In today’s episode, my guest is Rich Fong, founder of eCommerce SEO agency BlissDrive.com. At Bliss Drive, Richard and his team help eCommerce companies beat out Amazon, Walmart, and multi-billion dollar brands, and he’s been featured on Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine’s websites.
In our interview, Richard and I unpack his process for eCommerce SEO in layman’s terms so that virtually any eCommerce store owner can make significant improvements to their SEO.
Click here to read transcript
Trent: Hey, what’s up everybody? Trent Dyrsmid here; welcome back to another episode of the Bright Ideas Podcast, thank you so much for joining me today. We’re here to help you discover what works in e-Commerce by shining a light on the tools, the tactics and the strategies that are in use by today’s leading entrepreneurs. Speaking of joining me on the show today is a fellow by the name of Richard Fong. Richard. You can see him on the screen to my left or right, one of the two.
He runs an SEO agency in Orange County California and he helps e-Commerce business owners beat out the big companies like Amazon, Wal-Mart and multi-billion dollar brands in the organic search rank. And he’s been featured on Forbes and entrepreneurs magazines Websites.
He’s married with a one year old son so we know that’s a full time job because I used to have one of those. She’s a little older now and he is an avid salsa dancer. So Richard, thank you so much for making some time to come and share your wisdom with my audience, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show.
Rich: Hey, thank you for having me; it’s great to be here.
Trent: So in reading your bio, did we miss anything? Is there any other important details you think the audience should know about you before we jump into talking about SEO and how e-Commerce business owners can use it to increase revenue?
Rich: I think the only thing people may not know is that I was actually born in China, Shanghai and then I came over to the United States. I was actually in Kansas; I grew up there you know since eight to college and then went to UCI University of California Irvine up from there. Yeah. So you know I’m I speak some Mandarin not fluent but you know and then I’ve lived in the Midwest.
Trent: All right well, let’s dive into it. So, let’s start off with because we’re going to talk extensively about your expertise in SEO particularly how it pertains to running an e-Commerce store. So hopefully you have some kind of incredible results, a story for a client perhaps that you did that we can talk about and how your expertise played a role in achieving that result, so what comes to mind for that?
Rich: Yeah I do. So couple years back and we’re still working with this client. We helped them— There were a whole seller, they wholesale to distributors mainly and they knew that consumers were buying this stuff directly right. So they wanted to develop a website where they could sell to consumers directly and kind of circumvent the distributors.
So what they did was they built out a website and then once they had the website, they had no SEO, no ranking, no one could find them. Now if we go and look for them, if we look for it like say Bill shareholders or sign holders, they’re ranking number one the company name is displays and holders and we’re out ranking Amazon, Staples, Office Depot, Wal-Mart all those brands for very big keywords that are getting thousands and thousands of search forums every month.
And so right now, when they first hired us they were getting about three sales a day, right now they’re getting if you go check on a website. He made a testimonial video too, they’re doing about 20-30 orders every day. So we essentially grew a profit center for them out of nothing and that’s all based on e-Commerce sales direct to consumer.
Trent: So what’s the average order value for them?
Rich: A couple hundred dollars, it’s small, it’s like a brochure holder or sign holds about a couple dollars a piece. So sometimes they order you know several and sometimes they have bigger volumes.
Trent: Okay, so this is a meaningful amount of revenue if you’re getting 20-30 of those orders a day. [Oh yeah] How long did it take you to get them from essentially nowhere to where they are now? Was that a year exercise or a couple of months ago?
Rich: To gain number one ranking, it didn’t happen overnight for sure right, essentially we got them on the first page within the first— It’s been a couple of years now but within the first 6-12 months around that time range certain keywords were popping up on the first page but from the first page, you could be on the middle of the first page where the bottom the first page going up to the top three of the pages is kind of– it’s like a Richter scale.
It’s exponential in terms of difficulty because everybody wants to be on the top and then they’ve been building a lot of authority for the guys on the top three. So you have to do extra amount of— it’s much harder from like from page 10 to first page, than from 10th position to the first position, it’s ten times harder actually.
So from there, it took another— I would say another year before they actually got to the top three. So all in all it took about 2 years. And then in between that time there were times where the algorithm updates where we fall off back to the middle of the page and then right now they’re back on just because we figured out what the algorithm does and you know it’s constant off and on but consistently they’ve been on the top three for a lot. And if you look there actually they have two positions on the top three, number one and number two.
Trent: Ballpark, how much money have they had to spend with you to build to accomplish this particular result?
