Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talks with Brandon Leibowitz, the founder of SEO Optimizers. SEO Optimizers is a digital marketing company focusing on helping small and medium-sized businesses get more online traffic, which in turn converts into clients, sales, leads, etc. In this interview, Leibowitz talks about the importance of backlinks, optimizing images, and how to obtain more organic reach on Google.
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Gary Pageau 0:02
Welcome to the Dead Pixels Society podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your host, Gary Pageau. The Dead Pixels Society podcast is brought to you by Media Clip, Advertech Printing, and School Photographers of America. Hello again, and welcome to the dead pixel society podcast. I'm your host, Gary Pageau. And today we're joined by Brandon Leibowitz of SEO optimizers. Brandon's coming to us from Los Angeles, California. Hi, Brandon, how are you today? I'm doing well. Thanks for having me on today. So Brandon, you've been running SEO optimizers for about four or five years you said and he tell us your journey and how you got to the point where you want to start your own business.
Brandon Leibowitz 0:47
I got my I've always had the entrepreneurial spirit growing up. So even in high school, started a little skateboarding company. And I did that for a little while. But once I went to college,
Gary Pageau 0:58
skateboarding company, what does that mean? You do the boards or the decals, or what's the
Brandon Leibowitz 1:04
it was the clothing, sweatshirts and stuff like that, and had them in a bunch of skate shops and was doing that for a while, but went to college and kind of just focused on school instead of doing both which I should have kept both going but but to school, got my degree in Business Marketing. And after I graduated from school, got my first job doing digital marketing, helping a company out with their SEO, doing paid ads, doing social media, helping out with emails, taking pictures of products, doing it all. And this is back in 2007, I just realized that everyone's probably gonna have a website in the future. And there's lots of ways to get traffic and SEO is just a way to get free traffic. So just focused on that. Over the years, while I was working full time, I would be working on my own company and building it up to where I was able to quit my job and focus solely on that. Whereas working like full time at different advertising agencies and before work or after work during my lunch break, I'd help or I'd be working on my own company and be able to quit my job two years ago and just been doing that ever since.
Gary Pageau 2:08
Awesome. So you consider yourself an expert on SEO. So for those who aren't familiar, what is your definition of SEO, because some people have different ways of framing that
Brandon Leibowitz 2:21
the upsell, SEO is search engine optimization, which means ranking websites on search engines, which really drives Google. So when you search on Google, there's ads at the top, those are all paid ads, where you pay per click. So anytime someone clicks on those that company's paying, Google could be a couple cents per click, it could be a couple of dollars per click, be a couple $100 per click gets pretty expensive. So that's why I try to do the SEO, which is getting you below the ads into the organic, the free listings and getting that free traffic. So you're not spending money every time someone clicks on your website, because it gets pretty expensive very quickly. So there's 10 spots on that first page of Google and trying to get you in those organic listings. But it's not just websites now that appear on Google images appear, videos appear, your local business map will appear. So trying to take up as much free real estate as possible on that first page of Google. So optimizing all the images on your website, we have the videos, while provisos and videos are primarily going to be YouTube, because Google owns YouTube. So whenever you search on Google, and you see videos appear, let's say 90% of time, it's going to be YouTube, because Google only cares about making money. So if you search on Google, and you know, click on an ad, Google's not making any money. But if you click search on Google, and you click on a YouTube video, the first thing that appears anytime you watch a video, there's always an advertisement. So Google is or YouTube is making money, which is really Google making money. So I will try to take up as much free real estate and have a presence on YouTube. Because Google is going to promote that as much as they can.
Gary Pageau 3:56
So you always hear about the Google algorithm and things they do to change, just give the audience an idea of what it takes to do what you're doing. That's a whole educational process, isn't it just keeping up with all the changes? What's that, like?
Brandon Leibowitz 4:11
Oh, I mean, Google is changing every single day. So it was just trying to stay up to date with what they're doing. But most of the time, it's changing to stop spam. So as long as you're not doing anything weird, or shady or unethical, you don't have much to worry about with the updates. But it is good to stay up to date with them and see what they are looking out for. Because you want to make sure you're doing everything according to the best practices, because if you do the wrong thing, instead of ranking higher, it actually dropped down, which we don't want that to happen. So got to make sure you follow all the best practices that Google Webmaster Guidelines states and just do everything that they're looking for.
