Hi, I’m Adrian Maidment, and this is the ‘WUMA Media Digital Marketing Podcast’.
This episode is on how Search Engine Optimisation can help a business. My guest is Robert Stark, who owns “I Am Robert”, a branding and digital design company based in Taiwan. We recorded this episode in Taichung, Taiwan, in a cafe with piano bar music filtering down. So, there’s a bit of that in the background every now and again. We’ll be covering what SEO means to the business, tips to improve your website, and future developments in the world of SEO.
First up, how do you think business owners should look at SEO?
Rob: [00:00:36] I think you should look at SEO as you know, the first thing we reach for is our cell phone. If we have a question or problem, SEO means being found on it. So, if you’re not being found on Google, then people can’t find you or know about your products or services. Our job is to connect customer questions and making sure that you can answer it as best you can, because really good or Google is, is an answer machine that wants to give you the best answer that it can for each person’s individual inquiry. And that could be even wherever you are in the world.
Adrian: [00:01:18] And what are some key, just sort of key elements business owners should be thinking about in regards to SEO?
Rob: [00:01:24] Probably the primary focus should be on the content that you provide. And when you provide content, you should look at how people, firstly, try to find you, and then work out ways to optimize your content or write content that resonates with your user or your customer.
Adrian: [00:01:44] And I think that gets a bit lost. Sometimes it gets a bit confusing. Isn’t it?
That’s true. But if you, if you come up in the top five results then there’s, probably a 70% chance of you being clicked. If you’re not in the top five results, then you’re not going to get found.
Because no one goes to page two.
Rob: [00:02:01] No, yeah. It’s less than 5% go to page two. And it’s, I’d probably say, it’s getting more complicated. I would say that Google is better at actually answering your questions. You know, if you type in little green man, 400 years old, Google can say Yoda, whereas probably previously, it didn’t have such a good understanding of our natural speaking patterns. So, it may be more complicated, but I think it has a bit of understanding of what we want. So, to find. When we, when we type into search.
Adrian: [00:02:36] And from a marketing view, people talk about the funnel, stages in the funnel.
Rob: [00:02:41] Yeah. AIDA – Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action, sometimes it’s desire.
Adrian: [00:02:47] And how does SEO fit into all of that?
Rob: [00:02:48] Well, I think you have to think about your company. Some articles that you write should be top of the funnel, which is the awareness phase. Like making people identify that they have a problem. And then, some of those should be at the action phase. You know, like if someone’s wanting to buy Botox, then they should, you know, then you’d probably want best Botox services in Tauranga.
Adrian: [00:03:08] When you’re doing websites for people. Well, looking into people’s websites, are there a common few errors that people are making or areas where they really could be improved on?
Rob: [00:03:20] I think one of the things now is, is what’s called Search Intent. Google is really looking for search intent and search intent is where, for instance, now, if you type in say unboxing PlayStation, then every result will be a video.
So, when you want to rank for something, you’d have to see what the search intent is. And then you need to write content that’s better than that intent. So, it might, may not always be content and content can be video images lead before and after pictures, or it could be, you know, it could be writing.
So, you have to look at the result and work out, what expertise do I have or what unique perspective do I have on that little area? And how can I make it better?
Adrian: [00:04:07] Yeah, because people often go, I’d better go write a blog and knock out 700 words or something. But the customer might not actually want that, I just want to watch the video, the how-to video.
Rob: [00:04:16] It could be. You know, YouTube is effectively a search engine. Google and people go there for, you know, if you have a problem, sometimes you want to start with a video and other people start with voice search now. So, search comes in different ways.
Adrian: [00:04:35] You’re in a sort of a unique position of… not completely unique, but you’re dealing in two languages. How’s that different?
Rob: [00:04:41] Often with search, it has local intent. So, if you’re looking for best hairdresser, then that would be based on your region. So, you have to think about that when you’re building a bilingual website. But I mean, most of my customers are usually a Taiwan company, so they do either manufacturing or they’re in health. So, I have two customer bases that I target -is either Taiwanese looking for medical results or I’m looking for ex-pat or foreigners in English, looking for their products overseas, that my two main markets. Let’s say for B2B 93% of people are B2B purchases, start off with a search.