Rich: Tens of thousands, I wish they were spending millions but they’re not you know.
Trent: But even if it was 30 grand, given the volume of orders that they’re receiving now they are away…
Rich: Oh yeah, the authorized definitely estimate. Yeah. After email, SEO is one highest are why there right. Because once you’re there, you don’t have to keep really paying and then you don’t have to keep competing with your competitors on cost per click, you’re just there and a conversion on organic is much higher because people trust it. If you if you’re doing pay per clip right, the best click the rate you get is about 2%-5%. If it’s on each play maybe 10%. That means what 90% are not even going on an ad; they’re going straight to the organic where they’re preferring what Google has to offer.
So if you’re on the top three that gets about 50%-80% click through rates; so you’re getting majority the traffic and then the conversion is higher because they trust that what Google is serving up for them. So people tend to buy more based on organic.
Trent: Yeah, makes perfect sense; okay so now that we’ve established a result let’s unpack it and let’s walk through the process that you use just and obviously in the time that we have, we can we’re going to go in as much detail as we can but we’re not going to be able to explain absolutely every last little thing. So let’s— at the beginning where did you start? You met with the client, they said, “Hey, these are the keywords we want to rank for” and you started to do some research?
Rich: Yeah, in the beginning they just knew that they wanted more sales online data and we really know you know what keywords were or anything. They were very SEO novices if you will; they’d never work with SEO company before.
So, what we did was we went ahead and took a look at all their products all their offerings did keyword research to see what volume there are fake products just so you know we’re not tackling something that’s not going to drive a lot of volume for them. And then from there we kind of narrowed down to a couple of categories that we knew had good margins for them and had good volumes for them.
And we knew that we could get some traction and from there we went ahead. So let me backtrack, that’s the research phase right. Essentially with SEO you want to determine two things you wanted to determine that on page and you wanted to determine the off page. Okay, so once we figured out what keywords were what categories they wanted to go to.
We then focus on the page itself to make sure (a) is categorized correctly, the URLs are you know you has the keywords in the URLs they have products, most e-Commerce stages have product listing with pictures, very light descriptions. So we added a thousand words to the product category that’s very important, a lot of e-Commerce miss that.
Trent: Let me interrupt you there because we’ll get there to —- and I want to back up to the keyword research, what tools what tool or tools did you guys to help you figure out which keywords you should even be going after?
Rich: Yeah, so we use a couple of tools at the time and this was a couple years ago, Google keyword tool, what it’s actually good. They actually gave you days that’s not the case right. They give you a big range. So if I had do it right now, we would use ‘A-HREFS’. A-HREFS shows you not only what you’re doing but also what your competitors are doing.
So it’s a really good aggregator of your competition and it shows you a good range of keyword volume and the keyword difficulty of how difficult is it to actually rank for that keyword.
Trent: I actually love that tool, I had the CMO on the show I’m just looking out for the episode number and I’ve been using the tool since it is absolutely. So, I had him on, in case people want to listen, it’s episode number 264 on brightideas.co/264.
Okay, so you used A-HREFS and I’ll put a link to that in the show notes; so you used it to identify of all the keywords in the universe we should really be focused on. How many did you pick by the way to begin with?
Rich: We actually— so when we pick keywords, we don’t just pick like a couple of keywords, we pick categories or topics if you will. So for example, they’re ranked for brochure holders but they’re also ranked for like acrylic holders, all variations of brochure holders. That makes sense? So, we’re not trying to just go in and just rank for one key word because you will over optimize it, you wouldn’t make a lot sense. You want to allow the LSI semantic indexing. So you want to have a lot of variations that those keywords in that same topic category within that page, that’s what we did.
Trent: And in the show notes as well they have some really great videos that explain how to use their tool. I’ll make sure that I am. So for the audience I’ll embed some of those videos.
So now, you’ve you figured out these are the key words that we want to rank for, so the next step in your SEO process you’d mentioned earlier that there is on-page elements, there off-page elements, I’m guessing then you went and dealt with on page elements because that’s a relatively short amount of time to kind of get that right and then off-page takes a whole lot longer.
Rich: So once we figure out what the focus is, what the focus your URL is then we really evaluate the on-page yourself. So, on-page we actually have a 80 point checklist. There’s a lot of things we go through but I’m just going to give you the top maybe five things that we should let you know anyone should really look at to make sure they’re doing the right thing what they’re on-page.
