If you want to promote and grow your brand, there’s an SEO red carpet with your name on it. Believe it or not, Google has rolled that carpet out at your feet. All you have to do is take that first step. In his new book, Brand Primacy, Cory Schmidt teaches how to pair a solid SEO strategy with perfect content to attract thousands of organic leads and convert them into sales.

You’ll move up in Google’s rankings for your most valuable search terms and beat out the competition, reducing your cost of acquisition while dramatically increasing your revenue. Stop giving up your place at the SEO table, pull up a chair, join the banquet, and feast on your share of the pie. 

Hey listeners, my name is Drew Appelbaum and I’m excited to be here today with Cory Schmidt, author of Brand Primacy: How Google Made Companies the Kings of Content. Cory, thank you for joining. Welcome to The Author Hour Podcast.

Cory Schmidt: Thanks Drew, happy to be here.

Drew Appelbaum: Cory help us kick this off, can you give us a brief rundown of your professional background?

Cory Schmidt: Yeah, so I mainly work in software service companies, SaaS companies and I had a marketing function mainly within companies, also right now, sales and account management. My deep career experience is in demand generation and mainly, within that SEO, search engine optimization is my very deep experience within that.

Drew Appelbaum: So why was now the time to share your story and put this book out in the world? Were you inspired by something out there, did you have an “aha moment?”

Cory Schmidt: Yeah, a few things. So you know, coming up in the marketing world, I always wondered when we were doing SEO and the marketing team is doing SEO, we had an agency or we were working in-house. It was always this black box and I mean inherently, it is a black box because we don’t know what Google is actually doing with their algorithm, but nobody really ever knew the answer, right? 

Nobody ever knew why we were doing the things we were doing. I set out to look for that. I went to a tech publisher in Berlin and they were doing really great SEO. The whole model of the company was, we get search traffic and we monetize it through ads and other vehicles, and I learned a ton there and it was really interesting, but something just struck me when I went back then into SaaS companies was how much of a content out there that I was searching for was done by a vendor. 

When you look for just about any business term, just go ahead and try it. You’ll see that most of the answers are being served by vendors, and this is something that’s happened over the past 10, 12 years, and mainly the change that happened was something that happened within Google, which was an update that really gave a preference to companies for creating that content. Companies were incentivized to create the content by Google. 

Drew Appelbaum: Let’s just set the foundation for anyone listening out there. What exactly is SEO? Let’s do step one, level one, what is it, what are the benefits?

What Is SEO

Cory Schmidt: So search engine optimization or SEO is optimizing the way your website is for the search engine, and this is only, in this case, for the organic results. So the non-paid results, so that can be the content, it can be the technical elements of your website, so how fast the website is, how mobile-friendly it is or it can be the backlinks to your website. So the links that come into your website from other domains. 

So from your domain, from other domains, and really, if we want to think about three big buckets of SEO, the first is backlinks and this is really what made Google unique from other search engines in the 1990s, right? You had a lot of search engines out there that were really pulling results from things like keywording, and what Google did is it came along and said, “Hey, how about we do this from backlinks? We look at what other domains are saying about these domains and then, ranking them in that order.”

So that’s kind of one-third of the bucket of Google. Another third is the technical elements of your website. These are things that some of the best SEOs in the world, these are the things that they have really deep knowledge in. They work with developers and they make sure that these function correctly. 

And then there’s the third element, which is the content, and this is what I really focus on when I go to conferences, I talk to marketers about SEO. I really focused on that content element because that’s the part that they really understand, they know how to optimize for and that is really giving searchers who are looking for your product or things outside of your product a good answer.

Drew Appelbaum: What are companies missing out on by not focusing on SEO? 

Cory Schmidt: A lot of high-value traffic. So companies, because of what I put forth as an inherent advantage in Google, they’re given the ability to capture a lot of traffic around what their core product does, and even wider beyond it, and then to gain ranking on their most important generals. So non-branded search terms.

When companies then do search engine optimization and focus on content and building content around the search intent of what searchers are looking for around their product, they’re able to gain not only the traffic that comes in from people who aren’t yet shopping for what they do but also the people who are looking for what they serve.

So Google is looking at your whole domain and all of the content that you’re doing, and if you’re able to serve the search intent for content areas outside of what you do, Google gives you an advantage on the things that you do so that your actual products, so when they search for your product, they come to you first and they’re already perhaps familiar with your brand.

Drew Appelbaum: Are you still just shaking your head at brands and companies who haven’t harnessed the power of it yet?

Cory Schmidt: Yeah, it always did amaze me when I heard from people who would say, “You know, we don’t do SEO” or “It’s not important” or “We don’t know how to, it’s just so complex that we can’t even wrap our minds around it so we just ignore it. We don’t focus on it.” When you look at especially the industry I’m at, I’m in, most leads, the majority of leads come from organic search in a lot of cases. So it’s really important that companies do focus on that.

Drew Appelbaum: You actually say that you know, you mentioned that there was an algorithm change and the thing sort of clicked and you cracked the Google code, if you will. So how did you figure out the special sauce and how to make this wall work for you and your companies?

How to Make SEO Work for You

Cory Schmidt: Well, I don’t know if I want to claim that I completely cracked it but I’ve had success in multiple companies I’ve been at, and harnessing it and you can see the evolution and what’s happened with Google and you can really follow the history, and it gives you a really good grounding of what you should do today, what Google is looking for.

The main thing is, Google is looking for you to serve their audience with high-quality content. If we go back to the 1990s, when Google suddenly came out and the results that they were giving to users were much faster than any of their competitors, those results though, the web pages that they were serving were often not the best kinds of content. It wasn’t the most consumable.

