I'm delighted to welcome back the oldest friend of the show — Neil Patel.
Neil was featured in episode one, where we talked about a lot of interesting things. Neil is the founder of NP digital and the wall street journal calls him a top influencer on the web.
He’s back to share his insights on all things SEO, content marketing, and recent changes in the marketing landscape.
Here are a couple of insights from our conversation (more insights coming soon):
With the rise of smart devices and home assistants, like Google Pod, Apple Home, or Amazon’s Alexa, people have become more comfortable speaking to their devices (as opposed to typing them into a computer)
Thanks to AI and language processing, search has evolved to the point where it can make certain predictions to match your inquiry to the content we have online.
Enter voice search-driven SEO. According to this wordstream article Commscore had predicted that 50% of all searches would be voice-driven. I'm not sure whether that prediction turned out to be accurate (feel free to let me know in the comments) but voice search is growing at a rapid rate.
Devices are getting smarter and include natural language processing. Engineers have worked to help devices learn and adapt to our needs in ways we couldn't have conceived of just a few years ago.
User experience trumps SEO. Don't get me wrong. SEO matters ... but not at the expense of the user experience.
Create content with your users in mind and then worry about optimizing it for search. i.e. don't write for the search engines. Write for humans.
Because Google cares about delivering a spectacular customer experience above all else. If people are coming to your site and not getting a great customer experience, then there isn't a whole lot of value in your being found.
Google tracks metrics such as average time on site, bounce rate, how often your content is shared (people only share content they really like), and a whole lot of other factors that signal great content to google. That's what keeps you at the top of the search results over time.
This is where it pays to understand your customer well using an empathetic approach. Understanding your customer's buyer journey, getting clear on the problem she's trying to solve, and then creating content to solve that problem that meets her where she is on her journey is the only way to really get traction.
Creating remarkable content that's unique and makes them want to come back is critical. These days it's not enough to just create good content. Your content needs to be great.
That's what'll get your content shared, linked to, and talked about.
You may also want to visit the Productive Insights website and join our growing community of business owners!
Ash Roy and Neil Patel Video Transcript (This transcript has been auto-generated. Artificial Intelligence is still in the process of perfecting itself. There may be some errors in transcription):
Today, I'm delighted to welcome back the oldest friend of the Productive Insights podcast. And that is Mr. Neil Patel, who was featured on episode number one where we talked about a lot of interesting things some of which we'll be talking about again today. Neil is the founder of NP digital and the wall street journal calls him a top influencer on the web. Forbes says he's one of the top 10 marketers and entrepreneur magazine says he created one of the hundred most brilliant companies. Neil is a New York Times bestselling author and was recognized as a top hundred entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Barack Obama and a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 35 by the United Nations. I'm delighted to welcome back Neil Patel from neilpatel.com.
Welcome back, Neil.
[Neil Patel] Thanks for having me. When I first did the interview, it slipped my mind that I was episode one.
[Ash Roy] You are episode number one, and I was scared to publish that interview for a long time. So, it sat on my hard drive for about a year and a half. And then I finally mustered up the courage to launch my podcast and you were the very first guest. So, thank you for being on the show, and thank you for coming back. Now, Neil, I've been following your work for years. And back then when we spoke, we spoke about a lot of things.
In episode one, we talked about personal brand versus company brand. We talked about the Steve Jobs brand versus the Apple brand and whether it's possible to differentiate personal brand from company brand. And I touched on that in my interview with Guy Kawasaki recently in episode 210. So, if you're listening you might want to check that out. Today, we are here to talk about search engine optimization, content marketing. And back when we spoke again, Neil, in episode one you were the owner of Kissmetrics and things have changed since then. I've seen you grow neilpatel.com from pretty much nothing to a very, very successful website mainly using content strategies. My first question to you Neil, is you've seen the SEO space now for several years and you know it better than most. Can you tell us how you see SEO evolving over the next few years and why it's important that our viewers on YouTube which you can watch this episode on youtube.com/productiveinsights if you're viewing it or our listeners on the podcast why is it important that they understand the evolution of SEO?
[Neil Patel] SEO, when it first started off used to be as simple as you put some keywords on your page, and your title, and your meta description. And if you're not familiar with the title and meta description is, whenever you search Google, you see a title in blue [and] then a description like a sentence of what that page is about. That's your title and that's your meta description. And it was that simple, and then it evolved over time and Google realized things like, how many websites linking to you matter? how fast your website loads? to nowadays even they're looking at the experience. What's the user experience of someone visiting your site? Are they just clicking the back button and going to the next, are they seeing too many pop-ups on the page?
