I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Tom Shivers a few weeks ago, and you can listen to the audio podcast of the interview, on his SEO blog Capture Commerce in this post How to Blog Successfully – Tips from Ileane Smith. Now I get my chance to ask the questions and in this interview we get the inside scoop on Tom, as he shares his blogging journey with us.
Introducing Tom Shivers – SEO Guy from Capture Commerce
1. Tom, please introduce yourself to the readers here and tell us a little something about your offline life that most of your online audience might not know.
I’ve been an SEO consultant for 11 years now – yes, I got started in this space a long time ago when Yahoo was the most popular search engine until Google eclipsed them and has remained the dominant player. My philosophy of SEO is what makes me different from others.
One thing most of my online friends don’t know is I’m addicted to racquetball and play 3 or 4 times every week. It’s a great sport to get involved in because it’s fairly easy to learn, and there are always challenging players to hone my skills. I enjoy it because I can unload stress, it’s good cardio, I’ve made lots of friends and I win a lot.
2. How many blogs do you have right now and what got you interested in starting a blog?
I run three blogs of my own in addition to my client’s blogs. I got interested in blogging around ‘06 because I was writing business articles for both my clients and prospects and saw that Google indexed blog posts rather quickly. My goal with the articles I write is to get in the conversation that is already on the web or in someone’s head to build up a following for the brand. But it was two years later that I setup my first blog for my business – one of my employees pushed for the blog and helped get it going.
3. What are some of the biggest mistakes you see bloggers and internet marketers making that might be causing them to fail? Have you made similar mistakes in the past yourself?
The number 1 mistake I see from businesses and individuals who want to be found in search engines and social media is they are not intentional about building relationships. You may laugh but it’s true; for some reason people think they can manufacture relationships without doing anything… ummm, no. Here’s some advice:
Build relationships both online and offline
- Do what you say you will do even if it hurts
- Stop doing things for the sole purpose of getting higher search rank, instead do things to help others… like your target audience
- Link out from your own blog posts to other sites and blogs
- Provide helpful, interesting comments on other people’s blogs, rather than just trying to get a link
- Get involved in social voting and social media sites where other bloggers and marketers participate – pick one or two and invest some time there
- Reach out to other bloggers with a phone call
- Invite others to guest post on your blog
- Give, give, give before expecting to receive – the golden rule of building relationships
I’ve noticed that people trying to build links in particular can be so task oriented that they often lose out on a relationship opportunity that could supply them with boat loads of links, but instead they settle for one or two. Oh well…
I’ve made plenty of mistakes in building relationships, but I’ve also learned how to do it by watching those who are great at it. I might drop a few names in the comments if people want to know who I follow.
4. I know that you enjoy podcasting as much as I do and you are using it to conduct interviews for your blog. Tell us about how you got started with podcasting and give us some insights about the process that you use to produce your show.
I got started podcasting a year ago with one of my businesses where we sell an information product that comes with a weekly Q&A session with the expert. I got us setup on freeconferencecall.com so I could record the session. It has worked out well.
Sometimes I edit the podcast before publishing it using Audacity. Sometimes I add music to the podcast to make it more interesting and professional; I use royalty free music for that. Then I mix it all together and out comes an in stereo podcast that’s great for downloading to your ipod or smart phone. If it makes sense for the podcast, I create an iTunes channel to add a little extra exposure.
5. Right now, we are starting to see a shift from traditional marketing in terms of direct mail, and newspaper or magazine advertising. How has the impacted your marketing efforts, for example are you doing more email marketing these days? Where do you think offline marketing is going away – or is it still a viable option for small businesses?
Offline marketing won’t be going away, but it has been significantly impacted by online marketing for a number of obvious reasons. Magazine advertising is still interesting for many niche markets because the publishers are so tuned into what their audience wants. One well placed magazine ad can more than pay for itself, but it may take some trial and error to get there.
I do very little offline advertising for my own businesses, but I’m definitely into email marketing so I do a few things to build my lists up.
6. Let’s talk more specifically about social networking and the role it plays in your online life. What’s your favorite social network and why? Also, can you mention some blogging communities that you support like BizSugar, Blog Engage or Blokube.
LinkedIn is my favorite of the big social networks because it is truly the business network. For instance, company pages on LinkedIn are far better than Facebook pages because you can showcase products, recruit, offer specials all within a network where people want to communicate about business rather than the latest movie. A couple months ago I interviewed Sherry Hyle on how to use LinkedIn for business intelligence gathering. Check it out.
I’m involved in BizSugar, Blokube, Blog Engage, SerpD, fwisp, NewsMeBack, Triberr, and others, my handle is tomshark so vote for me please
7. People are always asking the question – Blogger or WordPress. I’m assuming you like WordPress over Blogger, but why do you feel that way? Have you ever had a Blogger blog before? In general do you think Blogger blogs have lower quality or authority on the Internet?
I’ve not tried Blogger or other free-hosted blogs because most of my clients need the versatility and power of a self-hosted WordPress blog. I setup WordPress blogs to complement business websites. When they are setup and fed properly, WordPress blogs become a powerful machine of influence that can reach out across the web and tug at the target audience it is intended to reach. I feed mine ravenously.
Most of the free-hosted blogs I’ve seen tend to be run by individuals who are writing for their friends or family rather than for business. I wouldn’t say they are lower quality blogs, they just have a different purpose.
8. Moving over into the topic of SEO, give us your top 5 SEO tips that you’re seeing results from.
Tom’s Top 5 SEO Tips for Bloggers:
5. Utilize your RSS feed. Register your feed with RSS feed directories like feedage.com and feedagg.com; make sure your RSS feed is on your social media profiles. Get involved with the ComLuv Network which utilizes your RSS feed when you comment on blogs with the CommentLuv plugin installed.
4. Use SEO plugins properly. One of my pet peeves about SEO plugins is that many think their rankings will improve just by activating it and that’s usually not true. The plugins that actually do help with SEO can so easily be abused that some users end up doing more harm than good. So, I’m not comfortable sharing my plugins that help with SEO publicly here, but I’ll offer some tips to those who contact me with a good question about them. Having said that, one plugin that can make a difference is WordPress SEO by Yoast, but again this plugin is complex compared to most and if you don’t understand how to use it then get some help first.
3. Publish killer content. Great content is the currency of social media and the reason people link to blog posts today. Put a content marketing strategy together that complements your strengths so you can “Wow” your audience more consistently.
2. Build up an audience who become raving fans and cheerleaders for your cause or organization.
1. Focus more on conversions than on rankings.
9. Lastly Tom, I want to thank you for doing this interview and find out what your plans are for the future. What would you like to accomplish in 2012?
Thanks Ileane for inviting me, it’s been fun.
One of my goals for the new year is to find a few new partners with whom I can form a mutually beneficial business relationship with. Sometimes I find that web designers, social media consultants and conversion optimizers make great partners for me, but I like influential bloggers too.