Jason: I've been messing around with Google since 2009 yes my story.

Steve: In dog years that's a substantial number and that's Internet years are even longer than dog years. So that's just amazing and as speaking as a dinosaur coming from the dinosaur times literally in 1996 we have our first website up. And let me just tell you the pains that it was just to get an image to line up above text. HTML was not friendly it was the the worst of the worst. And at that time we weren't even really, I mean Yahoo was the king of the world right? Google was invented in 1996 and all these other sites that we've mentioned. I'll ask a quick tribute question Jason before we dig into how you guys do your business a little different than the others. Do you remember the first, yes you get ready to buzz it and thank you. Do you remember the first Dutch oxygen kind of bidding search engine? The name of that search engine? This is a tough one. I don't expect anybody to get it.

Jason: AltaVista?

Steve: Close AltaVista is pretty good guess. Now I wonder if I can remember the name.

Jason: You don’t even know the answer?

Steve: Yes. I thought you could help me out there. I curse the nerds in the back room here. There was the very first one and Google kind of let's say borrowed their technology for this Dutch auction. I want to say it was aha.com or something but now my brain is a solution. But believe it or not, Google did not invent the idea of the Dutch auction bidding that came from somebody else and oh... goto.com here we go it was goto.com and we used to be able to spend a penny it click and the sky was the limit for clicks. Every term we could put we could just get it for a penny because nobody else was bidding. That's how early I was in this game. So what do you think about the penny per click idea pretty good?

Jason: Sounds pretty awesome. I'm not too familiar with goto.com. They're only a psych remember. My first one was dogpile.

Steve:  Yes. We could definitely get into a little history lesson. The long and the short is its evolved. It's changed substantially and anybody thinks the internet is a static situation is missing the boat. It is quite dynamic and it's always evolving and I'm curious because of this dynamic situation. Jason how do you guys approach your service offerings? For example a lot of times I talked to a guy he's really smart, he's like you. I have been around I know things and then the second that I get passed to the next guy, it's some guy in a basement who knows where. Somewhere in the world I don't even know if he's a free person and he's not nearly as good as the guy I was talking to. How do you guys approach that?

Jason: In regards to the ever-changing world of SEO?

Steve: Not just to ever change about how your SEO agency executes as a team when you bring on a client. Do you have guys in the basement that are doing all the work or you outsource this around the world? What's your approach to that?

Jason: So we have a team. We are a virtual remote agency of sorts. So if somebody wants to be in their basement in their underwear by all means a lot of our team members like to go to remote co-working spaces or our dedicated home offices entirely to them. And yes so when we onboard a client there's a lot of different things that every team member is doing for the project. Set up these building opportunities, targets, research, learning more about the business and the industry. Especially if for example we actually have two clients in the cryptocurrency space which is an ongoing trend right now. And there are certain levels I don't dabble in crypto. We actually have one employee that does but this was something that our team as a whole had to learn in the project setup base. So one thing I did was just find as many pieces of relevant content that I can find on the web that might be beneficial to our team and just created a resource hub of sorts I want to read. And that was a requirement in the onboarding to just familiarize himself with that industry. And then that's the onboarding process get everything set up for the actual monthly bread-and-butter at all SEO campaign which is primarily built on semi trust Authority to your website. So Google's algorithms see some really great metrics and do their magic.

Steve: Yes. So this premise, so I love the fact that you guys do some research and kind of understand what's already working in a space. And let me ask you this I would assume that you work across a broad range of categories. There's no set field that you specialize in is that fair?

Jason: Yes, some agencies like the niche town. We have our specific set of criteria with the client specifically but there was no specific industry. Especially with new industries. A lot of times we're getting increased from industries that we never even knew existed and then we just go to Google and set this a very large market there. So we don't like to limit ourselves by industries or niches specifically but there are agencies I do.

Steve:  Yes. How about E-commerce guys? A lot of the folks listen here they have their own E-commerce site and by the way many of them are skeptical that they can make their E-commerce site compete with Amazon. They don't think that because most of them are not mostly listeners but many of the cases there they got their start on Amazon their marketplace. What I call Amazon cornerstone businesses. And so they've been marketplace focus for so long that they don't really have the faith that they can make a website that is a big and useful and revenue producing. What's your view on that in this day and age?