Gary Pageau 4:45
So you won't have to after my every you have to play Google's game to rank high.
Brandon Leibowitz 4:51
For the most part, you gotta do what Google is looking for. But really, what we care about is who's on that first page of Google and how much SEO data because If you're trying to figure out what Google's doing, it's gonna drive me crazy, because every day is gonna change and you're never gonna figure it out. But what matters is who's on that first page of Google? How much SEO have they done? And how could you do a better job of it? So that's what we're really trying to figure out is whether your competitors done and how can we do a better job of it?
Gary Pageau 5:20
So you work mostly with small and medium businesses? What are some of the typical mistakes are the first things you have to address? When you bring on a client? The thing you said when you look at their, their their strategy and what they've been doing? What are some of the things you see that they you automatically have to go to the correct,
Brandon Leibowitz 5:39
the most important is backlinks, getting other websites to talk about you. So you need clickable links from other websites that mentioned you. So if you're reading an article like the New York times.com, and in there it says brand new boots, and you click on that, and it goes to my website, I be getting a backlink from the New York times.com. So the more websites that talk about you, the more trust Google gives you. And then Google is the keywords on your website, but doesn't work the other way around without backlinks, Google's not going to trust you. They're not going to rank website, Google. So algorithm first started based off backlinks. It's changed a lot how to look at them over the years, but it's still primarily based off backlinks. And a lot of people come to me with websites that don't have any backlinks. Or they're the wrong type of backlinks. So it's going in and really cleaning up the backlinks along with fixing the website, making sure everything's all the keywords are in the right places, all the technical SEO is done. But without backlinks, none of that matters. So that's number one is making sure that you have good quality backlinks from relevant and authoritative websites that's going to build trust and get Google to rank you higher.
Gary Pageau 6:45
So how do you do that? If you're a, you know, a small town retailer, for example, and you know, maybe you want to somebody in your market is looking for cameras, or they're looking for film processing or something? How do you get those backlinks? Is it just a matter of just asking people for them? Or what's the process there?
Brandon Leibowitz 7:09
Yeah, there's a ton of different ways to get backlinks. I would say the best is spying on competitors. So there's tools out you could throw any website in there and see all the backlinks. So what I would do is go into Google search for your keywords, see who's on the first page of Google, write those websites down and then throw them into these different tools, you have to pay for them. Unfortunately, they're not free, but pay for these tools. And they'll show you every single backlink and then one by one, you start reaching out to the sites that seem relevant, authoritative, and trying to figure out like if they're linking out to your competitor, why did they get this backlink and more than likely, you're gonna get a backlink from these websites if they're like an archery competition, because either they made it like a Yelp, so you just go on and create a Yelp listing or maybe they got published on the New York Times, you could try I forgot who wrote this article, why they write an article about my competitor, and how can I maybe pitch myself to that author, and they might write about me. But the so the tools, there's a couple big ones, it doesn't matter which one you use, you just pick one and use that. It's a traps. It's a really big one, or Moz is a really popular one, or SEMrush is another really popular one. And these tools will show you all their backlinks. So one by one, you just spy on a competitor and look at all their backlinks. Because again, if they're on that first page of Google, it's primarily because those backlinks and a bunch of other variables, but the backlinks are just such a big part of their algorithm, that if you could get the backlinks that your competitors have, you'll definitely start moving up.
Gary Pageau 8:36
So you mentioned Yelp, what is the value of obviously, the Google My Business page is huge. You have to have one of those obviously, what are other directories as valuable or important? Or can you know if you're, you know, you've been a business person and maybe don't have the resources to hire someone like yourself? And you have to you're kind of doing this on your own? Are you? Are you delegate a staff person do it? What are the ones that you should focus
Brandon Leibowitz 9:05
on? I mean, there's so many directories out there.
