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Ben Fisher: The Evolution of Local SEO and Steady Demand

Ben Fisher of Steady Demand talks about the changing Local SEO landscape and how his company changed its offerings to align with the market.

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Today we are joined by Ben Fisher, a Google Business Profile and Diamond Product Expert. Ben co-founded Steady Demand, a local marketing agency, in 2013.

The Steady Demand team works with local businesses to set up, optimize, and continuously improve their web presence locally.

When Ben is not working with clients or contributing to Local SEO communities, he writes local marketing content for platforms such as Bright Local, Local U, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, MOZ, SEMRUSH, and many, many more.

Resources

LinkedIn:   https://www.linkedin.com/in/benfishertechpad/

Twitter:     https://twitter.com/TheSocialDude

Website:     https://www.steadydemand.com/

Bio & About:     https://www.steadydemand.com/about/team/

Value Drops

2:00 – Insights into what Google wants in the local SEO landscape.

4:22 – One of the first companies, if not the first, to start managing Google Local profiles for customers.

5:13 – Ben talks about the benefits of business owners becoming an expert in their niche.

6:30 – Ben talks about niching down.

9:36 – Becoming a well know entity in your niche.

11:33 – The importance of a mentor in your niche/space.

14:40 – Ben talks about his aha moments with the business and data.

18:46 – Customers and monopolizing your revenue.

20:30 – Ben talks about re-instating businesses whose Google Business Profile is suspended.


23:45 – Ben talks about building his assurance program against Google Business profiles getting suspended and quickly getting re-instated.

25:45 – Ben talks about where Steady Demand is going in 2023.

Questions for Ben:

  1. Can you tell us a little about Steady Demand and who it serves?
  2. How did Steady Demand get started?
  3. You have become an expert in Local SEO.  Can you tell the listeners how to become an expert in their industry and why?
  4. Can you tell the listeners how elevating others can be important and why?
  5. What were some aha moments or breakthroughs as you developed your business?
  6. How can specializing or niching down make you more successful?
  7. Can you tell the listeners how Google has evolved in the Local organic space?
  8. How did Google’s changes in Local SEO change your positioning, products, and services?
  9. Where do you see Steady Demand Going in 2023
  10. How can listeners get the help of the Steady Demand team?

[00:01] Announcer: This is a call to all current and aspiring entrepreneurs. How you market your business can be the difference between whether or not you succeed online. But don't worry, we're here to help with current strategies, tips, and tricks that you can apply to your online business or business idea. This is The EMJ Podcast with your host, Matt Hepburn.

[00:30] Matt Hepburn: This is episode seven of The EMJ Podcast, and I'm your host, Matt Hepburn. Today we are joined by Ben fisher, a Google business profile diamond product expert. Ben co-founded Steady Demand, a local marketing agency, in 2013. When Ben is not working with clients, we're contributing to local seo communities. He writes local marketing content for platforms such as Bright Local Local U, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, MOZ, SEMrush and many, many more.

It's with great pleasure that I welcome Ben to the show. Welcome to the show. Hey, Ben. how's it going?

[01:06] Ben Fisher: Hey, how are you doing, Matt? Good to see you, man.

[01:09] Matt Hepburn: It's good to see you. It's very good to see you. Wonderful smile.

[01:15] Ben Fisher: Thanks for having me.

[01:16] Matt Hepburn: Absolutely. It's a joy to have you. I was hoping you could tell the listeners a little bit about who Steady Demand is and what you do and how you serve the community.

[01:27] Ben Fisher: Sure, yeah. So, Steady Demand, we're basically, at our core, we're a local SEO company with a focus on Google Business profiles. We also have another kind of focus that we are very good at, which happens to be local services ads. And basically our company is comprised of a couple of different product experts with the Google Business Profile community. So I'm a diamond, we got Stefan who works for us, she's Gold, and then we have Crystal, she's a Silver. And Jerry. He's also a Silver. And that gives us a really nice ability to have a very deep insight into what Google really wants. And so we're able to create and craft packages and provide services based on those types of things. And that kind of insider knowledge.

[02:16] Matt Hepburn: Well, that's really the key. Right. What does Google want and how does that help a business, especially in a local business landscape, to show up?

[02:24] Ben Fisher: Right, yeah, exactly. Just get customers. A lot of it's about conversion.

[02:30] Matt Hepburn: Right. And helping businesses get customers. So that's fantastic. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how Steady Demand got started.