Jason: So the first thing, again if there is a target or a search term that you ultimately would like to rank for and there is an Amazon listing, it's very likely unlikely that there'll be more than two listings from Amazon on that page. So there's any other opportunities there to be on page one of Google. There also might be E-commerce related search terms and Amazon doesn't appear for at all. So definitely look at the opportunities. Don't think of Amazon as crap Amazon there's not even worth because just throw more opportunities. We still get clicks the sites that are really heavily competitive spaces that on the bottom of page one and still get traffic and still complete gold conversions on the website itself. So page one is a primary target for something that's really competitive. And if Amazon has two listings so to speak then again reverse engineer everyone else there and it still could be a good ideal target.

Steve: Now you alluded to this idea and I think this is a pretty well known concept but I hope you can elaborate just a little bit this idea of sending authority from somewhere else to your target site. And you do that presumably through some form of content that you have on the site that is desirable. How do you get the upstream authority to cooperate with you?

Jason: So the technical term is called a backlink and a lot of E-commerce clients that we have, our biggest way of driving traffic is through content. Specifically on content marketing where somebody will enter in maybe at the top of the funnel or maybe there in the consideration phase. And we will guide them through that funnel. Through pieces of content and essentially that's the way we would go about it in terms of ranking.

Steve:  Yes now I love having good content but how do people find the content? If somebody's not linking to it. So getting the backlinks seems to be a clear piece of the puzzle. Yes?

Jason: Yes, so backlinks are there's many ways to acquire backlinks. What we do is if it's a big reputable brand, influencer marketing reach out to influencers in space. If there's a product sample that we could send to them we'll easily send to them. They can do a lovely rebuke assal reviews are great reviews right? And they will likely link back and mention the product URL and that is one way of Google sending trust. Another one is two relevant blogs and simply saying hey do you guys accept guest contributions? We're writing in this space and we're looking to get the word out and I think that we can create a great informative piece for your website. Not promotional, not sponsored, not spammy, but a great piece of content for your website. That's relevant and when Google sees a link going back from the relevant website to your website that's how they see trust being passed. It's kind of like mimicking word-of-mouth. And in everyday life if one websites willing to put their reputation on the line and refer you to somebody else, you must be good kind of like you say hey Jim you know a plumber? Yes I use the ABC plumbing you know that means that’s okay. There's already some authority behind ABC plumbing because your friend that you trust recommended them.

Steve:  Yes I definitely think it's evolved to a this higher level that you just described. In the old days I would say it was more like high school where if everybody gossiping about anything you could get link juice from those backlinks. But today I think relevance is so much more important where Google it may even. I don't know there may be some working against you when it's not relevant right? This idea that you can go get backlinks anywhere and have them feed into you. Do you agree or disagree with this premise that more relevant backlinks are better?

Jason: Definitely more relevant is better. Google says that they won't harm you for spammy bad non relevant backlinks that's what they say. But who really knows what happens but relevancy really is king where you can have technically a website that's decent Authority but more on a general topic. Let's say a news website linked to your website that'll provide some power but if there's maybe a website that's maybe a lower tier but really more relevant about a specific topic, site wide and that links back to you. You'll actually get a lot more SEO value from a lower tier relevant website.

Steve: Yes, see, I definitely agree with that. I'm skeptical also whether it's Google or Amazon or anybody else. I'm always like there's some penalty box waiting for me somewhere. So I like to stay right on the straight and narrow. Let me ask you this when people are considering SEO they start immediately seizing up and squinching up a little bit about the cost. And can you elaborate how you guys approach the different service levels or different offerings? How do people kind of wrap their brain around the cost of SEO?

Jason: One thing to note is SEO is not cheap anymore. Back in the day it was very easy to offer SEO for $400 a month because how much work was involved it was maybe an hour or two of work that's it. And then you click a button and then it's monthly ongoing everything changes back to back. So that's not the same anymore. SEO has definitely increased though we actually just raised our minimum internally for new clients that starts at about $2,000 per month and that's just because the amount of work cost on our end that we essentially do. And we're doing we're kind of like the PR team for our client. We're reaching out consistently. Doing a lot of manual outreach to relevant websites, influencers, bloggers, podcast is something we do. We have some podcasts in hopes of getting a backlink and those aren't they're very different ways you can get creative. Even with podcasts at simplest form is sometimes offer relevant podcasts free transcription service for their blog. And then as long as we can get a sponsored link or a post from it there's just so many different creative ideas you can get in terms of getting backlinks.