Number one is the ‘Title’, so title is the title tag or whatever it’s showing up on your browser; if you don’t have the keywords in the title at least, you’re not going to rank Google doesn’t understand you if you don’t have that into it. And then but you don’t want to over stuff it, you don’t want to like over optimize it where you we in the same word but you at least want to have it one time into the title itself.
Number two as a ‘matter description’ and matter descriptions also very important because that’s what you see after the title, that’s the actual two sentence blurb that you would see. So you will want to have a variation or that keyword is actually for what you’re trying to rank as well and you want to write it in a way where it’s compelling for the user. Essentially a part of your ranking factor is the click the rate of that listing when they list you. If you write a very like robotic type of stuffing keyword, users may not click on it, Robots might read it but if they’re not clicking on it, the users you’re still not going to rank very high because Google will want to serve up what’s best for users. So title, matter description.
Number three is your H1 tag. So H1 tag is essentially your kind of your title when they visually see it. So the title and the map description the visitors don’t really see it, they just see the listing that’s for the Google search engine results. And then so the H1 is actually where you show the actual title itself. It doesn’t have to be huge it’s just a tag. So, when you are on the pages notice what that is. If you don’t have the keyword where variations of those keywords in there, you’re going to have a trouble, you’re going to have some problems listing it.
And I would go as far as H2 tags, I don’t stop there I go as far as H2, so those are kind of your subtitles and go ahead and get those within some key words of what you want. And then I would inject about a list a thousand fifteen hundred word of content. So, most e-Commerce, that’s where they like say oh wait wait, No I’m you know my store is all product based, I wanted to look simple and beautiful I can’t put a thousand words in my category, in my page.
So, what I recommend is typically visually have your product laid out the same way just put the content at the bottom. Okay, so if you don’t want a long piece of content, what you can do is you can use accordion style content. So you’ve seen those where you click the button and then the content adds up. So you could do like frequently asked questions, just have the subtitle and then as users are you know if they’re interested in the topic, they’ll click on it and then the content would open up. But for the search engine part, they read everything. So to them it’s their food to understand what your website’s about and then you have to have like if you don’t have it– most e-Commerce sites don’t have a lot of descriptions especially on their category pages. That’s why Google bots don’t understand what the contents about because it’s all scattered with different products et cetera.
Trent: But if you had like that to be clear you’re right you’re attempting to rank the category page on which there are multiple products you’re not doing right for every single product page.
Rich: So, let me back up for e-Commerce, you typically want to do it for a category page and here’s why. A visitor comes in, guess what’s going to happen, visitors is going to go and click through to the product and see what the product is about they have a lot of options they can go ahead and click through the products. What Google registered is, “Oh, they’ve found what they’re looking for”
They went ahead start engaging, if you start ranking for a product, user come, they see the product they see the players they don’t like it they’re back out. Guess what Google wasn’t. They didn’t find what they like, so we’re not going to serve this very high, does that make sense?
So what you want to do is you want to serve up a kind of a category page where you can funnel them through to your channel, to your products or to other categories. So that to Google it’s highly engaging, you got like 5-10 clicks on the website so that oh at least we’re serving up something that people want and you’re engaging your users are creating a long time on your Website because you’re showing them something that they want. So that’s why you want to use category of pages.
But back to the content, you definitely want to have the keywords in the content. But a lot of times, amateurs or novices who would try to do SEO on their website, they think of the keyword they want and then they overstuffed it. That’s a newbie mistake because Google’s algorithm they’re onto that back in the 90s, you could do that, you know people just write the same thing over and over and then they get on the first page, you can’t do that anymore.
So then once there’s 1%-2% of the keyword density for the focused keyword that you’re going after. So say for a thousand words article, you only want about you know 10-20 of that keyword within the article. I wouldn’t have it the same exact verbatim phrase; I would mix it up right. It just mixed up the keyword as much as you can have a couple maybe five, that’s exactly the same what you want and that way it’s natural and organic for Google to see.
Trent: Does A-HREFS, once you’ve done your on-page SEO, do they score it at all? Does the tool give you feedback?
Rich: We don’t use H-REFS to score the on-page, I’m not sure if they do or not, I’ve never used it, if they do.
Trent: How did you come up– You’ve got your 80 point checklist that you’re using for on-page, how did you come up with what is on that checklist?
Rich: So there’s a lot of– I mean there’s checklists out there that you can kind of look at. So, these are just very simple things for someone who hasn’t done any SEO to kind of get a handle on. There is also data structures, there’s schemas, there’s site maps, there’s internal links which are gets a little bit more advanced and complicated.
