The Evolution of SEO with Cory Young

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Cory Young is the founder and CEO of BCC Interactive, a Digital Marketing Agency based in Philadelphia. After managing marketing teams at Fortune 50 companies at Comcast and Campbell’s Soup, Cory channeled his passion and experience in a direction that could help small and mid-sized businesses increase their visibility & revenue.

Here are a few of the topics we’ll discuss on this episode of Long Story Short:

 

  • Why you need to make your content findable—and how to do it 
  • How SEO has evolved over time
  • Why there will always be a need to help marketers get their content in front of their target audience
  • What it’s like to start a company as a side hustle before making the full-time leap
  • Cory’s journey to go out on his own
  • The specific kinds of content companies should be creating today

 

Resources:

Seth Godin 

Crushing It – Gary Vaynerchuk

Learningseo.io

 

Connect with Cory:

LinkedIn

Instagram

Tiktok

Twitter

BCC Interactive

 

Connect with Jeff:

LinkedIn

 

Connect with Sirkin Research:

Website

Twitter

Instagram

LinkedIn

Jeff Sirkin (00:00):
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of Long Story Short, the podcast about storytelling and connection. I’m your host, Jeff Sirkin. On this show. We talk to people making a difference as marketers, entrepreneurs, and social impact advocates. We dig into actionable strategies and tactics to help you connect with your audience and keep your finger on the pulse of your market. My guest this week is Cory Young. He is the founder and CEO of BCC Interactive, a digital marketing agency based in Philadelphia. After managing marketing teams at Fortune 50 companies with Comcast and Campbell’s Soup, Cory channeled this passion and experience in a direction that could help small and mid-size businesses increase their visibility and revenue.
Cory and I have a lot in common as entrepreneurs who started our companies as side hustles before making the full-time leap. We covered his journey to go out on his own, and had a great discussion about the future of SEO. As more and more content is put on the internet, there will always be a huge need to index and make the content findable. Cory also shared specific examples of what kinds of content companies should be creating today. So without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Cory Young. Hi, Cory. Thanks for coming on Long Story Short.

Cory Young (01:13):
Thanks for having me.

Jeff Sirkin (01:15):
So I want to start at the beginning of BCC Interactive, and I’m curious. What initially led you to start the company?

Cory Young (01:22):
Yeah, so I had a background in computer science technology, ended up switching my major in college to journalism, right at the beginning, middle, however you want to call it, of the recession. Newspapers were completely falling off, and I wasn’t exactly sure where to go. Luckily stumbled upon this thing called SEO, that I was like, oh, I’m good enough at these two things where I think if I combine them, I’ll be successful. What I didn’t realize is that there was a whole industry around it. So stumbled upon the various freelancer portals where I feel like I honed my craft, as well as at Campbell’s and Comcast, and eventually saw that there was a market for small to medium sized businesses with some marketing representation, but not necessarily an SEO expert.
They don’t have the resources of a Comcast or a Campbell’s, so I come in and fill that gap, and direct them on anywhere from here should be your keyword research strategy or your keyword strategy, to here’s the exact content you should produce to engage your most valuable clients. So that’s how we got to where we are today, helping those specific small to medium size businesses really move the needle in a way that I think they’ve relied on paid advertising and/or social media in the past to get that visibility and revenue.

Jeff Sirkin (03:14):
That’s great. And I want to say you’re in good company. Almost none of the marketing leaders we’ve talked to on this show were originally trained in marketing or marketing majors. I think that’s been a fun part for me is seeing everybody’s winding road. I was, an electrical engineer and then economics. I think we all end up here accidentally, and we all feel a little sheepish about it sometimes.

Cory Young (03:38):
A hundred percent.

Jeff Sirkin (03:39):
One thing I’m especially curious about, because similar to you, I had a consulting side hustle for about seven or eight years before I left the full-time world. I know you started BCC while you were in some of the full-time roles, as well. I’m curious just from your perspective, and especially with the way the world is moving towards now, what was really the tipping point for you that made you go all in and say no, this needs to be the full-time thing?