Steve: That's smart. Yes I definitely think that's really good and you know for depending on the size of the business that \ starting package of that minimum is quite viable because there's actual work that's involved right. And it's ongoing and it's repetitive and there's probably some set of deliverables that you guys offer for whatever your pricing. Presumably you have some service level agreement or some hey we're gonna do this many things per month is that fair to say?

Jason: One thing we recently went towards and we transition towards a link deliverable basis. So if the clients what they need to succeed is links will allocate a range of links that they will receive per month. And what we do is wear a full transparency agency all sorts as well. So we give them access to our internal project management system. So they can just they won't have to wonder hey what's my SEO company doing today maybe I'll email them or call them. They can just go in and see what we're up to. They can see the statuses of the links. It also helps them not have to call us quite frequently. That's the biggest thing is people are get left in the dark but there are no company. They won't hear for them from a month until they get a report and it's rebuild time. So they can see the statuses of our outreach, we exactly what we use internally. So we reached out to this publication, we're in negotiations for placement and another tab is for the deliverables. Here's the link that we secured, here's the content piece, here's the anchor text specifically. So that's one thing that we do for deliverables as well as especially for E-commerce clients. We do consistent gap analysis, content gap analysis sort of speakers. We're constantly finding ways that they could improve current content to increase them naturally on Google. Kind of low-hanging fruit so to speak.

Steve: Yes I like that. I definitely I think people often underestimate the effort involved but some of it is kind of making sure you have the basics covered right. This idea that you have a particular piece of content. Maybe it's already getting some reasonable traffic but if it was supplemented or augmented in some way. It could even be doing better and maybe it's in part because the age of that page or because the other backlinks to that page. But as a potential to to even go higher is that your experience as well?

Jason: Absolutely there's a thing query deserves freshness a lot of times you can make search terms you can test them into Google and they'll have a date right. There and this each search listing and them very well be especially with in politics for example, where everything's always changing and new updating, new news is coming out where you'll see that date to be within the last week or even the last month. And if you have an article that's maybe ranked on page two or three that used to rank very well. So to speak and it hasn't been updated in maybe a few years giving it a obviously a new refresh date. A new publication date as well as some modifications to the content. How you can improve the content whether it's 2018 updates for example. Definitely opportunity right there.

Steve: Yes. So this is again we're busy, we're like trying to check things off the list this is an evolution. It's an ongoing living breathing. Website and individual pages within the website. They can't just be static and perform forever. And so as people start to see either traffic declining or they're kind of wondering what's happening, it's probably related to the the freshness factor that Jason just alluded to. It's probably also related to some of the gaps that you talked about earlier. Maybe there's been some segments that your your competition's getting traffic on that you're not because you don't have any content related to this new idea. How often do you think that? How often you come into a project for you like hey these guys have all their ducks in a row. Is that a common thing?

Jason: Sometimes. A lot of queries we get is we do a lot of audits and consulting for in-house SEO teams where they've just tried to hit every single piece. And everything looks perfect across the board and they can't just figure out why something is ranking. So that's what we're come in as like an advisory role or consulting role specifically. And it does happen especially for conglomerate type companies. A lot of big E-commerce type websites will reach out to us just for saying hey can you just run a data analysis and an audit just to see because we've tried this and this. It's not working very very well. But everything what we know about SEO is up to par and for the most part they they're 9 out of 10 it's usually just finding some small little thing. That's weird whether it's deep in the coating like a rel canonical' that's off. It's just a bit more advanced type coding, it could be something so small was that which is so easy to overlook and does take time to find these audits as well. But there are companies out there that are part of my French kickin ass with SEO Amazon being one of them. Especially with their E-commerce style SEO. So there's a lot of deep things that they're doing which every E-commerce should be implementing.