[02:40] Ben Fisher: Sure. Long time ago. No, we just celebrated our ten-year anniversary this month. Thank you. We started actually way back kind of right when broke was getting out of the web hosting industry. And at first we started off as a local Seal company in disguise as a social media company. Meaning back in the day, there was Google Plus. And I kind of figured out and I did figure out a way to manipulate Google Plus with content, basically creating semantic content and relationships between entities and was able to move the needle in organic and local search, actually. It's a very little known kind of tactic back in those days. Local entities is big. Yeah, huge, exactly. Again, we were a social media company, but really at our core, we were actually at an seo company. And then of course, Google Plus was killed off. They put the axe on that and we had to pivot very quickly. But lucky for us, we had already kind of gotten involved in the local search scene and start making some really good inroads there. And most important inroads of course being those with Google. And there's a whole story that goes behind that, but becoming at that time I a saw top contributor, which is now a product expert. And so with that, we kind of looked around the landscape and we said, okay, well, nobody is really managing Google business profiles or Google my business at that time for anybody. And so we were like, well, why don't we just download, start doing that, and created a package, created a plan for that, created kind of a little industry out of that. Now we have a lot of people that manage Google business profiles, right, which.

[04:45] Matt Hepburn: Is wonderful, but you come up very high in the search. So you're a local expert and like you said, a product expert. You've been on forums, you've been all over the place giving tons of information a lot of your time as an expert in local SEO. So could you explain to listeners what the benefit is of becoming an expert within their niche and how they might go?

[05:14] Ben Fisher: Funny to ask that question. I've kind of done it my entire life, actually. And what I have learned is that the more you can niche down basically into a business, the more likely you are to become known potentially as an expert in your field. A good example of this is like, for instance, when decided to get into the video game industry, right? I didn't know anything about the video game industry. I played games for over 15 years. It doesn't make me an expert in the industry. But to get into it, started up a website, which is all about news and reviews for the gaming industry, got to know some pretty interesting and influential people, got very well known in that journalistic space and ended up getting invited out to all the conferences. Eventually ended up doing a lot of speaking at those conferences, things like that. And then heck, even ended up making a game actually after being in the industry for over 15 years, but got very well-known very quickly and used media actually a lot to do that. Everybody needs exposure, right?

[06:27] Matt Hepburn: PR is great and also probably helped your site a lot too, right, with the link you're getting with that.

[06:33] Ben Fisher: Right. But we niche down, and so we didn't just want to become like a giant bomb or a polygon or an IGN or anything like that. That was a little bit of a lofty goal, not to mention really took a lot of writers. So we had maybe 16 writers, something like that. And keeping those volunteers is pretty difficult, actually. So we niche down into the indie independent gaming space, where a lot of indie developers weren't getting a lot of coverage because they didn't have Triple A games. Well, that gave us an edge later on in the life cycle of the business because we were getting to know all these little guys who nobody knew who they were and nobody would give them a chance. One of those happened to be a game called Super Meat Boy, which is a huge game, made millions of dollars, but back then, nobody knew who it was. So we were a little part it's a small part of that success. So, again, niching Down, right, when we started with when I had my company in the hosting industry, that agency, we did not niche down became known, but we did everything. And so, we were not great at anything. And that's the big thing that you learn, is basically, no, you don't want to put all your eggs in one basket. Right? So, like, for instance, you wouldn't want to just do Google business profile work, but then again, you want to kind of stay pretty close to it at the same time, and then yeah, become that expert. One of the easiest ways to become very well known for what you're doing is to keep an eye on changes in your platform, changes in the product news. When I was doing this and becoming a product expert, I was in the product every single day. And so I would get to see little changes, and I'd be like, Ask other people. I'd be like, hey, are you seeing this? Oh, wow. That's brand new. Okay, well, go out there, send out a tweet about it. Tag Barry Schwartz into it. Barry, this is new. He's like, yes, it's new. And then he writes about it in Search engine Land. Right? And it's kind of a rinse and repeat type of practice, and anybody can do it. You just have to be observant.

[08:55] Matt Hepburn: Right. I think no matter what your industry, if you're doing that, you're getting the PR, you're getting more notice. If you can drop mentions to whoever is covering your journalistic is covering that type of niche, you might even get mentions from that person that you were the first one who actually saw the change. Right. So you're getting noticed from that, and that all just contributes to your website actually growing.

