Jenny’s Note: I am beyond thrilled to bring to you today this SEO Success Stories interview with Tom Nguyen. The awesomeness of this interview – namely the fact that he is so candid about what is working for him in addition to the high-quality info – cannot be overstated.
I met Tom in the parking lot elevator on our way to WordCamp Atlanta. Upon introductions he immediately recognized me as a “competitor” who ranks on Page 1 for the same keyword he does. Juicy, right? We clicked (pun intended), stayed in touch, and when he mentioned the other day that he gets tons of leads from SEO, I asked him to spill his secrets. Luckily for us he, graciously accepted. Without further ado, I introduce Tom and all the SEO goodness he unveils. Enjoy!
Word around town is that you’ve had some success with SEO generating leads. Tell me about that.
First off, thanks for interviewing me, Jenny. The leads are definitely coming in. I’m in a good spot, and I can’t complain. A few months ago, I was averaging about 1-2 inquiries per day. I was teetering between the bottom of the first page and the top of the second page of Google for “web design in Atlanta, GA”, “Atlanta web designer”, and similar search terms.
I know for many freelance web designers, 1-2 inquiries per day would be something to be happy about, but I remembered that I had written down a goal on a sheet of paper back in 2007 that I was going to appear at #1 on Google for the keyphrase “web design in Atlanta, GA”, and I wanted to follow through on my statement.
Feeling inspired, I started to blog about my quest to be #1 on Google for “web design in Atlanta, GA”. In those blog posts, I gave my readers the steps that I took to go from page 7 for “web design in Atlanta, GA” to page 1. I haven’t been able to blog anymore about my success because I’ve been swamped with work from my existing clients, and I’ve been working on the new edition of my website which I’m banking on to get me to #1 in Google.
Since my last blog post, the number of visits to my website have doubled. I’m now in the middle of the first page on Google, and I’m getting 4-5 inquiries a day now. It’s not only my ranking that I care about though. I really do try to provide quality content and give my visitors some advice on getting more leads.
What are the critical steps you’ve done to help get you the results?
Well the first step that I took was to move to the Atlanta area. When I wrote that goal down in 2007, I was living 50 miles south of Atlanta in the boondocks. I noticed around 2009-2010 that the Google Places results (the ones with the addresses and phone numbers on them) started showing up above many of the organic search results. Living south of Atlanta was not where I wanted to be (for personal and professional reasons), so in 2010, I moved to Smyrna which was much closer to Atlanta. Then in 2011, I moved to Atlanta which allowed me to have an Atlanta address.
Having an Atlanta address wasn’t the only thing that contributed to my higher rankings, and I wouldn’t say there is any one thing that is the be all and end all for my higher rankings. It was an accumulation of different tasks such as:
- Improving the copy, title tags, and meta descriptions on my website to include relevant keywords while still being appealing to readers
- Submitting my website to relevant directories (Jenny’s Note: be careful about this unless you know what you’re doing)
- Commenting on industry news websites
- Being active on my social networking website pages (Google Plus, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Facebook)
Was it tough to get started?
Yes, it was. At the time, I was just a web designer who coded mostly static websites, and I knew very little about SEO. Plus I wasn’t even located near Atlanta, so I definitely had my work cut out for me.
As I mentioned earlier, I moved to Atlanta, so I took care of the location issue. Next, I started optimizing my website for less competitive search terms that would still produce inquiries like “freelance web designer in Atlanta, GA” and “Atlanta freelance web designer”. I was able to get to number one fairly quickly for those search terms.
As I learned more about SEO, I started to optimize my website for the more competitive keyphrase, “web design in Atlanta, GA”.
What ongoing activities do you do to help you with SEO? Blogging, social media marketing, linkbuilding, etc. I’d love to hear how you’ve maintained your good results.
I definitely do all of those, and all of these methods work together to provide a synergistic effect.
I blog regularly, but I’ve had to put that on hold for the last few months because I’ve been swamped with work from existing clients, and I’ve been working on the newest version of my website which I’m planning on releasing at the end of May. Blogging is extremely important because you’re adding pages to your website. When your visitors see that your website has a regularly updated blog, you give them a reason to come to your website. You also let the search engines know that your website is updated constantly.
I regularly post on Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest just to name a few social media websites. I comment on Manta which is a B2B social media website/directory. All my social media pages contain a link back to my website. If you’re not using social media to promote your business, then you’re really handicapping yourself. By using social media, you’re able to give yourself backlinks from reputable websites, keep your clients/customers informed about your business, make new connections with people in your industry, and establish yourself as an industry expert among other things.
Building quality backlinks is an ongoing process that can’t be done in one day. I’ve built up quite a few backlinks by giving my two cents on industry blogs and news sites, submitting my website to reputable directories, posting a link to my latest blog posts on social media websites, and last but not least, writing quality content.
I can’t stress enough the importance of writing quality content. A couple of years ago, I wrote a post on some paid reputable SEO directories, and then I responded to a discussion topic on Manta regarding directories. In my response, I added a link to that blog post, and my website ended up receiving 300+ visits in ONE day! I also had someone inquire about web design work through my contact form, and I got an email from somebody asking me if they could link to that blog post.
