How To Maximize Digital Marketing for a Service Based Business

An Interview with Adam Vest

It is the goal of every local business to drive traffic and leads to their business and with the majority of people doing an online search before engaging with a business, even local service-based business, it is imperative to be found at the top of the search engines if you want to compete and win in your industry.

Adam Vest, president of Denver Digital helps companies throughout Colorado and across the country, increase their online presence by offering customized digital marketing services, including search engine optimization, website development, and social media marketing. Digital marketing can no longer be ignored by service-based business and it is not a one size fits all solution either. Vest explains the holistic approach to a good digital marketing campaign that gets results.

Conversation with Adam Vest

Tell us a little bit more about yourself, Adam and how Denver Digital came about.

Adam Vest: About three years ago I was working for a national advertising agency as an account executive, basically selling pay per click and directory placement. And at that time the company that I was working for did not offer SEO services. So, I would be running these appointments with my clients and you know, nine times out of 10 they would end up asking me how to rank their website organically on the major search engines.
Adam Vest: And you know, I realized pretty early on that I wasn’t necessarily in a position to be able to help my customers. And, that was very frustrating for me because as you know, pay per click leads can get pretty costly and search engine optimization, generally speaking, is a much lower cost per lead. It was also difficult not having control over the products that I was selling because I wasn’t actually the one running the campaign. At end of the day, that’s really what led me to start Denver Digital.

Is SEO the large part of your business or is that more web design?

Adam Vest: Yes. So, search engine optimization is kind of the core of what we do. However, website design and development certainly tie into that significantly.

What kind of clients is it that you help out? Is there any particular niche that you like to stick with?

Adam Vest: Well, we focus heavily on the service industry. We have clients that range from national hat companies to roofing companies to HVAC companies to eCommerce, a bow tie guy; so we kind of run the gambit as far as the clients that we’re able to help and that we’re interested in partnering with.

What kind of problems are those types of service industries having?

Adam Vest: I would say the majority of service industry businesses that have been around for a while have certainly done SEO or pay per click or direct mail. But, as far as some of the biggest challenges that I see is really just a lack of online presence. I think most business owners at this point have figured out how to set up their Google My Business page and have a pretty good understanding of how to build or promote Facebook ads or posts, but I think one of the biggest challenges is really knowing how to accurately define their target market as well as their customers and that’s going to end up turning a click into an actual phone call or a sale.

Is all traffic created equal?

Adam Vest: If I could bring you 500 visitors to your site and not one of them made the call, versus if we were to bring you one visitor that ended up turning into a customer, which one would be more powerful? Obviously, the one that would turn into an actual sale.

What kinds of things do you do in order to really target the right audience?

Adam Vest: Well, I think the foundation of any good SEO campaign is the actual website. I hear a lot of people say, when they’re talking about the foundations of a campaign, I hear a lot of keyword analysis, things like that. But without a website, your keyword analysis doesn’t really matter. So I think having an easy to read, easy to navigate website, well coded, not having a lot of bloat within the code of the site is really important and it’s a great starting point. The work really begins once we have developed a great website for a customer.

What affects the speed of a website?

Adam Vest: One of the biggest factors I think that affects the speed of a website is having all of that extra bloatware in the form of different plugins. So, I think a lot of folks will end up installing some kind of additional code into the site and then they just kind of forget it. They might not be using it and it’s just kind of staying on the site taking up space and really slowing down the site. We always try and target a three second or lower load time for websites just because of the fact that once you start getting into the four, five and six second range, you have a significant drop off from customers just backing out of the site or going into to the next site that will actually load a little bit faster.

From a technical aspect, what kind of things can you do to make the site load faster?

Adam Vest: There are a whole lot of things and I don’t want to get too technical. But, making sure that a) you don’t have any unnecessary plugins b) that you are caching the site and that the site is set up correctly. You don’t have extra CSS all throughout the site that’s slowing things down. That’s another big issue that we see would be CSS that’s not coded correctly. So those are two of the biggest things. And then, of course, I think most importantly it’s just tracking to figure out exactly what your load speed is, and then finding the right ways, whether it’s images, images can take up a lot of space on the site. So, a downsizing or resizing of those images can make a large impact as well.

What other things are you seeing that are really important if you are in an industry where the competition is pretty tough?