71% of those are generic. So, people are not looking for your brand. They’re looking for a specific product. So, if you can make the best product page, you have a good chance of being found.
Adrian: [00:05:38] And with COVID, on the product side of things, e-commerce has exploded, hasn’t it.
Rob: [00:05:43] Yeah. And also, Taiwan companies often focus a lot on the trade shows, but the trade shows are not going to happen this year. And probably, and you know, it’s already been a year, so probably two years, so people will get used to not going to trade shows. I believe. So, I think the focus should be more on working on their websites.
Adrian: [00:06:03] Is there any quirky Taiwanese website, things that set you off?
Rob: [00:06:08] I’d say that having the about page as the first link. You know, generally, in the West, we always go to the product page first. And then if we are interested in the product, then we’ll click the about page to learn more about the company.
Whereas Taiwanese companies often feel that their users should go to the about page first and then click on services or products. So, we have to correct that information.
Adrian: [00:06:33] In your dealings, do you find any sort of management differences between Western companies and Taiwanese-owned companies?
Rob: [00:06:41] I think because the way Taiwan business is structured, the group harmony is more important than the individual. So, often it will have a top-down structure. And often, often divisions in a company are quite siloed, like sales and marketing might be separate and they don’t interact that greatly. But, to make an awesome website, you want to have different perspectives from different customers talking, you know, meeting and, and to, to get the right content.
Adrian: [00:07:06] So it’s a bit of a challenge?
Rob: [00:07:11] So sometimes it can be a challenge. Often medical websites, they often focus more on the technical side or the technology that they have. Taiwan has more DaVinci machines, you know, that’s the laser. Taiwan has more DaVinci machines than anywhere else in Asia, per person.
So that’s not really a differentiating factor. Whereas most people start off with -I have this symptom, do I have this condition? So, if you can answer those questions better than anybody else, and you get to the top of the search term, back to the customer focus. So that’s our job. Our job is to focus on the customer and think about what customers really search for.
And most customers don’t type DaVinci machines, most customers type – Do I have a hernia? Do I have cancer? So, answering those top-of-the-funnel questions is generally more helpful.
Adrian: [00:08:12] Do you like writing? You must do because you just published a couple of blogs, haven’t you?
Rob: [00:08:17] I love writing. I love thinking about what my customers want to read. So, I started off by doing some pillar posts. Pillar posts are where you try to write a definitive guide on that topic. So, I’ve done two so far, one On-page SEO and one on Keyword Research. Most companies, before you start a website, you should have a goal. And you should have an ideal customer profile and the goals that you want to achieve in that.
So, keyword research helps you to work out the words that your customers are trying to type to find you.
Adrian: [00:08:53] And on-page, what’s that in a nutshell?
Rob: [00:08:56] On-page is more about optimizing your content and optimizing your design and optimizing the code.
Adrian: [00:09:05] We’ll get back into a bit of a marketing-speak on the buyer journey. It’s getting a bit more complicated. How has that changed?
Rob: Search has redefined the buyer’s journey. Buyers no longer follow a linear path from awareness to consideration to purchase. We turn straight to our phone for immediate answers. Using on-page SEO. It helps your brand be there and gain visibility by helping people and Google match your content to search queries.
Adrian: There are other search engines, but Google is just so dominant. Isn’t it?
Rob: [00:09:38] Yeah, Google has over 93% unless you’re in China. And then you’ve got to deal with Baidu.
Adrian: [00:09:43] Right now. I want to talk about somebody making news in the SEO world is core web vitals.
Rob: [00:09:51] I feel like Core Web Vitals is a new ranking signal for Google. In its algorithm, it’s alongside the other 200 plus ranking factors. Pages with good user experience will perform better than those without. So, there’s three core web vital metrics, are Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and CLS, (Cumulative Layout Shift), which is basically like page, load time.
