Loren Baker sits down with Jerod Morris from The Showrunner to discuss the world of podcasting, self-publishing, and how the game of producing one’s own content has changed over the past decade.
Both Loren and Jerod started down similar paths as personal bloggers and dreamers (one with ambitions for film, the other sports journalism) … and then found themselves taking different paths for career ambitions, only to end up doing exactly what they had originally intended.
They then discuss the SEO benefits of podcasting, and SEO for podcasts, with some actionable tips on building a web presence to accompany audio.
Podcasting for SEO? Yep …
Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at RainmakerPlatform.com.
Loren Baker: Good afternoon, and welcome to Search & Deploy. This is your host, Loren Baker. Search & Deploy is a podcast on SEO and search marketing, brought to you by Rainmaker.FM and Foundation Digital. With me today, I’m going to have a very special guest, Jerod Morris, VP at Rainmaker.FM.
Before I get started with Jerod and get him on, I’d like to give a quick intro on why I’m inviting Jerod onto the show. About four months ago, Jerod Morris of Copyblogger and Brian Clark of Copyblogger both approached me about doing a podcast, something I had never done before, but had basically been putting off for the past six years. They wanted to know if I’d like to do a podcast on SEO for the Rainmaker network.
Of course, since for me, 2015 is my year of personal branding, so to speak, I said, “Yeah, why not? Let’s go. Let’s get started.” Next thing I know, I’m podcasting. This is my ninth episode right now. I’ve learned a little bit, but I have a lot to learn. Luckily, there are people out there like Jerod that are putting together best practices and ways to enhance the overall podcast experience, not only for the listener, but also for the hosts on building their podcast and everything else.
First of all, Jerod, welcome to Search & Deploy. It’s great to have you. I’d like to thank you for getting me started on this venture.
Why You Can’t Let Obstacles (Including Perfectionism) Kill Your Great Ideas
Jerod Morris: Absolutely. Thank you for having me on the episode. You should know that most podcasts fail after seven episodes. You have already passed that critical juncture that a lot of people, when they start a show, can’t get past. A lot of people have that initial enthusiasm that gets them through the first couple of shows, and then it fades off. You’ve busted through that, which is a huge checkpoint to move past. Congratulations to you for that.
Loren Baker: Thank you, thank you. I’ll have the audio guy put a little round of applause in here right here. I did not know that. It’s funny that you bring that up, because I was talking to someone the other day. They started a dog podcast. The idea behind the podcast is they have interviews with dog owners and talk about dogs and things like that. I’m like, “Wow, how’s your podcast going?” and she’s like, “Well, we completed episode one about a month ago, and we’ve been busy.”
It’s funny, because with podcasting, with audio — it’s one thing I want to get into during this conversation — is there are obstacles that are a little bit unforeseen. In my case, I’m in the process of moving, and I’m at Foundation. We’re a virtual company. We meet in offices or whatever about once a week or whatnot, but for the most part, most of us work from home. There are obstacles and challenges that come up with trying to put the time in and make sure you have the audio quality to be able to do it.
Because it’s not like blogging where you can write half of your blog post, go eat dinner, go eat lunch, get on a phone call, whatever. You really have to set aside the time. I think that one of the challenges that a lot of people face when they’re getting into podcasting is making sure they can not only be passionate about it, but they consistently make the time to pull off the audio and do everything else associated with that.
Jerod Morris: You bring up a great point, because there are tons of obstacles, especially early on, for people who are doing it the first time. That’s why so many of those podcasts fail. It’s this interesting balancing point, because you don’t want to overthink it to the point that you never start. Yet you also don’t want to just go out there with something because it may not be sustainable.
And then you may find yourself like your friend: a month later, you’ve only got one episode down, which is why you have to make decisions about format. Is it going to be a monologue show or an interview show? Obviously, if it’s a monologue show, you can step up and do it any time you want to. If it’s interviews, you have to schedule. It adds a layer of complexity.
Make those decisions early on in a way that will give you momentum, because if you get momentum, then you can shift it. With The Showrunner, we’ve changed our format twice in 16 episodes. It’s important to make those decisions early that you give you that momentum, and then you can adjust as you go from there.
Loren Baker: It is. In my experience, it’s important to plan, but not necessarily be a perfectionist. I’ve recorded a couple of podcasts where I’ve been like, “Oh man, the audio quality is bad,” or this happened, or “I slipped here,” or “I could hear myself drinking coffee while the other person is speaking,” or something like that. But then, when I go and listen to other podcasts, I hear the same thing. Who is — gosh, the name is escaping me — the podcaster that just interviewed the president?
Jerod Morris: Marc Maron, WTF.
Loren Baker: Marc Maron, right. I’m listening to Marc Maron, yeah, WTF. I had not listened to it before. I admit, I am not a casual podcast listener. I have about two or three of them on my playlist now that I’ve been hitting at the gym or whatever. But I’m listening to Marc Maron. I had not listened to him before. I’m listening to him, like, “Well, that’s the beauty of podcasting.” It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be you. Right?
Jerod Morris: Right.
Loren Baker: It’s you being you. So this guy, this comedian, has the President of United States in his garage, and there’s all these sound quality issues going on, and people talking in the background, and stuff like that. I’m like, “Well, that’s really podcasting at the end of the day.”
There’s so many times — I’ve been around long enough in publishing — where I’ve seen perfectionism kill a great idea. Because people, they want to be perfect. They want to be perfect, and they don’t want to take that jump until everything is perfectly laid out for them, and then it never happens.
Thank you for helping me to take that jump and for putting together the production team that’s made it possible to get these out there.