Also, because of my website content, I’ve had interviews from Entrepreneur.com which gave me a backlink to my website and Upcity.com who featured my company as one of the top 50 web design agencies in Atlanta, GA. Please keep in mind that I didn’t have to pay these websites for a backlink. They just wanted to mention me because I provided valuable content. If you write valuable content, other reputable websites will link to you for free.
Did you do any offpage/linkbuilding work, or only onpage optimization? If you did do any linkbuilding, what did you do?
Absolutely. See the answer to the question above 😉
Why do you think you’ve had so much success with SEO?
Although I learned a good bit through reading, I also learned a good bit on my own. I found out that I could use the * operator in Google to find backlinks to competitors which I talk about in one of my blog posts. On some of those websites, I was able to get a backlink myself.
I’m definitely a firm believer that if you can conceive it, you can achieve it.
What advice would you give other people who would like to generate more leads with SEO?
If you want to generate leads with SEO, you need to be able provide valuable content. If you can’t say more than two paragraphs about your field of expertise, then you can forget top search engine rankings. The more competitive the phrase that you are trying to rank for, the more you need to say.
Also, speak to your visitors and not just the search engines. Rankings are important, but it’s important that your content is appealing to your visitors. Your visitors are the ones who are going to be asking about your services, and they’re the ones who are going to write you a check.
If you don’t know anything about SEO and you want to start doing it yourself, start following industry experts’ blogs (like Jenny Munn’s). If you prefer not to even fool with it and just want to hire a SEO consultant, you have to be able to talk extensively about your field of expertise with your SEO consultant.
I have a plastic surgeon client who gets around 6000 to 7000 visits a month and is at the top of Google, Bing, and Yahoo for some competitive keywords because he was willing to open up and tell me about his expertise.
Last but not least, give your website a personality and put some thought into your About page. Most of your visitors won’t know you, and your website’s About page is your chance to let your readers know what you and your company are about. It has nothing to do with SEO (unless you throw in alt tags which is actually recommended), but throw in pictures of yourself and your staff. People want to put a face with a name.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you help clients?
I was actually born in Atlanta, GA (surprise, surprise), and I graduated from Georgia State University at the end of 1998. A few years after graduation, I found a job working as a sales rep for my buddy’s web development firm. It was there where I started to learn about web design. In 2002, I created the Mr. Technique website and started doing web design on a part-time basis. In my spare time, I would learn more about web design by reading books and online tutorials.
In 2005, I acquired enough clients to start designing websites full-time. The entrepreneur’s road isn’t an easy one, and I had to go get a regular 9 to 5 job at a mortgage broker’s office at the end of 2010 to help me get back on my feet. I had clients but I wasn’t bringing in enough revenue to pay my bills, and I actually thought about giving up web design altogether and starting over with something new. I felt defeated.
While working for the mortgage broker, I started to get my entrepreneurial spirit back. I picked myself up off the ground, and started taking on new clients. I started to believe again. And you know what they say happens when you believe, right? Things happen. Somebody else that I did a totally free website for a couple of years back contacted me and asked me if they could outsource me for his web design projects, and I agreed to do it.
The mortgage broker company that I was working for decided to let me go towards the end of 2011 because they were downsizing, but by no means was I depressed about it because I felt like the stage was set for me. I was now living in Atlanta, and I told my wife (who was my girlfriend back then) that I wanted to make a run at being a top web designer in Atlanta. She thought I was crazy for not trying to get another job, but I truly believed that I could make it happen.
It was do or die for me. I didn’t want to go back to working for a 9 to 5 job for a corporate company, so I started improving my search engine rankings by applying what I learned from industry websites plus what I learned on my own. At that time, although I was on the first page for the phrase “freelance web designer in Atlanta, GA”, I was on page 7 for “web design in Atlanta, GA”.
Now, I’m on page 1 for “web design in Atlanta, GA” on Google, and I’m gunning for number 1. 95% of my leads come from Google organic search results, and I get them every day. Needless to say, business is booming! I’m getting 4 to 5 leads per day, and I turn away more business than I take in. I truly am lucky to be where I am at now.
My business thrives off existing clients business. Less clients more attention. I like to call it the “Jerry Maguire Approach”. I discuss this in my mission statement on my website, and people read it because they constantly tell me that they contact me because they like what I have to say.
These days, I provide more than just web design. I actually offer a variety of services (web design, web hosting, search engine optimization, print ad design, and social media marketing).
Once again, I’d like to thank you for giving me this interview, Jenny. I truly am flattered that a SEO expert in Atlanta, GA such as yourself wanted to interview me. For the readers out there, I met Jenny when I was walking in to the 2014 WordCamp Conference, but I first learned about Jenny when I did a search for “freelance SEO in Atlanta, GA”, and she popped up at #1. Rightfully so. Jenny knows her stuff. I attended her SEO talk and picked up valuable keyword research tips.
About Tom Nguyen
Tom Nguyen is a web designer in Atlanta, GA who also offers SEO, Social Media Marketing, and Web Hosting services. The majority of his clients are located in the Metro Atlanta area. To visit his website, check out www.mrtechnique.com.