What works in SEO is always evolving, says Angelo Frisina, founder of Sunlight Media. And that means if you provide SEO services, you have to always be evolving too to continue a steady flow of traffic to your site.

Angelo shares the strategies he uses for staying on top of Google’s algorithm changes – and to make sure his clients’ websites stay highly ranked. We also explore some previous SEO techniques that don’t work today – and could even get your blacklisted.

In many ways, says Angelo, Google looks a lot different than they used to, with less emphasis on organic search results. That makes those top spots on page one extremely competitive, he says.

We discuss that issue in detail, as well as…

  • The best sources of “inside” information on Google’s algorithm updates
  • The two most important elements of SEO strategy
  • A must-do task for effective link building (and a practice to avoid)
  • What quality content really means today
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:



Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success Podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. Today we’re going to talk about SEO in 2020.

Here to speak with me about the topic is Angelo Frisina who is the CEO and founder of Sunlight Media, a web development agency that also provides their clients with internet marketing services. Angelo has been involved in the creative IT world for over 20 years building his first web site back in 1998 using Dreamweaver, Flash and Photoshop. Angelo, welcome to the show.

Angelo Frisina: Hey, Steffen. Thanks for having me.

Steffen: Of course. Angelo, before we dive into today’s topic, let’s talk a little bit more about yourself. Tell our listeners a little bit about you. How did you get started in marketing?

How Angelo Got Started in SEO Marketing

Angelo: By accident, really. You know, I come from a music background, I was a professional musician for about 20 to 25 years and I kind of got into computers in the mid to late 90s. And I had a couple of friends that were starting to dabble in web design by using Flash and Dreamweaver. And I thought, you know, this is cool. It’s fun, and it seems interesting and I like, you know, learning technology. So I kind of started just dabbling a little bit myself and, you know, teaching myself various software programs like Flash and Dreamweaver and Photoshop, and then I started to build websites.

So I built a site for the band that I was, you know, working and touring with at the time. And then like fellow musicians kind of caught on to what I was doing and saying, Hey, could you build a site for our band, for my studio, for this project that I’m doing. So it kind of became a part-time job that I would do, you know, to kind of supplement my music income and to kind of fill in more of the hours that, you know, I had available in between tours and while I was actually even on tour because, you know, you have a lot of downtime.

When you’re on the road, you’re, you know, you’re at airports and, you know, hotels and waiting around for soundcheck. So if you have a laptop and internet access you can pretty much work. So that’s kind of how it started. I just, you know, kind of self-taught and took on, you know, small projects here and there. And then eventually I just got asked to do more and more projects. And it got to a point where I couldn’t, you know, take on much more work.

I could only take on one or two projects at a time and a lot of the work that I was getting offered I would have to decline. So at that point, I thought well, you know, maybe I should consider this as a, you know, as a business and, you know, take on more work and hire contractors and designers to help me out with the, you know, the projects that I’m getting asked to do. So it kind of happened naturally, you know? It started off as just a fun learning experience. It transitioned into a part time job and then became a business. So that’s pretty much in a nutshell.

Steffen: Interesting. When did you start to look a little bit deeper into SEO? Obviously, you want to talk about SEO today. So what is it about SEO that fascinates you? You know, that you decided, hey, I want to spend more time on SEO and want to embrace that a little bit more?

Angelo: Hmm. I guess because it’s challenging. You know, you really need to learn how Google and other search engines rank their pages. You know, you need to understand the algorithms to a certain extent. And how you need to develop content and structure pages to meet the requirements of those algorithms so that you can rank. So I really like the challenging aspect of it. And the fact that it’s constantly evolving.

You know, it’s not like you pick up a book and then you’re good to go for the next 10 years, it’s no, it’s like every three to six months there’s something new that you’ve got to learn. So it constantly, you know, makes you keep your, you know, your knowledge and skills up to date. And, you know, besides that, obviously, a lot of people use search engines to find products and services.

So if you don’t have a good online presence in the search engines and you’re obviously not going to generate traffic, you’re not going to generate leads, you’re not going to establish a brand or name online. So I think it’s very important for all businesses to have, you know, a relatively basic to intermediate understanding of SEO and how it works and how important it is if you really want to, you know, run a business and drive sales and traffic. So I guess that’s, you know, what I like about it the most and what kind of drives me to learn more.