Jerod Morris: No, thank you for setting a good example. We, on The Showrunner — both the podcast and the course — have encountered a lot of people who have that trepidation, that nervousness, about getting started. A lot of times, they’ll look at someone like me or like John, people who have had a lot of experience, have several podcasts that have been past hundreds of episodes and think, “Oh, well it’s easy for you to do it.” It’s like, “Yeah, but there was a time that I was doing episode number one, and it was kind of scary, and I was planning all the stuff for the first time, and didn’t have any idea.”
It’s great seeing someone like you who had this idea to do it, got an opportunity. You’re taking it, and now you’re showing exactly the way a new podcast should go. Which is, you don’t have everything figured out right away, but you just keep at it, and it keeps getting better, keeps getting better. You get that feedback from the audience. It’s a lot like blogging in that way.
It’s such a great point you make about how perfectionism can kill an idea. You got to get it out there in that minimum way, and then just keep making it better.
How Jerod Found Himself Behind a Mic
Loren Baker: Search & Deploy, I would consider us to be an SEO podcast. We’ll get into SEO for podcasting or how podcasting and publishing can help with overall SEO a little bit later, but first, I want to back up a little bit and get an idea of how you got into this.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t you working on the hosting side of things with Synthesis a couple of years ago? And now you’re the VP of podcasting at Rainmaker.
Jerod Morris: I was.
Loren Baker: How did that happen? When did you get started? Walk me through this transition, because not very many people make that much of a turnaround, or just take a different path as you have.
Jerod Morris: I walked a winding road when I graduated from college and taught for a little bit, had a sales job, had a management job, did a bunch of different things, trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Actually, I moved down to Dallas because I was planning on going to law school. I was just going to be down here temporarily to do some work with a family friend. Through that process, actually meeting this lawyer that I was doing some work with for coffee one day, I ran into a guy named Derick Schaefer, who I had never met before. We got to talking.
He had a digital agency here in Dallas basically helping consult small businesses on their online presence, and he needed someone to do some writing for him. I always loved writing, so I started working with him. That eventually turned into a full-time job.
At the time, I didn’t know about WordPress. I didn’t know about SEO or any of that stuff. I just wasn’t very online-oriented yet. Learning about all that and starting some side projects to get my hands dirty on my own got me really excited about online content and what you could do, both from a marketing standpoint for a business and just from a personal expression standpoint.
I’m a lifetime sports fan. Originally, I went to college to go into journalism to write about sports, and I had a few detours. The side project I started was called Midwest Sports Fans, which was a sports blog. I just did it on the side. Basically, I just wanted some content that I could practice SEO and social media marketing with. I figured, “I love writing about sports. Let’s do that.”
That site for many different reasons ended up taking off and having a life of its own. We actually ended up making some pretty decent money from it, just from ads and stuff. It was getting so much traffic that we couldn’t keep it up with the hosting plans that we had. Fortunately, Derick is a lot smarter at technology stuff than I am and basically developed our own little hosting platform for it.
That was how we ended up coming over to Copyblogger, because when Brian was looking for a hosting platform to complete what would become the Rainmaker Platform, ours was the best for WordPress, and so that’s how we came over.
It was nice, because after coming over in support for hosting, they identified that my passion really was more in content creation. That’s the joy of working for a great company like Copyblogger that’s good at identifying what their people love to do and they’re good at, and they put me in a position to be able to do more of that now, both on the blog side and on the podcasting side.
Podcasting as a Medium for Sharing What You Love
Loren Baker: Now isn’t that pretty cool? That’s actually awesome, because that’s one thing that digital publishing really gives a lot of us the chance to do is to fulfill our dreams. I don’t want to sound corny here. I’m not going to get out the tissues or anything, but when I first went to college, I wanted to get into filmmaking.
Jerod Morris: You and me both.
Loren Baker: Pulp Fiction, Tarantino, everything else. I had grown up working in a video store. Since I was 12 years old, I was working in a video store. So it was one of those things. It was a natural progression. I wanted to be a filmmaker. That’s like 1997, 1996, and I’m going to Towson State and getting into the filmmaking program. Believe it or not, that’s when you actually made films on film.
So not only did I have to pay for school, but I had to rent the camera, get film equipment, buy film, take the time to make something, and then send it to DC, which there was only like one shop in DC that still did 8 millimeter, and then turn that into an exposed film that you can actually watch. Then by the time you get it, if you don’t have your lighting, your aperture, or everything else set up perfectly, it’s going to be a failure. I’m like, “Man, like I’m paying my way through college. I don’t want to dump all my money on buying this film.”
Then I talked to all these other people in the filmmaking department. They weren’t necessarily doing too well in the job market, either. Within the same major was PR and advertising. I’m like, “Hey, let me do PR and advertising, because I can still produce cool stuff and make great content, but hopefully get paid for it in the long run.”
Fast forward 15, 16 years. I just thought about this while you were talking about it. On the Foundation side, we just got done doing a bunch of infographics for a client. They’re all Star Wars or sci-fi-oriented. I got to work on writing them and putting up the storyboards and the design aspects and getting that out there and putting out other great content, which is based around things that I love, and helping a client do better and market themselves on the web to those groups to help with their overall SEO. I’m like, “Wow, that’s great stuff.”
Then, I just realized, I’m producing, right now, a show with you, which is also an extension of that in its own right. We haven’t lost the dream, man. We haven’t gone completely corporate. We’re still creating things and making things, and getting to do the stuff that excited us when we were kids and teenagers and in college.
