Joe Balestrino is the owner of Mr-SEO.com, a search engine optimization and website design company, and manages free SEO related resources including a blog, forum, and podcast.
Today, I'll be talking shop with Joe Balestrino. You may recognize Joe from his online handle "Mr. SEO" and for his participation within many of the Search Engine Marketing forums and Blogs across the net. In fact, I first came to know Joe from his weekly podcast. One day I was searching SEM related podcasts, and came across his. Since then, I've been tuning in each and every week. Joe is a great guy, and one with a lot of knowledge on the topic of SEO.
Interview with Joe Balestrino
Hello Joe and welcome to my blog. As I mentioned above I happen to keep close tabs on you, and on the resources you provide. I'm very excited to be doing this interview!
Glad to be here.
First, I wish to know the story behind the "Mr. SEO" alias. What's the deal?
I needed a name and went with that one. In marketing yourself, you want to give people something they can easily remember. It's kind of like watching an amusing commercial on TV and then realizing you have no idea what was being advertised. Effective marketing strategies help you to remember names so that you will search them out when you require the services associated with them.
Branding at its finest, and having the term "SEO" referenced throughout your site has its perks as well, does it not? Joe, tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you first become involved in Search Engine Optimization?
I started getting interested in SEO while I was working as a web developer. At some point, it dawned on me that no matter how well built and esthetically pleasing a website was, it wouldn't bring in traffic without optimization. I started working in SEO as a freelancer and decided to establish Mr-SEO in 2003.
What do you believe is the best part about flying solo, and being a one-man SEO company?
While I am the face, if you will, of Mr-SEO, it is by no means a one-man company. There aren't enough hours in the day for me to handle every aspect of this business, which is why I am grateful to have some of the very best personnel in the industry working for me. If you surround yourself with quality people, you don't have to worry about whether or not you are putting out quality work.
Great point! I feel the same way about my work at All Web Promotion. Tell us a little bit about your team. Who they are and what they do at Mr. SEO?
I have the best content writer in the business with Alan Schneider, my office manager and submission specialist Sequita Gooden, Lainy Perez, who monitors ongoing PPC campaigns and a very talented web design staff headed by Chris Itsu. I'm a firm believer in finding and keeping the best talent. Knowing I have professionals I can count on is what allows me to stay on top of changes in the SEO world.
Aside from your team then, what other characteristics would you say separate your company from other search engine optimization and website design companies?
In regard to web design companies, there are so many out there who are capable of producing quality websites suited for their client's individual needs. Few, however, can do so while incorporating SEO from inception through to completion. Taking care of the initial optimization efforts during the building process can save a lot of money for clients.
As for other SEO companies, we separate ourselves by producing the desired results every time. Unlike 99% of the SEO providers out there, our methods are proven and we have an exceptional track record to back that up.
What would you say is your absolute favorite client-success story?
I don't know that I could pinpoint it down to one, but I do get a great deal of satisfaction from helping clients who come to us after having been taken advantage of by other SEO providers. As you might imagine, it sours them on SEO as an industry.
When we produce the desired results for them, it not only makes them satisfied but more positive overall toward SEO. For every competent SEO provider currently offering services today, there are 3 or 4 who have no idea what they are doing, which hurts the perception of SEO as a legitimate business. When I can counter that perception, it's a nice feeling.
Well said. I can't think of how many times I've spoken to "burn" victims. It's just as you said, this kind of thing hurts the perception of SEO, and sadly there's not much that can be done. Looking back to the early days of Mr. SEO, how has the company progressed?
In the beginning, my optimization efforts were a lot more basic. As time went on, I became more and more familiar with the on-site and off-site techniques for improving rankings. I started out doing everything from writing the articles and optimizing content for pages to setting up links and submitting articles. I now have people to take care of those things for me so that I can concentrate on the more finite aspects of the business.
What is your favorite search engine? Do you use different engines for different purposes?
They all have their individual merits. MSN is great for getting indexed and ranked quickly while Yahoo! and Google are great for producing high volume traffic as a result of their popularity compared to most other engines.
When not on a computer or working, what are you most likely doing?
Thinking about working. I am a self admitted workaholic.
Otherwise, I try to keep up with current events, hit the gym a few times a week and take advantage of living in NYC, though I rarely go to Manhattan unless business is involved. I haven't taken a real vacation in a few years, which is something my staff gives me a hard time about.