Adam Vest: Something that’s really become very prevalent over the past few years would be the map pack. So, the top three sections in the maps, especially for our service industry clients. A lot of times folks will Google something and they’ll see on their phone, they’ll do a mobile search, they’ll see one of the three businesses there in the map section and they’ll just directly call. We’ve seen tremendous success by focusing on the map pack for all of our customers.

How do we get in the map pack?

Adam Vest: That’s a great question and it’s a question that I hear just about every day. So, from what we’ve found, there are three main factors when it comes to getting into that map pack. First and foremost is having high-quality backlinks leading to your site. Secondly, would be the number of reviews that you have. And then, of course, the location that you’re searching from. So, those are the three biggest factors. Google My Business now has come a long way, and really optimizing your Google My Business page is more important now than ever before.

What does optimizing the GMB page mean?

Adam Vest: Well, first and foremost, you have to have the correct categories. You have to have the right phone number, a number consistent online throughout all of the different directories. You have to have the right citations, some other things that can really play a factor would be sharing blog posts on your Google My Business page. It’s not something that I see that’s done often and I think it’s a big missed opportunity. Sharing blog posts, sharing updates, you can now create events. There’s a lot of things that you can do to really utilize the Google My Business page and obviously, Google loves that kind of stuff. They tend to give preferential treatment to the businesses that are actually doing that.

Where do you think things are going with the map rankings?

Adam Vest: Well, I think just recently Google started offering advertising actually in the map pack and I can’t imagine that that’s not making them money. So at the end of the day, you really have to think about if you’re looking at where it’s all headed, you really need to think about what’s gonna be best for Google. And I think advertising in the map pack is very important. I think that there’s a challenge right now to figure out how to incorporate the map pack into a voice search. So, when a consumer is searching with their Alexa, what are the top roofing companies in my area? I think what we’re seeing right now is Google is trying very hard to figure out how to dish out that information. And I think really it’s going to come down to reviews. I think the more reviews, the more five star four and five-star reviews that you can get the better. I think it’s more important now than ever before.

Talk to me about the actual placing of the maps on the search engine result page versus the organic results which seem to get pushed further and further down and especially for these services businesses.

Adam Vest: Sure. And I think at some point the organic results might actually end up on page 2 with the way things are going, as far as the adwords that Google shows on the search engine results page. But, map section shows directly below the Google ads. So you, generally speaking, you have three Google ads below that you’re going to have the map pack, the three pack, and then below that, you’re gonna end up having the organic section. Now, as I mentioned earlier, in some industries there are now four different maps business showing up in that map pack, one of them being an advertisement.

Another thing that’s popped up recently for service-based industries are these Google sponsored ads as well, which show up above or below the regular ads.

Adam Vest: That’s exactly right. I believe it’s called the Google guarantee. It can be very powerful for companies that go through the process. It’s a pretty stringent process to become a Google verified business with that guarantee. But, it certainly is a conversation that I’ve had with all of my accounts because it did just recently happened. I think they were Beta testing it on the west coast there for years and then just recently rolled out to quite a few major cities.

How important are the actual quality of links and the content on the website to actually rank on the map?

Adam Vest: I think those are two of the most important things that you can do for search engine optimization, other than having clean code on the website, would be having fantastic content that’s not built for the search engines, but that’s actually built for consumption. And then, on the same token, having high-quality backlinks is one of the most important factors in determining your ranking. So, there can be a client with a backlink profile of over a thousand backlinks or 50,000 backlinks and then you can have a client with a handful of backlinks that are very high quality and that handful of backlinks will actually get that client to rank higher than having thousands and thousands of junk backlinks, broken links, things like that.

What exactly does a high quality backlink look like?

Adam Vest: Well, what we like to say, domain authority is not necessarily a term that Google uses, but I think everybody in the industry kind of knows that they still look at page rank. They still look at DA. We kind of have a cut off when it comes to who we will backlink to. So, your site needs to have authority in order for us to link our clients to your site. And I think at the end of the day, a lot of those relationships are developed over time. So, having the right relationships with website owners, with business owners all around the country and especially here locally is very important because there are a lot of websites that have a very low domain authority score. You know, if you’re looking at Moz or, or one of these tools that still does show the DA Score, generally speaking, we have a threshold that we’re not going to go under as far as linking to their site.

If you get a link from a good quality trusted site with a high domain authority and it’s relevant to your business, is there any backend SEO you could do pointing to that link?

