Interview of Pest Control Guy by SEOinHouse

Jessica Bowman of sent this series of questions to Thomas Ballantyne of Bulwark Exterminating prior to an attempted interview online. The interwebs did not align that day, the recording failed. Not able to find time to do it again Thomas asked Jessica’s permission to take her questions and answer them by blog. Here is the virtual interview conducted by Jessica Bowman and the Pest Control Guy.

Imagine…. Its 8am, Monday morning and you arrive at work to find that SEO traffic has plummeted.  What are the first places you would look to begin diagnosing the problem?

I’d start at my local listings. My business is local search driven. I’d check to see if they were up and running. Then I’d look at my website. Look for errors. Look for bad script. Look at the .htacces, robot permissions, website logs. If that doesn’t solve it, then I’d retrace recent updates to our website. Any glaring mistakes would be fixed immediately. If nothing is glaring then I’d check twitter for SEO chatter on updates.

There are a number of things that can cause your website traffic to drop, or seem to drop. Things like the simple error of removing analytics code, to bigger errors like adding a “NOINDEX” to all of a sites pages. Trace your steps, and the activity of anyone that has access to your site. Look at your own activity and logs before screaming and ranting at the “SEO Demons”.

If you were to guide an enterprise-level SEO on their budget, what would you suggest be in it?

Money. =) … Everything would really depend on the budget and the company. Are they a location based service? Are they a brand that wants an online shopping cart? Do they want more “branding”? You always have to start with an understanding of where they are now and where they want to be. I’d then look at where they are strongest. What service or product are they best at, or best known for? I’d look at what customers most talk about online, both the good and the bad. Then I’d follow with what service or product gives them the best margins. Lastly I’d compare that data to what is easiest to achieve success for online. For example, Nike is best known for shoes. Hypothetically, their Elin Woods Golf Clubs are getting rave reviews. Where do they rank for shoes? Where do they rank for Golf Clubs? Which needle can we get to move the most with the least effort? How much does the effort cost and what is the potential gain?

To put that in a budget bullet point:

  • Online Listening
  • Website Performance Tracking
  • Site Maintenance/Upgrades
  • Content Creation
  • Content Promotion
  • Paid Search

The amount for each of these will vary based on the sophistication of the site and company. Enterprise companies may also have silos between SEO and Paid Search. Break that down. That data needs to be shared. Paid search is an SEO data mine for the digging. The SEO team and website maintenance may also exist in different departments. Restructure that. If the company is not running all of these areas in sync then add that reformation to my budget.

What SEO metrics do you report on to upper management that other in-house SEOs should use as well?

My CEO and I have a close relationship. It really helps to have a CEO understand the value of SEO. That understanding is actually the burden of the SEO, more so than the CEO. Learn to speak in numbers and dollars then your CEO will understand your SEO.

I report on internet marketing costs and how the cost is trending.

I report on the cost per acquisition.

I report on the trending cost per acquisition.

I report on if internet sales are above or below our target cost per acquisition.

I report on total sales marked as “internet” this month compared to like month of the past year.

What metrics do you follow within the SEO team that every enterprise-level in-house SEO should monitor?

Total cost for the team. Total revenues generated by the team. Is it profitable?

Here is the real meat and potatoes, no matter what your boss says is your budget, you won’t have a job if your budget does not produce profits. Granted you have to please the boss. Some bosses aren’t willing to share, or don’t really know. Figure it out. If your average online sale is $10 and it takes $10 to produce that sale you are loosing. If it takes $1 to produce that sale but the margin is only 10% then you are likely loosing.

The other trends are nice to know (website traffic, time on site, pages indexed, bounce rates) but they are all secondary to the big question of “Are we profitable?” That is the real number to know. That is the only number that ultimately counts. “Are your efforts profitable?” You must know this number. You live or die by this number. If you choose to ignore this or if you run from this number then you are running from your job. Tie all of your efforts as closely as possible to profits.


What do you wish someone had told you when you started as an in-house SEO that would have propelled your SEO program to the next level faster?

Make friends and keep learning. Early on in one’s SEO career it is easy to find a single way to win. There are so many ways to win. But believing just because you are winning now that you’ve got it down is a mistake of arrogant ignorance. Humble down a bit and realize that there are others that are winning and in ways you have not yet discovered. Make friends. Keep learning. Keep winning.

What is some of the great advice you learned from other in-housers? How important is it to interact with other in-house SEOs?

