We recently got the chance to sit down with Dani Owens, owner of Pigzilla, a Florida based local SEO consultancy. As folks in SEO will tell you, the industry is something like the Wild West; a lack of transparency has led to what she calls a “cheap SEO epidemic” where even large companies sell search engine optimization at prices that betray how little work they do for clients. As a recent addition to our board of directors, we were excited to get to ask her some questions about her experience and perspective.
Brandon Schwartz: How did you get into SEO and how long have you been doing this?
Dani Owens: I have been working in digital marketing since 2011. Before starting my own business Pigzilla, I worked at a digital agency where I was able to gain some enterprise SEO experience. During this time, we mainly focused on digital marketing for dealers and brands that sold products within stores that they did not own. This gave me the opportunity to work with some large international brands and I really enjoyed working with a team. Initially, my job was to set up Google Places listings for our clients (what they were called at that time) but over time I was able to get into on-page / technical SEO. I started reading everything SEO-related I could get my hands on and the rest is history.
Brandon Schwartz: What’s it like to be an independent consultant?
Dani Owens: Working as a consultant is great! I do miss working with a team of people in person but working for myself has given me flexibility in my schedule and I’m able to be very hands-on with my client’s SEO work.
Brandon Schwartz: I saw someone post on Twitter the other day that their first day working from home consisted mainly of them cleaning things that didn’t need cleaning. How do you stay productive on your own?
Dani Owens: HA! That’s hilarious. I hear that alot actually. Some people can have a hard time focusing on work when they work from home. Fortunately, I don’t have that challenge but I do have some ideas that may help:
- Ask family members to not disturb you while working
- Set a timer and focus only on work during that period of time then take a break
- Put on some headphones and listen to music while working so that other sounds don’t distract you
- Turn your phone on silent or off and flip it face down so you can’t see the screen
- Use a task management system like Asana to keep track of all the work that needs to be done and when it needs to be completed
- Get out and go work at a coffee shop for a few hours
- Consider working at a co-working space
Brandon Schwartz: When we were setting up the interview, you mentioned that SEO rip-offs have become a huge issue. What kinds of things have you seen?
Dani Owens: Yes, there’s a cheap SEO epidemic. I have seen large companies offer SEO from $6.99/mo. Really?! I see a lot of people offer a cheap SEO package but they are basically just managing citations for the client.
A real-life story: one of my current clients used to be with a previous SEO company. The client had recently had their site redesigned and the developer never unblocked search engines in the robots.txt file on the new site. Because of this their site completely dropped out of Google’s index. It was like that for about three months. The client and their SEO company were never aware even though the SEO company had been sending the client monthly reports. This SEO company had been collecting money from the client and clearly were not doing much or possibly any work for them. Tisk tisk!
In addition, there are a lot of individuals that claim to be SEOs but have just enough knowledge to be dangerous. There is no real SEO certification at the moment so anyone can say they are an SEO.
Just because someone’s SEO prices are low does not necessarily mean their SEO work is bad but it’s something that needs to be taken into consideration.
Brandon Schwartz: What advice would you give to a small business owner who’s not familiar with SEO on how to avoid SEO scams?
Dani Owens: That one is hard to do because there are so many things to be aware of when it comes to SEO. I usually recommend that someone be careful if an SEO company tells them anything like this:
- I can guarantee #1 rankings
- I can rank your site quickly
- I can build you tons of backlinks at a cheap price
I have a post that I wrote on cheap SEO and what to be careful of and I also like this list of some questions from SEJ that are good to ask an SEO company when you are shopping around. I definitely recommend getting multiple quotes!
Brandon Schwartz: What kinds of SEO work do you prefer?
Dani Owens: I really enjoy doing white label SEO for agencies. It allows me to focus on strategy and implementation without being distracted by sales and account management. I also work directly with SMBs to improve their local SEO which is fun too. It’s nice seeing small, local businesses get results.
Brandon Schwartz: Outside of work, what do you like to do?
Dani Owens: My husband and I just got a puppy so that has been taking up a lot of our time! We like to go fishing, binge on Netflix and food… yeah food is also a hobby.
Brandon Schwartz: Everyone I talk to seems to have different opinions on tools that are available for this kind of work. What are your favorites, and what’s missing?
Dani Owens: These are some of the tools that I use regularly:
- Screaming Frog – website crawler / website audits
- Whitespark – rank tracking
- Ahrefs – backlinks
- Google Data Studio – reporting
- Agency Analytics – live dashboard
- Asana – task management
- CallRail – call tracking
I’d really love to see some improvements in keyword research and content optimization tools.
Brandon Schwartz: What made you get involved with BayAreaSearch?
Dani Owens: I really enjoy meetups and since I work primarily on my own it gives me a chance to interact with other SEOs. I am from the Bay Area in California but moved to Florida a while ago. I travel to California often and look forward to learning and sharing information.