Adam Vest: Well, you can certainly link out to whoever was kind enough to link to you in the first place. What we’ve found generally what’s generating these high-quality backlinks is great content and I think focusing on the content is extremely important in 2018. That was not always the case, but, the crawlers over at Google are getting smarter and smarter by the minute and they understand great content versus average content versus bad content. I think at this point having a great content development team is critical to the success of any agency and the success of any business owner as well.

How is mobile having an effect on local results?

Adam Vest: Mobile has revolutionized the industry. If you remember back to the days you know, not that long ago, we didn’t have cell phones. So now, we have these little computers in our pocket that can pretty much do anything that we need them to do as far as finding information. So, we’re seeing the majority of the searches come in on mobile devices, whether that’s an iPad or a tablet or a cell phone, whatever the case and optimizing for mobile now is an absolute necessity. Google gives you a significant ding if your site is not mobile optimized. With that being said, you can still have a website that’s mobile optimized and still not going to convert. So it’s important to pay attention to both the desktop and the mobile versions of your site if you really want to achieve the goals that you’ve set out to achieve with your online presence.

What’s the first thing that you do to explain all these things to new clients?

Adam Vest: Initially we’ll sit down with a client, and all of the packages that we offer are tailor-made to each individual client. So, I think listening is really one of the most important things that we can do to start the relationship off on the right foot. And it really also helps to build trust when a client or a customer knows that they’re not just another number within your agency, but you actually take the time to get to know their business. That’s very powerful. So, initially, we’ll spend a significant amount of time doing keyword research for each client. But over time, we’ve been around for over three years now, so we’re starting to kind of see the same keywords over and over again for different industries. However, there’s what’s called long tail keywords which are becoming more and more prevalent. So, because of that voice capability, the voice search capability, long tail keywords are important to optimize for as well. It’s going more and more in that direction. There’s just no getting around it when you have voice connected devices all around you, Siri, Alexa, Google, it’s extremely important to optimize your site for those long tail keywords that are going to get you found with some of these mobile devices.

How do you find these long tail keywords and what kind of content do you have to generate to make them rank?

Adam Vest: Well, as you said, it’s generating content and the way that we specifically find these long tail keywords is based on the industry. We’ll come up with 50 keywords that we’re targeting, and we’ll track those 50 keywords. A lot of agencies will track three, five, 10 keywords at a time. We like to track at least 50. The more, the better as far as we’re concerned. And what we do is based on the volume, based on our different analytics tools, we’re able to kind of see exactly how many searches are being done. It always surprises me to see some of these long tail keywords that people are using their voice to search for. But, optimizing for them is critical these days and one of the ways that we’ll actually go about finding them and I think a lot of people miss this is to actually just start to search Google for that industry in the form of a question and what will end up happening is you’ll see a list of quite a few of the most common long tail keywords that you have to choose from.

Could you give me an example of that?

Adam Vest: So, if you’re looking for “best roofers in Denver”, or if you’re looking for who is the “best garage door repair company near me”, what you’re gonna end up seeing is about 5 to 10 variations of that actual search. And that would be considered a long tail keyword. And you just come up with 10 to 15 of these searches. You start typing them into Google and you’re going to see a significant amount by the time you’re done, you’re going to have 40, 50, 60 different long tail keywords that you actually want to rank for.

When you have a list of your long tail keywords, do you have to write a page for each one of them or do you try and include many of the keywords in one longer blog post or article?

Adam Vest: So, generally speaking, we’ll target around two long tail keywords per piece of content that we write, whether that’s an actual webpage or if it’s a blog. Then, of course, you want to link from that anchor text using that specific long tail keyword. If you can link to other places within your site, what that’s doing is it’s telling Google what the page is about. Then also there are things like Schema markup to where you can be the expert, the authority when answering these questions. You know, if you type in a question to Google, you’ll see that little snippet and as long as you’re optimizing properly the goal is to be able to be the authoritative resource for Google to use and they’ll actually put your information right there and then of course they link to your website as well. So it’s a very powerful tool.

What are some of the misconceptions that you hear about SEO?

Adam Vest: How much time do we have left Neil? There’s quite a few. I think I could probably talk about this for the entire half hour here. It varies customer to customer and industry to industry. But from what I’ve seen, some of the biggest misconceptions surround pricing. A lot of business owners think that search engine optimization costs thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars a month, which is not always the case. Some other things that we hear all the time are, it just doesn’t work. We don’t get leads from our website. My answer to that usually is, how are people finding you if you’re not showing up in front of the customers who are actively searching for you? How would you ever get leads on your website? So, that’s a big misconception, we’ve never gotten leads in the past. Why would that change now? And then also a lot of the technical aspects of SEO kind of can put some business owners off.