I don’t know that I can name any one particular thing that I have learned, there have been so many along the way. Each specific to challenges from different SEO eras. But here goes…

Keep secrets. I personally try keep all the good stuff to myself and I don’t ever share my golden nuggets… STOP. I’m Kidding…like a pest control guy has golden nuggets…

But really, share golden advice in confidence. I can share what I have experienced at Bulwark Exterminating, but I won’t share my friends enlightenment on what Shopzilla, Ebay, or Home Depot experiences. So know who you can trust, and make yourself trustworthy. Because of this, it’s hard to pinpoint some of those golden nuggets that I’ve pick up. Actually they may not even be nuggets they may be gold flakes. But collect enough gold flakes in the friend stream and you can be richer than the guy looking for a gold bar in the public stream.

So yes, sharing with other in-house SEOs is priceless. Tthe ability to reach out and get a general consensus from your SEO peers is a great asset. The collective knowledge of who you know and who you share with is by far one of the best sources of info you will ever find. I rely more on those insiders than I do on any given SEO blog.

(…if any of my SEO friends read this, Thank You. Sincerly, I thank you for yet another great year)

What is one site you envy and would put in the SEO Hall of Fame? Why?

Facebook. Because they beat the SEO game the day they said “screw you” to the search engines. Any website that can learn to exist without search traffic has won the SEO game. In fact, that is my next game.

Perhaps that is a dodge on that question. There are a lot of great websites out there that win at SEO. I don’t know that I have a particular favorite. Usually the ones that I notice or watch are the ones that I see winning in new ways. I thoroughly enjoy picking through any website that is consistently beating the machines. I learn a lot by simply paying attention as I surf the web.

And I should give credit to Mat Siltala with He has opened my eyes to the possibilities of referral traffic and social media. Having shared with me the percentage of traffic his site gets from search versus social and referral. I am indeed awed on how well diversified his traffic is. It truly is my goal to be able to exist online without search traffic.


About Thos003
Pest Control Guy - Thomas Ballantyne

-Thomas Ballantyne
Director of Marketing for Bulwark Exterminating
Follow me on Twitter —> @Thos003

Thomas Ballantyne works with Bulwark Exterminating. He developed their first site and has moved Bulwark from ranking as a small Phoenix Pest Control company to competing nationally for pest control. He’s spoken at both SMX and Pubcon conferences, as well as other smaller SEO events. He’s also a fan of Avalaunch Media and has used them for some pesty infographics.


When Did the Google Review Stars Return to Local Search?

James Hansen sent me an email the other day asking “When did the stars return to local search?” Attached was a screen shot from a search done that very day:

While helping Mark Derrico, a local Chandler Insurance company with their online marketing, James had stumbled upon the lost gold stars treasure of local search! If you are like many people you may be recovering from being star struck by Google Places. Yes those five little gold stars we so easy to find before Google bought Zagat. Made searching for services and restaurants a lot easier. But alas, the golden review stars are dying out. So where did James find these beauties?

The good old Apple iPad. Simply scroll down and click on “Classic”. Yep, back to the refreshing classic taste of Google. Mmmmmm. Love that classic stuff. Oh and if you are in New York at #SMX and can’t Handle a Big Gulp of that Classic Google taste try the mobile sized.

Places for Pest Control near Tempe, AZ

That view is achieved on the iPhone the same way, click on the “Classic” version. Sadly, I can not figure out how to make the stars reappear on my desktop computer. As a searcher, does anyone else miss the Google review stars? As a business do you miss them?

The Business Side of the Gold Review Stars

For those businesses that believe the gold stars had a value for their online marketing, Google agrees. In fact, they will gladly take your money and add the stars back onto your listing. Well, your PPC listing. Getting you local search stars for your google reviews back is as easy as clicking “go” on the fully automate Google Adwords Express campaign. Hopefully you will find the value equal to what Google says it’s worth. And some dentist office in Denver believes it is worth paying to have the stars.

And with a quick scan of that result where do your eyes fall? It’s almost enough to bug you isn’t it? Well don’t call me, I only deal in offline pest control.

Pest Control Guy - Thomas Ballantyne

-Thomas Ballantyne
Director of Marketing for Bulwark Exterminating
Follow me on Twitter —> @Thos003

Make it a great day!

Thomas Ballantyne


Rather Then Reinvent The Wheel, Perfect It

Don't Reinvent The Wheel - Perfect It!

I had a great conversation a few days ago with a programmer friend of mine who works for a major company (but wants to be working for himself). We were chatting about business, Internet business, making money and particularly about how to find products to sell online. My friend made an interesting comment that struck me me so much that I wanted to write a post about it.  I am doing my best to remember his exact words, but more or less, here is what he said:

I am just having a hard time figuring our what kind of a business to start that has not already been started.  I mean, do you think I could really create a product that would sell online?