You can do schemas where you can essentially give your self-reviews, a risk snippet schemas of your products based on other people’s feedback and then Google will actually read it and give you the five stars using those and in product sometimes in Google rankings where you see five stars on listing. So that’s something you can totally control on-page wise as well.
So those are some of the things that we can add into the page itself on-page wise to make that appear. So it gets more technical and more complicated. But I just want to go over something that’s very simple for someone who has really looked into so much but that’s something that they could look into it once they figure out how much volume is in that key word they say, “Okay, let me go into my page and kind of just tweak these things after you tweet these things” you’re going to get results within like a week or two very quickly.
Trent: So when now that you’ve gone on-page complete now, the bigger and the more laborious and the more long task is the off page SEO link building.
Rich: That’s essentially yeah. That’s where SEO is at the end of the day right. So I tell my clients like you know on-pages, it may sound complicated but actually everything is very duplicate able.
So meaning that you can look at your competitors and see exactly what you’re doing on-page because Google is bots have to read it. So it’s actually visible to us as well. We can just do, “Oh do you see what is up?” so you can copy each out there, you can copy your competitor, your competitors can copy you at the end of the day, if everybody is copying each other, how is Google going to know how to rank one about the other?
The way they determine that is through the authority of the website, the domain itself and authority is established from back links other websites linking back to your website. This is how Google’s algorithm like start beating out all the other search engines because of this algorithm calculation, other links linking back to your website as a calculation for votes.
So with that, there’s a lot of strategies out there, there is a lot of ways to do back link building; the way we approach it, we approach it with the philosophy of how do we make our website look like a big brand? Because that’s what Google ultimately wants to rank high is they want a brand– you know even if you’re not Coca-Cola, there’s a lot of niches out there; they want to brand within that niche.
So, you have to think in terms of, “How do I look like a brand and not like a scummy affiliate type of deal?” So the difference between a big brand and affiliate was say okay, number one a brand a real business will probably have an address. If you don’t have an address you’re not verified on Google, Apple or bing, you’re probably not a real business in Google’s eyes. So the first thing we want to do is verify yourself on those three assets and then build the citations to those local addresses your name address and phone number even though if you’re not a local business, “Hey, I’m not a local business, I’m not trying to go for why I don’t need citations” but it does help because it allows Google to understand that you’re a business at a physical location. Okay, so that’s number one.
Second layer are social signals were media signals, so any brand would promote themselves. If you’re not promoting yourself it’s kind of like you’re not really active as a business. So that’s just a signal that what they looking at. So you want to have an active Facebook, Twitter, social media accounts, YouTube account. What we typically do is we have a blog and then we build RSS feed to the social media sites and then so whenever we post something on the blog, you actually post out to the social media sites itself and feeds back because it has a link to our specific focus pages.
Trent: You could do that but just by using buffer as well; someone’s got to do the RSS feed, you could just be the buffer zone or you’re just like Yeah
Rich: So you could do something like that and then what we also do is we do press releases but we also built other Web 2.0 assets that did you know that….
Sites.google.com so, it’s Google’s platform that allows you to kind of it’s there form a weekly where you know it’s something that they allow webmaster to kind of build a page, a site on their own site and you could do that with your own pages and add some content and link it back to your Website. So there’s a lot of these Web 2.0 assets that you can actually create content on, have a link to them back to your website, does that make sense?
Trent: It does.
Rich: Yeah, so there’s an over there, there’s literally hundreds of these assets you just got to evaluate how much domain authority each one has, if it’s worth it for us to build. But we definitely have our list of priorities of which type of assets to go after and build links in the…
Trent: How does A-HREFS come into play
Trent: So let’s get you to repeat what you said in the last one minute.
Rich: So the second layer of what we do is Web 2.0. So we have Web 2.0 sites that we can essentially go out and create an account and put some content in have a link back to our website.
Okay, so the first two layers that I take then along with the Web 2.0 press releases all these things they’re very controllable by us, we can go out and kind of get these links and build up our authority that way. You can’t control some of your anger texts on some of the Web 2.0s like press releases and social media. You’re not going to control too much of those anchor text coming back into text are essentially the word blue, you know underlined word, you can say … linking back to your website. Obviously you want to do a correct proportion. You don’t want overall optimize that either but that’s something that you want to kind of do it naturally, make it look natural.
Trent: So when you’re looking for places to get back links, does the A-HREFS tool help you to figure out where you should go?