So congrats, virtual fist bump. It’s pretty amazing stuff. To hear that that’s how you got started in Synthesis was looking for a place to basically host this blog that you had built up to be so popular that you couldn’t get a legit hosting account setup that actually helped you profit is pretty amazing too. Because I went through the same things with SEJ really early on. When we got on Digg or the front page of Google News or something like that, it would just take down the host immediately. I’d be down for like three days sometimes. Congrats on that.
That’s very cool to hear. That’s one of the magical things about this. I don’t care if there’s 10 people listening or 1000 people listening. We get to create something and make something. It’s documented. It’s out there. Hopefully it’s helpful, right?
Jerod Morris: Yeah. Hopefully it inspires someone else to do it. Because I remember when I was first getting online, and then you see all these stories of people who have succeeded and took what they were passionate about. The whole idea of ‘choose yourself’ or ‘pick yourself,’ that whole thing, it’s like, “I don’t need to wait for anybody.” An example of that is the site I run now, called The Assembly Call. I grew up going to IU basketball games. That was the thing that my dad and I always did together, Indiana basketball games. When you’re a kid growing up in Indiana, that’s just what you do.
Now, 25 years later, I’m doing a postgame show. The last three weeks, I’ve interviewed like three of the greatest players in IU history, simply because I started this platform, have kept at it for four or five years, and it’s respected to the point now where these guys that I grew up watching, I’m talking with them and getting the behind-the-scenes stories of what I was watching as a kid.
It seems so simplistic sometimes when you hear the, “Just get started. Choose yourself. You can do this,” and then you do it. It’s not easy. It’s definitely not easy. You’ve got to put in the work day after day. But it really is sometimes as simple as, “What do I love? Let me get out and create content about it, and be audience-first in my approach, and these things really can happen.” This isn’t just some secret that’s out there that only a select few can have. I think trying to help people bridge that gap from where I was, where it’s like, “No, no, you can’t really do this,” to, “Holy crap, you really can do this,” is something that I get really excited about.
Why Podcast Transcripts Are Essential from an SEO Standpoint
Loren Baker: It’s about consistency and bringing it. It’s nice to get rewarded for work ethic at the end of the day, too, right? One thing I really love about it, and you’ll know this, being an ex-blogger/current blogger, is that I used to blog a lot. I talked about this on a previous episode. I would wake up early in the morning, like 6 a.m., and try to blog about four stories before people were getting into work to make sure that I was one of the first search bloggers breaking these stories as they happened or whatnot.
I did that for about six years — creating SEJ, building up Search Engine Journal, building it up into more than just a personal blog, which is what it started as, and being one of the most popular industry blogs out there. I didn’t know what I was doing at the time. I wanted to start a blog. I heard that Google had acquired Blogger. I went on GoDaddy, and I searched for ‘Search Engine Blog.’ It was taken. So Search Engine Journal was available, and I bought it, and I started it.
That’s all I did. I learned as I went. There was no blueprint. No one had ever done that before, ever. It was the same time that all the other top bloggers, I guess, at the time were starting, and it was ‘learn as you go.’ I feel like that’s where we’re at right now. Even though podcasting has been around for a while, people never really listened to podcasts in their cars before, or podcasts at the gym, and everything else. Now you have companies acquiring podcasts, and it’s really exciting stuff, but it does have that Wild West feel.
It’s very difficult for me to sit down and write a two- or three-page blog about something. But right now, I can get on the horn with you, basically, record our conversation, and then have it transcribed. Who knows? We could probably sit down and talk for five six hours until you get sick of me, and then next thing you know, we’ll have written a book, more or less.
When I read the transcriptions from the podcasts that I’ve done thus far, I’m just flabbergasted. I’m like, “Wow, we really produced that much content in that short of an amount of time.” You talk with someone for 30 minutes, 45 minutes, and you have eight pages of content, engaging content, original content. It’s never been put out there before.
You had asked me before we put together this episode, “How does podcasting help SEO or vice versa?” and I would really say that if you’re a podcaster out there, and if you’re not getting your episodes transcribed, you’re really missing the boat from an SEO perspective. Not only from an SEO perspective, but also from a marketing perspective, because people do process information in different ways.
Whether someone wants to listen in their car or at the or while they’re working or someone wants to sit down and read on their phone or on their desktop, once you have that transcribed, you can do a billion things with it. You can publish it on a different blog. You can publish it on your own podcasting blog. You can distribute it. You can get links built to it. You can put it out there in an email newsletter or snippets from that conversation in the email newsletter. There’s so much work you can do with that written content that’s come from the audio podcast that it’s almost endless.
In a world where people are fighting to have content — companies want content now, the small mom-and-pops need content, everyone basically needs written content for a myriad of different uses — what better way to put that together than to capture what’s spoken in an audio setting for just half an hour or an hour, right?
Jerod Morris: Yeah. I think one of the reasons why the transcript is important — and tell me if you agree with this — is because the goal when we talk about SEO is that we want to build links to our site. We want to get our site shared. We want those signals coming in. With audio, there’s a lot of ways to distribute audio, but not necessarily to repurpose it. With a transcript, you take what happened in that audio, and you’ve got that content, and now you’ve got it in this format that then you can go and repurpose it.
You can take it and use it as the basis for a SlideShare. You can take it and use it as the basis for creating two or three similar articles about that topic that you submit elsewhere, that kind of thing. I think it really allows you to take what happened in the audio and have more tentacles to reach that content, as you said, for other people in another way that they prefer to consume it. But I think — and again, tell me if you agree with this — from an SEO perspective, having it be able to go out to these different places that all link back to you are just going to help you, and it was all seeded with the podcast.