Gary Pageau 9:08
Right. That's my point. There's a lot which ones are worth it? Yeah. And
Brandon Leibowitz 9:11
in the past, it was good on all now let's go after the quality site. So go after the bigger ones like Google, my business, Google Maps, they keep changing their name, but getting on there getting on like Yelp, MapQuest, Apple Maps, Bing Maps, Yellow Pages, Foursquare, I mean, those are kind of bigger ones. Other than that, there's any really niche industry related brands that I would go after that so if you'd like a real estate agent, then maybe you want to be on like Zillow, because Zillow is kind of like a directory that lists out a bunch of realtors. So it just depends if there's any really specific ones that are related to you, those are gonna be the best because then you get that relevancy aspect of it. Otherwise, you're just on a generic Yelp. Yelp is about everything. There's no relevancy whereas if you're a realtor and you're on Zillow, or HotPads, or Trulia or any of these are websites that relate to real estate, that's going to be a lot better. So that's where you got to discuss, you got to find your competitors. And you'll see where they're published, what directories are on. And you don't want to go after every backlink that they have. Because it's not the number of backlinks that you have. It's the number of quality backlinks. It used to be the more backlinks, you had the highest rank, but Google changed their algorithm. And now it's the number of quality backlinks and the quality backlink is a website that's related to you, and authoritativeness. So the more relevant it is to your business, the better off like if you're a real estate agent, you're getting a backlink from a doctor, that doesn't really make sense. But if you're a real estate agent, you're getting a backlink from website about like homes, mortgages, real estate in a somewhat related to what you're doing. That's what Google wants to see. And then authoritativeness how big is this website give you a backlink from my website, it's good, but it's not the same as like a Forbes or entrepreneur or Huffington Post or watch. Bigger the website, the more SEO value and relevancy those two are the real big aspects of the background,
Gary Pageau 11:07
that you can optimize images for SEO to write and it says a lot of my listeners there in the imaging business, what are some of the things you can do to optimize an image?
Brandon Leibowitz 11:17
Yeah, so there's a lot you can do with images, when you want the most important thing is to realize that Google can't read images, or videos. So what they look at is a file name that's really important is before you upload it to your website, or any platform, even like if you're uploading to Instagram or Facebook, you can rename that file name from whatever it is image 001 dot jpg to something that describes that image that's really important. Don't put keywords in it, but just describe that image in a couple of words. And then when you upload it to your website, usually, I mean, depending on what platform they're gonna ask for, like a title, description, a caption, but then they're gonna ask for alt text or alternative text, that one is really important for SEO is alternative texts. The other ones, it's okay to put in title description caption, but it's not going to have the same impact as an alt text. And the alt text is for visually impaired people where if you can't see or look at the screen, we have what are called Screen meters, where they'll read the text out. But when they get to images, videos, they can't read that. So they look at what's the alt text is. And that's should be descriptive of what that image is about. So don't worry about putting keywords in there just describe that image that's really important. And then Google also looks at the content around that image. So the text around that image should be related to what that image is about, that really helps out a lot is just having supporting content because Google can't read the images, but they read the text. So the text around that image before and after, should be somewhat related and have some of those keywords sprinkled in it. But before even upload the image to your website, you can take it one step further and right click on the image and go to properties. And then a whole list of settings comes up that you could put who the author is the date, the location, and all these other variables that go into it. So those are also important. If you're a local business, if you take a picture, Google will also look at the I forget what's called like the metadata, but they put in images where it shows the actual coordinates of the GPS, the latitude and longitude of that. So if you're a restaurant, and you take a big picture, and it's not in that restaurant is a mile away, a lot more beneficial to take the picture in that restaurant is see those tags, but also, when you right click on the image, you could change some of those properties and add a lot of other stuff in there. So right click on it go to properties. I mean, that's taking it one step further than 90% of people will do. Most people just have the file name and an alt tag. But if you go to the Properties, and also the text around it, those two things that many people really do for images, that will help out a lot.
Gary Pageau 13:49
Okay, because because that's one of the things I didn't realize a Google was looking, I know that obviously, that they you know, they look at all the West and I didn't realize they were actually looking at the location of pictures that they relate to the business. That's pretty cool. Actually, it's exact good ROI. What they're trying to do is verify the authenticity of the information. That's really, so really what you're what the lesson here is, don't try and pull one over on the Google.
Brandon Leibowitz 14:13
Know, they've seen all the tricks. I mean, Google's been around for 20 something years, and they've seen if you think they've found the shortcut, other people have done it. And Google potentially figured that out, saw that people are doing it and penalizes websites that are doing it. So like if you're naming your image, like if you're, let's say you're a restaurant, and like let's say you just took an image of like your menu, but you name it. Italian food best Los Angeles dot jpg, that's not good. You should just name it like Italian food menu and maybe your company name. So just describing that image, eventually you're gonna have images with your keywords that are going to be in it. But essentially, you just want to describe that image in a couple words and not make it really long and spammy. Don't worry about putting extra keywords in there that not really relevant anymore. In the past, it used to be like that, that Google changes all the time. So now it's just more quality descriptiveness. Okay,
Gary Pageau 15:09
so you mentioned earlier Instagram. There you are, there was a time where I don't believe that Google looked at Instagram as closely because there wasn't a cooperation between the companies. Is that true still.
