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There are a lot of SEO specialists out there. And rarely would you encounter one with good repute and who knows his stuff. All others are no-good oil snakes. I’ve encountered Brent as we exchanged tweets in twitter when he stumbled upon one of my entries. He’s an interesting fellow who’s worked in the SEO industry for a much longer time than I have so I thought I’d do an interview with him for you guys.
Brent can attribute his success to his diverse portfolio and a unique vision, which combines a background in technology and real world experience that lends itself to some very unique content and management. As technology and communication mediums continue to merge, Brent continues to research new ways to get a customer’s messages across to the readers and intended audiences.
1) How did you stumble upon SEO and decide to make it as a career/business?
The year was 2001 and I was 21. Not sure what I wanted to be in life, I spent a lot of time trying a lot of different things and never found anything I really enjoyed (or was extremely talented at). Recently out of high school and it was the .com boom so I had no trouble finding jobs working for websites. Back then I was doing a bit of technical writing for security/malware companies, basically, it was writing up and rating vulnerabilities as they were discovered in the wild.
As the .com boom busted, it became increasingly difficult to find work in this sector, so starting to look around town for work, I found a software company and started doing some small tasks around the office and found the right opportunity to show I had some experience with html and php. In a matter of days I was promoted to a web admin and that quickly morphed into an in-house SEO position with perks! As soon as I got my first #1 ranking I knew I was hooked! I just did not know how consistent the work would be and had no idea I would ever succeed at starting my own business.
2) How did you start your SEO business?
Recently after I had moved back into Minnesota I started as a consultant. I found one of the biggest real estate agencies in our area who needed help with their web presence. I almost volunteered to help the pay was so low! But, it got my foot in the door and a whole heckuva lot of referrals after I proved myself. I still work for the agency today and they still get me referrals almost regularly.
After the first year, I realized that I was severely limiting my potential by doing everything myself. Obviously, it is a wasted opportunity not to be pushing a brand and creating an awareness for that brand. Now, we work with some of the web design agencies in town and have established an awareness for who we are and what we do.
3) What would you say is your specialty when it comes to SEO?
Usually, the typical answer here would be: “local search” or “real estate SEO” but what I am really good at (and force my employees to be too) is understanding what a business owner really wants and making sure we get to that point without breaking any rules or jeopardizing their websites. I have always been a good listener and have a big heart so we usually end up doing some fairly uncommon things to get the job done. Nothing in this industry is THAT difficult. It’s about making sites better and not about shortcuts. It’s about reaching goals. It’s not about what package you are selling. It’s not about us at all. In reality, a lot of SEO agencies really miss out on that point and may even miss a lot of opportunities because of that.
Another thing I believe strongly in is staying current. As soon as you stop learning, you become the dinosaur in the area. Google had 500+ updates to their organic search algorithm last year alone, now pair that up with Adwords and Google.com/Places, keyword tools, ROI tools, analytics, and so on.. it’s learn or get drowned in this industry! The short answer: we specialize in providing a robust and complete strategy to keep clients succeeding on the web long term.
4) What is your vision/mission for your company as an individual?
Well, this is something I have given a lot of thought to ever since I registered the name Optimize Guyz. If our business was a person it would be a toddler. We still have a lot of growing and adapting to go through. So, right now, my vision is to become scalable and provide our same quality of service to a great number of businesses. The demand is there but our resources are not quite there yet and we are not the type of business to sacrifice quality for dollars.
5) What would you say is the future of SEO in terms of business demand?
It is going to be huge. In ’08 Adwords recorded $20 BILLION dollars in sales alone. The real answer depends on the evolution of search. It won’t be booming like it has in the past year or two, but it will most likely keep growing and social media has had a big impact as well. Social media has had a big impact on business strategies and it’s still a relatively new technology.
There is already a movie coming out about Facebook! Twitter’s popularity is still very new, so it’s tough to gauge what is coming next or how users migrate to other technologies, but one thing is for sure, and that is almost everybody (and their Grandma’s) have come to rely on the web as day-to-day communication and wherever there are users — there is a need for internet marketing.
6) Are there any tips regarding SEO that you can give away to our readers?
Sean, you may recall that I recently won an award on Bruce Clay’s Small Business Discovery Contest for answering: “In a Short Article, How Would You Advise Small Business Owners about Internet Marketing?” and the article is a good SEO primer. So I would refer your readers to look it over and jump right in. The best thing anyone new to SEO can do is to learn the basics of why rankings are chosen the way that they are.
Google has given us these resources in their Webmaster channel on YouTube and the SEO Starter Guide. If you learn what Google wants, it is much easier to give all of the major search engines a reason to rank your sites towards the top. It is a lot of hard work and persistence so anyone expecting fast results will be disappointed. And anyone promising you fast results may be taking shortcuts that could jeopardize your reputation.
So, be careful who you hire and always research the company before you sign any contracts. Also, look beyond Google. Sites like Digg, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are a great way to supplement traffic & leads and increase your presence.
Brent Rangen (@BrentRangen) is a consistent voicein the world of online SEO and internet marketing on the Web. He has been working on the cutting edge of SEO since 2001, and also worked extensively in the real estate, travel, and hospitality SEO industries, consistently producing results in the companies that he partners with.
Brent won the 2010 Small Biz Discovery Contest with his article, “SEO for Small Business: Get an SEO Primer” and has worked with some of the biggest names in the SEO and marketing industries.