Loren Baker: No, absolutely. That’s why I really like what you all have done with Rainmaker.FM and the site, because at first glance, it’s almost a hybrid of podcasting and blogging going on at once. What else would you expect from Copyblogger? You guys have the word ‘blogger’ in your name, so I would imagine that there’d be some kind of blogging aspect. It’s having that content together, getting it out there.
Any kind of content syndication or sharing of content is going to bring back signals. Like I said before, you can put quotes that we’ve put together from a podcast on an e-card, share it socially, get that traffic back to your landing page, and have people share it from there. Those shares may result in links back. The more you can broadcast to get those tentacles out there — or spokes or satellites or however you want to call it — and then get that value back to the core, is so important at the end of the day from an SEO perspective.
It’s not about keywords. If we looked at this transcription today, we’d probably see that we said the word ‘podcast’ and ‘SEO,’ ‘SEO and podcasting’ maybe about three, four times over the course of what, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 words. It’s not about keywords. It’s about making sure that that content is relevant to what you might want to rank for, but really getting those signals coming back to the site.
The Natural-Language Evolution of Search Technology
Loren Baker: Google and search in general, search technology, has gone so natural-language in the past three, four, or five years, more so in the past year with the Hummingbird release and everything else, and especially with searches now. I don’t know about you, but when I’m on my cell, I search. I’ve dumped Siri. Even though I’m an Apple user, I’ve dumped her. I’m done with getting wrong information or Siri typos, so to speak.
Google Now is just amazing. I use it all the time. Whenever I’m searching for something local or searching for a local business or I happen to be on the go, it’s like, “Okay, Google,” or hit the button and then make a very normal query. But I don’t search using keywords. I search using, “Hey Google, where is the nearest barbeque joint near me?” “Hey Google, where can I find a gas station?” “You know, okay, Google, where is this?” That’s natural language.
Jerod Morris: And you do it spoken?
Loren Baker: Yeah. It’s great.
Jerod Morris: See, I need to start doing that. I’m a late adopter for that kind of stuff. I’ve got to get into that. I still type my searches in.
Loren Baker: I don’t want to be the guy standing in the room talking to his phone, so I’ll typically just do it when I’m my car or whatever. But yeah, you just like talk directly to Google just like Captain Kirk in Star Trek.
Jerod Morris: See, I feel like you could get away with it though. Like if you were talking into your phone, because you’re Loren Baker of Search Engine Journal. People would think it’s this next-level thing.
Loren Baker: It’s cool, right? Yeah.
Jerod Morris: It’s like you’re leading by example. I feel like I would look silly doing it. You, it would just look like you’re showing people the way.
Loren Baker: No, you’d look cool if you had a little thing on your vest, like a little microphone on your vest. It would be awesome. Right now I’m just going to pull some information on Rainmaker.FM using a tool that I like called SEMrush. I’m going to do a search for the domain Rainmaker.FM, and SEMrush is going to tell me the top keywords that Rainmaker.FM ranks for in Google. Let me just pull this up right now.
Jerod Morris: This will be interesting.
Loren Baker: Yeah. ‘Rough Draft,’ number 10.
Jerod Morris: Rough Draft is number 10. Well done, Demian.
Loren Baker: If you search Google for the word ‘rough draft,’ number 10. ‘Copyblogger’ — number three, ‘Rainmaker’ — number five. ‘Affiliate marketing tips for beginners’ — number one.
Jerod Morris: Wow.
Loren Baker: ‘Affiliate marketing tips’ — number three.
Jerod Morris: Interesting.
Loren Baker: That is … which show is that? Let me see here. Oh The Lede, your affiliate marketing beginner show, so congrats there.
Jerod Morris: Thank you.
Loren Baker: A lot of affiliate-marketing-oriented terms. ‘Curate content.’ For the term ‘curate content,’ The Lede ranks number five in Google.
Jerod Morris: The Lede ones are interesting, because a lot of those … I guess those URLs are Rainmaker.FM, though, because that show has been out there for a while. I wonder, would redirecting those URLs to Rainmaker.FM then have that impact of raising the search?
Loren Baker: Where was The Lede? Was The Lede hosted on its own site previously?
Jerod Morris: No it was hosted on Copyblogger.
Loren Baker: So redirecting, yeah.
Jerod Morris: Yeah.
Loren Baker: So if their 301 redirects, then all of that equity that they had should transfer it back over to Rainmaker.
Jerod Morris: So that makes sense then.
Loren Baker: Yeah, most of these are The Lede. I’ll just go over some really quick. ‘Writing good sentences’ — number 11.
Jerod Morris: That’s The Lede?
Loren Baker: Yeah. ‘The perfect ending.’ That was Rough Draft, so I guess that’s Demian. Demian ranks number 15 for ‘the perfect ending.’ ‘Magnetic headlines.’
Jerod Morris: That’s The Lede?
Loren Baker: Again, The Lede. ‘Copywriter career,’ ‘how to write good sentences,’ ‘sub headers,’ ‘impact photo images.’
Point being, is that I don’t want to say “without an SEO focus,” because of course everything has SEO in mind making content, but Rainmaker.FM is already ranking. What’s interesting to me is that Rainmarker.FM is ranking for a lot of the affiliate-marketing-oriented key terms that some of the bigger affiliate marketing networks may fight over. ‘Affiliate marketing tips,’ ‘affiliate marketing for beginners,’ come on. You’re kidding me, right? This is the kind of stuff that if I was Commission Junction or a company like that, I’d want to be all over.