Steffen: Yeah. You’re right. SEO constantly changes, right? I remember when I started my career in search engine marketing back in 2004, what was whitehead or what was okay, back then is long gone. And if you were to do the tactics that we applied back in 2004, you probably would get so badly listed. So blacklisted.

And by Google, you will be in big, big, big trouble. Angelo, how do you stay on top of constant algorithm changes? You know, obviously, Google makes these adjustments to read out the loopholes that people identify to gain the system. So how do you stay on top and how do you adjust your client’s websites consistently to continue to rank high on search engine result pages?

Consistently Ranking High

Angelo: Yeah, well, it’s a matter of, you know, continually, you know, research the new algorithms and updates that Google have done. And there’s obviously a lot of forums online. There’s the Google community forum where they actually, you know, announce some of the updates and algorithm changes that may be coming up.

So it’s a matter of kind of monitoring those and looking at other, you know, SEO experts and SEO channels and kind of reading, you know, what they foresee is going to change and what, you know, content and structure your site content needs to change to make room to those algorithm changes. So it’s a combination of many things. Using tools to see what changes have happening with your rank over time, you know, looking at what happened three months ago in relation to now and trying to figure out, you know, why there’s been a change, why there’s been a drop in why has been an increase.

So you can learn from both, right? So it’s just a matter of keeping up to date, community channels, social media channels that are out there and really learning about, you know, what changes are gonna happen and what you can do with your content to make sure that you continue ranking well.

Steffen: Yeah. There are obviously several elements that contribute to a page being listed higher in search engine result pages. From your perspective, what are the key components that business owner or an agency that optimizes their client’s webpages to improve ranking? What are the top things they should look at and need to keep in mind and need to work on?

Angelo: There’s quite a lot. You know, I’m sure you know, like you said SEO many years ago was different to what it is today. I mean, years ago, you could set up a page and just create a whole pile of, you know, keyword-rich backlinks and that page will begin to rank over time. That’s obviously changed these days. And there are many factors that go into getting a page or a website, you know, ranked organically. Obviously, there’s page speed, there’s SSL certificate, there’s the hosting environment, there’s URL structure, many things.

But if I had to boil it down to two of the most important factors, I would say the quality of the content and link building. So if we want to dive, you know, into each one of those, the quality of the content ranges from, you know, how long is the piece of content that you’re going to write. You know, the days of, you know, 500 word blog posts are gone. You know, these days, you really need to focus on content that’s at least, you know, 1500 words in length.

The longer the better. You want to make sure that that content is easier to read. Make sure the content has the relevant keywords that you’re targeting within the content. And you don’t want to make it just like you’re stuffing the keywords in there. It’s got to flow naturally, right? It’s got to be easy to read. And it’s got to make sense with every keyword that you put into the content. You want to make sure that the page is broken down into sub headings by using h2 tags, h3 and h4 tags.

You kind of want to limit your paragraph to roughly, you know, 200 words per paragraph or per subheading. So, you know, the quality of content and making sure that, you know, the images are original. You know, many people like to use stock photos because it’s easy, right? You can just go to a stock photo site, download something that looks relevant to what you’re writing about and paste it in. Well, Google actually knows it’s a stock photo and it can harm your ranking.

So create quality images. You know, there’s a lot of online resources to create original images and use those as part of your content as well. Make sure your images are named with the keywords that you’re trying to target using graphs, you know, linking to external resources, making sure those resources actually work and they’re not leading to dead links. That’s really important. You want to keep the user engaged for as long as possible. So quality content is very critical. And then again, you know, link building.

Steffen: Before we go into link building, let’s stay a little bit with the quality content for a second, okay? So are you basically saying forget about writing short content pieces, like 500 words where topics are discussed in a shorter form, but focus more on writing long-piece article?

Angelo: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, Google does not like thin content. If you’ve got a page it’s About four or 500 words, the chances of that getting ranked high is very, very slim. Very slim. So you need to focus on long form very informative content. And if it’s a piece of content that you’re not really an expert on, or you have, you know, maybe an intermediate level of knowledge about that particular topic, then hire an expert.