So what holds people back from actually taking the initiative in talking to an SEO like yourself?

Adam Vest: I think it’s just kind of a fear of what they might not necessarily understand or what they’re familiar with. I don’t think anybody wants to spend money on something that they’re not going to get any kind of return from. And I think that’s the biggest fear for most clients is what happens if I spend this money and nothing happens.

What are the expectations for starting an SEO campaign?

Adam Vest: First and foremost if anyone tells you that they can guarantee a ranking, you know, we all get these emails 100 times a day, even myself being the president of an advertising agency, I get these emails from overseas saying, “Rank first page, first position within 90 days.” So, anybody that tells you a specific timeframe, an exact time frame is not being completely forthcoming with you. But on average, what we see is dependent on the industry and depending on whether it’s local or not, if it’s a national search, this would be different…but, locally three to six months, as long as we’re doing things the right way, as long as we’re building high-quality links, as long as we’re writing great content, generally speaking, we’ll see accounts start to rank within three to six months.

Adam Vest: It also is very dependent on your website. So, if we start from scratch, if we build the site for you, it’s going to take longer because your site does not have that authority, that domain authority or that time online. My favorite accounts to work with are the accounts that are primed and ready to go. The accounts that have been online for 10 years, they have all of these natural links that have been built without necessarily a lot of these business owners even realizing it and they just haven’t made any tweaks. They haven’t made any adjustments on their site because it was working 10 years ago and they didn’t want to change things. So those are the accounts that we can generally get to rank relatively quickly.

What kind of results should a local service based company expect when they implement an SEO program?

Adam Vest: I’ll give you an example of a client that I just spoke with yesterday. So we started working together two years ago, he’s a garage door repair guy here in Colorado Springs, so down south and during our meeting he had told me in the prime of his career he was doing about 100 new garage door replacements per month and unfortunately he, he was down to about 10 replacement doors per month when him and I first met. He had a lot of similar questions as far as what you’re asking and he trusted in the process. Over the past 30 days, he’s seen just from the map pack over 110 phone calls just from the map pack alone.

Wow! That’s tremendous!

Adam Vest: Yeah. So he’s thrilled to death about it and it’s always a good conversation anytime that I’m able to speak with him.

Do you have any other success stories that really stick out in your mind?

Adam Vest: We’ve worked with roofers that show up if you Google ‘Denver roofers’ or ‘roofers Denver’ or ‘roofing company Denver’. Our guys show up in the top position. Nationally, we worked with a hat company that we were able to take from page seven to page one, position one for the search ‘fitted hats’. That generated a lot of traffic for them. We just recently finished up a campaign with a bow tie company that has a significant e-commerce site and we were able to get him to rank number one nationally for the search ‘bow tie’. And it was great to see because right below him was Macy’s.

So some big players in the industry, we were able to allow him to compete with those, with those larger companies.

If somebody is looking for an SEO company to do work for them, Adam, what kind of questions should they be asking to make sure that they are talking to the right company?

Adam Vest: I think some of the most important questions would be, how long have you been in the industry, actually doing search engine optimization? Secondly, what type of backlinks are you going to be sending to the website? Because, as I mentioned earlier, sending the wrong type of backlinks can really have a negative effect on your placement online. Finally, I would ask for examples. I would ask for examples and have them show you right then and there. Say, “Show me someone that you’ve gotten to the front page or the front position in a competitive industry”. I think results speak for themselves and it’s something that we take great pride in are the results that we’ve been able to achieve for our clients. It’s a very important question to ask but often gets overlooked.

If somebody wants to reach out to you and get help for their SEO campaign what’s the best way for them to do that?

Adam Vest: Visit MyDenverDigital.com or we just recently launched a large city guide here in Denver, which is DenverDigital.com. Or you can email me Adam@DenverDigital.com, or give us a call. 720-316-4217

Briefly talk to me about the DenverDigital.com. Why exactly is that?