Steve: Yes for sure. You did scratch an old wound of mind there. Where we brought in a really high-end SEO company they were doing an overhaul to one of our old E-commerce sites. This is a site that was already doing five or six million dollars a month and when they did the site relaunch right. And they're gonna tune it up even better. This is a big deal on a big project obviously and the marketing people immediately started coming to me. I was a CEO at the time and like something's wrong, something's ain't right. And you said early on it's let's be patient, let's take a breather, let's know that there's going to be some problems and so forth. And so that's what I tried to take that approach. After I don't remember this two weeks or four weeks but we figured out that when they launched the new site the robots.txt had a nofollow. They literally kicked all the search engine BOTS out of the site for a month which was a bloody nightmare. We lost countless millions and it was a giant problem. So believe it or not the little smallest things whether it's the canonical tags or no follows or any of that they can have a big impact in. And that's why you want to have somebody who's really capable and talented. Have you ever had that problem by the way Jason?

Jayson: Yes we like I'll be in deed if I don't admit that we've made similar mistakes completely by accident but we usually - we have a checklist. So everything that we follow nowadays that was more earlier on where it is a simple things like like robots.txt or a sitemap issue. And even deeper htaccess issue. Don't neglect the little things, again an accidental no index tag on a work on a WordPress website just but you accidentally put the Box. It's definitely possible.

Steve: Now that you brought up WordPress there's a general feeling I won't call it consensus but certainly the word on the street is that WordPress sites can rank better than other sites in general. What's your feelings about that general concept? Is WordPress somehow positioned to an unfair advantage opposed to regular site?

Jayson: Well at the end of the day most of these content management systems what they're doing is displaying HTML code in the source. Now WordPress happens to be a very user friendly way to display that HTML code as well as giving you full control over every single element. There are other platforms out there. I don't know if I should name job that don't give you Squarespace, Wix both are the absolute no goes with us. We won't take any client that's on Squarespace or Wix just because they don't gave you that full control. I know that Squarespace specifically and we've talked countless times over the years but their support team is their coding for SEO specifically we're their own internal SEO settings isn't up to par. We call this a schema markup they have errors in their standards schema markup which I'm like, listen I'm telling you guys exactly how to fix it for free. Just that's all we care about it is to fix it and like I know it's not worth it. Which is simply just adding a semicolon to the basic color coding. But at the end of the day most platforms that do give you full control like WordPress they're all especially also with like no must-do static HTML. It's really hard to manage but they're all essentially in the source code displaying HTML code. And it's a more user friendly way for anybody from intro newbie to more advanced people to display that code.

Steve: Yes it definitely it's quite an adopted platform because it is so user-friendly and I think it is generally well received in the SEO world. And there's a bunch of plugins you can do to even make it more SEO friendly. It's certainly something that for the people should consider. And I do appreciate the fact that you are able to share with us some of the things that aren't working well. And this is not uncommon situation where the big companies for whatever reason have chosen to not make that a priority. Where we know that this these little tiny tweaks can mean awful lot of difference when it comes to revenue production. And at the end of the day the site should produce revenue.

Jayson: And there are companies that do take the feedback from specific communities that use our platforms like Shopify for example. We love Shopify because they listen to the SEO community. And they have many many times over the years where as we said okay what you have as a set standard in your platform or in your templates isn't what's working. And they take it all back and forth but they will typically most times try to adapt to the consensus of what the consensus is asking. And again there are times where WordPress money may not be the right solution stuff that are really more complex. You can get really custom with WordPress but the problem with getting really custom with WordPress is that it creates a lot of blue and may affect your resource loading times and everything with that. So there might be other solutions and there's thousands upon thousands of high advanced platforms out there. But a good web design company or UI, UX company and user experience user interaction can definitely give you on the best platform.

Steve:  Yes that's a good advice there. What's your view of HTTP. As a little extra bonus factor for ranking do you think this, Google said as much that it's a little extra ranking factor? Do you agree with them?

Jayson: Small, smaller definitely helps when I see it. We would like to get everyone in HTTPS even beyond SEO but more. So for user experience especially because I think the new statistics are that 80% of people are using Google Chrome which is insane. And how group maybe a little bit less. I know Firefox has 6% and that's what made me laugh. But chrome is now showing warnings let's say not secure in the URL bar which I understand why they wanted one to go HTTPS. We're all about security nowadays and it's very easy to like we had in the earlier conversation when you first start off this call. It's very easy for people to scam and collect data with specific JavaScript codes that can kind of show one form. But really send the information somewhere else and that's where HTTPS comes in as a trusted call. When I'm on a web site especially E-commerce nine-time a $10 high-efficiency TPS. If they don't um I might even look at the most. It's an immediate no-go for me because I know that they don't have their crap together. But yeah it does definitely also help with rankings not as the biggest ranking signal. It's definitely up there but especially in regards to reverse engineering your competitors. If everyone on page one of Google has HTTPS, for an extra two dollars a month you can get HTTPS or even you can even get it for free if you're using cPanel for example within your hosting. Let's encrypt, is it free? SSL certificate to get HTTPS and it takes a minute to set up.

