Spokane Web marketing consultant Ed Reese makes it clear early in the interview some of his clients will be glad to talk about his work. And others won’t.
Reese, 41, grew up in Greenbluff and then went off to California where he got involved in sales and marketing.
About five years ago he began focusing on SEO – search engine optimization – and Web marketing. He and his wife, Tine Reese, a freelance graphic design artist, moved back to Spokane from California in 2008.
In two years’ time Reese has become the Spokane area’s go-to guy for SEO – a specialization that has become a critical area for small and midsize businesses and organizations using the Web.
SEO is the design and organization of websites so that search engines find them more easily. A plumbing company in Mead, for instance, would use SEO to affect how high its name would show up when people search for “Spokane plumber.”
If they hired an SEO specialist, the plumbing company would pay the consultant to revise its Web content, develop ways to build name recognition and help boost its overall ranking in the main search engines.
Reese said he urges companies to use a full-court-press Web strategy that goes beyond SEO to include focused advertising, active engagement with customers using Facebook and regular follow-up to know what’s on the minds of customers.
The basketball analogy is not accidental. Reese calls his company Sixth Man Marketing, located on the fifth floor of the downtown Spokane Holley Mason Building.
“I see my job to be like a sixth man on a basketball team,” he said, with the role of coming in off the bench and reinvigorating a company’s Web strategies.
SEO is the term used by consultants and marketing types who focus on how companies can improve search engine rankings and reach more customers.
In general, the major search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo use similar methods to establish which sites rank higher than others. But tweaking and improving a company’s website is more than just redesigning the way a site looks and what’s featured there.
Reese said he’s been working on SEO for several years. He spends two hours or more a day keeping track of the always-changing nuances and shifting methods that SEO specialists need to track.
He said he’s learned that every job is different, and every company who hires him has its own focus and business goals.
For some clients, the first step in SEO involves redesigning a website to make it easier for visitors to interact with the company and find useful information.
Reese suggests making pages simpler and less cluttered, generally opting for the “one-idea-per-Web-page” rule.
“I like to compare what I’m looking for, with SEO, to creating a fish ladder,” Reese explained. The goal of the site should be a series of options that allow increased interaction between the company and its Web visitors.
A basic first option is offering a download of a document. Another simple option is offering an e-mail newsletter.
Up the ladder, the site eventually helps direct a visitor to the option of buying or ordering a product.
“The biggest mistake companies can make,” Reese said, “is just to have the one goal – of having a customer buy something.”
When done well and combined with social media like Facebook or Twitter, websites should build a solid two-way communication between company and customers, he said.
Another component of the SEO strategy is developing “off-page” Web SEO, he said. On-page is the term used by SEOs for managing a company’s own website. Off-page SEO refers to efforts to enhance search engine results through links on other sites that mention a company’s website.
Search engines like Google give a higher rank to sites that have been cited or “linked to” by other websites. To build that ranking, Reese finds ways a company or group can establish reciprocal links – having his client, Company A, add a link on its site to Company B, or Blog C. Managers at Sites B and C will then add a link back to Company A’s site.
People hire Reese either through direct contact – he uses SEO for his own business, of course – or through agencies that offer his services to clients.
Several companies he has worked with decline to talk about hiring Reese, saying his work for them provides a competitive advantage.
That isn’t so different from what many firms do regarding the use of a photographer, video editor or copy writer, said Rick Hosmer, co-founder of Klundt|Hosmer, a Spokane communications and design firm.
Some companies consider disclosing identities of the key people involved in a campaign the same as giving away a competitive edge, Hosmer said.
“The view they have is, it’s better to keep that information (on who you use) close to the vest,” he said. Hosmer’s firm has retained Reese as its Web SEO strategist.
Hosmer said companies that hire Klundt|Hosmer have varying expectations about what they want from Web consulting. “It’s like different grades of gasoline. Not everyone wants the premium blend,” he said, meaning some companies want a clean, well-organized website but not much else.
Many companies that have an established brand name feel that their customers will find them on the Web through basic searches. Hosmer said most of the clients or companies hiring his agency generally aren’t looking for focused SEO consulting.
Other companies that make products sold regionally and nationally, but which don’t have name recognition, are more likely to require SEO services, Hosmer said.
Area groups who have used Sixth Man Marketing include the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, environmental-product retailer Green Cupboards and industrial machine parts manufacturer Lyn-Tron.
Reese said he enjoys working as a consultant for companies who have internal marketing people on board, making an SEO plan easier to execute. Both the CVB and Green Cupboards are examples where he provided suggestions and then consulted with the marketing teams in charge of the SEO strategies for those groups.
Reese also said he’s a big advocate of Web analytics, which involve tools that give more accurate information on where site visitors come from, how much time they spend online and what they’re seeking.
One of the more challenging projects for Reese has been an ongoing project for Lyn-Tron, a West Plains manufacturing company that makes precision industrial parts.
More than a year ago Lyn-Tron hired Spokane Web development firm Zipline Interactive to redesign its site, at lyntron.com. Reese was brought aboard to work with Jeff Nichols, director of information technology at the company.
One basic step they undertook was ensuring the site had a consistent pattern for keywords and page titles. That step would help ensure that customers hunting for terms like “custom screw machine parts” will see Lyn-Tron show up high in the results, Reese said.
Nichols and other Lyn-Tron staff have also added features not usually found on most manufacturer Web sites, such as icons for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and a company blog.
The site’s current analytics leave no doubt more people are visiting lyntron.com, and when there, visitors are browsing and spending more time than they used to, Nichols said.
Nichols said the next step is to use analytical data to clearly establish that the SEO effort is paying off with increased sales.
Alongside that effort, Reese is developing a focused questionnaire to send to about 100 companies that buy Lyn-Tron products.
“Understanding your customers and really getting inside their heads is essential,” Reese said.
Lyn-Tron needs the kind of customer feedback it’s never sought before to help plan and improve its Web marketing, he added.
“You need customer feedback to know what’s working and what can be improved upon. It drives how you engage with them,” Reese said.