[09:27] Ben Fisher: Yeah. And there's two other things that I'd like to say about becoming a well-known entity in your own in your niche. Right. And the first one is using the word again, being very transparent, being very honest, and identifying the people in your industry that you really want to learn from and not just identifying them from. I want to use this person to get to this level of stature, but really as to, okay, what can I learn from this person? Can this person learn from me? And are they genuinely a good person to know? And when I was getting started, there was quite a few people out there that I identified that I was like, I really want to get to know these people. One was Mike Glynthal, professor of search. Of course, mike's silly smart. I mean, he's brilliant. You got to have him on your show, by the way. It's just the way he thinks is amazing, and he can put everything together. And historically. Historically as well. So, I mean, of course. So he's almost like a journalist himself. Actually. He is. And, you know, and then I happened to run into Joy Hawkins now, and Joy was actually working for another company at the time. She didn't have her own company when I ran into her, and they were outsourcing Google business profile work to us, of course. Right. But that's how I got to know Joy, and I thought she was an amazing person, and I wanted to learn from her. And so both of them ended up, in a way, becoming my mentors, as well as Linda Buckay. She used to own a local search for him, so I was very lucky. But I would say that if you want to become a master of your niche, identify the people who you really do truly want to get to know and somebody who you feel like you can bring value to in the future, maybe even now.

[11:32] Matt Hepburn: So you just said a really important thing, which is mentor, and a lot of businesses don't really pick up on that. As to the importance of a mentor within your space and why that's important, could you go into a little bit of that? I know you just touched on a little bit, but could you expand on that?

[11:50] Ben Fisher: Well, I mean, to bring it to a different level is when you have a mentor or if you are mentoring, which I think is actually more important, by the way, I try to mentor at least three to four companies or people per year. But when you are mentoring somebody, you're learning. You're constantly learning. Because let's be real about one thing, and we're always learning something. Nobody is an expert. Nobody is perfect in their knowledge about a certain space. Right. Because it's always off all things. It's always changing. So that's the thing. If you're looking for somebody to become a mentor, that's going to happen naturally. It's not even going to be a word. It's not going to be like, hey, I want to mentor you, or something like that. Although you can't ask directly, would you mind mentoring me? Right. But again, it's a very symbiotic relationship between the mentor and the mentee. And in both aspects, both people are learning constantly. In the case of a mentor, it's also a way of giving back because somebody had to mentor the mentor.

[13:08] Matt Hepburn: I love it. It's an exchange of knowledge. Right. Both are learning, but the business is also growing from that knowledge.

[13:16] Ben Fisher: Sure.

[13:17] Matt Hepburn: And whether it's on building the business or whether it's marketing the business, whatever it might be, that's crucial.

[13:24] Ben Fisher: Yeah. But again, it's all very natural. There's nothing force here. It's not like, hey Matt, I want you to be my mentor because I want to grow my company by a million dollars next year.

[13:36] Matt Hepburn: Right.

[13:37] Ben Fisher: Thank you. By the way, no, you can't have a percentage. So it's not that. It's just like it's like, hey Matt, how can I help you? How can you help me? And what's going on? Can I ask some questions every once in a while? Do you mind? And if the answer is, yeah, go ahead. Sure. Definitely ask me some questions. Here's how you can get in touch with me on slack or whatever. Right. It comes very naturally.

[14:02] Matt Hepburn: But bring good questions.

[14:04] Ben Fisher: Oh, please.

[14:07] Matt Hepburn: Bring good questions. So, this is great. I was wondering if we could segue really as to what were the AHA moments or breakthroughs that you had with steady demand as you were growing it. Whether it's your stack that your marketing stack that you use, or I know a lot of this holistically evolved, but if we could talk about kind of like your AHA moments, that would be fantastic.

[14:39] Ben Fisher: The biggest AHA moments are pretty much tied to business life ending events. Okay. And then the second one is Data. So business life ending events are usually a cataclysmic situation that occurs that is without your control, and if you cannot adapt to it, your business will fold. It happens all the time. 1% of businesses make it to five years, and further, 1% of those make it to ten years. So if you take those numbers into account, there's a lot of business ending events that can occur.

[15:21] Matt Hepburn: Sure. Being agile is got to be part of it.

[15:25] Ben Fisher: Absolutely. Our first one was when they killed Google Plus. We had 80% of our business was tied up in Google Plus. We were able to act on that, and we were able to pivot very quickly. We were able to put together a package that makes sense that our team wanted to do something that would help our customers and something that would actually kind of allow us to migrate from social media into Google profile management. So we put together kind of like a hybrid type of plan and knowing that it would end up killing the social component of things over time, but still keeping that value because that's what you were signed up for. Right. So we they wanted us to post a Facebook and Instagram, so and we wanted to post a Google Business Profiles and we wanted to manage those eventually. So that's how it worked. So we only took a 10% hit in our business, actually, which is phenomenal.

