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SEO In-House

Kerry Guard • Tuesday, July 12, 2022 • 50 minutes to listen

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Luke Richardson

Luke is a web subject matter expert with 9 years of experience working in SEO and conversion rate optimization. In his current role, he leads a team of 5 and oversees SEO, web analytics, and web development for a rapid-growth cybersecurity unicorn. In his free time, Luke enjoys spending time with his fiancee, playing chess, and learning about wine.



Hello, I’m Kerry Guard and welcome to Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders. Summer has arrived! Hope y’all in the US had an awesome 4th and business is slowing down a bit for you to get outside and play. When my son was just 18 months old he’d bring me his shoes and say oooooooosiiiiiide. So cute! Summer just makes me remember those awesome memories.

Anyway, here we are! Season 12. Three full years of Tea Time With Tech Marketing Leader Podcast. Thank you all so much for your support whether you’ve been a guest, listener, or supporting us in the background. I appreciate all of you. What a ride. We’ve had some amazing guests over the last 96 episodes, and I’m stoked to introduce this season. It’s quite the eclectic bunch! Which is perfect for summer. While you’re gearing up for Q4, hopefully, you find some new inspiration in this season. I know I did! It was so many great conversations in here and new ideas. It just had a great summer vibe.

Up first, is Luke Richardson. Luke is interesting because it’s not every day I run into someone who has built an entire internal team dedicated to SEO. Content yes. Front-end web development, yes. But to be thinking with an SEO lens in regards to everything they do around demand gen, I haven't heard of that yet. And so this was an awesome conversation where Luke talked me through how he did it, the position he found himself in to make it happen, and most importantly, the payoff he's been experiencing because of it.

Luke is a web subject matter expert with 9 years of experience working in SEO and conversion rate optimization. In his current role, he leads a team of 5 and oversees SEO, web analytics, and web development for a rapid-growth cybersecurity unicorn. In his free time, Luke enjoys spending time with his fiancee, playing chess, and learning about wine.


Kerry Guard: Hi, Luke. Thank you for joining me on Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders.

Luke Richardson: Hi, Kerry, happy to be here.

Kerry Guard: Excited to have you. Before we jump in, tell our listeners, Luke, what do you do? And how did you get there?

Luke Richardson: I am the director of web at Panther, a fast-growing cybersecurity unicorn. And what I essentially do is run the web function, which is part of marketing but handles everything from web development to strategy, SEO, analytics, and anything else you can think of. It’s a fairly technical team, even though we report to marketing. How I got there is that I studied marketing as my undergrad. And while I was in college, I did several internships and JR consulting work to get experience. I found myself gravitating towards the science side of marketing, more of the analyzing data and strategizing about tests you could run. Ten years ago, SEO was a new hot thing and mysterious. You've heard about it, and clients always asked for it, but it was poorly understood. There's this total black box, and I gravitated towards it. It seemed like where the market was heading in terms of what I often heard clients or colleagues talking about or asking about, so I started digging into it then. And quickly, I became the SEO guy that was sort of what I was known for. I shouldn't have known about it because I didn't know much about it. I've been an SEO for almost ten years now and have worked in different fields along the way, and SEO brings lots of other web-related skills along with it. So that's what led to my broader scope as a web person and web team leader instead of just an SEO leader.

Kerry Guard: I have a couple of questions for you because you said some interesting things there. Unicorn. What do you mean by a unicorn?

Luke Richardson: A unicorn means a billion-dollar valuated company or above. I don't know. Maybe I'm throwing around some state nomenclature there.

Kerry Guard: I’m just making sure we're on the same page. We're going to talk about the actual billion-dollar company. And then the other thing you said that I thought was interesting was you went to marketing school, which I find, especially the elder millennial, so we are unusual. I think it is more now. My cousin's sending marketing, but I think media planning is mind-boggling to me, but for us, I feel like it wasn't a well-known degree. So why marketing?

Luke Richardson: I don't have an exciting answer. Honestly, it was the most pragmatic program available from my point of view when I joined. I went into Emerson and a film program. I only lasted in the film program about four months before pivoting to marketing because I was freaked out by the lack of a pragmatic career outcome there. So I looked at the programs across the school, and marketing communications seemed a clear and smart move. I can't give you a better answer than that. It just seemed like a safe pick?

