It was a pleasure to interview Karina, a SEO expert, Forbes and Search Engine Watch contributor working in New York. As a local marketing professional, I always love to ask the experts. Katrina has been working in the digital marketing industry a long time and has helped businesses of all sizes grow. She has a wealth of insights and actively contributes to Forbes, Search Engine Watch, Thrive Global
1. How did you get your start in marketing and tell us a little bit about yourself?
This is an interesting question. Actually, I have been in sales and marketing since I remember. I used to own a chain of clothing stores back in my country Ecuador. That was about 20 years ago. I don't remember using social media at that time but I was using traditional marketing to increase sales. Later, I decided that I wanted to come to USA and study Marketing here. While I was in school, I started selling products on eBay to generate an extra income. As we all know, you need money when you are a student. I can say that I was doing really well on eBay. Later, I remembered that I heard about SEO. I did not know very well what exactly SEO was but I just knew I wanted to do SEO. Then, I looked for an internship and I found one. I started learning digital marketing in a company that produced vitamins and sold them on Amazon, eBay, and their own website. At that time, SEO was easier, and you knew the popular Yahoo question and answers, the spammy links in Press releases, etc. Anyway, I started loving everything about digital marketing in my internship. I can say that digital was meant to be in my life and definitely is my passion.
2. Tell us a little bit about what you do for Thomas?
In Thomas, I manage 25 accounts. I do SEO for industrial websites. Definitely, B2B for the industrial is not easy because the content caters a specific audience such as engineers, CEOs, manufacturers managers. It has been a challenge for me to create and implement SEO strategies but I love challenges. I think I am doing very well. I am happy to work in this field because I know if I am able to create and implement SEO with content marketing for the industrial, I can do it for any other industry. Actually, I have ranked some of my clients #1 for competitive keywords in a short time and without any backlinks. Furthermore, I have created a case study where I explained how to beat competitors in B2B for the industrial market.
3. Talking about SEO services, what's your thoughts on spammy backlinks and SEO companies using PBN’s to rank higher on Google in the short term? Is there severe penalties for this kind of thing?
I really do not fall into these practices. When people ask me for advice about SEO, I always say stick to the basics and use common sense. For me common sense means do what is best for users. I think that answers your question. I am not interested in tricking Google in any way. I work hard to create amazing strategies that caters to users, using user intent keywords, and addressing users’ needs. About penalties for using PBN, I am sure that a website can suffer a drop in organic traffic for engaging in these practices.
4. You just did an interview with Oleg Shchegolev CEO of SEMrush, can you share any cool insights that he passed along?
The interview was amazing. Oleg is a very genuine person. He provided me seven pages of content and I was amazed. Actually, I created 4 pieces of content from the interview: Linkedin, Search Engine Watch, Forbes and, My blog.
One of the coolest insights that he shared with me was that about 50% of SEMrush’s leadership positions are women. I think it is great because gender bias is real and it is a society issue. More companies should follow SEMrush’s example.
I also learned that SEMrush has a social responsibility. They organize events such as round tables. Moreover, they also have worked with universities here in the USA and Europe. They gave the opportunity to students to learn how to use the tool. If you want to know Oleg’s insights about Search, I will recommend you to read the articles.
5. On a local SEO level, what are the biggest things any local business can do to really get their name out there to bring in new customers?
Well, I think it is already everything that I said about Local: Claim your Google My Business profile, create local listing and citations, and make sure they are consistent. Get reviews in your Google, Yelp and Facebook Local Listing. Based on my experience, I recommend to create several pages with local keywords that I will share with you and show you how I received local rankings in a recent project:
It is a senior services website with several branches in New York, New jersey, Florida and Connecticut.
For example, I created a static page for each location with google map connected with each google my business listing. This was the parent page:
Then I created child pages such as:
Friendly places for seniors in Queens, NYC
Places that offer discounts for seniors in Queens, NYC, activities for seniors in Queens, NYC. It's extra work but it works well.
In addition, I added some blogs with local keywords and created internal links to the local static pages and their child pages.
After I did this, I saw how our locations were getting more visibility and ranking in Google 3-pack.
I also highly recommend to be active in Google my Business and post frequently. It has also worked for me.
6. What are some of the best free marketing tools a local business can use?
I don't know any free local business tools. All are pay to play is what I know. But, I know some free keyword tools that can be used for content in local pages.
The tools are:
Answer the public
I used these two to get keyword ideas and added them to my local static pages and blog where I used local keywords.
7. How important do you think reviews are for local business? And how does it play into driving new customers?
Reviews are very important. Do you know that reviews account for 15.44% of local pack/ finder ranking factor according to Moz. In addition, reviews increase ranking in Google maps.
Being active in search directories also improve chances to be in Google 3-pack.
Reviews are votes to the business. People read reviews before they make their decisions. Then, reviews can increase customer acquisition because it builds trust. Today, it is not about what the company says about itself. It is about what other people say about a company or business.
8. What do you think are some of the biggest marketing challenges for local businesses?
I can say for my experience that the biggest challenges for local businesses are:
- Collecting reviews
- Creating local listing
- Creating citations
- Managing local listing a citations
Collecting reviews can be hard because most of the time, people write reviews when they have something bad to say. Very few happy customers write reviews.
Creating local listing and citations are a time consuming task. I know there are many tools/softwares that can help but sometimes small businesses don’t have the budget to pay for tools. Furthermore, they have to engage in doing it manually. Finally, managing the local listing and citations to update changes can be really painful because it requires a lot of time.
9. What's your favorite marketing tools to use?
It is hard to say, I like many and I feel I need them all because they do different things. The tools also help me to compare the data or complement it.
The tools I use are SEMrush, Ahrefs, Screaming Frog, Moz, Brightedge.
10. What do you think are some of the top digital marketing trends in 2019?
Trends ummm! I love the basics but I also believe that experimentation can open new doors and deliver amazing results. I love to try new things to see what happens. You know that not all industries are the same, so what works for one specific business will not always work for others.
In my case, I work for the industrial market and I strongly believe that good content will keep being big in 2019 and optimize for voice search and use artificial intelligence data in the content marketing strategy. Videos are already a must thing to do and I think it will still be strong in 2019.
For the other industries, I think influencer marketing, chatbots and amp pages are also important this year. Actually, I wrote an article in Forbes about how to reinvent your digital marketing this year.
Karina, thank you for the interview! Great tips and awesome insights from a pro!