Cory Young (04:06):
So I got to the point where, honestly, doing both, having both a full time job and the bigger that BCC got, it became almost unsustainable. I knew my attention needed to be focused a hundred percent on one thing. It had been so long. As you said, doing a side hustle for seven, eight years, you’re never a hundred percent focused on one thing. And so, ran some financials and was like, okay, what if I actually devoted all of my energy to this one thing, instead of spreading myself across several different workflows, if you will?
It was part financial, doing the math on is this sustainable in the near term, and then part leap of faith in that, if I’m doing this well with 50% of my attention on this entity, what happens … And that’s a lot harder to forecast. So you are taking that leap of faith of, well, I’m banking on the fact that I’m going to be able to exponentially grow this venture if I’m able to focus on all of the details that need focusing, instead of previously, it was just like, whether it’s money or people, what do I need to throw at what was a side hustle in order to just move the ball along?

Jeff Sirkin (05:39):
Yep.

Cory Young (05:40):
Whereas today, I am in the trenches, focused on detail so that we can build this out and scale it as far as possible.

Jeff Sirkin (05:50):
I love that. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and it’s great to be in a position that you’re essentially into this because there was too much demand for what you needed to do. And that ultimately knowing that this was going to be the more fulfilling long term route for you. And so, I’m curious now that it’s been a few months going at it full time what does … How has that changed? What does your world look like today now at BCC, now that you are both feet in?

Cory Young (06:18):
It’s changed a lot more dramatically than I thought, honestly. Able to really refine and perfect our messaging as a company overall, refine the delivery, the delivery mechanism, the way in which we drive results, we’re able to get them faster now because I’m able to really hone in on the details and cut the fat from our delivery process, as well as, allowing my team to flourish. Instead of getting 20% of my attention, they get 75% of my attention, let’s say. We’re really able to have conversations back and forth about what’s needed to move the ball forward from a company wide standpoint. I’m able to also articulate my goals and my vision for the company, as opposed to being like, “Hey, guys, I have 30 minutes, and then I got to go to a meeting, and then I’ll be back at whatever. Then I got to go again.” I’m a lot more engaged.

Jeff Sirkin (07:28):
Yeah. And I think the fascinating part there is, it’s not that spending, let’s just say three times more of your time now on it’s, not just a 3X return, right? The 3X of your time is more like a 10, 15, 20X return in terms of the output you’re able to provide. I think that’s a really important lesson for anybody out there who has a side hustle and is in this place where they’re thinking about it. Look, I was on the fence for years. It was one of those … I thought for a while I would always be the guy that always wanted to tell everybody that I have a side hustle that someday is going to be the thing, but never quite making the leap. And again, it’s something I couldn’t be happier about.

Cory Young (08:06):
The other thing is, at least from my perspective, watching entrepreneurs who have the time in the day to do specific things, and also who have that room to be creative. When you’re literally on the hamster wheel on one side of things, and then trying to be an entrepreneur on the other side of things, they don’t quite compute despite … They may work well, and it may be necessary at the time, but you lose out on that creative, free-flowing part of your brain, in my opinion, because you’re always stuck to this linear, my day is from nine to not even five, probably seven or eight, and I have to get all this work done. No freedom to just take a break and think about things outside the box.

Jeff Sirkin (09:02):
Yeah. And I’m so glad you brought that up because you’re right. That’s something that I think I didn’t fully realize until I got into it either, was the idea that creativity really thrives in the downtime. You can’t schedule creativity. You can’t-

Cory Young (09:15):
Exactly.

Jeff Sirkin (09:16):
Creativity comes when it wants to come, but it’s not as likely to come if, again, if every minute of your day is just totally packed. If your schedule is just totally booked, those creative things are just not going to happen to you. And so it’s a matter of … To your point, maybe even intentionally scheduling some downtime. Go outside, go for a walk, do what inspires you in life, not just how do I get the … hit the next milestone in this client project.

Cory Young (09:43):
Yep. Exactly. I go on walks every day. I used to go on walks with two jobs, but it was more, hey, I have an hour, I know I need to go for a walk, let me go for a walk. And it was a break from life where I didn’t want to even think about trying to be creative. Whereas now, I have a lot more time to myself, and my walks don’t have to be an escape from the world.

Jeff Sirkin (10:13):
Yes.

Cory Young (10:13):
It can just be enjoying life.

Jeff Sirkin (10:17):
Well, yeah. As they say in meditation, it’s not escaping from your life, it’s escaping into your life now. So obviously as an se SEO expert, there’s been a … I’d love to pick your brain on some of this. There’s been a lot of chatter, especially in the B2B world, about how SEO has really been losing importance, let’s say, in the last five years or so. And I’m just curious what you see as your perspective on that.

