Intro: This is the second half of an interview with Max Friar, partner of Corporate Conversions LLC – an SEO firm (SEO helps companies climb in search engine page rank).  After learning about SEO myself, I’m amazed that more companies don’t invest in SEO expertise. With iPhones everywhere its not too much of a stretch to say that “if you’re not online you’re not anywhere”.  Indeed, I keep a weekly track record of’s keyword rankings with Google (we’re #1 with business networking Grand Rapids!).  Unfortunately, its much more difficult to achieve a number 1 ranking in a popular keyword like “Grand Rapids events”. Here Max Friar talks both about his company, small business success with SEO, and future SEO trends.
Why should I choose to enlist Corporate Conversion’s SEO service instead of another local company?

We provide the correct balance of technical and marketing savvy for the best price. We have been engaged many times by companies that were frustrated with their previous marketing firms. These companies had hired SEOs for 6-12 months and not grown in the rankings or received any kind of value-added reporting.

My opinion of SEOs is not very high. Most are very imbalanced. For example, they have no programming skills (how can you fix technical problems/broken sites?), they outsource all of their link-building, they do not implement on-page SEO correctly. SEO is dozens of tiny little pieces that have to be aligned correctly for maximum impact. If you lack the skills or the ability to make order out of chaos you simply cannot be effective as an SEO.

What success have you had with small businesses investing in SEO?

Generally it depends on your willingness to be patient and invest in a process/service that is amorphous and subject to change. Clients that are willing to invest patiently simply get the best results. It’s like the stock market. If you’re a day trader throwing money at hearsay you may get lucky once or twice, but over the long-term you will consistently lose. However if you pick a large cap dividend stock and invest $100/month for 30 years chances are you going to have reaped significant rewards for your diligence and patience. SEO is no different.

What did you do before you started Corporate Conversions? 

I’ve always worked in sales and marketing. In 2007 I started reading about SEO and was immediately fascinated. I love trial and error and bringing order out of chaos. I enjoy nothing more than innovating and beating the competition in the process.

How did that experience shape your views with regard to corporate marketing?

I always thought that my superiors were stupid. That’s why I quit all my jobs. Related to marketing they continually (and against my advice) threw dollars are marketing that was not measurable – magazine ads, newspapers, mailers, phone books, etc. If your attitude is staunchly “this is how it’s always been done” then I will not make a good partner for you. I had to break out.

What trends are we likely to see with search engines in the future?

Google Analytics isn’t free because Google likes to give things away. I believe that Google will utilize the data that is collected to return better results because they will have intimate and comparable user engagement data. For example, if we both have auto repair businesses in Grand Rapids, but people are visiting 10 pages of my site, sharing it with their friends and spending 7 minutes on my site and they are coming to your site and leaving right away then are keywords and links really going to matter? This is not to indicate that keywords and links will not matter at all. They will, but the shift will always been towards quality sites that engage users.

Now, I also like to think about the business side of search. Titans have fallen in the past. Presently we have Google that is absolutely crushing it. Yahoo is in a state of massive transition. Bing in my opinion is largely spam and operated by Microsoft, who is always playing catch up.

Google’s business is basically PPC. Now, in order to receive that income, people must search and click. As long as Google’s model is focused on providing quality organic results people will continue to gravitate towards it. If the company becomes side-tracked by investors and quarterly earnings gains and changes its focus the results and shifts will be interesting. This could provide an opportunity for a new player or Bing to foray deeper into search.

What types of small business would be helped the most with quality SEO work?

SEO could help any business where people are searching online for their products or services. In my experience, SEO has the most dramatic and fastest effect on niche businesses that have never marketed online. Mostly these are product manufacturing companies or companies that have an exclusive license to sell a product.

How have you found most of your customers?

Word-of-mouth followed by website inquiries.

Is there any consistent theme you run across when a small business approaches you for help with online marketing?

Our biggest challenge is conveying that SEO and online marketing is not just pressing a button. People hire other people when they do not have the time, energy or expertise to tackle a particular challenge. SEO is not fixing your toilet unless you have a really cutting-edge toilet with many moving parts and its ability to function properly depends on many external factors.

SEO is not hiring a bookkeeper either. This is nothing against bookkeepers or plumbers, it’s just that there is a set of simpler defined rules they follow and innovation in their fields is slow-moving. SEO is like mixing up all of the ingredients in a very complex pie and then not knowing exactly how hot the oven is. But if you don’t try to bake the pie no one will get to eat.

What would you say to someone who is skeptical that investing in SEO is worth it?

The facts are simple. People are going online to find business services at an increasing pace. If you don’t want to grow your business then that is your decision. If you do, the web is the cheapest, most effective and most measurable way to increase lead generation.

What interesting marketing challenges you’ve had to grapple with recently?

In the SEO business you don’t want any dramatic rankings shifts. Google just rolled out Penguin 2.0 this week. Our clients have not experienced any major shifts, however large algorithmic events that impact millions of queries always make me nervous.

What are your goals going forward with Corporate Conversions?

Smart growth. Instinctively, I am motivated to stimulate growth via experimentation, however I am not a naturally organized, systematic person. Presently we are focused on getting the right people into the right roles based on their conative profiles. For example, if you prefer research and report organization then you probably should not be in charge of new business development. Conversely, if you enjoy strategizing, big picture thinking and working one-on-one with people then perfects client development is a good role for you. Once we have this figured out then fully automating our SEO processes will be easier and will free us to grow rapidly.