Kerry Guard: I'm a photography major from Dark Souls. So I feel like there is some alignment in film and marketing and photography and marketing, so I can see the leap. It's already been a place out of school, and to get a stay there and shift makes a ton of sense. It’s very cool.

What's one challenge you're currently facing keeping you up at night or something you're having a hard time putting your finger on?

Luke Richardson: It can be challenging to do a good job of evangelizing what a web team is doing across an entire company. Because so much of what we do is mystified, technical, and jargon rich. Part of what I see in my job is being able to constantly evangelize not just the SEO stuff we're doing, but if we're doing some cool thing that's going to make our website faster or more secure, or if there's some big code upgrade we have to do that's going to take all kinds of time, and it's worth it. It's not going to seem worth it when we tell people we prioritize it over trivial landing page requests. So I struggle because I'm constantly trying to hold myself to a higher standard. Does the average person at Panther know what the web team does? Do they know what our mandate is and that thing that can be tough? I think you do have to commit time and contribute. What are the terms mean? What do you know? What do we mean if we say, technical SEO, or web and web attribution? What are these things mean? Who's doing the work? I think that's one of my main challenges.

Kerry Guard: Is that because people don't see its value? Is that because there aren't clear outcomes? Why do you feel like this?

Luke Richardson: I'm in the B2B space, but maybe a good parallel is someone who works in some B2C or is always struggling because everyone's a consumer. It's the same problem with the web. Everyone has some context of what a website does, and we often get these requests or questions because people think of the website as more of a brochure and say, “Why don't we have more pages up? I've only seen a couple of new pages built this month. Does that mean the web team isn't doing anything? It's helping get you to train some people out of bad habits, and then other people have an extremely advanced understanding of the web and are wondering and looking for more technical specific answers. I guess it balances the different context levels of a broad organization across all departments and then finds a way. Evangelize what we're doing without offending some people and confusing other people.

Kerry Guard: Total balancing act for sure, level and people. I like what you said to people's level of understanding. You create a variety, so how do you speak? You want to speak to the middle. We'll speak to each person and where they sit, but you also don't. Positivity and all that fun jazz. It's tough for sure. You're in a unique position because it's unusual to have not a web team standard but a technical SEO implementation on your site as well. I mean, that's speaking as an agency that's generally outsourced. You're in this interesting position. You have an SEO background, and you're able to build a web team around that. Is it building the web team around SEO? Or is it just so happens that you also bring to the table? What's the dynamic there?

Luke Richardson: SEO is probably at the core of the team and the team's focus. You could make the argument. If you were to say SEO is essentially about optimizing a website to make Google happy, and then if you took it a step back and said,” Google's whole point of all the rules and criteria and ranking. Everything they do is about user experience. Their whole thing is we want to only serve stuff in our search index that's extremely high quality.” You could then take it further and ask, isn't SEO optimizing for good web regardless of whether it ranks? I have an SEO background. I'll also add that the VP I work under is extremely educated regarding SEO. She prioritized it and had very advanced folks running for her. She's one of the more advanced executives you'll talk to about this subject.

We're very SEO-kind of bullish in terms of everything we do. Everyone on my team, even those purely developers, can speak to SEO to a pretty advanced level, maybe not a practitioner level. For example, one of my lead developers can easily edit and update schema markup. He's using that not would be hard for a general developer. They'll know how to write JSON or microdata, no question, but he's familiar with the different categorization, or you'd be familiar with FAQ markup which I would say is probably a little unusual. Most developers point them at the documentation, and then they'd be able to do it. He's familiar with it because we do core a lot of what we're doing. Our team is held to KPIs around driving non-paid traffic, and I hold the web team to stick to those impacts KPIs. So all of that, combined with the incentives we have for the team, there's a driving force there for everyone to be at least somewhat educated about how we can make sure we're showing our visibility as high as it can be and search.

Kerry Guard: You said a couple of interesting things there. One of the things you said is that it sounds like you hire people with some SEO experience. I sometimes find it hard to convince developers that we need something as simple as schema, and they feel it's busy work or in their way. The fact that you've built your team around this concept of having SEO at the core of what you do. Is that a good assumption?