Cory Young (10:43):
Yeah. So while I agree that SEO has its ebbs and flows of importance, I think that no matter where we are in the digital world, we’re always going to be searching for things. Therefore, there’s going to need to be an engine for those searches, and you’re always going to need to optimize for that engine. So I think no matter where we are in terms of … TikTok, for example, acts as a search engine as well now. So people are going to want to know how do I optimize my TikTok videos for maximum visibility. And if and when that turns into revenue, which it has for a lot of people already, well, now you have SEO for TikTok. You have SEO for YouTube, which is the second largest search engine.
So I think SEO as we know it traditionally, the same way that quote-unquote blogs, that we know blogs as a journal of your random thoughts of the day, whereas in reality, a blog is just a place for you to answer the questions that your target audience has, whether it be questions about your specific product, questions about the industry, or even support for your specific product or service. But if you say the word blog, people are like, “Blogs are 1998 or 2002.” It’s like, you’re right in their original sense. But I think we’re able to reformulate the meaning of these somewhat archaic terms in that SEO won’t be about those 10 blue links anymore. It’ll be about the content that exists, honestly, on the internet as a whole.

Jeff Sirkin (12:51):
Yeah. Yeah. I think just to share some of the B2B perspective that I see is the idea is that as the buyer’s journey has really shifted, and the fact that there’s now the rise in all these online communities, and ultimately to me, I think so much of this really what’s happened has been the balance of power has shifted from sales. So if we think of 10 years ago or so, there was almost no way of getting information about … Let’s say, you’re trying to buy a piece of technology for your business. There was almost no way to get information about the product or solution without going through the vendor themselves. And so as a result then, what would people do? They’d be searching some sort of general term. I need X software, I’m looking for a CRM. And then you’re going to trust whatever Google then gives you as the top, and then that’s where you’re going to start your search.
But now, because of review sites, because of online communities, whether it be LinkedIn, just as the most broad, but plus … it used to be that you only had access to your peers, when you went in person like a conference, and now you can connect with people that have your jobs at other companies really easily online. So people are starting their searches there. So, I think that’s where the perspective has been. So, yeah. So sure, searches now become more … or the way we think of search, has become more for demand capture, at the end of the journey when they’re finally going to perform typically a branded search and come to your website.
But, I think your perspective is so interesting and so spot on because the point is, as we all know, there’s more, and more, and more, content on the internet across all of these channels every hour of every day. And so there’s always going to be a need to index that and to be able to optimize for whose eyeballs are you trying to reach, whose attention are you trying to get, and how can you basically optimize what it is they’re looking for, and what it is you have to offer, and what your content shows.

Cory Young (14:36):
Right. Exactly. I think about YouTube, how much stuff do you go on YouTube to figure out how to do?

Jeff Sirkin (14:46):
Oh yeah.

Cory Young (14:48):
If I’m a brand, if it is even tangentially related to my brand, I’m creating a how-to video, or a most important X, Y, and Z tools you need to be using. I’m going to get some … I’m going to find some way for you to engage with me. I think it’s just that brands need to get more creative. It used to be something like a service page was good enough, or whatever it may be, something generic, because our searches were more generic. Now, our searches are a lot more detailed. We’re talking-

Jeff Sirkin (15:26):
Yes.

Cory Young (15:26):
To the engines like they’re a human being.

Jeff Sirkin (15:29):
Yeah.

Cory Young (15:29):
Therefore, you should be serving content and an experience tailored to a human, a human that talks to humans, not robots.

Jeff Sirkin (15:39):
I just want to bring up something you mentioned earlier in passing, is that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, which on one hand seems crazy. But I think to your point, it really just speaks to the fact that, yeah, it probably wouldn’t surprise me in a couple years. Obviously we don’t see … we probably don’t think of LinkedIn, and TikTok, and Instagram as search engines, but fundamentally, again, there is so, so much content and they’re constantly trying to index it, and then figure out how they can connect with the people that want it most.
Those platforms, if we just think about how they make money, they make money by selling ads, but by keeping people on their sites, on their platforms. And so they need to keep delivering content that’s going to be relevant to that particular user. And so the better you can do at getting your content to be delivered to those people … But I love, again, I just want to call out like that … Because so often I think we’ve traditionally seen SEO as this thing of, you just have to please the algorithm, but I think the way … I really like the way you really portrayed it, which is no, you want to create content that is a human that speaks to humans, but that it’s sure that … Because if you do that, the algorithm will follow along.