Adam Vest: So our goal is to create the largest city guide here in Denver. So, it’s an online business directory and lifestyle website. It’s also a place for folks to find out what’s going on in the city and throughout Colorado in general. There are job offerings, events, hotel and restaurant bookings, sports schedules, local breweries and more. There are a lot of benefits I think for both business owners and consumers. Denver is a very unique market. I think last year we had over 70,000 new residents come to Denver, so we wanted to provide something that was going to kind of showcase this wonderful city.

About Adam Vest

Adam Vest is the President of Denver Digital and a digital marketing strategist with more than eight years of experience in helping businesses form creative, customized online marketing strategies that are centered around search engine optimization (SEO) best practices. Since the start of his career, Vest has become a leader in the online advertising industry.
His accomplishments are vast. In the past decade, Vest has built multiple successful companies and has helped hundreds of business owners across the country achieve success online.
Vest’s current clients include both national retailers along with local, mom-and-pop service companies. His ultimate goal is to provide effective, customer online marketing campaigns “that allow the little guy to compete with the big guy.”

10 Comments

  • Great interview – I love hearing Adam’s business journey and how he acted on solving a customer problem that his former employer wasn’t addressing. I value all the knowledge shared about SEO – it’s like a crash course for business owners. Thank you for elevating my knowledge on search engine optimization.

  • Great article and a timely reminder that Google is not only much more than search engine but also has a considerable toolbox we can use; if we know how to use it. I love the points about long tail keywords, something often missed or dismissed by some SEO firms and clients. The comments about backlinks and quality vs quantity are spot on, this is something I ensure is understood by our clients, no trading links with sites unless it adds value and most definitely not if it could tarnish their reputation by association. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Rick Brown says:

    Nice interview, Neil. Thanks for sharing. SEO has always intimidated me, but I appreciate what Adam has shared here. The mobile optimization stuff is of particular interest, as it seems that that is where local searches are going. I recently had someone explain to me that mobile optimization is all about the business owner, of let’s say, Joe’s Garage, training Siri/Alexa/Google how to answer the questions that Joe’s prospective clients are going to ask – Ex: “Who’s the best auto mechanic near me?” And the answer, of course, for Joe is always going to be Joe’s Garage. Joe just needs to train Siri to provide that answer in response to those types of questions. Made sense to me.

  • Brian Horn says:

    I love the tip on typing keywords into Google to get long tail keyword ideas. I recently started using the same tactic to get low hanging fruits that I can rank for quickly.

    Great interview!

  • Mark Page says:

    Thanks for discussing ways to get your website ranking in the google maps. I had read that having a fast loading website was important, but most other companies have not explained ways to actually make your website load faster. I also liked the tip about schema to help with your ranking. I really appreciate you guys sharing your knowledge.

  • Lee says:

    There is so much jumbo-jumbo stuff in the SEO world. Nice to read about Adam and his client-centered approach. I love the transparency of the approach. Great nuggets in there for someone wanting to DIY. But sounds like Adam has a great approach for someone wanting to master local search.

  • Leasha West says:

    Very informative interview loaded with SEO tips to eliminate obscurity. Hats off to Adam for “helping the little guy to compete with the big guy”.

  • Terrific insights in this interview. I appreciate how Adam explained that he sets the right expectations for results for his clients. I have had more than my fair share of interactions with SEO providers that don’t live up to their promises. Fascinating that optimizing your GMB listing and focusing on the map pack can have such a positive impact on lead flow and business. Certainly gave me a few tangible things to implement for my business.

  • Jimmy Slagle says:

    It’s powerful that Adam chose to identify his niche. This allows him to focus on serving the unique obstacles and opportunities that niche experiences. Most SEO companies try to help everyone and by doing this they miss out on so much opportunity to become the “Go To” standard in the industry.

    Adam also brought to light another truth that many “Jack of all Trade” SEO Experts dismiss and that is the power of authoritative backlinks. Google, and all other search engines have publically stated that backlinks have the power to push authority to whatever property they link to.

    Since most search engines are trying to create the best possible experience for the end search engine user, they are constantly looking for properties to recommend that have relevant authority to the search being performed.

    This is a great interview and if the listener will pay attention they can glean some truly insightful wisdom… Thanks to Adam and The Authority Architect for opportunity to learn.

  • Tons of actionable info here. Thanks! I too believe one of the biggest challenges that SMBs face is really knowing how to define their target market. Once they take time to map out their customer’s journey, they can use relevant marketing at every step of the sales process to turn more clicks and calls into sales.

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