Why SEO Is No Longer a Separate Discipline
Jerod Morris: See, the way you phrased that you made an interesting point, because as you said, it’s not like there’s this specific SEO focus for Rainmaker.FM. But this is where I start to get caught up sometimes in how SEO has changed. When I first started with Derick, we were doing a lot of the old-school SEO stuff. This is back when the prevailing wisdom was that you wanted your primary keyword to be on the page 2.5 percent of the time. That’s where I came from with SEO.
It seems like now, even the term ‘SEO strategy’ is outdated, like it’s just part of your strategy if you’re smart about it. It’s creating good content that is going to be shared, that deals with keywords that people search for. You describe your content in the way that makes sense to your audience, which helps with the SEO. It just seems like people talk about ‘SEO strategy,’ but it’s like, “Well, it all should just be part of your strategy.” It seems like it’s more intermingled and one big thing now than it used to be. Is that accurate?
Loren Baker: Well, it has to be. Yeah, absolutely, it has to be. Because it used to be that you would have a marketing team on one side of the building, doing all their stuff together, putting out PR campaigns, advertising campaigns, content campaigns, site-building campaigns, everything else. Then an SEO guy person would be hired to do just SEO on the site. Build links, “Oh, the SEO person has to build links.” How do they build links? “Oh buy some links, some directories, yada, yada, yada.”
Jerod Morris: Put 6000 links in a footer.
Loren Baker: Right, exactly. But once you integrate that SEO strategy into the larger marketing strategy, that’s where success comes in, because then you know that whatever you do from a PR perspective, it’s going to have a specific SEO benefit.
The SEO person or the SEO team can come in and say, “Hey, you’re putting out this release. You’re going to get us on CNN and NBC. Let’s make sure you get a link back to the site, guys. Come on, like a nice little link back to the site. Even the homepage would be nice. Let’s make sure this piece of content that was put together that had these SEO goals in mind that support study is included. Let’s just make sure it’s all working together.”
I see this a lot with social and SEO, too. They’re not different disciplines. They have to work together. I’ve been in scenarios where there’s a social media team that does not want to share anything that’s coming from the site because the social media team would like to keep users stuck on Facebook and hit Facebook ‘buy’ buttons and have attribution going back only to Facebook.
But the way that Facebook is set up is to share content naturally that helps you, that helps your profile, that helps you show people’s streams, that helps with engagement. I bring in a what-if scenario. “What if we shared a blog post from the company on the company’s own Facebook page? What do you guys think about that?” “Oh, I don’t know. We haven’t done that yet. Oh, how would that work?”
Sometimes there are warring factions, and I think that especially in big business, that’s been absorbed over the years and is changing. This is where the smaller folks can come in and compete a little bit more, especially in social. We’ve seen this over the years.
Dollar Shave Club is a great example of that. Coming in and putting together real great, engaging content, having that being part of the social strategy, have that be properly SEO-ed, the site properly SEO-ed, and Google is not just getting served errors left and right, not being bounced all over the place. Having all that work together brings us marketing nirvana.
I’m glad you brought that up. It’s not just about one SEO strategy. It’s about SEO being part of the larger digital marketing umbrella. That’s the way it has to be, especially moving forward. Because like I said, it used be that SEOs would take shortcuts because they may have not gotten the internal support that they needed to be able to fulfill their own goals that relate upon them and their position. So buy links, put links in footers, get directories — Google ended all of that.
In a way, when Google started rolling out penalties and updates that address that, it really did push — in the same way that you and Clark pushed me to start podcasting — people to start working together. We’ve seen that on the agency side. We’ve not only seen that working internally within companies, where we’re brought in to make those connections and get those folks working together, but it also has led to companies looking for or treating SEO agencies differently.
Even though I would consider a lot of work that we do at Foundation to be SEO-oriented, I’d probably say that 80 percent of it is content production and content marketing. It’s fantastic. To an extent, content’s always been part of SEO, but now it’s really intertwined. Thank you for bringing that up.
How to Get the Most out of SEO in the Modern Digital Environment
Jerod Morris: I want to ask you another question, too, because you hit on — as you were going through those numbers and some of those URLs from The Lede that are still ranking really highly — that was an unfair advantage that Rainmaker.FM had when we launched it, which is why it’s not always a perfect example to show in beginning podcasters. Because all the shows on there obviously got the bump from the relationship with Copyblogger and the nine years Copyblogger’s had of building up trust in the search engines and an audience.
I’m curious, from your perspective, for new sites and especially for new podcasters who are putting their platforms out there, what are the two or three key things from an SEO perspective that people need to keep in mind now? And has that changed? How has that changed over the last few years?
Loren Baker: Oh, my first tip is putting together a site. There’s a lot of podcasts that are an audio file. That audio file is distributed on iTunes or Google Play or different other formats, but there’s no site associated with it or non-audio presence. We all know that it’s not just about the written content. It’s not just about the audio content. It’s also about building a personality, building a following.
Once you develop a site to support the podcast or have them work together, then you can start doing things like building an email list, running ads, making a little bit of revenue, whatever it may be. Number one is really building a site. I remember when I first got into blogging back in the day, there was a forum thread on SitePoint Forums. You’ve ever visited SitePoint Forums?
Jerod Morris: Uh-uh.
Loren Baker: SitePoint Forums is the grandfather of Flippa and 99designs. It was basically a webmaster forum that had different threads, one thread on logo contests. That thread from the forum became 99designs, same ownership. Another thread on selling your website, that became Flippa.
In the publishing and SEO forums, someone had basically written, “I started my blog, and I’ve been writing, but I’m not getting as much traffic as I thought I would,” just these really down-and-out-style posts. Then, one of the moderators there replied back to him, “You know, keep it up. In 10 years, you’ll be your own Ulysses” type thing.