Cory Young (16:49):
Exactly. Exactly. A hundred percent. I think people get caught up, and even myself, I get caught up in using phrases like Google likes that.

Jeff Sirkin (17:00):
Yeah.

Cory Young (17:02):
And then when I reemphasize to somebody that, actually, just kidding. Google may like it, but in reality, you are not selling to Google. You are selling to a human being.
Yes.

Jeff Sirkin (17:16):
Or you are trying to teach a human being, whatever it may be. It’s not trying to please an algorithm, however way, shape, or form you want to. And to me, Google always says the quality content wins out. It might not win tomorrow.
That’s right.

Cory Young (17:36):
But if you are producing the best content, it is eventually going … Cream rises to the top. It eventually is going to win.

Jeff Sirkin (17:45):
Again, if you think of the incentives of Google, what does Google want? Google, just like the social media platforms, they want to deliver the best possible search results to you. If I look-

Cory Young (17:56):
Exactly.

Jeff Sirkin (17:57):
If I search the term on Google and I’m getting results that are irrelevant to me, I’m leaving. Right? And I’m probably pretty quickly going to find a new way of finding that information, and it’s not going to be through Google.

Cory Young (18:08):
Right.

Jeff Sirkin (18:09):
So, it’s one of those things where what you want to do in optimizing your content is the same thing Google is trying to figure out. And so yes, obviously it made sense. And I think one of my favorite stories was, and I believe this true, that back in the day, I think when Bill Clinton was president, there was somebody who …The very, very, very early days of SEO, somebody created their own website and just had Bill Clinton’s name on there so many times that, basically, if you Googled Bill Clinton, his website showed up first before the actual official office of the President of the United States. This when SEO’s in it’s very early days, and I guess how often something shows up must be the way. And then you realize, oh, nope. Once it gets beyond a certain density, now it’s actually spam. So the search engines are becoming closer to becoming humans themselves every day. So, again, all the more reason to keep optimizing for the humans.

Cory Young (19:01):
Yeah, absolutely. It’s like now, Google understands that an entity is different than just seeing something 45,000 times on a page. It’s like, no, this Bill Clinton is the Bill Clinton who was the president, as opposed to a random guy named Bill Clinton in Philadelphia.

Jeff Sirkin (19:28):
So, on this show we love to talk to marketers about how they keep their finger on the pulse of their market. And so somebody like you that works with clients every day, what do you see as some of the important trends happening now, maybe specifically with something we had talked about before, but in relation to the content that some of these companies are creating? And you started touching on that, but I’d be curious if you can elaborate on the kinds of content and where some of that’s moving towards.

Cory Young (19:53):
Yeah, absolutely. There are different elements of content that I think we’re a little bit stuck in a box of thinking about content as either something that is very brand specific or sales specific. Whereas the way that I like to think about content is that it’s a little bit more malleable, and the same type of content that would do well in sales can actually do well in support, or vice versa. So if I’m offering support level content for someone who actually already has the product, it may do the job of selling to someone who doesn’t have the product-

Jeff Sirkin (20:42):
Yes.

Cory Young (20:42):
Yet.

Jeff Sirkin (20:42):
Yep.

Cory Young (20:45):
You’re almost letting me in on the features, letting me in intimately on the features of the product and how to use it, prior to ever touching the software or product, whatever it may be. And then I like a lot of … To piggyback on what you were saying about review sites, I love them, but they’re also the bane of my existence in that like I, as the representative for a brand or as the consultant for a brand, I want them to be the review site, or I want them to be the comparison site for their competition.
And it depends on the industry. Some folks don’t lean in as much, but if I’m looking for a specific, let’s say CRM software, I want to know why your software is better than what is known with the market leader. Yep. So why not create an X versus Y comparison? And now all of a sudden, the people who are searching for that market leader’s competitors, alternatives, things like that, well, your landing page that is basically listing all the reasons why you’re better or of more value than the market leader or whoever, all of a sudden shows up inside of Google and gets shared on different social platforms as to why they should consider things outside of, let’s say, the most expensive game in town. I don’t see people leveraging that as much as they should be.

Jeff Sirkin (22:32):
Yes.