[16:27] Matt Hepburn: Just that lucky. That normally would just kill 80% to 90% of the business.

[16:33] Ben Fisher: So very lucky. Great staff, great business partner, excellent, amazing customers. Was not a fun day to wake up to with tons and tons of customers going, what's going on? It's going away in three months. Why are they doing this? It's horrible. Anyway, but we got the messaging out and then the second business life ended. So that taught one big lesson. Not how to retain customers. Customers. How to not offer all your eggs into one basket.

[17:09] Matt Hepburn: One basket, yes.

[17:11] Ben Fisher: So, it's kind of like own your content on your website, own your blog. Right. Don't always write for other people. Same kinds of thought. Which is why we do Google Business Profile work, and we do local service ads work, and we do organic SEO work. So it's kind of like a mixture in a hodgepodge. Right? And the second business life ending event was when we had an organization that represented 50% of our revenue, and they grew us by 70%, probably at that time, but they also again, it was 50% of our revenue. So they decided at one point, they just wanted to go ahead and take everything in the house and exercise a 30 day out clause, which they could, because legally it was there, which really sucks, because that meant we had to lay off 50% of our people, which is horrible, especially when you've got a team of players. You have to make decisions, you have to make choices. Right? And they're not the best choices to make because you're affecting somebody's livelihood. So we tried to keep as many people as we could, and then we had people who waited in the wings told them, sorry, go get something else while you're waiting. And while we're basically rebuilding. And we've actually hired quite a few of those people back by now, which is nice.

[18:35] Matt Hepburn: That's great.

[18:36] Ben Fisher: Yes. But that also brings up your second kind of business thing to think about and keep learning from or learn from. And that is don't let one customer monopolize more than 50% of your revenue, because when they say goodbye, it's going to hurt. As a matter of fact, you shouldn't let anybody make up more than 10% of your revenue if you have the ability to everybody looks at the customers like, oh, I want a big client. I want an enterprise client. Somebody's going to pay me $100,000 or more a month. No, you don't. Nonetheless, that's 10% of your revenue. Those are the two things. And then the other thing is data. Right? What we found ourselves doing was, okay, well, let me back up really quickly. So when I got involved in the Google Business Profile community and became a product expert, one of the things that I decided to really focus on learning was the steps that were required. I'm sorry, all the business basically, the Google guidelines, especially as they pertain to verification. And so I memorized that puppy, literally, I would say, almost every weekend. I would just pour over and just read through the guidelines and then, of course, exercise what I learned inside the community and for our clients. So by reading those guidelines, also ended up falling into working on combating spam in the ecosystem, fake businesses, fake reviews, things like that. I ended up uncovering huge networks of spam for lead generation, things like that, and became pretty good at it, actually. And then from there ended up getting really good at getting businesses reinstated and that were suspended from Google Maps. And that's actually where I kind of halted, in a sense, because when you have a business owner whose profile is suspended, their livelihood is suspended, it affects their lives, it affects their customers lives, their vendors lives. It touches so many different people and can sometimes be the difference between somebody who has a house and somebody who doesn't. And a lot of business owners don't save money, by the way. What can you do, right? And during that process, gosh I think it was probably after doing around 1000 reinstatements, I started to see a lot of different correlations. 4% of businesses basically are ready for a reinstatement in the first place, which means more downtime than factually necessary because they're, out of the guidelines, found even more interesting stats than that. But that was the big one. It was like, oh, wow. It's like, okay, so a reinstatement time period could be a week, right? Or months sometimes. And if you are not ready for it, it's going to extend that out by even more weeks or more months. I've had ones that could have been resolved in 24 hours and took two months because they had to go find a place, and in their area, there wasn't a lot to rent, so they had to wait for something to come available. And that's horrible, but it was real. It was true. So we ended up basically building a machine, quote unquote, in house, to handle reinstatement work by bringing in product experts and getting them trained up, because there's no automation behind this, by the way. You can't it has to be done by people. There has to be somebody who is going to sit on the Zoom call or Google meet for a half an hour and listen to a story, because even though you've heard that story a million times, you need to still listen to it, because the other person you're kind of almost like a psychologist. You have to listen to the other person. The other person needs to get out whatever they need to get out. But the story is always the same. I've been in business for six years. I have X number of glowing five-star reviews. I spend X amount of dollars on Google AdWords, and my Maps listing has been up for X number of years. But suddenly it's gone away and I don't know why. That's the story, I hear it every single time. And it's okay, it's fine, it's no problem. I understand that. I get it. So anyway, as far as the AHA moment, after realizing this, I said, okay, well, how can I get people ready to become suspended? Because the fact of the matter is, 40% of businesses are going to get suspended once a year, usually in certain categories. And so we ended up building our assurance program. And the assurance program is basically kind of goes something like this. Is that it's? Peace of mind for Google business profiles, where we audit them for the guidelines, make sure they're ready, build a file around that, then back up the profiles, specialty reviews. And then from there, we block any kind of malicious activity from users and Google whose Google can cause the suspension. And then if this profile gets suspended, we get it reinstated for free. We're on the line for it. But again, it's peace of mind. Right?