Because at the end of the day if you're user searching, do you really care If one website has a million links or a thousand links? It's irrelevant. You don't even know what that means. You don't even really care how well their site is optimized for Google or any search engine. All you care about is, did this site provide what I'm looking for? As the end user, that's really all you care. And that is what Google is shifting towards. It doesn't mean that they're ignoring all the other stuff but their future is going to be adapting to what the user wants and mainly that and nothing else, right? It doesn't mean they'll fully ignore the other stuff. It'll just be a much smaller factor than it is now, in my opinion.
[Ash Roy] Another very interesting point about that which another friend of our Productive Insights podcast Rand Fishkin talked about in episode, I think 38 or 126. I can't remember which one. He mentioned that a lot of Google searches are being fulfilled on Google's assets themselves in the form of snippets. So that is something to also be aware of. Would you agree Neil?
[Neil Patel] Yeah, and they've been doing that for a long time but there's also more people searching. So, I wouldn't worry too much about that. I look at SEO as a brand play. Here's what I mean by that. Everyone's like, I want to rank at the top of Google and it's going to make my business. I provide SEO as a service for my ad agency, NP digital. I do think it's important, but it's not the end all be all. When you want to buy candy or chocolates, when you're a little kid, do you go on Google Which chocolate should I buy? No, you're just at the grocery store, you're like, I want M&M'S or you're like, I want Twix or Hershey's or Cadbury or whatever it may be. To me that's the power of branding. And what you need to do is look at SEO, not as SEO but you need to look at as an omni-channel approach. Now devices like Alexa, Apple home, your Google pod I think, it was an Apple pod, Google home. I get them mixed up. I have an Alexa. They're starting to pull in search results as well. And not necessarily, you don't ask Alexa, hey Alexa can you search for how to do X, Y, and Z? You more so ask Alexa the question and it pulls it. Where do you think it pulls it from? Typically, it's pulling from the web, right? And that's where SEO is going. It's getting integrated into all these devices. Assume your fridge in a few years will say you have these items. Would you they're about to expire, here's some recipes for you. Where do you think they're going to pull the recipes from right? So that way you can make use of your food. That's an example of where search is going and where technology and digital marketing is going just as a whole in the future. And we're not there yet but that's where I see it going within five years.
[Ash Roy] So you're saying it's going to be a driven increasingly by voice-based search, which means terminology people use, when they're looking for things might change. And I know you released an article just this morning about questions and you said that how, the word how that precedes a question tends to be one of the most
[Ash Roy] How to, like how to install a toilet. Things like that
[Neil Patel] Yeah, yeah. I actually responded to that article with a question in my comments and I said, you use the word how but my question to you was I would imagine out of all the how questions, a high proportion of them would be how to. Maybe 90% of them would be how to would you agree, is how to a great way to start a title.
[Neil Patel] Correct, but we consider that a question, right? Typically, when someone's saying how to install a toilet they're typing that in because they don't know how to install a toilet. And they're asking, how do I install a toilet? They may have searched for a how to but that's a by-product because we, as consumers and searchers are trained that, hey, if you type in how to you'll get the answer to your question. Your question may be, how do I install a toilet, but if you search for how to install a toilet you'll get the answer to your question.
[Ash Roy] Right, Gotcha. So, tell me this. If we move across to voice-driven search, which is what you mentioned
[Neil Patel] Let's back up one point, right? Cause you mentioned voice. So right now, roughly 14% of the searches are question-related. In the United States, by the end of 2020, 50% of the searches, according to ComScore were voice-search. I don't know what it is globally, but it's increasing at a rapid rate. So just to hit on that really quickly but sorry for interrupting you, go forward with your question.
[Ash Roy] That's cool, man. So, my question to you is this If I was saying how to install a toilet if I was typing that in, I'm just curious to know would the phraseology or the search phrase change when people are interacting with voice-based devices. And should we be thinking about that when creating headlines for our content to be found more easily?
[Neil Patel] Not necessarily because these devices are pretty sophisticated and the engineers are looking for patterns. People will tell Alexa, and I'm not saying it loud because I have Alexa behind me and then you'll ask like, what's two plus two, right? Or you'll ask how do I install a toilet instead of to, you'll say, how do what temperature do I heat my oven when I'm making cookies or chocolate chip cookies, but they know that's very similar to how to bake cookies, how to heat your oven, et cetera. They're able to semantically figure out what you mean based on what you're saying or typing.