It really hit me. It is that kind of stick-to-itiveness that brings rewards, whether it is podcasting or developing the site or whatever. If you’re out there on your own, on an island — like, even though I started blogging, God, 12 years ago, I still contributed to SEO and newsletters beforehand. I wrote on sites. I wrote on forums. I tried to absorb that audience into my own blog.
If you’re starting from scratch, I would say to build your social presence, to build your web presence, to integrate everything. Also, take the time to connect. Don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t be afraid to reach out and say … Well, I don’t know. Who’s a famous Indiana Hoosier basketball player?
Jerod Morris: A.J. Guyton, who I met Monday night.
Loren Baker: Okay, so don’t be afraid to say, “Hey A.J., I’m doing this podcast on Indiana basketball. I really love to have you on.” Because you never know. It’s all very relative, and until you start taking those steps and making those contacts …
This really gets into the world of networking. Just like there are shows and courses like Showrunner, I’m sure there’s communities out there about podcasting where you can connect with other similar podcasters within your space and do what we’re doing now. Hey, you’re a guest on Search & Deploy. I feel like I’m on The Showrunner right now. I’m not sure what’s going on here, but we’re working together to introduce each other to our audiences.
That’s one of the biggest tips I can make. I remember when I did get started in the world of search and the world of blogging. Just like in any industry, in SEO, there are a number of conferences every year. I remember the first time I went to an SEO conference. This is when they were big. I think it was SES New York or something like that. It was a huge Google party one night, huge Yahoo party the next night. Ask.com is taking people on limousines — or Ask Jeeves at the time actually — taking people on limousines to their huge party and everything else.
It was my first conference, and I had been blogging for a little while. I didn’t really know anyone because I was living outside of the country. So although I had the connections online, I had never really seen or talked to most of the people that I emailed with or wrote about or whatever. I was nervous as heck the first time I had the chance to talk to Danny Sullivan or Bill Slawski. I remember the time I had a chance to interview Eric Schmidt from Google and ask him one question during a press conference. I couldn’t get anything out of my mouth. I was so nervous about it.
Fast forward five, 10 years — and I hate to use this term, but I’ll use it anyway — I hear some people say things like, “Oh, Internet celebrities” or “inner circle.” I go to conferences, and I see these inner circle of people or these famous web people. Again, I hate to use that term, but people use it sometimes. I realize we’re talking about me and my buddies that are just sitting there.
A lot of the buddies that I have now — Greg Boser. The first time I met Greg Boser, I was nervous as hell. I thought he was going to call me out on something I wrote on my blog. I actually thought that this guy that worked for him was his bodyguard, like he was such a big deal at the time because he was doing SEO for all these online casinos, like this bald guy with a goatee and sunglasses. I was nervous. I told Greg this years and years later over some drinks, and now we’re business partners, best friends, everything else.
The meaning of all of this is, take the time to make those connections. Even if you feel that someone is a famous podcaster, even if you feel someone is a popular whatever, they’re just someone in their room or in their apartment or in their home producing content just like you are. What you really have there is the common denominator of being a creator, of being someone that’s passionate and interested. That’s really going to help you hit it off from a networking perspective all the time.
If you are in your little island, if you’ve never done this before, if you’ve never really marketed yourself before, you don’t have a personal brand behind you, take the time to put together a website. Make the connections. Send an email to Jerod Morris and an email to Brian Clark. Send an email to Sean Jackson or give them a call on the phone, whatever, and just talk and ask questions. That’s really the best way. It sounds very cliché, but networking is really the way to go about it.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Reach out, Make Connections, and Be Human
Jerod Morris: Remembering that all of these people who have been around for a while and are successful and who are speaking in a lot of these conferences, a lot of these people were at some point sitting in front of a WordPress screen with a flashing cursor writing their first blog post, or behind a microphone for the first time, and probably a little scared and a little bit nervous. They just get better.
The thing is that I find, I definitely know this with myself, you gain all this experiences doing it and working in this industry and creating content. And you want to share it and help lift other people up, because you remember being in their shoes and knowing exactly where they are. That’s been the most fun part for me with The Showrunner. People who are on our email list, they’ll send us an email — Jonny and I — and we’ll get to have these big long email threads just talking.
Someone emailed us the other day about video podcasting, and what our thoughts were on it, and how relevant it will be in a couple of years. We had this great conversation about it. People shared their stories about how they overcame their nerves or how they got the courage to ask someone that they really liked to be on their show and being able to share the story of when that happened with you.
That’s the thing when you’re starting out. You maybe don’t necessarily feel like what you have to say is that relevant, or that anybody else can relate with what you’re going through, or that someone ‘big’ will take the time. But in my experience, I’ve found that none of those things were true. You still have a lot of important things to say. Even the ‘big’ people want to continue helping out the people who are coming behind, because for a lot of us, that’s the only way that we move forward.
Loren Baker: It’s funny, so that conference we were just at Rocks Digital, down in Dallas … What’s the official name for the town that was in?
Jerod Morris: Addison.
Loren Baker: Addison. Down in Addison, that’s the first thing you do when you speak: “Hey, Addison!” Everyone starts clapping. I only started speaking at conferences about five years ago, and when I get in, I still get really nervous. I don’t know if you could tell beforehand or whatever, but I get nervous. You’re standing on stage in front of people.
Now, I don’t get as nervous as I used to, but it’s still that nervousness factor that comes to play, especially when you tell a joke and no one laughs. Or you have something you think is going to be funny or engaging on your slides and no one gets it, or by the time they get it and start laughing, you’ve already moved forward.