We then went into a huge conversation about creating that “amazing”, “never been done before” invention, and I told him I wanted him to start thinking about business in a different way, and what he could possibly create online with this different way of thinking.

To often like my friend, people think they need to reinvent the wheel, but that is not needed.  You just need to figure out a way to perfect it.  No pun intended here, but speaking of wheels, when I bought my Tahoe, it had standard ugly wheels on it, but then soon after I went and purchased some custom 22 inch AKUZA rims, and put on it. This is just one quick example of someone taking an existing idea and making money with it.  I am the perfect market for this kind of stuff because I like to do things that will make my vehicles stand out, and look even better.  In this case, rims have already been invented, but someone felt that people would want custom looking rims that make your vehicle look better.

More Examples:

You have other examples like the inventor of the Little Giant ladder, and the guy who made the battery life tester for Duracell.  Batteries and ladders have already been invented, but these people made millions on their enhancements to these inventions.  You don’t even have to think of this as perfecting an existing product, you can think about perfecting an existing business.  Lets say you want to start a landscaping company, even though there are many landscaping companies already out there in your local area. 

Here’s an idea

You need to do a better job online then every other landscaping company (your competitors) in business in your local area.  I have noticed most every single landscaping company around me where I live has no online store front.  So for the people like me, who look for information online, there is huge market and potential right at your finger tips.

You see?

You are not having to reinvent the wheel, or coming up with some huge new idea – you are just taking what is already out there and doing a better job at it.  When you are thinking about starting an online business, keep this is mind.

In conclusion:

So to my programming friend, I gave him the suggestion/example of taking advantage of cell phones, like Blackberries and iPhones, creating custom applications and programs that would allow people to do more with them.  When you think about how much money the iFart app has made, its just (no pun intended again) gross!  Just with that one suggestion the light went on and he already is working on an iPhone app that I think is going to be a game changer.  I will use it for sure!

Got something to add?

Got any examples or ideas that you have come up with, or can add to this conversation to make it better?  Let me know.  This blog gives comment luv, and links back to your latest posts for taking your time to participate!

How To Avoid Having Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen

Too Many Cooks
Too Many Cooks

As marketing professionals we always seem to find ourselves in positions where we are being “pitched” on some big idea, that someone had, and that someone wants our feedback and possibly help on.  It seems we have a never ending business opportunity at our front door.   As an SEO, owner of an Internet marketing firm, with several established online businesses, I have a problem with this sometimes.

Here is the scenario:

You are meeting with a person who has a great idea, and is looking for someone who can provide the SEO/online marketing services they are looking for.  You get to talking about what it will take to accomplish their goals, tell them they have a great idea, and before getting into what it will cost they turn the conversation (really quick) to you partnering with them because you think it’s “such a great idea”.

My Problem:

Plain and simple – That’s not what I do.  I have already started my businesses, paid my dues, and have been through this whole start-up game before.  I have a business model that works and makes money and am not really interested in partnering up and taking a percentage away from you.

I understand why people do this when they first start out. They have no money, no real expertise, but they know they have an idea with potential.  My best piece of advice: HAVE FAITH IN YOUR IDEA . If your idea is good enough, you will find someone (or someway) to fund the project.  All of my businesses I have created with my own money, built from scratch, and have never taken any venture capital for ANY of my companies.  I knew I had good ideas, and I did everything I could to make them happen.  I sacrificed a lot. I worked long hours (I can remember many 90 hour work weeks) and did what I could to make extra money to fund my projects.  I went out and MADE IT HAPPEN.

I may not have been able to do everything I wanted to in “Phase 1” of all my business plans, but I was able to get things going and had a foundation to build on.  As time goes on, you will continue to grow and be able to expand more of your ideas. When you get bigger and have more money to invest in your business, you will be glad that you did not bring on a ton of partners and investors because you will be the one seeing more of the money at the end of the month!

Don’t miss the point:

I am not saying I will never take on a new partnership or hear out a good idea.  I just want to be paid for the marketing services I provide, help you make money so you end up making more in the long run, and NOT have you pay me a huge percentage because I am a “partner”.

The lesson I hope you learn:

I want to teach anyone new to business (online and off) a little lesson that I learned years ago, which I am hoping will help save you many headaches down the road.  If you figure out a way to make this venture happen on your own without having to bring on tons of partners, you will have less money to split revenue with and it will be your business that YOU control.  You will also have more control over what is getting done, and what is not getting done.  If you KNOW your idea is such an amazing idea, then again have faith in it. Figure out a way that YOU can run with it and do everything you can to make it happen without having to rely on other people.