[Ash Roy] Now let's just jump back to your earlier point. where you said SEO is not the be-all and end-all. Totally agree. How would you recommend people who are looking to create impactful content and grow a business profitably? Not just in terms of revenue, but profitably. How do people approach that when it comes to content creation, what is important? Of course, user experience matters a lot and SEO is kind of woven into that, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on what mental posture should we have when we are creating content beyond just SEO?
[Neil Patel] Helping people and solve their problems. Doesn't matter what it is. I don't actually put SEO first or social first. I put the person first. Am I giving them something that's helpful and actionable? I'm giving you something new and unique. Am I giving them something so amazing that they're delighted and they're going to come back?
[Ash Roy] Yeah.
[Neil Patel] 'Cause all that stuff is going to help determine if someone's going to link to it, or share it, or talk about it which is a by-product of doing better in SEO? It's funny, people think SEO first, instead of thinking users first. You think users first, the SEO comes later.
[Ash Roy] So right for the user, not for the search engines.
[Neil Patel] Totally, yes. And then you can adapt to the search engines. For example, if I write for the user, I have this process when it comes to marketing and content creation and I'll break it down, and I wrote about it last week. Majority of the time what people search for like how to install a toilet that kind of stuff gets high search queries. How to make chocolate chip cookies, gets searched a lot. But when someone creates an article on how to create chocolate chip cookies, those aren't the kind of articles that you see shared on Facebook. It's not the kind of article that everyone wants to link to. Does that make sense? Because there are already so many articles on how to make chocolate chip cookies but that's what people are searching for. So, my formula is 40% of the time I'm creating content like that. How to, educational, practical stuff like that. 10% of the time I'm creating the expert content today wrote an article on how SEO is turning into a question and answers game.
[Ash Roy] Yeah,
[Neil Patel] Not really any keyword that I'm optimizing for there but I had a ton of stats and data on the percentage of searches that are question-based. The domain authority of a site ranks on page one for a question basis 39 on average while for head terms, two-word terms, it's substantially more. I believe it was somewhere in the fifties. I forgot the exact number. and I'm breaking on all these stats on how it's important. I'm breaking on however, I believe roughly 30, 34% of blogs who get over a hundred thousand monthly visitors from SEO, roughly 34% of their traffic is coming from question-related content. So that's thought leadership.
That's the stuff people are going to share and link to because it's interesting, right? Not really talked about a lot. Interesting, helpful. So, 10% of my time, I'm writing that because you need the social shares to build up the community. You need the links to build the domain authority and rank overall. 20% of the time I update my old content because content gets old. There are over a billion blogs right now with over a billion blogs. That's roughly one for every seven people. Search engines, social media sites, everyone has their prime picking of content these days. they're going to rank and showcase the new fresh stuff instead of outdated.
If you have your prime pickings, why wouldn't you show fresh stuff instead of stuff that could be outdated? And what you'll find is a lot of times your old traffic starts declining in traffic not all of it, but a large chunk of it. So, we always tell people 20% of the time to update their old content. When you update your old content, just making sure it's still relevant, making sure the pictures are still there, the links are live. You know, sometimes you have to add in a few more paragraphs to make it relevant, sometimes you have to delete a few paragraphs.
Sometimes you just have to adjust a sentence or two. It can vary based on whatever you think provides the best user experience. And then 30% of the time I tell people to promote, right? You can't forget marketing and content marketing. Look for people who tweeted out your competitor's content, related content. Cause like I can be like, hey John, I noticed you tweeted out this article on the 10 advanced SEO techniques I have an article on the 17 advanced SEO techniques. Feel free to share it if you like it. And PS, let me know if I can share anything for you that gets you some social shares. Hitting up people who linked to your competitors and ask them to link to you when they have similar articles but yours are more detailed. John, I noticed you linked to the 10 advanced SEO techniques. They didn't cover these five, six techniques that are now relevant that everyone's using. I've just talked about them in this article, feel free and link to it if you like it and think it will benefit your readers, right? That's another example of promotion. So, if you promote and you follow the other my content framework, you'll start getting more traffic.
[Ash Roy] I just want to circle back to a conversation. I think it was about five years ago. There are so many common themes between what you said then and what you're saying now one of them, you talked about then was the importance of data and that is still the case today. So, I, kudos to you for, being consistent on that. You talked about shareability, I don't know if we talked about that last time or whether it was Rand Fishkin I was talking to. But shareability, I believe is a signal that even the Googles of the world look for, right? If the content is being shared then that must mean that it's good content.