How interactive is your page? Like how long it takes before you can click the menu and how visually stable your page is. Sometimes when we, when, when things load, the page will jump around. So, Google is trying to reduce that shift.
Adrian: [00:10:37] It’s easy, if you’re a business owner to test it out, you just, you can go to Incognito and then go inspect the page, go into Lighthouse and see what happens. Lighthouse, inspect, and it’ll bring up the stats on your page.
Rob: [00:10:54] You can also just type page speed insights. And Google will give you a score. If you’re based in New Zealand or anywhere else in the world, I think we’ve got to think about where their servers are located, which is currently in the US. So, the journey from New Zealand to US, or Taiwan to US, will probably make a little bit of a difference in speed.
Adrian: [00:11:14] And sometimes you do a search, you do it again, and the results can be a bit. It can be a bit of a freak-out moment because you can see how poorly your page is doing on speed.
Rob: [00:11:26] According to Google, 53% of people will leave a website, a mobile if it doesn’t load in three seconds. So that’s what Google is trying to push. Because results that don’t come up, results that come up and are too slow, then people click the back button. So those results are not seen as, as valuable as something that loads faster.
So, the main thing with page speed is, can you show something within three seconds?
Adrian: [00:11:54] Yeah. I like page speed. Make it faster, make it faster.
Rob: [00:11:58] However, it’s very technical. And it would require for many, many websites to start from scratch. So, Google’s going to introduce it slowly and we haven’t, we haven’t seen the effects of it yet. But content is the bread and butter of SEO.
Adrian: [00:12:16] Another thing on that sort of topic, just saying you do eco there’s lots of different areas of it. So, if you have got, say someone doing SEO, it might require other people to do other parts of your website, like a technical website designer.
Rob: [00:12:29] Also with Core Web Vitals, it is testing on a 3G mobile network.
So, a lot of the first world has 4G.
Adrian: [00:12:40] I think it’s going to become quite important.
Rob: [00:12:43] A slow loading site that fails Google’s requirements will eventually get a drop in rankings and traffic. But ultimately the content that you provide is more important because what’s the point of a fast-learning site that has terrible content. Will that make the user happier?
Adrian: [00:13:03] Yes. Okay. The balance, you’ve still gotta have the content.
Rob: [00:13:05] So a lot of it is thinking about things like lazy loading images. So as you scroll down the page, the images load, thinking about things like building a spa, a single page application, and that gets quite complex when you’re using a CMS, such as WordPress, because often the templates that you buy, are not configured for Google page speed. Often the templates that you buy and not configured for core web vitals.
The good-looking pictures and they go, that’s awesome. Awesome. It’s going to be great, but there’s a whole lot more going on. Like often when we design websites, we’ll load an image, the same image for mobile size and then we’ll load it for desktop size, which is different. So, getting onto your business is if I’m a Taiwan business owner or a western dude in Taiwan, what’re the steps that you would go through a client say, first time client, coming in to see you.
We always start off with the discovery session, which is to work out who your customers are. What’s your unique selling point and what new goals we don’t have goals of what you want to achieve in business. Then it’s impossible to work out how the website’s going to work or the brand name, and then the next step after that.
So, you’ve got your goals. Then we put together a plan. Generally, if it’s a branding project, that will probably be identity, and how that identity is going to be used. Or if it’s a website, a website is most of our work. So, for us, our website would be our first stage after discovery is we would, we do a sitemap with you.
We work through your keywords. And we give you an idea of the search volume for those keywords. Then we put that together into a site map and a content plan. From there we work in, we move into what’s called a wireframe, which is like a visual representation of how your site would look, how it would work and function.
And from there, once that’s been approved and we move into the design phase. For us, we custom design every, we, we build custom templates and custom things for each of our clients. So, whatever we design in Adobe XD is what we can code. And then from that, we move into code phase and then we move into a CMS.
A CMS allows you to enter content so often for us. We use Joomla, but we’ve also got some experience with WordPress and one of the things that’s really important with a CMS is mapping content types. So, for example, if you’re making a recipe page, then you’re going to have ingredients. So, you want content forms that you can enter in your ingredients.