Steve: Yes it's so much easier to get a certificate these days. I remember the old days where we literally would spend thousand or two thousand or more dollars on these secure certificates. And  today you can just have this kind of automated way of rolling them out and making it secure, yet not break the bank. So it's definitely a better world we live in. So let me ask you this I want to have you just take out your crystal ball for a minute and tell us about the future of SEO. What's it gonna look like in five years?

Jayson: Well the trend right now is to consistently talk about voice search. That's where everyone is leaning towards at the moment nobody really knows what's gonna happen. We have ideas on what Google wants. Obviously Google's goal is to provide the most relevant search result even with voice search. So being positioned hiding natural organic search results will definitely assist in that process. If you're a local business being the number one in Google Maps will definitely be a huge asset. Find me a plumber in New York City, It's very likely they'll pull from, we hope not their ads but from the natural organic listings. And it's something that I think I'm most curious to see. As to how voice search becomes more advanced and how it intertwines with our systems.

Steve:  Well I definitely think that's a really good thing to keep our eye on the the amount of queries just as it relates to these new voice devices. Whether it's the series of the world or the Alexus of the Google that turned on earlier. All of these things are driving new search terms right. What we type in and what we say are vastly different in my opinion and it's been proven as much in the studies that compared the The Voice enquiries versus the the type didn't increase. Do you feel the same way that there's quite a difference between those?

Jayson: Absolutely. Ties in to what I mentioned earlier about NLP natural language processing specifically where Google's goal is to understand in the regard I mentioned previously. Its goals understand the intent of the content in regards to search queries. Its goal is to understand the intent of the search term. There's this really great article. I don't mean to go side off but really good about something called tf-idf (term frequency - inverse document frequency) by a company called elephant.

Steve: Hey God. So I love it. I love that but you're gonna have to tell it to me a little slower because I missed it. Go ahead one more time.

Jayson: I don't want to go too much off topic that…

Steve:  I like it no this is quite on. I dig it an accident.

Jayson: It's a new way of performing and executing on page SEO and it's called Term Frequency Inverse Document Frequency (tf-idf) Google has that built into their algorithms for quite some time. It's widely known but they didn't create it. It's a way of pretty much we call it the corpus of taking a document and sending it against other large collections of documents called a corpus. And they look for correlations and with on-page SEO specifically NLP comes in to understand context. And one example that this article which I always reference back to with any client or consultant call is that how would they know the difference between coke, coke, coke, coke. Coca-cola it’S  C-O-K-E or coke “cocaine”, coke which is a county in Texas and coke which even he references in the article is they something that builds up around an engine. Maybe some like weird they'll do. I don't know but it's a great example of how words can have multiple meanings and that's where they need to come in and identify the intent behind that specific search query.

Steve:  I definitely love a deep reach there and..

Jayson: I apologize.

Steve:  No. Not even believing, I'm quite sincere about it. That the fact is intent really is the point of search right. That and the search engines have cut-ins good at figuring out and even predicting what you're likely to do. Which is individually managed right. For me it's gonna go right to cocaine but somebody else it might go to coca-cola that's their favorite. I'm not confessing or anything but I'm just saying the 80s were quite a time. No. The point is not only are they taking the natural language piece but they're individualizing it. And saying based on your past searches. Steve here's what we think you're going to do. Based on that predictive feature. Do you agree with that premise that they”re individualizing it?

Jayson: 100% and one problem I see too often is people aren't revolving SEO campaigns around that intent. So though they'll essentially even for beyond SEO you can. Once somebody gets your page whether it's the paid media essentially is they forget the original intent and they just said, okay we have a page. It's getting traffic, why are we not getting sales, leads or whatever the call-to-action is. And it's probably because the content doesn't match the original intent kind of like when you mention that you're involved with a paid media and paid ads and stuff. Is that you usually try to have a landing page that matches the original advertising query just to keep the flow going. And there's a lot of companies that just say, okay we have our basic services page. It says what we do but it's not set up for conversions and conversion rate optimisation is another whole form of a marketing campaign.