I remember one of my first ideas that I had like  (no kidding) 7 other “partners” involved in was a complete disaster, but one that had such amazing potential.  In fact, one of our competitors ended up selling their website for 3.4 million when we ended up just having to eat it and take a loss down the road. (And our database was bigger than theirs at one point!) There were just too many people trying to call the shots, rather than one person managing progress and others taking directions.  Not everyone was willing to contribute the same amount.   I could go on and on…


Next time you have the opportunity to “partner” with someone, give it some thought and make sure it’s in the best interest of what you want to accomplish with your business long term.

The other point I wanted to make with all this is if you are an individual with some amazing web skills (whether it be web design, development, programming, SEO, Internet marketing, or whatever), you should really think hard about the people wanting to “partner” with you.  Take it from my experience, you will end up making a ton more money just providing the services that you are good at.  Your skills are what pays the bills, and if people want you bad enough, they will pay.  Just remember the saying that too many chefs in the kitchen spoil the soup, and that couldn’t be more true here!

No Longer Can A Business Run Without A Website

I am ready for the onslaught of examples that I am sure people are going to be throwing in my face; I’m ready for it and I still won’t agree! I do say this with all sincerity though; if you are an offline business-owner and don’t have a website, you are not only missing the boat, but could be sinking it! In today’s economy every customer counts. You want to make sure and do everything to keep current customers and find new ones.

I got to thinking about this yesterday when I was going off on how much I loved the Chandler West Auto Care company for taking care of me. I was also reminded of it when Chris Hooley left a comment about sending them some link love in the post. Here’s the deal, I would love to have sent their business some link love, but guess what? They didn’t have a website for their business! As much as I love their customer service, and know they will continue to get an amazing amount of referrals, they absolutely need a website for all those people looking for information/reviews/maps etc. about them online!

The online world is not going to go away, and potential customers are only going to be using it more and more down the road; think about the generations growing up with the power of technology in the palm of their hands. People use their phones to look for reviews, maps, recommendations, etc., you name it! You need to have that business online, so there is a place that all the traffic/reviews/recommendations can be directed to.

With domain name and hosting packages as cheap as they are, and free CMS and blogging platforms like WordPress, there is no longer an excuse to not have something up. I am not saying that it’s all you need, but it is better then nothing and is a start!

I know there are all kinds of review sites, like Yelp, and all the search engine local listing ones you can get your business listed on etc., but when you do that people are linking to them and not you. That is helping their website and not the one that you should have up. Plus, you can do a better job at getting people ALL the information they might be looking for through your site. I think you will see a dramatic increase in your customer base, especially if you implement a little local seo with your new website.

Again, its just a suggestion from what I see going on everyday around me. I don’t know one business owner that would not want more customers, or would want to get the right information in front of potential customers all while making more money. AM I SMOKING CRACK? Thoughts?

No Wonder Offline Businesses Are Struggling

Thumbs Down to bad business!
Thumbs Down to bad business!

You know, I am no longer amazed at the number of off line businesses going under these days, IMO, I think some probably deserve to be going under and here’s my rant why. They would like to blame it on the bad economy, but in some cases I think they need to take a look internally at their bad business practices involving customer service!

My neighbor went to a Batteries Plus store to get a replacement battery for his PALM iQue 3600 and was told by one clerk (on a Monday) they had it and he could come back on Friday to get it. Me neighbor went in that Friday to pick it up (as told) and ended up chatting with another person that had no clue of what was going on, and only kept asking him if he called in to make sure it had arrived. He told them no because no one told him to etc. He ends up talking to a few more people and then gets told it would be ordered and to call on Monday. He does, and again talks to someone who does not have a clue – but supposedly gets it ordered … again (for the 3rd time). There was so much more to the story then this (annoying stuff) but I think you get the point.

My neighbor is now telling me this story (on Wednesday last week) and he still had not got a battery. I told him, “let me use the “power” of the Internet and some places I know of that sell batteries online. ” My neighbor is not one to do things online (one of those who is still nervous about doing stuff online). The Batteries Plus store was going to charge him over 30 bucks for a replacement battery. I ended up finding him one on Amazon for 1/2 that – $15 total including ship, and get this – he got it on SATURDAY (3 days later – after two weeks of putting up with that store), put it in and it works great.