In that conference, I keynoted. I was asked to keynote, which was a great honor, fantastic. Keynoting a conference, that’s a big deal. I really tried to bring it, put some personal stories in there with everything else that I wanted to go over during that session. When I was introduced, there was almost this kind of like … I don’t want to call it ‘embarrassment,’ but this overwhelming sense of humility, like, “Oh my God, really?” just bashfulness when being introduced. It’s like, “Oh, the first SEO blogger,” yada, yada, yada. When everyone raised their hand and said that they read the site, it was kind of an overwhelming experience.
What I would say — and I don’t think I’ve ever hit it big time or anything like that, I just publish and do what I love — when you hear that, when you get that reception, it is kind of cool. But in my head and in my heart, I’m still that guy that’s erasing the default WordPress ‘about’ page on my blog because I forgot to do it a month beforehand when I launched it. It’s just like one of those funny things. Make the connection, everyone is human.
Jerod Morris: I really think that’s the key to success in this entire industry and really in anything — to be able to take pride in your accomplishments and what you do and be able to stand in front of the room proud, knowing that you’ve accomplished something significant to be there, but never losing the humility of remembering where you came from and remembering where you started. Because that’s what will keep your drive up and keep you hungry to keep learning more, which is what you had to do in the beginning, constantly learn new things to have something relevant to say.
We started off this conversation talking about why shows fail and why they’ll fail after seven episodes or why they’ll fail after 50 episodes. Sometimes we can lose that hunger as a content creator to learn something new, to bring a new perspective to the table, and our audience can get bored with it, and we can get bored with it. Things start to peter out, whether you’re blogging, whether you’re podcasting, whatever.
Even from an SEO perspective, if that content starts to dwindle in terms of its engagement and the excitement level behind it and how useful it is, now you’re not getting the same shares and the same links. It all goes together. It’s all intertwined. I think maintaining that hunger, that humility, is so important to make sure that you continue to give something really useful and interesting to your audience.
Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about. We want it to be intrinsically valuable to us, the experience of creating it, which is why the choice of topic and the choice of format is so important. But then once that choice is made, it’s about delivering to your audience what they need and what they want. Which to me, when I think about SEO, that’s the number-one thing I think about: give my audience great stuff. A lot of that stuff is going to take care of itself down the road if you do that long enough over time.
Loren Baker: Absolutely. Marcus Sheridan wasn’t at that event, but there was someone whose presentation was about Marcus Sheridan’s presentation, which I thought was kind of funny. That’s when you know you’ve hit big, when the person that speaks at an event does a presentation about your presentation.
Whenever I see this, and I’ve heard this story multiple, multiple times about with the pools and putting together the blogs posts that were about how much the pools cost and everything else, it always hits me. It brings me back. It’s just that simple. What are people searching for? What do people really need, especially the folks that are going to make a purchase down the road? And how do you get the best content in front of them and cut through the noise?
Put out there what people aren’t doing. Be human. Be human. That’s what blogging is all about. That’s what podcasting is about.
Jerod Morris: It’s funny you say that. Jon Nastor on The Showrunner, he almost always distills everything down to that. We’ll start talking about a topic and “What do you need to do?” And the further we get, he’s like, “Dude, just be human. Just treat people like human beings, and be a human yourself.” Really, that’s the ultimate. It really is, especially with podcasts.
Blogging, it’s true, for sure, but with podcasting, there’s that extra layer of your voice there inside of people’s heads. There’s an additional level of human connection that you get, which is what makes the audio medium so powerful. I agree wholeheartedly with that. The more human that you can be, the better connection you’re going to make with your audience.
Loren Baker: I was talking to a buddy of mine the other day. He’s in a totally different business sector, but he was saying that the one thing that’s really helped him over the years, the most important rule for him for business, is empathy. It’s the ability to feel how other people feel or trying to get into other people’s heads or feel their pain and what they’re going through. It’s really something that we need to bring to the table. I think the successful publishers of the world or producers of the world do bring it to the table.
Because I’m not going to walk into a room of travel bloggers and talk about search blogging all day. I almost did this once. It was travel bloggers that were just getting started. I didn’t want to talk over their heads. The last thing that people really want to hear is how great you’ve done with this or that or that. So I started talking about my attempt at launching a travel blog 10 years ago, and how it failed, and how that got me into doing SEJ.
Really, being human, trying to feel what other people are feeling, giving them what they want — at the end of the day, just be yourself. Do what you do.
Speaking of doing what you’re doing, how are things going at Showrunner? What are your future plans? What do we have to expect over the next month or six months from you guys?
What’s Next for The Showrunner?
Jerod Morris: Things at Showrunner are going incredibly well. I knew when we launched it that I was going to be excited about it. We talked about how some shows fail after seven or eight episodes because people lose the enthusiasm. I feel like we’re just starting to hit our stride as we’ve put out 16 regular episodes and four or five bonus episodes. I just keep getting more and more excited about creating new episodes, responding to questions, and seeing the community that’s building up around the show. It’s been great.
I think the reason why is because we were determined from the beginning to not a do a podcast about podcasting, but to do a show about showrunning. There’s a big difference. Because podcasts, that term is what we have, and it’s what people use, so we use it. But I think it’s too limiting for what the medium can do and what people can create.
Maybe this goes back — you wanted to be a movie producer. When the first Project Greenlight came out in college, my buddy and I submitted a script. That was our plan. We were going to be the next Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
Loren Baker: Oh really?