[Neil Patel] Yes, and it's not a direct signal, it's more indirect but it still helps, the more visibility the better. And plus, it helps build a brand
[Ash Roy] So one big takeaway from me right now is, write for the user, don't write for the engines and the rest will take care of itself. Just seek to serve and seek to help which is definitely an attitude that you have. And your friend, Brian Dean has whom I hope to have on the podcast sometime. His content is epic. I mean his skyscraper technique is insane. Also, his YouTube channel is insane. What blows my mind is he has so few videos on his YouTube channel but he's getting such massive growth. I don't know what he's doing, is he deleting some videos or something? because he hardly produces videos,
[Neil Patel] No, no, no, his approach, and I'm checking them out on social blade right now to see his YouTube growth. I haven't checked his YouTube. I've seen his videos. I haven't checked out his YouTube stats in a while.
[Ash Roy] Yeah.
[Neil Patel] But when you look at Brian, Brian's approach is less quantity, high quality. And then you just grow by having amazing, amazing quality. And it's worked really, really well for him. And he gets a lot of views. I'm looking at social blade last 30 days, 196,000 views. He's done exceptionally well with that model and, you know, kudos for him.
[Ash Roy] Absolutely, you know someone else who has a similar approach to that was a guest on episode number three. And that's John Morrow who tends to write very high-quality content. But I think he publishes about once a month or he did when he trained me to write personally. So, I know his work well and I'm a big fan of his book.
[Neil Patel] He's really, really good at writing.
[Ash Roy] He is amazing at writing. I admire him and his personal story is truly inspiring.
[Neil Patel] Incredible, yep.
[Ash Roy] Speaking of personal stories, I know that a lot has changed since we last spoke. You're now a family man. So, congratulations.
[Neil Patel] Thank you.
[Ash Roy] Now, Neil, I've been using Ubersuggest the free version first and now the paid version. And it's one of the best tools I've come across. One of the best tools in terms of value for money when it comes to finding good quality search terms and keywords and so on. Can you talk to us a little bit about Ubersuggest and how it is different from other SEO tools and why you would recommend it?
[Neil Patel] Sure, so with Ubersuggest the overall goal here is how can I keep giving away more and more for free or pennies on the dollar in essence. And when I look at it with Ubersuggest I started out because I thought SEO tools are not affordable.
They're $99. Most of them start off with, so I wanted to create something that was free and affordable. And you know, you charge for 10, 20% of the features or 10% but you make the majority for free. And eventually, you'll see us add email to Ubersuggest, then you'll start seeing us add automation to Ubersuggest and automate as much as we can in marketing, and then eventually added paid ad management. So, the goal is how can you just do one tool that does as much for you and you do less and less work as a beginner.
Most of these tools focus on agencies and creating tools for advanced experts. We're trying to create a toolset that's really easy to use for beginners. So, our audience is a little bit different.
[Ash Roy] And you have some detailed courses that you give away for free. Some of which I've done, which I was very impressed with. That's also a customer acquisition strategy where you're giving insane value upfront that people would normally charge for?
[Neil Patel] It could be, we just give it away Cause we like giving it away. There really isn't like the thought behind it is like if we do this, we'll get more customers. It was like, yeah, let's just give away free courses.
[Ash Roy] That's wonderful. I like that very generous approach. This is something that Seth Godin and I talked about at length on episode 200 and Seth and I talked about the importance of empathy and generosity, which are two terms that are not commonly heard in the marketing world but are very important over the long term. Would you agree, Neil?
[Neil Patel] I agree with that. It's very important and I think over time people will learn more and those two things also help you connect better with individuals and people can see through phoniness and all that baloney stuff versus just being authentic as well.
[Ash Roy] You know, this is a really good segue into another question I'm dying to ask you, and that is inbound versus outbound marketing. Now, my definition is probably going to be a little bit different to yours, but I'm going to just define it for the sake of clarity for our listeners. My definition of outbound marketing is pretty much anything that reaches out to the customer in some way. It's often, you know,
pay-per-click advertising some kind of push marketing. Whereas my definition of inbound marketing is where you start off by creating insanely valuable content like Brian Dean's approach or your approach. Generally content marketing tends to fall in the inbound marketing space, unless of course you're doing content amplification, which I see as outbound. We talked about this briefly on clubhouse and you said different methods work for different situations. My question is which approach do you prefer in which situation and why? Inbound versus outbound.
[Neil Patel] So there is no situation where I prefer one or the other, I look at it as more experimentation. Ideally, you want to figure out how to make both work because if you can make both work you have a bigger business. And I look at inbound and outbound also, some people like which one's better. I know you're not asking that I look at they're all good. All channels are good. As long as you can use them profitably, use them all. Cause you'll have a bigger business. It's not about the situation, it's about creativity and how can you get them to all work even when it's hard to get them to work. That's the key to doing well. That's hard, but that is the key to doing well.