Cory Young (22:33):
I think it’s some of the more competitive markets that are leaning into it, but it could be even as I recommended for an ed tech software company that we did some work with. They were a little bit hesitant, but eventually came around to doing so. And it’s amazing. It’s amazing how many people are actually searching-

Jeff Sirkin (23:02):
Yes.

Cory Young (23:03):
The alternatives, or they’re looking for confirmation outside of whatever their little bubble is, or they don’t have a bubble. They don’t know anyone who has experienced or utilized this software. So pulling those community resources, like you said, in whether it be small online communities, or from the horse’s mouth themselves, it’s like, “Hey, trust me. You can go vet it, but also I’m going to tell from my perspective.”

Jeff Sirkin (23:38):
I love that because when I think about my experience as a buyer … And the other thing we always have to remember is that for the most part, buyers are, in almost every industry, are not overly qualified to even know if what you’re selling is worthwhile, so you need a lot of perspective. And so sure, I would check out maybe some review sites just to get a sense for what are the things I should be considering. But then, once I’m starting to narrow down my search, that is literally the number one thing that I care most about is okay, I’m between these two or three things, and I want something that really lays out the pros and cons of all of them.

Cory Young (24:15):
Yep.

Jeff Sirkin (24:15):
And what happens today is some of the content, to your point, which is mostly through review sites that does rank, it’s generic. It’s not very helpful. And so at the end of the day, it doesn’t actually help me answer the question I’m trying to answer. And I think-

Cory Young (24:27):
Exactly.

Jeff Sirkin (24:28):
To your point, having brands be able to step in when they can really understand, obviously, the intricacies, and this isn’t just somebody who’s trying to write for the algorithm, which to me, the review sites very much are, that is the content that will, again, maybe not tomorrow, but that will eventually win out. And to me, I think that’s just the best way of being real and open, like okay, here are the things you’re really trying to figure out. Oh, this has unlimited, this doesn’t. Obviously, they will be able to skew it to highlight what they do best.

Cory Young (24:58):
Sure.

Jeff Sirkin (24:59):
But, ultimately for them to be able to own that content themselves, I can see that, just as you were saying, I think that’s critical.

Cory Young (25:07):
Yeah. Honestly, it’s why our motto became … our tagline became, “Your prospects have questions. We make you the answer.”

Jeff Sirkin (25:17):
Yep.

Cory Young (25:18):
Because like you said, you want something that’s going to answer your question.

Jeff Sirkin (25:22):
Yes.

Cory Young (25:23):
It’s going to be skewed towards whatever brand site you’re on, but we know historically, the review sites, they do write for the algorithm, and only for the algorithm.

Jeff Sirkin (25:35):
Yeah.

Cory Young (25:36):
You have to distinguish yourself in some way, shape or form that gets that human with actual emotions and feelings to flip that switch of I’m not just reading bullets on a table, or comparison of brand X versus Y. You are giving me all of the feeling of utilizing your software or engaging with your brand, as well.

Jeff Sirkin (26:04):
I love that. So one other thing, and you and I were talking about this literally right before we pressed record, but something I thought was fascinating, we were both lamenting, was the fact that to some extent we both run marketing agencies, and yet, while we both do a really good job of helping our clients to be able to effectively market themselves, it sometimes can be hardest to market ourselves as companies, I’m just curious what your perspective is on that as an entrepreneur and as a marketer, and the potential difficulties in actually marketing for your own agency.

Cory Young (26:40):
Yeah, absolutely. It’s one of, I feel like, the most oxymoronic things. It’s like, all right, I’m a good marketer, except for when it comes to my business sometimes. So I think I’ve been trying personally to remove the emotional element from my brand or my company to just start taking action. We know when I’m trying to convince a company to hey, go put up this comparison landing page, I know it’s going to work because the market is trending that way. And they’re not so sure, and we’re like, “Come on.”

Jeff Sirkin (27:26):
Yeah.

Cory Young (27:28):
I have to look in the mirror and be like, well, you’re doing the exact same thing. Let’s just take action. And knowing that we’ve got the analytical capabilities to pivot off of that, I think some of the issue becomes you are so invested in this thing that, that emotion and that feeling supersedes all of the logic underneath.