Luke Richardson: One of the main developers lead; I hired him three years ago, brought him with me to this job, and poached him when I left my last company. When I initially hired him, he didn't talk about having any SEO experience. He is just working with me and fielding the types of requests, projects, and strategies I lead has gotten advanced. It's not hard for a sharp developer to become a sharp technical SEO. The fundamentals are there. It's just about focusing on schema stuff or using a lighthouse within DevTools. They probably don't have done an audit in DevTools a million times. They may not have used the lighthouse or API thing. And once they use it, they're super easy. He's gotten the reps working with me, and now he's extremely advanced in SEO, but it wasn't like when I interviewed him that I required that. I always hire curiosity first, so as long as the curiosity is there, along with hard skills, people will probably like SEO because it's a very interesting subject.

Kerry Guard: It is a unique position. What made you and your team decide to have SEO in-house and put so much emphasis on it? We all know the importance of it, but is there enough work for you and your team to be dedicated to it? Or is SEO just an element of your bigger web work?

Luke Richardson: It is a full-time role. I was doing a mapping exercise recently with my team in terms of who owns which lane, and we all agreed that we need one person to quote-unquote, own SEO on the team in terms of driving the proactive content, side content on the expansion side of SEO, and then also managing general technical stuff. We need an owner there, even if we all have some experience. Being in B2B, especially in cybersecurity, SEO is crucial. It's extremely good, and it's a very good fit.

SEO is the only thing you should do. If you're a big consumer brand that is already well known, it may not make sense to have a full-time SEO. You may be worrying about our website's stuff being indexed correctly, or are we checking the right boxes and stuff. You may not have a genuine plan and need to build many pages and obsess about which keywords you're ranking for because 90% of our business is branded, referred, or whatever. I'm mindful that it has its place. But for certain markets like ours, the work is there if you can hire a great person and find good talent. I have no trouble finding it. We have plenty of work on the SEO side.

Kerry Guard: It's not just because of something you said earlier. SEO seems to be at the heart of what you all do, but it's not about ranking for SEO. Correct me if I'm wrong, and I'm taking your word, so feel free to correct me. Google wants you to build a great user experience, and then it ranks well because you did that. Is that what you were talking about earlier?

Luke Richardson: The initial question you'd ask is, are you making all these functions have SEO in mind? Or do they all live and breathe off the core, fundamental concepts, and values? And I would say that more user experience, which is the origin of what Google is trying to do, can work as a central pillar. The way you write your JavaScript with your web attribution in mind, you could, in theory, be thinking about page load, the efficacy, and whether we are passing on the right data the right way and mapping UTM. You can always come back and say, “Yes, let's do it that way. But can we also make sure we did things with best practices?” That's more of a pillar. We're not holding to piggyback on that example. We're not saying, “Oh, does our web attribution JavaScript help us rank for keywords?” Those things don't map together. I always try to keep those in mind. We have priorities that have nothing to do with SEO. Sometimes, we just have to stand up a page and a PDF or something for sales. We have to stand that up. That's enabling sales and marketing and part of our mandate as well. It's not that everything we do can ever be tied back to SEO. There are some pillars you can centralize upon.

Kerry Guard: What is your primary? It is so important that you've built a team internally around it. What are you being held to in terms of success?

Luke Richardson: A big KPI we're held to is non-branded organic traffic. We've found a nice, clean number that levelized out the noise of branded search. Those who have worked in SEO, know that if you marry yourself to a number that includes branded search when your number is great because the brand search was up, you'll take credit for it. When your numbers are terrible because the branded search was down, you'll say, “Well, I can't control that. It's brand search.” So how we handle that is we only report on non-branded and if branded is going up and down. We just tell people about it for PRs benefit. We have held it out and have numbers we're trying to hit. And then, there are additional goals around leads generated by organic search, and we also care about that. And finally, I target a general visit to lead conversion rate, which is crucial when I think about our AV testing program. This sort of the two motions; get them onto the site through non-paid means and then convert them once they're on the site. I think of those as SEOs, the first party, because your two testings will improve those two KPIs. But those are three KPIs in particular that my team is required to set goals and commitments towards and that we're held accountable to on a quarterly basis, from a KPI perspective.

Kerry Guard: I don't know if you can measure this or not, but in terms of what you're trying to accomplish, is SEO making an impact from a revenue standpoint? Is this focused on the top of the funnel? All your metrics are at the very top of the middle of the funnel. Is that by design? Or, if ROI is a chance, what's your feeling when it comes to revenue?