Sometimes it was very authoritative, so it could be an academic journal but maybe it was behind a wall, a paywall of some sort. An academic journal also just isn’t very consumable, right? You don’t get the information you need right up front, you had to read through it and figure it out. 

When Google started to change and started to optimize to have brands create the content, to give them an incentive to create the content, what happened is Google got some—a group, an institution out there that had a vested interest in creating high-quality consumable content for its audience, 12 years ago or so when they did an update and gave brands a really big advantage and an incentive to also create content.  

You started to see a lot of content around, especially around business-related terms turn into some of the most consumable, engaging, entertaining content that you can find out there. So just having that understanding of what Google wants you to do and what the incentive is out there, helps you then go from there and take the step to then build the content around what you need. 

Drew Appelbaum: You gave a really great example of that was, searching for Apple back in the day might send you to an apple farm rather than the gigantic conglomerate that is Apple, and if you could give a shoutout now, who is doing it really well? What companies are focusing on it and constantly showing up at the top of organic searches? 

Cory Schmidt: Yeah, so HubSpot is still probably the best one I’ve seen in my industry at capturing that traffic and capturing just a ton of traffic in organic search. It is always funny when I talk about HubSpot sometimes at non-marketing conferences, people sometimes say, “But they’re not even a vendor.” They think that they are a publication. They are so effective at getting in traffic. 

They also have a returning audience now to their blog that go and consume their content. I would say that HubSpot, their biggest advantage was getting marketers who are marketer, it is a marketing automation platform. HubSpot is a marketing automation, getting their potential customers to go to their domain before they’d even thought of buying marketing automation, by serving them really great content and highly consumable content that solved the search intent of what they were looking for in Google around their products. 

So whether it was, you know, you are looking for marketing automation, you might do a search for email management, right? You need to learn how to do email management before you do mark automation, perhaps. So you would do a search for email management and HubSpot would give you the answer of what it is, how to do it better, some strategies, and that happens all within Google, and HubSpot took this to soaring heights. 

They have multiple blogs that they have now, they’re sales blogs, marketing blogs and they serve just about any business term around the product that they serve that you can think of, and they serve it in the top few ranks within Google’s organic search results in multiple countries. 

Drew Appelbaum: Is this constantly evolving, you know, as media changes, as video files are smaller, as things are more embeddable and software talks to each other, and mobile devices and shapes change? Can you have your finger on the pulse now and think we’re okay, we invest it now, or it’s just something where you have to continuously evolve as the world and as the products do? 

Evolving with Search Engines and Content

Cory Schmidt: Yes, you do have to keep evolving with Google and with how users are consuming content. So for instance, Google used to crawl with a desktop crawler but now it crawls with a mobile crawler. So it is very important that your site is mobile optimized not just for the users who use your site for mobile but also for Google. What’s really important, and changes are going to happen, but Google is by and large going to continue to focus on the best experience for their users. 

So if a big part of your marketing effort is organic search, you want to make sure that you have that as the main focus, the central focus of that part of the marketing focus. So ensure that your content is serving the search intent of the Google user,  that you can engage really well, that Google user will engage with it really well when they do the search that you want to capture. 

Drew Appelbaum: Now, by putting this book out there, are you kind of giving away your secret sauce? 

Cory Schmidt: I hope so. I hope that marketers can use this to understand more or less what they need to do within Google and to capture as much traffic as they can that’s high value. I hope this is very useful for everyone out there. 

Drew Appelbaum: But just to be clear, and you call this out in the book, this is not an SEO manual. So do you want to call out how it’s different than every other book on SEO or any other book on SEO out there? 

Cory Schmidt: I think this really doesn’t focus on technical things too much. It really takes the marketing perspective. It first grounds you in the history of Google, what led us up to this and I’d probably say at least are relevant to what we’re doing here. It teaches you how to use content to leverage organic search results and beat your competitors and then looks into the future of what’s next for Google, what you could be looking out for and with how companies are going to change, and how Google is going to change. 

So it really gives you a baseline understanding. It is very easily consumable for anyone out there looking to have a really foundational understanding of search engine optimization and how that’s affecting branding within Google. 

Drew Appelbaum: I think anyone with a company or business email address gets a 100 emails a week from spam for SEO optimization. Should we trust any of those? Is any of that real? 

Cory Schmidt: Some of them are, yeah. There are great agencies out there, there are companies that do excellent work. I know unbelievably talented search engine optimization consultants and the focus really should be on what you can do within your company, what your capabilities are. So obviously, if you are a very small company, a very large agency is not going to serve you so well. 

If you are a bigger company, maybe use an agency but also maybe you have an in-house team. That really depends on where you are as a company, how important SEO is for your business, and then yeah, just doing your research and trying to find the best consultant out there or in-house employee out there for your needs. 

Drew Appelbaum: You also have a companion website from the book. Can you tell readers and listeners what that website is and what they can expect to find there? 

Cory Schmidt: Yeah, coryschmidt.com, and you can find excerpts from the book, a little description of what it’s about, and how you can buy it. 

Drew Appelbaum: Perfect. Well Cory, we just touched on the surface of the book here. I didn’t want to give away any of your tips and tricks and secrets inside of it but just by putting this book out there in the world to help people out and open the eyes of the importance of SEO is no small feat. So I just want to say congratulations on having your book published. 

Cory Schmidt: Thanks, Drew. 

Drew Appelbaum: This has been a pleasure, I’m excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called, Brand Primacy, and you could find it on Amazon. Cory, besides checking out the book, besides your website, is there anywhere else where people can connect with you? 

Cory Schmidt: Yeah, on LinkedIn, you can check me out there, and yeah. 

Drew Appelbaum: Awesome. Well Cory, thank you so much for giving us some of your time today, and best of luck with your new book. 

Cory Schmidt: Thank you.