The funny thing is he called the Batteries Plus store to cancel the other order, and they were like – “What order?” WTF?!??! What an amazing group of idiots running that store! Maybe I will share the store location later, as they could use a lesson in not putting the “cus” in customer service!

Far too often, I see bad business like this happening – businesses not giving a crap about customer service. This battery store lost their business to an online business, and one of the perks for buying off line is supposed to be the chance to interact with people face to face supposedly to receive real customer service.  If the offline businesses are going to stay in business, they must do a better job at customer service or people will just go and find what they are looking for online when they have finally had enough!

Responses on Twitter or Facebook:

Kat – 1000% agree with the premise on this one, Mat – EXACTLY what I was talking about the other day with MS….

5 Ways To Keep Your Business Poor

5 Ways To Keep Your Business Poor
5 Ways To Keep Your Business Poor

I have had this post written for a while now, but was waiting for the best opportunity to share it.  It seems with all that has gone on the last several months with the economy, I have not felt right about posting.  With that said, I don’t think there is ever a right time.  However; Now that the New Year is here, and we have new resolutions, I thought I would be more appropriate to share.  I see so many businesses, and people around me (including family and friends) making poor choices when it comes to money, and they never seem to be able to dig our of the bad spot they are in – so maybe they will give an ear to this advice?  Either way, this has been on my mind for several months now, and I wanted to post about this topic – so here goes:

2008 was a great year for Dream Systems Media, we have amazing clients with amazing businesses, who are thriving and doing well.  2009 is already turning out to be a much better year, so we have much to be thankful for.  Sadly, we also saw companies cut their online marketing budgets which effect us too.  All of this really gets me thinking about those businesses who have money, and those who don’t.  Individuals, Businesses – it really does not matter, this info still applies.

Do you look at some of the failing businesses around your town, and wonder what they are doing with their finances?  No matter how hard we try to analyze the situation, some business owners just aren’t super smart when it comes to dealing with finances.

What you may be doing wrong!

In order to deal with your finances responsibly, you need to know what NOT to do.  Here are the five easiest ways to keep your business poor.

1.  Get the big stuff wrong. In order to get your finances in order, you need to get the little stuff right.  Getting the little stuff right will lead to getting the big stuff right.  As an example – Don’t spend outrageous amounts of money on PPC or on online marketing programs you don’t really understand.  Make sure that all of your finances are well balanced and proportionate.  Don’t take that wrong, I am not saying to not spend money on PPC, just don’t spend a ton of money on it before you really understand how to use it properly.  I have had businesses come to me after blowing through 10k in a month on PPC and it not doing anything for it – scratching their head, wondering where it all went wrong?
2.  Confuse your business wants with your business needs. Too many people fall for this one.  Most consumers mistake their wants with their needs, but business owners fall for this trap too.  The difference between your wants and your needs can either send you out of business or keep you in it.  You have to get this one right.  Think about it this way – Does your office really need 4 of those 65 inch plasma screens in your conference room?  One looks just as cool if you are using it to impress.  At this point, just having an office and being in business is enough to impress… lol
3.  Failing to track down the money. You have to pay close attention to everywhere your money goes.  If your business seems to never have extra money, try tracking each and every spenditure.  You can make informed decisions and changes this way.  A while ago, we did an audit of every place that we spend money.  We realized some areas where we could do better, and to make a long story short we ended up saving thousands every month.  In some cases – we were paying for programs we were not even using anymore.  It sounds silly, but when you are busy running your business you tend to forget about everything you do (or spend money on).
4.  Carrying credit card debt. Time have changed, so you must change with it.  One of the best ways to stay business poor is to carry a credit card balance.  This may seen like a new concept to a lot of business owners, but we are now in different times like I said!  Pay off your credit card and keep it paid off.  Carrying any credit card debt completely enslaves you to your lenders and ties up almost all of your business cash flow.  Using credit cards for business can be a great thing if done right – so don’t take this one wrong, or what I am trying to get across here.  If you can figure out a way to keep your business in the green every month, and run your business debt free – you will sleep better at night.  Trust me!
5.  Living too closely to the edge. You can’t live close to the edge in your personal life if you want business financial freedom.  Living too closely to the edge prevents you from having a cushion.  Any minor financial setback is considered to be a major roadblock.  Stop spending so much and start saving.  If you have a savings cushion, you and your family will be well-protected down the road.  If you grow your business right, there will be time to spend money on things you don’t really need, but want!

These are five common ways that cause businesses financial bondage.  If you want to experience financial freedom for your businesses, you need to make smart decisions.  Pay close attention to these suggestions to help you earn the financial freedom that your business deserves.