Luke Richardson: There are a few things. We are a young company. We do not have full-funnel attribution yet, but I think we'll get there. We have a three to six months longer sales cycle here in the cyber world. We're getting there, and it just takes a lot of advanced stuff on the Salesforce side, which we're still building. I worked at a place with the same audience before, and that business was much further along than we are now, so we did have that level of attribution. Some of the revenue sourced by channel data we had was extremely interesting. I can tell you that we saw over a third of our marketing source revenue was coming from organic search. We got that number at a former place, which is super interesting. And I know that precedent exists. It is very hard in the B2B space to get your attribution model to that level of fidelity. We're moving towards that takes away, so I can't answer that. Honestly, I'm not sure if I'd be allowed you, but the precedent’s there.

Kerry Guard: But that sounds like the plan would eventually be lovely. You are exactly right, somewhere. Exactly. I've seen it, too, where we have clients whose SEO is now over a third of their revenue. It is possible, but it is taken years to get there.

And as you can impact, the beauty of it is that at the end of the day, it's this revenue generator where you put money. You have to spend money on resources upfront like you're doing now. And you're crazy, but it compounds over time, making money for you while you sleep. It just takes years to get there. Foundation and best practices, most of the things.

Luke Richardson: Yeah, I did.

Kerry Guard: It is great that your team is situated to do this. You've spoken a lot about technical. You've talked a lot about saying some pages up here and there. What's your take on content? From a resource standpoint, content and SEO content are a huge need, but it's also hard because you need a lot of resources to make it happen. What's happening to you on that side of things? Is content a priority? And if so, is that your team? Is that another team? What fits into the architecture of your organization and the priority?

Luke Richardson: I have a good answer for this. I have found that it's going to be a very effective talking point when speaking to marketing higher. As I often talk about jurisdictional content, you'll often find that people always want to do the "kill two birds with one stone" approach. With content, it's like, "Oh, let's have it rank for this keyword. Let's keep thought leadership in mind too. And by the way, can we use it for paid social or something?" And that just doesn't work. You have to experience to tell them profitably and to show them that it doesn't work. It's great if you're working under an executive who gets it. I'm lucky to be in that situation. My boss understands it and trusts me when I say these things. I have a writer who only does SEO-focused content for me. He's a contract writer, and for all intensive purposes, that comes out of my budget for all intensive purposes. Our budget stuff is weird here, but it comes out of the web budget. When I joined, he was one of the first hires. I'm his contractor. One of the first resources I brought was this writer that I've worked with in the past, who happens to be specialized in cybersecurity. I have been grooming that relationship for many years, and he gets it. Now he understands the process and how to write in a human way with a keyword in mind. So that's the way I recommend doing this, and I've already outlined the way not to do it, which is having a shared content resource and trying to squeeze a little bit out of this or optimizing the header of a blog that someone else already wrote. Either let's agree up front that we're going to jurisdictionally allocate this for SEO purposes, or let's not. It's not worth your time.

Kerry Guard: It sounds that you would not have different writers necessarily, but you do want to allocate the way certain content serves a certain purpose. Leadership content isn't necessarily there to rank for all the keywords and the lands. It is there to be meaningful around how you move people through the journey of whatever it is you're trying to change their minds on something. That's what that ship is supposed to do versus something more bottom of the funnel, how to actionable. Is that a good example of content serving a purpose, and why one might be SEO? And one might not be?

Luke Richardson: Yeah, I agree with the way you characterize it. I would add thought leadership content. I always think of the word piffy. You want the header to be fun, weird, and grab phrases. The people writing that content will be very different from the SEO people. They will have a new way of positioning the brand, product, or whatever. They will say, "Let's try this out." This is resonating and will never align, but that will rarely align with your search intent. I've seen it repeatedly, often the market categorization or how users look for a thing. It's funny to take that to a CEO or a product manager. They'll look at it and be like, "What? That's so boring. We want to call it the fun way, a new way. Cool! " Those are two completely different worlds. They do not align, so we will have to do two different content vehicles. We can do the fun thing with the fun header, but that's not what people are looking for. What do you want me to do? I can't put two different H ones on the page. Let's do two different kinds of vehicles.