And so you don’t have to mess with code or, or shortcuts. That’s one of the things we really like to focus on is making, making content entry as easy as possible. From there we go through like a check. And we test that across different browsers and devices.
And then we go through our training program with most of our clients. To show them how to use their website.
Adrian: [00:16:36] That’s important because some people in my experience get their website. and they’re like, how do I use it though? And we, you know, we build, usually we, we do that and then we can make videos and we always give a warranty of two months.
Rob: [00:16:48] So the customer can ask us any questions and we can work through any, any problems or issues they have. And then that’s the start. And then often customers hire us to continue to work on their SEO and their focus on content. And as your website gets more traffic, then we start to work on specific areas such as lead generation.
And as you see how customers come through your website, you can work out ways to optimize it through conversion rate optimization. Most of our projects have a two-to-three-month timeline.
Adrian: [00:17:29] A bit different to knocking out a few Google ads. Isn’t it? I mean, the time frame compared to SEO.
Rob: [00:17:40] I think inbound is more effective per dollar than outbound. If you can build content that people trust, then that content resonates with people and they believe in the company. If you just use outbound, then as soon as you, as soon as you, your ad budget dries up, then, so does your lead gen, so you can use it, you know, you can use a mix and match of both.
Adrian: [00:18:08] So now we’re going to do the quick-fire round.
I’ve got some questions we’re supposed to be doing these quickly. When I say content management system, I mean kind of like what website would you use? Okay, ready? Question one. If you’re a small business owner, what’s a good website to start off with?
Rob: [00:18:25] I would say WordPress or Joomla.
Adrian: [00:18:28] You use Joomla. And once you get bigger, what website would you use?
Rob: [00:18:32] WordPress and Joomla, then it helps you to, allows you to expand.
Adrian: [00:18:36] Any thoughts on the Wix?
Rob: [00:18:37] I’m not really a fan of Wix, because if you look at the core web vitals, it seems to do quite poorly.
Adrian: [00:18:42] And Squarespace?
Rob: [00:18:43] Squarespace has US servers. So, if we’re based in Taiwan, then it probably doesn’t load as fast and often the sites are very heavy.
Adrian: [00:18:51] Who is an SEO person to follow for some information on online. Who would you follow?
Rob: [00:18:57] I would say I like Brian Dean. He’s pretty good.
Adrian: [00:19:02] A helpful SEO resource to go to, or website?
Rob: [00:19:07] Backlinko.com.
Adrian: [00:19:08] That’s Brian Dean again.
Rob: [00:19:10] And iamrobert.com.
Adrian: [00:19:12] That’s a good one. Who owns that one?
Rob: [00:19:15] Me.
Adrian: [00:19:15] Okay. That’s good. It’s not biased. Best free resource to help people with their SEO?
Rob: [00:19:22] I would have to say Ubersuggest, it’s pretty handy. You have five free searches a day.
Adrian: [00:19:29] Okay. What’s one thing to look at, that could help your rankings.
Rob: [00:19:35] Make sure you serve every page under one URL. So, your website is either WWW or non-WWW. Choose one and then stick to that and use that throughout all your marketing and branding.
Adrian: [00:19:48] What’s frustrating about doing SEO?
Rob: [00:19:50] Writing content and not getting results.
Adrian: [00:19:52] And my final question is, what’s to look out for in the future of SEO?
Rob: [00:19:57] Voice search.
Adrian: [00:19:58] Voice search. Okay. Thank you, Robert. I’ll do the scores and I’ll give you the results later. I think that was a hundred percent though. And finally, Rob, if people want to find out more about you or your business, probably your business, where can, they search online.
Rob: [00:20:16] I am robert.com.
Outro: [00:20:18] What about, you’ve got social media going on? You’re on LinkedIn. I’ve got LinkedIn. And that’s enough. LinkedIn is very good isn’t it. If you type, iamrobert.com you’ll find me. Okay. That’s very good. Thank you for your time, Rob. Cheers. Thanks Adrian. You’re welcome.