Jeff Sirkin (27:55):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I think that’s the key. It’s impossible to be objective. With any of my clients, I can look pretty objectively and say, “Listen, this the category you’re saying that you are today, but this what the market actually says you are.” It’s just pretty obvious, hey, it’s pretty cut and dry, one to one, mic drop, but yeah, you’re right, for myself, it’s hard. And to be perfectly honest, I’ve hired other consultants over the years. To some extent, we are able to use some of our own process, but it is still really hard just to remove that objectivity and just say, well, again, whatever the market says, because to me, it’s like, oh, but there’s too much emotion. I think that’s really the key, and it’s interesting. But yeah, there should be some sort of sharing among marketing agencies of how do we help each other do marketing?

Cory Young (28:46):
Yeah.

Jeff Sirkin (28:48):
Because we know it’s hardest to do for ourselves.

Cory Young (28:50):
And from an SEO perspective, I would say, oh, utilize SEO to generate an inbound marketing machine. But literally every SEO company is doing that. So the competition all of a sudden becomes a lot more steep, and it takes a lot longer to find those high-value, low-difficulty angles because everyone is doing the same thing.

Jeff Sirkin (29:19):
That’s right. Well, the other thing I just want to mention too, which is sort of an aside and probably a completely different conversation, but the fact that … And I see this a lot for marketers that are in full-time jobs, that we don’t think … we may not consciously think about this, but if we’re looking for jobs within our career, we are marketers. We are marketing, and we are the product ourselves. And so I see a lot of people … This to me is probably where it resonates a lot is similarly, tons of great marketers that are great at marketing for their companies and their products, but then aren’t great at being able to market themselves in terms of talking about their own experience, and how it potentially applies to their next job, and things like that.

Cory Young (29:57):
Yeah, I’ve spoken with several friends who I’m like, “Hey, you have to think about this from a what have I done-

Jeff Sirkin (30:09):
Yes.

Cory Young (30:10):
What impact did it make, and how can I do it for you, perspective company, rinse and repeat, where sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the minutia of here are the specific things that I did. But they weren’t there with you.

Jeff Sirkin (30:27):
Yeah.

Cory Young (30:30):
You have to paint that picture for them as to the impact that you did make and the impact that you can make. I even run into that myself as a company sometimes. I get on sales calls into the minutia of the data, assuming that they think like me, when in reality, you need to layer some emotion on top of it to say, “This where we can get you. This why it matters,” instead of just being like, “Oh, hey, so this thing, this monthly search volume is 10,000.” It’s like, okay, well, what does that mean for me? That means we’ll take you from 10,000 visits to a hundred thousand visits, which ultimately is 5 million dollars to 50 million dollars in annual recurring revenue. So really trying to emphasize those higher level talking points, especially from an SEO standpoint. Most people, even if they think they know it, they don’t really understand everything that goes into it. So to get into the minutia instead of trying to meet them on the playing field that they’re on. Yep. Sometimes is difficult for me, and I have to take a step back for a moment.

Jeff Sirkin (31:52):
Yeah, and that’s great. In your world, it’s SEO. In my world, it’s research or analytics. But in both cases, those are the how, but that’s not the what. So what are these marketers or companies trying to achieve? Oh, they want to grow revenue. They’re trying to better resonate with their customers. Frankly, you could argue that you and I solve a similar problem. We do it in very different ways. But again, it’s more about, but you need the lead with the what is the problem that is solved for you, because otherwise if it’s just the well, this how we do it, it’s like, okay, but … That’s great, but you need the lead with, well what’s in it for me? Right?

Cory Young (32:29):
Right.

Jeff Sirkin (32:29):
And that needs to be the clients.

Cory Young (32:31):
Right. Exactly. It’s like, what can you do for me?

Jeff Sirkin (32:34):
Yep.

Cory Young (32:35):
And then I’ll tell you how that’s [crosstalk 00:32:38] done.

Jeff Sirkin (32:38):
That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. You need to sell them on the idea of what that bigger, better future is they want. And then once they’re sold on the idea that they want this future that you are helping to paint this picture of, okay, now tell me how you can get me there. Now, let me see if I’m sold on … But you need to do it in that way, and so often, we actually see the opposite where it’s like, “The features of our product are X, Y, Z.” But that’s the how, and it’s like, okay, but you lost me. You got to sell me on … I’m not really sure where this going to help me get to or what the ultimate outcome of this going to be if I buy your product.