Kerry Guard: Well, I think thought leadership content is really powerful because it does hook people. It does bring them in, and it does generate traffic. SEO is more if you build it, they will come right because you are all you're building towards something that is already looking for, versus trying to create something that you want to catch people's attention and bring them that way. So both of them are going to do the same thing ultimately. They're just going to do it in two different ways. And I believe, correct me if I'm wrong, but thought leadership content when you share both of them, I think you can share them across social.

Thought leadership might get picked up more, build backlinks to the site, and build total liability. There is still an SEO link there. The way you write it, you write one from an SEO perspective of keywords and want to rank and if you build it or they will come versus being pithy, being creative being and drawing people in. But they're both still help SEO, just from?

Luke Richardson: You hit the nail on the head. I want you to say I have told PR firms when I'm trying to explain how they can help me. They often think, “Should I take the report I'm working on and rename it with that keyword?” And I say, “No, don't do that. Because that's the wrong vehicle for that, talk to me about what you'll be linking to internally in that report because you'll probably get more link coverage than I will with the type of content I'm producing. Let's work together.

Kerry Guard: PRH. PR’s a great example of thought leadership and how that can help with SEO from a back-end standpoint. This SEO is connected to everything; at the end of the day, you're saying it's in the middle. It's just a matter of using each thing for the right thing. So let's talk about your team for a second because this is interesting that your company has built a web team. There's you who's driving the overall vision. You got a writer, which is from an SEO standpoint. You got a developer. Is it the three of you?

Luke Richardson: Its team has grown quite quickly. We are a key well. I've got salaried, full-time, and you've got contractors. It's a team of five, which is the salaried folks. And then we've got contractors, but we put it simply, there's a dev arm, a team of two, soon-to-be a team of three. We're about to make a new hire there, so that's growing. And two in-house and one contract developer. We have an analytics lead that we recently hired that I like to think of as our data fidelity lead on the website. There's just so much work to be done there. We have our SEO lead to someone I hired a couple of months ago who's been taking on a lot of stuff. But we recently agreed that SEO should be his ownership lane because that's what he knows best, and we need it. I just outlined, and then we've got the writer I mentioned, a contractor. Lastly, we have a web product manager, a salaried member who I call on the web product manager in charge of all intake and sprint planning and release, just everything that's going on in the orchestration of the whole function, which is a critical role that I'm really glad we have. That was the second hire I made after I joined.

Kerry Guard: I'm not trying to say this belittling standpoint because it’s a very important role, but just to be distinctive. Project manager?

Luke Richardson: We refer to him as the lead PM or project management. I like to think of it from a product manager standpoint because our website is a living, breathing machine that supports a lot of masters. Thus, it has many stakeholders, feature requests, and roadmap concepts beyond your basic, like, “Hey, can you stand up this page?” Or “Hey, can we make a color change or sort of broader, we need to launch this chat thing, or whatever we have these bigger things.” It's philosophical. Honestly, it's pedantic, but I like thinking about it in terms of product cycles and not just sprint planning, but more version release. When we get to this level of a version release, we will have this level of functionality, and there'll be this advance. It will help. We will solve this or that stakeholder process.

Kerry Guard: It's important. A website is essentially a product in and of itself, especially if you're talking about your functionality if you have all of this interactivity of features of how somebody can come and experience your website, your brand. Websites these days can function like an app, so thinking about them as a product is cool.

Luke Richardson: Let's just take some explaining some time because I agree, or you're not the first person to be like, “Is that the right way?” Well, yes and no, whatever is easiest for people to associate.

Kerry Guard: It's cool the way you're thinking about it, and an interesting role to the need of your team because of the features that must come in for you across between marketing and product. Is marketing and product mostly making the requests?

Luke Richardson: It's mostly marketing, sales, and customer success. Usually, the product is not asking things of us. We're asking things and then saying, “Is this right? Did we get this wrong?” And to be messaged this correctly. But, typically, the closer you are to customers or prospects, the more you are coming to the web and asking for things, such as enablement, new web pages, etc.