You know, go on upwork.com and find someone that’s written a bunch of content or is an expert in that particular topic and have them write the content. The more informative, the more, you know, higher quality it is, the better chances you have of getting that rank. So yes, normal 500 page content, that’s 500 word content, that’s definitely a thing of the past.

Steffen: Interesting. So link building or links in general, I assume you talk about internal linking and external linking when you talk about link building. Is that correct?

Link Building

Angelo: Yeah, absolutely. Internal linking is important. You know, obviously linking to pages within your site by using keyword anchor text is very important because that gives Google an understanding of Okay, so this page is about digital marketing, because you’ve linked to that page with that keyword text or this page is about, you know, video production because I see that link too, as well. So having, you know, a lot of pages on your site pointing to key landing pages is very important. But more importantly, is quality links from external websites with third party websites that point to your site or various landing pages on your website.

Those links need to be relevant. So if you’re writing a piece on, you know, digital marketing, then it needs to come from a website that is relevant to that. So it doesn’t necessarily need to be a page focused on SEO, but it could be a blog that’s focused on, you know, social media marketing, for instance. And there could be a link within that post that points to a landing page on your site that’s about, you know, SEO or digital marketing in general.

So you need to keep those links relatively relevant. And they need to come from high quality authority sites. So you don’t want to site that’s got a low domain authority. You want to, you know, focus on sites that have at least a moz DA score of 20. The higher the better. And you want to mix those links up. You know, you don’t want to constantly use keyword anchor text. You want to diversify those links. So make sure that you have keywords with the keyword plus a brand such as your business name.

You also want to have the same URL. So the URL of the page that you want linked to, that as the backlink. The person’s name, you know, for instance, if someone was linking to my site, they could use my personal name as a link. You could use the brand plus a keyword. So you just kind of want to diversify those links so you’re not constantly trying to build links by using, you know, a keyword anchor text can because that can also get get penalized as well. So it’s really important that you diversify the links that come from quality or authority of the sites that are relevant.

Steffen: Yeah. As it relates to backlinks, there are obviously two different types of links. There are nofollow and do follow links. Can you talk a little about the difference between the two?

Angelo: Yeah, it’s kind of a tricky topic because I’ve read a lot of different articles and some, you know, experts say that, you know, do follow, or nofollow doesn’t matter. As long as you’ve got a link, it’s okay. You’re going to get some SEO use from that link. I kind of try and stick with do follow because what that’s telling Google is that this particular piece, or this particular site that we’re linking to, is an authority on this particular subject matter, right?

So if it’s a piece about SEO, and then linking to one of my blog posts on SEO, then they’re telling Google say, hey, Sunlight Media is an expert on SEO. So you should, you know, factor in some SEO juice to this URL, for lack of a better term. The do follow is the opposite. So it’s telling Google that, you know, this particular page is not an authority. We’re just kind of linking to it because we think it’s cool and it’s a good resource, right?

So that’s kind of like the key difference. There’s other things that, you know, Google will factor in as part of that particular algorithm. So that’s kind of it in a nutshell. I personally prefer to get links from do follow sites. The only time I would get links from a nofollow if it’s a site that has, you know, a large amount of traffic, you know, if they’re getting at least 5, 10 thousand unique visitors a day, then it’s like, Okay, well, I don’t care. It’s a nofollow link because chances are I’m going to get a decent amount of traffic from it anyway.

And the other time I would use or allow a nofollow is if it’s a business directory, right? A lot of business directories have nofollow links. With that, I’m not too concerned about because it’s specifically a business directory where people go on and search for businesses, search for various services or products within that directory. So they’re the only two times I would use, you know, I would allow a nofollow link, but if I was specifically going out there searching for quality links to improve my overall SEO, then I would make sure that, you know, majority of them do follow links.

Steffen: I recently read that Google prefers having kind of a balanced do follow to nofollow link ratio. So, you know, if you have 1000 total links, then that example talked about, having probably about 500 do follow and 500, nofollow links. What’s your view on that?

Angelo: You know, I’ve never heard of that. This is the first time I’ve heard it’s having a mix between nofollow and do follow. I mean, I find that very interesting. From mostly the topics that articles that I’ve read, most people say that do follow, the more do follow links you have from relevant sites is going to improve overall SEO.