Cory Young (33:13):
Yep. A hundred percent I’ve had to work myself on that a hundred times over because it’s easy to really … It’s easy to get caught into job interview mode.

Jeff Sirkin (33:25):
Yeah. Yeah.

Cory Young (33:26):
Honestly, and you’re selling yourself, but you’re still selling the tactic.

Jeff Sirkin (33:31):
Yeah. Couldn’t agree more. So are you ready for a couple of not-so-rapid-fire questions?

Cory Young (33:37):
Yeah. Let’s do it.

Jeff Sirkin (33:38):
Okay. So the first one here, what would you say is the most overrated marketing activity, things that marketers probably are doing a little too much?

Cory Young (33:49):
Oh, man. I would say in terms of awareness generation, things like billboards or radio spots. I’m hearing even with the geo-fencing elements. I feel like I’ve heard several of my clients even running these sorts of campaigns, and they’re like, “Well, we didn’t see any tangible results from it, and we also don’t know how to measure it.”

Jeff Sirkin (34:23):
Yeah.

Cory Young (34:23):
So I’m like, that’s a little bit … It’s a dicey one.

Jeff Sirkin (34:28):
Yeah. You could even generalize that to say awareness in general. Part of it is to say, not that awareness is bad, but that it needs to be more targeted awareness. It really only matters if your target market knows who you are, and even then, that they understand the value you provide. I think about this a lot with display. Display really only matters if your logo and tagline is going to mean something to somebody.

Cory Young (34:56):
Yep.

Jeff Sirkin (34:56):
If they don’t have an association with your brand, if I see McDonald’s on a display ad, that immediately gives me an image in my mind what that means. It brings back memories. But if it’s some software company I’ve never heard of, and I don’t know what you do, that display ad was worthless. It’s great. So I’ve now seen your brand name, but I still don’t have a connection in my mind for why I should care about it.

Cory Young (35:17):
Yep, exactly. I’m right there with you. It’s why a lot of ad dollars go wasted.

Jeff Sirkin (35:25):
Yeah. So now let’s spin it positively. What would you say is the most underrated marketing activity?

Cory Young (35:33):
I hate to do this, but I’m going super selfish with SEO.

Jeff Sirkin (35:40):
Yeah?

Cory Young (35:40):
So, I think it is underrated in the sense that there are so many moving parts that people don’t necessarily understand. So it gets tossed out, or people view it as a long term only solution when they’re looking for revenue tomorrow, not realizing that SEO’s compound interest, and that long term growth stays with you. It’s not a faucet like paid ads are. So I would say SEO is still pretty underrated, even though if you say those three letters to most people, they know conceptually what you’re talking about.

Jeff Sirkin (36:24):
Yeah. And I think, frankly, to the rest of our conversation, again, I think you’ve helped expand my mind on it, just the idea of … Because I think we … probably one thing we’re guilty of as a business and marketer audience is the idea that SEO has this narrow value, and I think that’s what it is. And so that’s where we started, whereas, yes, if you think of SEO as this thing, that’s going to … You go into Google and type a problem you have, and it’s going to deliver vendors that you’re going to show up to and be ready to buy. Yes, I think that part of what SEO’s value is, is the part that’s diminished. But I think to your point, there’s now just so many other nuances and other ways to use SEO. So I think that’s a great point.

Cory Young (37:05):
Yeah. Yep. That’s exactly why I would say it’s underrated.

Jeff Sirkin (37:09):
And the other thing, just to mention, because I’ve told my clients about this for years, is it’s really hard, especially in B2B, to get to a place that you can use, like let’s just say Google paid search, cost effectively, to be able to deliver, to get leads, conversions at the cost you want. And the truth is, again, it’s those go away as soon as you stop paying. And so it’s like paid can be a temporary solution in different cases or maybe even to test certain keywords and things like that. But ultimately, being able to own the real estate, it’s the equivalent of renting versus buying real estate.

Cory Young (37:43):
Exactly.

Jeff Sirkin (37:44):
You want to own the real estate, and that way you’re actually making money on it.

Cory Young (37:47):
Yep. And the more you own those eyeballs, the more you could do with it.

Jeff Sirkin (37:55):
Yeah.

Cory Young (37:57):
Why pay for people to come to your website when they can come there organically, and then now you’ve got them … Now you can re-target them. Now, if you want, you can collect their email address, and you … Yeah, you paid somebody to do it in terms of you paid someone to come up with the strategy and execute the tactics. But it’s not … To me, for paid search, you have to not only pay for the ads, but you have to pay for the person managing the ads.