Rich: A-HREFS have a specific section that just says referring domains that you can click on and it shows all your competitors, all the links that they’ve gotten, how they’ve gotten it where it is, so a lot. Oh we could go this link, I know they made a— they got the link back, it has this much value, let’s go do the same thing.
So you kind of build up a list of network that you can go back right away and get those links. So that’s one way and then the last tier, the third tier is actually the outreach where we actually go out to bloggers and webmasters and ask them to sponsor for a link. So essentially, we could write them an article that says, “Hey, can we have an article on your website and or sponsor it?” Give us some money to have a link back to us. And that’s a very solid way of doing that as well back until you find that when you’re reaching out to buy links like that the acceptance rate is at high or is it low?
Rich: It’s not so high but you know we played the volume game on that; that way we can still get enough links.
Trent: Okay, so you’re using A-HREFS to figure out, “Hey, these are all the sites that we might like to have a link on” And then you probably have a process that a virtual assistant uses to do that outreach to each of the site owners with your proposal, was it more or less correct?
Rich: Yeah we have an in-house team that just does nothing but link building and you know we do submissions and outreach so to kind of put these back links.
Trent: So, I would imagine and obviously there’s a lot of details in the outreach in the off-page SEO but in a nutshell, it’s covering off your bases with your social presence your Web 2.0 properties and is best you can and then going out and looking for sponsored links kind of like an ongoing forever, forever basis, would that be a fair assessment?
Trent: Yeah, obviously we want to assess how far we are along with the campaign; sometimes what happens is we get him on the first page like that where on the top and we’ll just stop pressure on the sources on that link, on that focused URL and then move on to the next one and brought it up.
Trent: So being as we’re having such horrible connectivity today I think we’ll go a little shorter on the interview than longer let me sum up with this last question. In your role as an SEO professional, has there and you don’t have to name any companies or anything like that but have you ever made any really big mistakes that you ended up you or your client paying a penalty for and what kind of lessons did you learn from that?
Rich: Yeah, you know in my early days when I was doing SEO, I was just trying it doing whatever you can to kind of get Google traffic; so in my early days, I remember I used to bill like we used to be an ass sense. I used to be an ass sense, I don’t know if you remember that affiliate. So we used to build out like 100 pages, 100 websites every month based on niches and we just produce whatever content out there that’s available kind of rehash it and just posted out there and try to get traffic and then do kind of advertising as an arbitrage.
Obviously, it’s very short term and you know you made money at the time but then make money in a long term. So the way I look at it now it is that. That was very short term thinking in terms of how we do it and that’s not something I would do today. But that was definitely an interesting beginning for me to kind of see how that works. You know if I were to do it now, I would probably make it more into a platform, a publication, focused rather than a hundred sites just focus on one site or two sites and then build it out.
Trent: Yeah, I actually got my start almost 10 years ago in exactly the same way I was building little micro sites. I was using the best spinner; it was hot and I was driving getting used to rank and I was sending the traffic to Amazon and getting affiliate commissions and it worked really well until Penguin and Panda came down and then it was over.
Rich: That’s right, that’s right. So we had the same beginning on we did. Yes. That’s awesome. Those are the days right. Like, “Wow! This actually works” Let me tell you if I can make $10 a site, let me make one hundred of those, right?
Trent: All right well thank you so much for coming on, if anyone has any questions or maybe they’re interested in working with you what is the single best way to get in touch?
Rich: Visit my website, that’s blissdrive.com So my email is email@example.com
Trent: All right wonderful, Rich thank you so much for making some time and again apologies to the audience, we don’t control bandwidth and the Internet and today did not cooperate very much.
Questions Asked During the Interview
- Who are you and what do you do?
- Tell me about an incredible result that your expertise played a role in achieving
- What was the first step you took to create this result?
- What tools did you use for keyword research?
- Do you recommend ranking product pages for online stores?
- Once on-page SEO is fully optimized, what is next?
- What are some of the things you can do to build citations and authority with the major search engines?
- What are some of the things you can do to build social signals?
- Which tools do you use for this?
- How does sites.google.com come into play?
- How does Ahrefs come into play with off-page SEO?
- What does your linkbuilding outreach look like?
- Can you tell me about some of the biggest mistakes/lessons learned along the way?
Richard Fong runs an SEO agency in Orange County, CA. He helps eCommerce companies beat out Amazon, Walmart, and multi-billion dollar brands. He’s been featured on Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine’s websites. He’s married with a one year old son and he’s an avid salsa dancer.