Steffen: Yeah. I think it came in the context of do follow links are usually or could include a high number of bought links, for example. Or, you know, not organically created links, let’s put it that way. And I think that’s why the author talked about it. You know, the balance between the two is kind of a sign that you’re not trying to gain, again, to gain the Google system by buying lots of links, right? Do follow links. And you also have a good amount of nofollow links.

Angelo: That’s interesting. It’s an interesting point. I’d definitely like to do a little bit more research on that and see if it’s an actual ranking factor because I’ve never heard of that before. I mean, all the, you know, articles that I read, generally focus on getting do following links. And I have heard that, you know, like I said earlier, the nofollow links can be beneficial if you’re linking from a site that has a lot of traffic. That’s really the only benefits that I’ve read in my research about do follows. But maybe I should do some more research and see if that’s an actual ranking factor. I’d be very interested to find out.

Steffen: I’d be interested in how quick things change, right? In SEO.

Angelo: Right. Yeah. I mean, it could be effective today. Next month, that could change. That’s the great thing about SEO.

Steffen: Yeah. I think, you know, from my perspective, people think about links, whether they are do follow or nofollow. Only, you know, how does my site benefit from it? You know, how do I get some link juice through it, and therefore are seen more dominant by Google so to speak. But I think what people also forget about is that a link whether it’s a guest post or in another format or another website, also has a chance if you are quoted, or if the piece is about a specific thing that you do, that people from that article come back to your site, so you increase site traffic through the origin of the link too, in addition to the link juice that you hope you get.

Angelo: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And sometimes you actually don’t even have to have a link. You know, if there’s an authoritative piece of content that’s written by an expert, you know, writer and he happens to just mention your business name or your name within that content and someone’s interested in learning more, then they’re going to go ahead and run a search.

You know, they might just run a search for Sunlight Media and that tells Google that Oh, people are searching for Sunlight Media. This particular business must be important. You know, people are searching for that brand before the CEOs name. So that can also help your rank as well, even though there’s not a link on that page. The fact that it’s mentioned, which may entice, you know, users to search for your name, or your business name, can also improve your rank as well.

Steffen: Angelo, do you have any specific tips on link building?

Angelo’s Link Building Tips

Angelo: Yeah, absolutely. Quite a few, actually. But there’s a few that I want to mention here today. You know, most link building experts would know that .edu and .gov links are some of the strongest in the industry. The more of those types of links you get, the better. They’re more powerful than just regular .com, .org or .net, whatever domains you generally link to it. And I found I discovered a really cool technique recently to find some .edu and .gov links. And what I do is I just go into Google and I enter a search string that is search site colon .edu sponsors. Or it could be search site, colon .gov sponsors.

And what that’s going to do is produce a list of search results from, you know, educational institutes or government websites that are accepting sponsors for a particular event. And two events that I sponsored recently were a science fair, I believe in Tennessee, which was a government website. And it wasn’t very expensive. I think the donation was roughly 100 to $150. But what that included was my logo on one of their landing pages and a link to my website. So for, you know, less than $150, I’ve got a backlink from a government website, which I believe had a domain authority score of about 60 or 65.

I don’t remember the exact number, but it was strong. Another event I sponsored was for an educational institute, and they were doing a hackathon. And they were looking for local sponsors to help, you know, the students with the event, you know, to purchase prizes and to pay judges and run the event. So I was able to discover quite a few pages that were accepting sponsorships from educational websites and government websites just by using that very simple search string. So I recommend people give that a shot.

If they have a budget to sponsor certain events, then that’s really a good way to get some really high quality links. You can also do the regular stuff like analyzing your competitors to see, you know, what pages are linking to them. And you might find opportunities within those pages. You might find opportunities within those pages for them to link to your site as well. And you can do that, you know, by using tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, Ube suggest, you simply enter in your competitors URL and it will produce a list of all the pages linking to that site.

And you need to go through them manually and find opportunities for the links as well. Another good way is roundups, you know, link roundups of daily, weekly or monthly blog posts something to outstanding content to find, you know, link roundup to your niche. You want to use a search string such as keyword in brackets plus link roundup. So if it’s digital marketing that you’re searching for, enter digital marketing than the plus sign and then link roundup and that will produce a bunch of search results of roundup pages that have digital marketing as the subject matter.