In your opinion, where do you see the Search Engine Optimization industry being 5 to 10 years down the road?
I think that as more people become aware of the necessity for SEO and the fact that it can greatly reduce the cost of their PPC expenditures, the more popular it will become. This, in turn, will increase competition, which is a good thing. This is an industry that is in desperate need of some competition as there are several providers out there who charge astronomical fees for sub-par work.
Where do you see yourself and the Mr. SEO Company being at that time?
At the top, of course (laughs). As for Mr-SEO, I feel that as long as we can continue to produce quality results, we'll always be in demand. For me personally, I wouldn't mind expanding into other business endeavors, although I haven't really considered what that might be at this point.
Other business endeavors? There's only 24 hours in a day, where will you find the time. What do you feel are some of the biggest misconceptions surrounding SEO?
I think the biggest misconception is that SEO is some kind of indefinable voodoo that can't be comprehended or controlled. SEO is like any other field, the more knowledgeable you are, the better you will be at achieving results.
I happen to know that you spend a great deal of time creating resources to help educate others on the importance and techniques of SEO. In addition to your main website, what other avenues do you take part in?
Aside from the site, Blog, and message board, we do a weekly podcast aimed at the do-it-yourself crowd.
Actually, I'm a big fan of your podcast. It's one of the few that I download and listen to each and every week. When did you first decide to begin an SEO podcast?
Early last year, we looked into podcasting as a way to answer some commonly asked questions we often encountered through our site evaluations. We decided to give it a try and listenership has risen steadily since then, so we keep it up when time permits.
Who is on your PodcastRoll?
When I have the time, I mostly listen to Danny Sullivan. I'm not terribly impressed with the other SEO related podcasts that are currently out there.
Danny's show is also on my list. His is nice because it's straight search news and it's somewhat resourceful. Speaking of resourceful... as an SEO, what are some of the tools and resources that you use on a daily basis and which would you recommend to other SEOs?
I really like Search Engine Watch as a resource, though there are so many others. As for tools, I use the SEO tools provided by Aaron Wall's SEO book at http://tools.seobook.com/. Readers of this interview can also check my Blog and message board for a ton of links to (primarily) free resources.
Great, and thank you for those. I'm familiar with Aaron's tools and with those posted on your Blog. I'll definitely have see what you've got going on over at the message board, and I encourage all readers to do so as well. Regarding SEO techniques and strategies, there are obviously many that one can implement into their SEO efforts. Which do you feel is the most important?
Listening to the client is the most important thing we do. We try very hard to come up with an optimization strategy for each client that takes into consideration their expectations, budget and current optimization efforts (if any) so that they know exactly what they're getting and we know what they expect. In my opinion, simply giving cookie cutter, take it or leave it evaluations is not the way to do business.
Wow... great answer, and really good advice! Which do you feel is least important?
I think people concentrate entirely too hard on algorithms. Once a site is indexed, changes can be made with relative ease. The important thing is to get started so that you can establish your business as quickly as possible. Time is money.
What can we expect to see from Mr. SEO in the not to distant future?
We are currently working on a podcast and PowerPoint (or possibly video) presentation aimed at helping those new to SEO to get their initial optimization efforts off the ground. We get a lot of feedback and questions from our weekly podcast that are centered on the basics, so we want to have a comprehensive resource we can refer people to that will cover everything they need to get started.
The PowerPoint/Video sounds very interesting, as well as informational. When do you think it will be made available? Is this a resource that you think you might charge for, or is to be another free resource to be added under the Mr. SEO umbrella?
We hope to get it on the table by early next year, although everything is tentative at this point. It will likely come with a small fee, though I won't know how much until we have produced it. As with many businesses, we often start out with the intent of doing something small and simple only to keep adding more and more as time goes on. The price will be a reflection of the amount of time we put into it as well as how valuable we feel it is as a beginner's resource.
Very cool! I look forward to seeing how it turns out. Well Joe, with all that was said, I'm now out of questions. LOL. That means your off the hook and free to go. Thank you for taking the time away from your beloved SEO work to come and chat with me. I think we've put down a great interview, and hopefully our readers will think so as well.
It's been a pleasure to chatting with you.
Thanks. Always good to talk shop.