Kerry Guard: It sounds that you're in charge of functionality and ensuring that that functionality works in terms of user intent and intent, being how you get found it from an SEO perspective. Is that sort of a Yeah, I

Luke Richardson: That is fair. We have a number of mandates. There are the two big ones which we already talked about, or like one is growing, non-paid traffic and leads. But the other huge one I've alluded to is that we are on the hook for that web attribution and data fidelity, which is a tall task. It's very easy for a B2B to hook in from a visit to a salesforce pipeline. Setting it up correctly and monitoring and resolving any attribution outage becomes quite a big task. So I'd say those are our biggest areas of real resourcing functionality stuff. Most of our average users are still going to be on desktop, but certainly, mobile, and there are different conversion points, different ways people talk to sales or talk to an expert, or whatever they're trying to do. So, there's a functionality component for sure.

Kerry Guard: Maybe you've sparked some interest here, that maybe we need this in-house. What advice would you give to anybody thinking about building this web or SEO team in-house? What things did you learn that you would like to pass that knowledge on to? I did this ten years ago.

Luke Richardson: It's tough because the first thing I want to say is it depends on the company and the needs, and there's so much there. But if I were to speak in the vaguest and the broadest statements, first and foremost, I would say I do not recommend a marketing generalist trying to hire an SEO specialist in-house. That is very difficult to do. It's very difficult to find an SEO expert that will hit the ground running on day one through a standard interview process. If you yourself have either little or no advanced knowledge of SEO, and if all you can do is just speak broadly about it, you might be a better fit to either bring in an agency or what I'd recommend is hiring a consultant to help you interview. I've done that. People say, “Hey, would you mind interviewing this candidate for me?” And I'm like, “Yeah, I'll do that.” “ Sure. It's for an hour. That's fine.” Just like former people I've worked with in the past. I wouldn't do that for anyone. But I've done it for former colleagues and a former manager of mine recently. I would not go in blind because it's an extremely complicated subject matter, and there are some really great people out there who are really good at it. Many people are not, or they know a small portion of it well. Or maybe they just barely know it, but they're sort of branding themselves. It can be easier if someone in your network is like, “Oh, I can speak for this agent, and I know that they're legitimate.” That's always a safer starting point. I'm speaking to these folks out there who might just be a general marketing manager who knows lots of stuff, and they know a little bit of SEO, and that's I feel that most people most people have done a touch of it or they've optimized a blog once, but they couldn't begin to talk. So that's one piece of broad advice I would offer.

Kerry Guard: I think that's important because I said this when we first met Luke. I found this unusual and very cool because you don't really run into many companies that have built a lot of their infrastructure around SEO. They know the importance of it, but they haven't approached it this way. It sounds that the crux of it is, which makes a ton of sense to me. The crux is that you need to have a marketing manager who has a very good foundation of not just the importance of SEO. I think there are a lot of marketing managers out there who understand that SEO is important, and we should all have it, but understands sort of the nuts and bolts of it, not to the point where maybe they know how to do it, but enough that they understand how it works. And some of the nuances of it are the difference between technical versus content, how the Google algorithm works, where you sit, you were a practitioner, and so you can pull up and see the big picture of how these things fit together. If a marketing manager wants to do this, it sounds like having someone sitting in that seat as more of their first hire. It would be a great bridge to building the SEO function, but don't just hire an SEO expert, is what I'm hearing.

Luke Richardson: Yeah, I think so. It depends on your needs. But what you need upfront is a consultant that can tell. If I'm putting myself in the shoes of someone who say, “I'm trying to decide if I need to hire SEO in-house.” You first want a consultant to tell you if you need to do that, or you may not need to do it. It may be if you can find an impartial, trusted consultant, it'll just tell you honestly, yes or no. It may be that SEO is not necessarily the best road channel for you. You may want to check the box, like just get it done, make sure you're doing your things right, and make sure you're not hurting yourself, and people can find you if they search your brand name and all the basics. But it may be that outside of annual or biannual audits and some cleanup. You may not need to spend the level of money and resourcing that someone like me does. So I think that's another part, and that can be hard to know because there's so much out there just implying that