Brandon Leibowitz 15:22
So Instagram is owned by Facebook. Right? They don't play well together. Facebook and Google are somewhat competitors. I mean, Google made Google Plus the social media say that. But the biggest thing is, Facebook has a big presence on video. And they don't want to lose that. And YouTube is owned by Google. And that's the number one video platform. So sorry, I was trying to or Facebook is trying to hold on to videos. That's why Facebook has Instagram. And they had IG TV, which is long form videos, because Facebook is losing viewers, or people aren't using Facebook as much. But people go on Instagram, and they're like, Oh, how do we get long form videos onto Instagram? Because before they were only 15 seconds, 30 seconds. They weren't now in a minute. But IG TV that to do long form video and real. I mean, they're changing all the time. So they're going after that. But yeah, Instagram is I mean, Google is blocked from most social media, Google can't see really anything that's done by social media, except for Twitter. Google partnered with Twitter a few years ago, right, I remember that, that one could potentially have some SEO value. But other than that, all other platforms are pretty much blocked from Google.
Gary Pageau 16:29
So someone's thinking, Well, I'm posting on my Insta, and I'm posting to my Facebook, why are my Google results getting any better? It's because Google can see into the Facebook world.
Brandon Leibowitz 16:41
Now sadly, so if you search for a company name, like you put Target or Walmart, or Costco A's, big companies in there, and you'll see on Google like search for, you'll see the most recent tweets, because Google could access that. But you'll see lower down, they're just going to show their Facebook page and not going to show anything on that Facebook page, because they're blocked from all that stuff. So they could see the tweets on Twitter because they have access to all that. And they're able to pull that data and show them in big boxes on Google. They're like really big, and they take up a lot of space.
Gary Pageau 17:12
So do you make recommendations then for social media strategy? Or is that not something that you do
Brandon Leibowitz 17:19
that social media just depends on who your audience is, and art forms are active on because I see people trying to be on every platform. And social becomes a big waste of time, where you have to figure out who is my audience? Where are they going to be? And how do I get in front of them. Like if you're doing images like Flickr is a really big website that not maybe we'll think of as social media, but it's not being on the big big site as being on the sites that have your audience. So try and be around people actually care about what you're offering. But surely doing photography, I'm sure Instagram is probably going to be really popular. Tik Tok, right, more video based. So depends if you're doing video review, then videos, but it really just depends on who your audience is. LinkedIn is what b2b, but just like an SEO company, let's say like a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist, I actually get that much traction from social media, people aren't really gonna go looking for a doctor on Facebook, or Instagram, or Twitter, some people might, but majority of people are probably gonna go on Google. And they probably shouldn't. Yep. And then after they find you, I'd like Google or Yelp, then they might vouch for you. And check you out on Google, I mean, on Facebook, or social media to check out like, who you are, do you have reviews? Do you have status updates? Can I talk to you? Are you a real company because social started to put a face behind the company? It really builds trust and credibility up?
Gary Pageau 18:39
Yeah, that's one of the things I was at a conference over the summer. And it was, you know, small business owners. And there was a lot of discussion about tick tock. And, you know, I was just questioning the time and effort involved in that what the ROI is, how do you measure the ROI on various social platforms, because like you said, some of them are very, like Facebook, you're gonna have stores now. And it can be very transactional, you can actually measure things like that through Facebook, as opposed to some of them that are more like, just for exposure, and they're not so much sales.
Brandon Leibowitz 19:12
Yeah, just depends on what you're measuring. But you are looking at analytics. And most of these platforms have analytics, and Facebook will give you analytics, but they don't really tell you the whole story. So Google Analytics is a free tool from Google. They'll show you how people behave once they've left Facebook and gone on to your website, how many pages they visit, what pages do they go to? How long do they stay on those pages? Do they leave immediately comes a bunch of information. So Google Analytics is just great for measuring everything. And it's a free tool, and it'll show you too much information. It's like data overload law, people are overwhelmed. He was
Gary Pageau 19:50
gonna say If you've spent any time in your Google Analytics account, you do wonder how much of this stuff is really irrelevant. What are maybe the some of the top three things if You're at a brick and mortar store, you would look for in your Google Analytics.