Steve: Yes it is. This is just the scratching of the surface. I love it Jason. I think your your insights in SEO and kind of digital marketing in general have been very very well articulated and much appreciated by me. I'd love to thank you for coming on today and I'm gonna ask you one final question if I may. Do you have any words of wisdom out there for the Awesomers listening and maybe they're thinking, maybe I should consider SEO, any words of wisdom that you care to share or in part with them today?

1:01:45 (Jayson’s final words of wisdom.)

Jayson: Trust your gut. If you go to hire an SEO company and they don't they may make you feel good with salesy type language but if they don't make you feel good with proof results and you don't get the perfect 100, some awesome vibes, then take a second look because SEO is not a 100 percent guarantee. And you want to make sure when you reach out to an SEO companies that since I make sure they don't guarantee results that's definite. But make sure that they have a proven system framework processes for executing a successful campaign and that they can adapt that system to your campaign.

Steve:  I definitely think that is an ongoing and high frequency repeated thing which is follow your gut feel right. Entrepreneurs and general Awesomers always have a very good spidey sense, that instinct of some doesn't feel right here. And when it doesn't feel right so many times I would kick myself when I went against my guts. And it's like no I'm here to learn. I'm gonna set my own biases aside and there's a time and a place for everything. But really at the end of the day and tell your gut has settled down. You better be very careful about your next move. So thank you again Jason. I love to have in yarn and we'll probably have to do it again because there's so much more to talk about. Appreciate what you guys…

Jayson: I apologize.

Steve: No. Awesomers listen out there I know your brain is full but we're gonna be right back after this.


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Steve: Wow what a fun times with Jason. It's fun to look back over time and for all those that they really are participating and understanding that patterns repeat themselves. When you look back at history you can figure out what some of the big companies have done. What some of the moves that they've made. And you can see if these things will apply in the future or in what way they may apply to me. Pattern recognition is really really important as an entrepreneur and Awesomer in general because patterns tend to repeat themselves. So when we talk about the concepts of SEO or even search marketing in general dis SEM or pay-per-click what-have-you. All of these patterns all of these behaviors that these big companies are doing have a tendency to kind of tighten up over time. They get better and better and so we're left with this concept of hey here's an idea. What if we make really awesome content that people want to share would that get links. Would that be rewarded? And I'll tell you, the answer is a resounding yes in my opinion. I started sharing content back in 1996 on the Internet. Yes that's right 1996, hashtag I'm hold. And this reality is over that length of time. I've watched these patterns continue to repeat themselves over and over with manipulation of SEO guys or search guys. Now pushing us this way and then Google pushing back the other way. And again I just want to go back to this four concept that if we make something of high quality, something truly and literally noteworthy that's going to be rewarded most often in the community. As long as you get in front of the right people. So that is the lesson. Is do something worthwhile, do something noteworthy and you'll find that SEO and ranking and all these other things come a lot easier than trying to hack your way and cheat their way to the front. At the end of the day these patterns of kind of SEO hacking or any kind of hacking for that matter. And then the big companies or any companies ratcheting down and enforcing policies or putting new algorithms in place. I don't think that's gonna change. I think it's gonna continue to repeat itself. And I'm really thankful that Jason came on and talked a little bit about this from the big-picture perspective. And quite impactful perspective that he has being in the trenches day to day in this space. So it's been another great episode as always episode number 48 at Awesomers.com/48. You can go there find show notes, details even a transcript and it's really a wonderful time for you to go sign up for our mailing list as well and get some free bonuses and lots of cool stuff.

Well we've done it again everybody. We have another episode of the Awesomers podcast ready for the world. Thank you for joining us and we hope that you've enjoyed our program today. Now is a good time to take a moment to subscribe, like and share this podcast. Heck you can even leave a review if you wanted. Awesomers around you will appreciate your help. It's only with your participation and sharing that we'll be able to achieve our goals. Our success is literally in your hands. Thank you again for joining us. We are at your service. Find out more about me, Steve Simonson, our guest, team and all the other Awesomers involved at Awesomers.com. Thank you again.

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