[Ash Roy] True, I agree with you, but okay, Here's a follow-on question from that. Google came up with this idea of zero moments of truth or ZMOTS. The idea is basically the first experience that a customer has with a brand or a product. It used to be in a store, but now it tends to be on Google. So that first experience, that search experience typically is what I think Google defines as a ZMOT. And once upon a time, it used to be three ZMOTS that you needed to convert a browser or a stranger into a buyer. And now it's something like say 22 ZMOTS. So, my question is this, by appearing in front of a person 22 times to convert a sale, are we causing inconvenience to the buyer? When we use an outbound approach, isn't that a very intense and overwhelming experience for the customer, particularly in an environment where they're being hit by messaging from every different direction these days?
[Neil Patel] Not necessarily, there could be unsubscribed links when even when you send out cold emails. It could be as simple as emailing them something that benefits them. One's if you were spending money and you got a software company and you spent a million dollars on AWS and people knew you had a big software company. So, you're spending a lot but you're using some archaic technology and someone is able to do the research and they said, hey, I can save you 20% on your bill. Let's get on the phone. And if they emailed you five times, they really could save you 20%. And it would only cost you 1% of that. So, you would save a tonne of money. You're telling me that would be bombarding and inconvenient in that case it benefits them, right? And it would benefit you. So why wouldn't you take those savings?
[Ash Roy] So what about the user experience in that situation?
[Neil Patel] You have to continually adapt to figure out how to get a hold of them. You want to hit up people that are super qualified and focus your energy there. Inbound, yes. You're going to see that's going to take multiple approaches because you can't necessarily target the ideal person through inbound with a hundred percent of your inbound efforts. You get a lot of people that would be somewhat interested or
[Ash Roy] Let's talk about the most common challenges you've seen with inbound marketing and what works best to overcome them.
[Neil Patel] The biggest challenge I see with inbound marketing is people not getting the results they want. And the biggest reason for that is just time. They expect the results too quickly. Inbounds competitive now. People put a lot of money into it. It takes time. The second thing that we see that's very common is, inbounds not converting as well. And that's because they don't know how to convert those visitors into customers because most of the inbound traffic is going to content. It's harder to convert content readers into customers. So, you have to do things like remarketing those visitors through social ads. That works well. Another thing you can do is call to action within your content. Another thing that you can do is educate within your content, but also sell through copywriting and talk about your services and products within there.
That's the second biggest thing. The third big thing is they put in a lot of time and effort and they still don't see results even if they feel they're doing all the right things. The biggest reason for that we see is they either don't spend enough time on the marketing side or their content isn't unique enough or wowing enough
where people are willing to link to them or talk about them.
[Ash Roy] What action steps do you think our listeners can take today to grow their business profitably over time? And how do people find out more about you?
[Neil Patel] I would take the omnichannel approach. So, add in one channel every quarter if you can. From podcasting to videos, you can repurpose your content. So, it's not going to be an overwhelming chore for writing a blog post, I can repurpose it into a video file and then I can just take the audio from that video file and turn it into podcasts If that makes sense. Or if I did video first, I could have someone repurpose it into text-based content and that can cut the video and make it into a
podcast as well. So, add as many channels as possible, repurpose your content. And if you do that over time, they call them marking the rule of seven. When someone sees or interacts with yourself times, I know you mentioned 22, I think it was, there tend to be much more likely to be evangelists and potentially even buy from you. And then where people can learn about me. I blog at neilpatel.com and my ad agency is
[Ash Roy] Well, we’ll link to all that in the show notes. Just with the repurposing, I have a question about that. I've got some amazing guests on my podcast. My interviews tend to be 35 to 40 minutes long but we're finding that the average view time is quite short on YouTube. So, we're thinking of chopping it up into smaller episodes or smaller YouTube videos but then publishing the whole video as well.
[Neil Patel] The whole video, I would just take that video and put it into three different chunks. If there are three main areas in it or two or four, I would just chop it up and then you'd have 10-minute videos. And then a long time later, then if you want to publish the whole interview, go for it. But first, start off with the chunks.
[Ash Roy] What about the fact that if you do it a long time later it will be a little bit dated for the audience. Is that an issue at all you think?
[Neil Patel] If it may be dated, they're not posted but I would just post the three main and that's it then like cut it up into two or three or four.
[Ash Roy] Neil, it was awesome having you on the podcast, you can find out more about Neil at neilpatel.com or NP digital. His work is excellent. I've been following Neil's work for many years so thank you so much for being on the show and I'd love to have you back again one day if it works out.
[Neil Patel] Sounds good, thanks for having me.