Brandon Leibowitz 20:05
So unfortunately, Google Analytics is changing over from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics for July 2023. So I can tell you the places to look now and Google, probably gonna change but just in general, what you are looking at is who or where is your traffic coming from? So it's going to change where that's right now, if you click on acquisition, all traffic source medium, no, show you where your traffic is coming from. I'll show you how much traffic something Google from Bing, from Yahoo, from Duck, duck, go from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, people just typing your website in and the articles that have been published, it'll show you all the traffic sources, which is probably the most important for SEO, let's figure out where my traffic is coming from, how long do they stay on my website for to leave immediately, all this stuff will be shown there. And that are added conversions. How many people purchase call you email you whatever that conversion goal is, that'd be the most important place, then the second most important place is looking at the top pages. So looking at which pages get the most traffic? Because if you're a blog, see which blog posts get the most traffic through an e commerce website, see which products have the most traffic, then we could see which pages have no traffic? But how long do they stay on this page? what's called the bounce rate, how many people have come to your website from left immediately. And maybe your top most popular page blog post product is getting the most traffic, but 90% of the people that came to that page left immediately thing I figure out what's going on? Why am I getting so much traffic, but they're leaving immediately is it loading slowly, maybe the messaging is off. But this is where you kind of figured become like a detective and try to figure out what's going on, see what the traffic sources like a lot of people will come to me, and they're running paid ads, like my ads aren't working, then we look at the bounce rate and see like, from Facebook, you're getting 10,000 visitors, but 90% of the people left immediately. So something's wrong. Either the ad is wrong, the text is wrong, or accidentally clicking on the head. Or maybe there was a ton of variables that can go into what's causing that. But that's where you gotta figure out what's going on. And Facebook's not going to tell you this balance, right? Like we got 2000 visitors, but they're not gonna tell you what happens after they get to your website, how long they stay on those pages. So Rolodex comes into play and tells you data overload, it's like so much information, but that information is valuable. It's just taking the time to go through it. And don't worry about clicking I mean, or breaking anything, you're not gonna break anything, just click on all the buttons there. And he was gonna learn so much information.
Gary Pageau 22:31
When someone has successful content, some of this bringing stuff in, like, you know, like set up walk, for example, one school of thought is, well, I need to double down on that kind of content and do more of it. Because it's drawing in traffic, or the other school of thought might be, well, I need to do other things. Because that one's already successful, what would you recommend,
Brandon Leibowitz 22:53
I mean a lot to do as much as you can, it's because you never know what's going to work until you try it out. So something's working, keep it there don't make any changes to it if it's ranked number one. But other than that, you want to try new strategies out or just test because you never know what's going to work until you try it out. And it's kind of just like throwing everything against the wall to Google. And some things are going to rank a lot quicker than others some keywords like rank immediately, whereas others could take months or years to rank just depends on so many variables, it's kind of tough, but you want to try get traffic from as many different sources as possible.
Gary Pageau 23:25
So what type of services does SEO optimizers offer.
Brandon Leibowitz 23:30
So mainly focus on search engine optimization, trying to get every traffic but also to help out with paid ads can help out with social media, but mainly focus on just trying to tap into that free traffic, because why spend money on ads if you can get up there for free, but that's the word because SEO does take some time. So while waiting for SEO to kick in, you might want to supplement it with some paid ads, in conjunction with social media also, is a way to tap into new audiences as well.
Gary Pageau 23:56
It's interesting, anything you pay. And one thing that's nice about paid ads is you know, you just buy the ad and you let it do the work. And with SEO optimization, you have to do the work. It's free, but you're spending time so there is a cost with your time. Yeah, it's just Well, great. Well, thank you, Brandon for your time and your expertise. Appreciate it. Where can people go to learn more about you and your company
Brandon Leibowitz 24:22
that wants to learn more actually created special gift for everyone. If they go to my website, S E O optimizers.com? That's SEO OPTIMIZERS.com/get They can find that there. Along with a bunch of classes I've done over the years for free if they want to learn more step by step how to do SEO or Google Analytics, social media, paid ads, I have a ton of classes all for free out there. And also if they want to book some time on my calendar, from an SEO point of view, I can analyze your website and let them know what's working, what's not working. And I'm happy to do that for free. They can book some time on my calendar there as well.