Jeff Sirkin (38:26):
Yes. Yep.

Cory Young (38:28):
Unless you can figure it out yourself, which becomes another headache.

Jeff Sirkin (38:33):
Totally agree. What are some of the most important skills a marketer could possess? And especially, I’m thinking in this case, something maybe earlier in their career, what are some of the things that younger marketers should be working on?

Cory Young (38:46):
Sure. I would say from a technical standpoint, being analytical. I don’t think you survive in this industry not being analytical. You can fit in here and there, but the people who I’ve seen struggle a bit have had to adapt to becoming more analytical. And then the other one that I think doesn’t come innately, but separates the good from the great, let’s say, is like empathy and introspection.

Jeff Sirkin (39:24):
Yeah.

Cory Young (39:26):
If you’re able to look within yourself and identify that, all right, I could be doing X, Y, and Z better in my personal and professional life, that’s going to translate to testing. And then when you realize that I need to be able to see outside of what I think, like I need to be able to empathize and identify with the way another human being thinks, because otherwise all of the marketing is through the lens of me, one person, being ruler of the world.

Jeff Sirkin (40:03):
Yeah. And just to … if you put those together, the idea of being humble that your opinions are not necessarily the be all, end all, the idea that there are other possibilities out there, and then being analytical to say, okay, great, now we have three options to test here. But then being objective and analytical to say, look, despite what I thought, the thing I liked best is actually third out of three. So that’s not going to be the final answer there. So yeah. So how do you take in some of that outside perspective? And you’re right, it starts with humility and empathy, being able to understand your buyer’s perspective is not necessarily the same that you have.

Cory Young (40:38):
Right. I can think of plenty of times at Comcast where tons of people had different opinions, and it was just like, hey, we’ll test it. And I’ve taken that mantra. We had a specific testing team to test all of the various elements on the website. But I take it to my team today where they’ll be like, “Well, who would ever do that?” I’m like, “You don’t know.” And I don’t really care what you, one person, thinks. Let’s see what the masses think. They’ll tell you.

Jeff Sirkin (41:11):
Yes. I love that. And what resources, books, blogs, podcasts, newsletters, what things have you found value in that you’d want to share with our audience?

Cory Young (41:22):
Yeah. So as far as overall marketing, I would say Seth Godin, I love his books, some of his talks on YouTube. I do like for, let’s even say a personal branding standpoint, Gary Vee. His Crushing It book is great. And then for people who want to learn SEO, there’s a woman, her name is Aleyda Solis. She’s an international SEO. She has … It is LearningSEO.io, or LearnSEO.io, one of those two websites. It’s like an SEO encyclopedia. It breaks things down into different hierarchies, different elements, enterprise SEO, international, link building. It’s where I’ve sent my team as a unit to really understand and learn more about the ins and outs of the field. Because like I said, as far as underrated, people think SEO is this one thing, and there’s really a hundred different disciplines inside of what seems like this super generic marketing strategy.

Jeff Sirkin (42:51):
Yeah. Yeah. And all of those will be linked in the show notes, as well.

Cory Young (42:56):
Cool.

Jeff Sirkin (42:58):
And finally, where can people find and connect with you on social media?

Cory Young (43:02):
Yeah. So I’m on TikTok, Instagram, under the handle CoryDoesMarketing. You can find my company BCC Interactive at BCCInteractive.com. And then similarly, CoryDoesMarketing on Twitter.

Jeff Sirkin (43:23):
Awesome. Well, Cory, this was awesome. You really expanded my mind on SEO and it’s got me thinking in a whole bunch of new ways. So thank you so much for being here. Thanks for taking the time. And most of all, thanks for sharing your story with us.

Cory Young (43:37):
Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

Jeff Sirkin (43:39):
I really enjoyed my conversation with Cory. I love this perspective on how SEO has evolved. Even if Google is not the be all end all search engine in the future, there will always be a need to help marketers get their content in front of their target audience. If you want to learn more about the resources mentioned in the episode, you can find them in our show notes. In addition, we’re publishing the full text transcripts of our episodes on our website at SirkinResearch.com/podcasts. Thank you for listening, and I hope you’ll join us for a new story next week on Long Story Short.

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