Jerod Morris: Yeah, that was our big thing. We had a digital production company in college. That’s the thing. When I think about podcasting, it’s about creating this overall bigger experience. You’re running a show. You’re not just putting out a podcast. I think people have really responded to the fact that, yes, we do teach the specifics of podcasting, of creating good audio, but it’s a means to something greater. I think being able to frame it in that context has gotten us excited and gotten people excited.
I actually, just a couple of days ago, put the finishing touches on a content series called The Four Central Elements of a Remarkable Show, which, when people sign up for our email list at Showrunner.FM, they get dripped out over the course of a week. I’m really excited to share that, to get people’s response from that.
Then we do have a course. We got through the pilot launch phase, have several hundred people in there, just this incredible thriving community and people learning and launching shows. It’s great, all the stories that share with us in there. We’re launching that in full to the world August 3rd through the 14th.
For anybody who’s interested in learning more about the process of creating remarkable audio and doing it in the context of something bigger, creating your own show, it’s a great way to take the next step. For anybody, the email list is great, and you can get on there at Showrunner.FM, and then we’ll be sending out information once the course is ready as well.
Loren Baker: Awesome, awesome. When I was getting ready to do this podcast, I was talking to Robert Bruce about different formats. Robert Bruce, the resident recluse at Copyblogger Media. Robert and I were talking. The one thing that I brought up with him is like, “I don’t listen to podcasts, man. I’m not sure what to do.”
My original plan was to do like do the Carson. I think Carson was the first person to put this together: the 10-minute monologue, guest, kind of a mid-monologue break, 10-minute monologue, and then end. I haven’t got there yet, but I am a fan of Craig Kilborn. I admit, I’ve probably watched about three episodes of The Daily Show starring Jon Stewart — I probably should watch more, and I’ve watched more clips — but I used to watch The Daily Show with Craig Kilborn. A lot of people don’t know that Jon Stewart was not the first host of The Daily Show. I used to watch The Daily Show with Craig Kilborn before him.
Jerod Morris: People forget how influential Craig Kilborn was at ESPN, too. He had a big impact on how SportsCenter evolved into an entertainment show as opposed to just sports news.
Loren Baker: In tradition of the Craig Kilborn Daily Show, I have five questions for you. I’m going to put this down into one question. What’s the first podcast you ever listened to?
Jerod Morris: Oh man, the first podcast I ever listened to? That’s a really good question. Well I’ll tell you what, there’s two. This American Life was one of them, but where I really got into them actually was the Breaking Bad after-show.
I think it started in season four, but I didn’t catch it until season five. But after every episode, Vince Gilligan, typically the director and the editor, would get on and talk about the episode. They would talk about what they went through in production, just different parts of the story. I loved it.
At that time I was always going on an hour walk every day. I’d either listen to that, or I’d go back and listen to old episodes of This American Life. It was really those two that got me caught up in the medium.
Loren Baker: Yeah, I really see that This American Life influence in your podcast, by the way. I like it. Question number two: what do you still listen to? What’s one of the newest podcasts you started listening to in the past couple of months that’s really gotten you to bring it more, to do your job better?
Jerod Morris: That’s a great question. I’ve always liked Dan Carlin’s shows, both Hardcore History and Common Sense, but I’ve gotten into him a lot more recently. Carlin is interesting, because pretty much everything he does is monologue. Most of the shows I’ve done have been interview style, but I’ve always been very intrigued by the idea of doing a monologue show, simply because there’s no scheduling conflicts. It’s a lot easier to just do it yourself.
Hardcore History, his episodes are three, four, five hours long. He takes some subject of history and weaves in the information with a great ability to be a storyteller. I love listening to him do that. Then Common Sense is a more regular show that talks about current-event type stuff.
I love listening to those two shows because I enjoy the content, but also studying how he’s able to carry a monologue show for hours, which is probably the most difficult thing to do in podcasting I think.
Loren Baker: Cool. We don’t have iPods anymore. I think you touched upon this — the word ‘podcasting’ is a little bit, well, let’s just call it ‘dated.’ If you were to change the name of the format to anything else, what would it be?
Jerod Morris: I refer to them as ‘shows.’ That almost seems too general, but I think ultimately, we’re going to see things morph to where it’s not going to be so separated, so maybe an ‘audio show’ if you want to call it that. I just think, again, ‘podcasting’ is too limited. For me the working title is ‘show.’
Like with The Assembly Call — it’s recorded as a Google Hangout, so there’s a video component to it, but then we put it out as an audio podcast. There are different formats, but ultimately, it’s just a show. I think we’ll start to see more shows just be referred to as that. We’ll see. It’ll be interesting to see how that develops.
Loren Baker: I’m glad you brought that up, too, because YouTube is ‘the second most popular search engine in the world,’ so when we’re talking about shows, let’s do video as well. I’m only going to hold you to three questions today, Jerod. I’d like to thank you again for taking the time to make an appearance here on Search & Deploy.
Jerod Morris: Certainly.
Loren Baker: Really appreciate it.
Jerod Morris: Thank you. This was a blast.
Loren Baker: I’ve learned a lot about podcasting during this episode, and hopefully, the audience will, too. Where can we find you on Twitter or online if anyone has any questions after listening to the show?
Jerod Morris: The best place to connect personally is Twitter @jerodmorris. For anybody who does sign up for the email list at Showrunner.FM, just hit ‘reply’ on any email we send, because it comes directly to me. I love getting to know people through even the more kind of intimate one-on-one format of email, too.
Loren Baker: Awesome, thanks so much.
Jerod Morris: Thank you, Loren.
Loren Baker: Again, this has been Search & Deploy, episode number nine, so we’re two over the success point with Jerod Morris from Rainmaker.FM. This has been Loren Baker from Foundation Digital. Thank you very much.