SEO life is the best thing for everyone because it's free, and it's the gift that keeps on giving. I would caution because sometimes people get their expectations a little out of whack. What did you expect? This isn't even the major market for you guys. It's tough hiring in this space, and I often love to compare it to wine. If you're at a nice restaurant, you order a nice bottle of wine. It's fun to talk to the small EA, if you are also very advanced in wine, because they're going to go down a bunch of rabbit holes and talk about grape varieties in this region or that region or this vintage and use a lot of intense jargon. The reality is that for the average layman, it's extremely intimidating, and they can be lying to you or they can be saying the smartest thing in the world. You're not going to know, and it's just going to sound intimidating. And that's what it's like for the average marketing manager talking to an SEO practitioner. They're just going to feel overwhelmed, and ideally, what you want is a bartender. You want that version, someone who knows it but can speak to you in a way that's speaking in plain English and can say things. If they're doing this, that's a good sign. If they're saying things like this, that's a bad sign. So, that's another. I remember feeling that way in the beginning, and I've had to do it for friends and recent colleagues who said, "I've audited candidates they were going to hire or agencies they were going to work with and had to candidly say, 'This person is lying to you." I don't know what they're talking about, but I can understand how you wouldn't know that.

Kerry Guard: It is chock full of its own lingo and nuance. There are approaches that they call Blackhat SEO for nothing. I love this idea. If you read regardless of how you want to do SEO if you know that SEO is important. Finding a consultant to start with is a great idea to initially set the strategy of how you're even going to approach this thing because it's huge.

Luke Richardson: Yeah, there's no playbook. You always should do this. It's not necessarily. It depends on you if you want to have that strategy conversation first.

Kerry Guard: It’s so helpful. Thank you, Luke, for coming on and sharing your journey with us, how you set up your team, and how you approach SEO. I think it's so unique and so cool, and it was so lovely to meet you. Before I close out, I do have my people's first questions if you're ready to pull.

Luke Richardson: Yeah, thanks. It was fun. Go ahead.

Kerry Guard: Have you picked up new hobbies in the last two years, given the pandemic?

Luke Richardson: Yes, big time. I can't say it's a new hobby, but for all intensive purposes, it is. I've always liked chess, but somewhere over the pandemic, I got into the nerd, crazy, and intense chess level. I fell in love with it and played. I try to play a couple of games online. I even created our I was the founding member of the chess lead channel at my day job, which has become a very active community of people playing each other. I play and play more trust now than I probably should.

Kerry Guard: It's good brain work for sure. I haven't heard that answer yet, which is cool. If you could be with your team in person, or maybe you have been, or maybe you're looking to be in, what song would you want to play that you ever had to set the tone of the vibe of the gathering?

Luke Richardson: I know what it'd be. It would be “Bye Bye Bye” Because we do a weekly team web call, and I was making them do icebreakers. The icebreaker was the album you're most ashamed to have waited in line to buy for, back when we used to buy CDs. And one of them said, “No strings attached,” And said he was joking about how ashamed he was of how big of an NSYNC fan or something. And so I changed the background image of our weekly doc to be like a faux, the instinct album cover, and I've been pushing that joke. I would love to belittle the jokes by having that song play out on our first album.

Kerry Guard: That's fantastic. And it'll be on our Spotify, Sir, and you can check it out. Maybe the dance will come back to you. It'd be good. Last question for you. If you could travel anywhere, maybe you're thinking about it or have done it. If you could travel right now, without red tape, where would you go and why?

Luke Richardson: Without any red tape is a good caveat. Because I always caveat things to logistics and how far the flight would be. I'm going to say it's going to be France. I think it's got to be the Bordeaux region of France. That's my favorite one by far. I’ve got to do it. I've got to go to Bordeaux. That's on my list, hopefully in the next certainly next year.

Kerry Guard: Awesome. I live next to France, and I certainly have a fine collection at my fingertips. I will have to get tips and tricks from you on what to start checking out because I keep going into my go-to Red cab, and I need to broaden my horizons here.

Luke Richardson: Yeah, for those safe iterations.

Kerry Guard: I will check it out. Luke, thank you so much.

Luke Richardson: Thank you as well, Kerry. I enjoyed it. It was fun.


That was my conversation with Luke Richardson. If you’d like to connect with Luke, you can find him on LinkedIn. The link is in the show notes.

Thanks again for joining me, Luke!

And thank you for tuning into the first episode of Season 12.

In the next episode, I chat with Seina Dixon, where we discuss the power of gamification. Stay on, and the auto-play will take you there…

This episode is brought to you by MKG Marketing the digital marketing agency that helps complex tech companies like cybersecurity, grow their businesses and fuel their mission through SEO, digital ads, and analytics.

Hosted by Kerry Guard, CEO co-founder MKG Marketing. Music Mix and mastering done by Austin Ellis.

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