[24:23] Matt Hepburn: That's fantastic. It's for local businesses to be able to do that, where they don't understand the guidelines, they don't understand what they've done or haven't done to keep their profile updated. The fact that you can do that, and you have backed up all that data, that's amazing.

[24:45] Ben Fisher: It is. And we have some customers who they get suspended once a month, probably because they're too close to a Ups store, but what can you do? Or I've got customers who are viciously attacked by their competition. I've got one who every time he gets back up, two days later, he goes back down. And then we have other customers who it's like once or twice a year they'll get suspended and we send them a notice and say, hey, just don't worry about it, go about your day, we'll get you reinstated. That's fine. Yeah. And the size of relief that we get from that is really amazing. So it's nice to be able to help people and run a business at the same time.

[25:36] Matt Hepburn: Yeah, that's, that is awesome. So I'm going to segue into where is steady demand going in 2023?

[25:45] Ben Fisher: Sure, 2022. We made two product launches, basically, and the first one was getting really aggressively into local service ads and the ads that are at the top of search, right, right. Green. Google guarantees. Google Screen. So, we became what's called a managed partner over at the lsa Division, which basically means we're top 1% agency in the world. And more importantly, we have a dedicated representative. So we don't call into general support, we just have a meeting with our representative every single week. We've quickly grown to have hundreds of accounts, basically, at this point, which is pretty amazing. I think that for me to say that in one year to go from like 1520 to 100, it's like, okay, so we've had to really build up that division. And the next one is just organic seo. I got out of Organic SEO in 2013, and I didn't think I was going to come back, and I'm not coming back to it, per se. I have people who work for me, and they do the seo work. We're growing that division too. So, again, kind of getting away from all your eggs in one basket to eggs in multiple baskets that all work together, and if one goes away, it's okay. Won't feel it.

[27:19] Matt Hepburn: Well, I totally can relate. I can totally relate. So do you want to tell listeners how they can get the help of the Steady Demand team where they should go?

[27:31] Ben Fisher: That’d be great. Yeah. Just visit this steadydemand.com. You can go there. Find out a little bit about us. We don't update the website very often, so there's probably not all of our stuff is on there. Feel free to just reach out to the contact form. You can always reach me on Twitter at the Social dude. So my dms are open. Feel free to contact me. And of course, you can always say find me in the community over at Google. But that's the best way to really get in touch with us and reach out to us.

[28:02] Matt Hepburn: Well, Ben, thank you so much for your time today. There are huge insights there the, AHA, moments of how people can really niche down, become an expert, and not have all their products or services in one basket. Right. Offer multiple things. Those are huge insights that businesses can take away from. So thank you so much, really appreciate it, and I'll talk to you soon.

[28:25] Ben Fisher: Yeah, thanks for having me, Matt. I'm glad we met so many years ago.

[28:29] Matt Hepburn: Absolutely.

[28:31] Ben Fisher: All right, sounds good.

[28:36] Announcer: Are you ready to break through to accelerate online business growth? Then join our email list at https://podcast.focusvisibility.com so we can keep you up to date with the latest strategies, tips, and tricks that you'll want to know. Also, please don't forget to subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode. This is The EMJ Podcast with Matt Hepburn, and we'll see you next time.

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Author

  • Matt Hepburn

    Matt is the founder of The Focus Visibility Podcast. Matt has over 14 years of experience in search engine optimization. Matt has worked with various enterprise businesses, including Mend.io formerly (White Source Software), John Hancock USA, SEMrush, Commvault, and iCIMS. Matt has also worked in large and small agency environments, including Martindale Hubble, WebROI, and Search Interactions. Additionally, Matt brings 14 years of consulting on organic traffic issues that affect businesses.

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