Then it’s a matter of reaching out to those particular sites and saying, Hey, I have a really cool piece of content that’s about digital marketing, would you like to link to it? That’s a bit more of a tedious process, you might say, because you need to find the links, find the, you know, a contact page or an email address within that site, draft up an email and send it, but it is an effective way to get, you know, relevant links to a particular blog post or landing page. So there are kind of the techniques that I use to find them and create links.

Steffen: Those are some great ideas and great suggestions on how to identify links to boost people’s or client’s results. Angelo, what is the current state of SEO in 2020?

More Competitive Than Ever

Angelo: The current state is extremely competitive. I’m sure you know when you do a Google search, you see a lot of different content on the page. Obviously, Google needs to make money, right? That’s the business model. So if you do a search for anything, or let’s give you a particular example. If I’m going to do a Google search for web design services, the first thing I see are ads. It’s going to be four ads running across the top. Then you’re probably going to see a Google Map section, right? So everything that you’ve seen so far at the top four to the page is Google’s content. Their ads, they make money from those ads.

Google Maps, they want more people to use the map service. So they’re kind of enticing people to click on those maps so that they can use that service more in depth. And then right at the bottom or towards the middle of the page, you’re going to see the organic results. And there, you know, the results that we target as digital marketers, but it’s further down the page. Obviously, the less competitive the keyword is, the less ads and the less Google Map results you’re going to see. But if you’re really going for those high level, competitive keywords, it’s really competitive.

Google has made it more and more difficult for those particular pages to show up in the higher end or the top portion of the search results. They’re kind of pushing it down further and further and enticing searchers to use more of their services such as the ads and the Google Maps. They also have a people also asked section where a kind of suggest content. So the, you know, the search might be a relevant article or a blog post, it’s related to web design. They’re kind of pushing the organic search results further and further down the page, which has made SEO extremely competitive in 2020.

Steffen: Yeah, that basically means you have less organic search results on the first page. And as we know, a huge amount of people, they don’t even go beyond the first page. You know, they look at the first page, hopefully, these days, it’s very likely they find the information they’re looking for and then they decide on engaging or clicking on the link there, whether it’s a paid link or kind of a map result or suggested content piece or an organic listing. That’s it. So less listings for the organic search means, as you said, higher competition and a greater fight for those prime spot so to speak.

Does that mean that it is even more important these days then to be more targeted with the keywords that you are wanting to achieve high rankings? Because obviously, when you do competitive search term, so one, two word combinations or words that are really highly fought over, it will be very difficult to achieve these positions, right? So that would point more towards going towards the longtail and focusing more on keywords that are three plus words in the search term, so to speak.

Angelo: Yeah, yeah, I mean, that’s a good way to capture some low hanging fruit is what we call it in the digital marketing world. So keywords that are less competitive, but still have a relatively healthy search volume. They’re the kind of keywords that you should start out targeting if you’re fairly new to organic SEO.

Once you’ve gained momentum for some of those longer tail keywords, you should start focusing on the shorter, you know, the one or two word phrases that are more competitive and have last, I wouldn’t suggest trying to target those keywords in your first, you know, two or three months of an SEO campaign. You really want to start focusing on those competitive words once you’ve established, you know, good, decent rank for the longer tail keywords. They kind of need to be creative in your strategy as well.

Steffen: Yeah. Great. Well, Angelo, we’ve come to the end of today’s podcast. Thank you so much for joining me on the Performance Delivered Podcast and sharing your thoughts on SEO. If people want to find out more about you and your company, how can they get in touch?

Angelo: Yeah, absolutely. First off, thanks for having me on the show. It’s been great. I really enjoyed today’s conversation. And anyone looking, wanting to find out more about Sunlight Media can find us on our website, which is sunlightmedia.org. And you can also find us through social media, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, we’re all on those channels. And if you just search Sunlight Media LLC, you’ll find this on a bunch of different business directories as well, such as Yelp, and App City and Clutch, and those types of large business directories.

Steffen: Perfect. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you’d like the Performance Delivered Podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.