Get to know Drew Hudgins from Small Town Big Business | RankWatch Blog

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Get to know Drew Hudgins from Small Town Big Business

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Please introduce yourself and where you work.

Hey, my name is Drew Hudgins and I get to work in my home office in small town, Cadiz Kentucky, USA. A lot of people who run local businesses—retailers, restaurants, especially service providers—they’re great at serving customers but often struggle to communicate how valuable they can be to all the people who aren’t yet trusting them with their business. I teach these people how to tweak their confusing message to one that’s persuasive and clear… and how to use the internet to get that message out.

How do you think SEO has changed over the last 10 years?

SEO has certainly grown so much more challenging over the last decade. That’s not all that profound, I suppose. Think about it: the longer something exists—the longer it’s “a thing”—the more it changes. In the case of SEO, two things come to mind. It’s evolved to stay innovative, giving searchers even more helpful info about what they’re looking for (risking overdoing it sometimes). And it’s also about putting the smack down on all the people trying to game the system. And there will always be people trying to game the system. The key is to think like a long­ term, smart investor instead of a ‘get rich quick’, lottery ­addicted shyster.

When it comes to Local SEO, we’ve seen search engines competing, trying to give users a better experience—from offering more relevant info about businesses in the SERP, to putting more real­ time control in the hands of the users (which can be dangerous since users don’t always share the best interest of the business), to more opportunities to dominate with interactivity (e.g. virtual tours that plug right into Google Business profiles).

How did you get introduced to digital marketing, more specifically SEO?

I used to be a band teacher and the percussion specialist for my school district near Columbus, Ohio. That was a long time ago… but I was always dabbling with some sort of creative freelancing on the side. I’d practice some graphic design, then video, and finally got into the web in ’09 (thanks to an old college roomie who said, “Dude, just use WordPress”). I’ve never been a stellar designer but I was always curious about delivering a story with different forms of media.

By 2008, I was a full­time, self­employed creative. I didn’t have a clue. Back then, I was so naive, thinking “it was all about the art.” I’m sure I came off pretty pompous— like, “If your business is tanking, it’s because your work isn’t pretty enough—your site’s too ugly or your videos are too amateur”… that sort of thing. Eventually, I snapped out of that. I figured out that prospects certainly weren’t flocking to me for making pretty stuff. Really, they weren’t flocking to me much at all. I knew my services lacked the “broadcasting” component. So I set out to fix that: first, I jumped into learning more about YouTube. I pleaded with a few clients to let me launch some of their videos just so I could get my feet wet with things.

Next, came the display and text ads (Google, Facebook). Before I knew it, I stumbled into this huge world of “writing words to persuade” and I was captivated! This all makes so much more sense now. Man! If people could both ‘look good’ and ‘have persuasive messages’ (that rank well), then they’d be an incredible force to be reckoned with! So there’s always this balance when it comes to SEO. It’s one piece of the jigsaw puzzle.

I preach: Write for people first. It’s less messy and more effective to do that and massage some solid SEO principles around that content than it is to go the other way about it.

What are the services you provide to your clients?

A lot of people are getting too spread thin and way too distracted with all the “tactics”—like a siren luring their ship to the rocky shore. And frankly, they (specifically talking about many small businesses) don’t need to be worrying about half (or more) of all the stuff they’re getting lured into. They watch a webinar, get jazzed, take a stab at whatever they learned, and get disappointed when they figure out it was much more “easier said than done.” So they get nowhere. I teach these people to chill out, take a step back and rethink a few things. They don’t need to be Facebook wizards (and they should just stop looking at their competitor’s Facebook page because it just gives them a complex).

So my services can look like media consulting where I’m about 2/3 strategist, 1/3 therapist. Then there’s a more collaborative, “hybrid” model where I take on some of the nerdy done­for­you things that just isn’t always reasonable to expect my clients to learn so quickly. I come in and extract out of my clients the things that are proprietary to them—the things that make them “one­of­a­kinds” to work with. That special something is always there (unless they have the IQ of a tuna sandwich, which they never do); it’s just tough looking for the stuff that’s hiding in plain sight. When we pin that down and clearly leverage everything around that (SEO included), so much of the battle is already won.

What strategy according to you will prevail in 2018 for SEO?

Awe I don’t like speculating on things, especially with something that can sometimes seem so mystical like SEO, but I’ll share a few things that I think are tried­and­ true no­brainers. It’s all about the smartphone. Its usage will certainly continue to boom, and anything a website owner can do to make the experience better—or at least, to ‘get out of the way’ of what the user is looking for—is going to be in their business’s best interest to get moving first.

I want to encourage local businesses that, as geeky as SEO can seem, you can still soar above your competitors. Go now, lock an hour into your calendar a few times a month, and chip away at simple, principle­ based things that will never change. Lay a solid foundation by following the best practices that have been around for years: rack up accounts with local directories and keep your contact info accurate, create a few customer­ delighting YouTube videos (with your phone), write a helpful article for a companion business’s website, and start doing reviews where you ask the question your user is already asking.

Holy smokes! Can you imagine what someone’s rank would be if they just committed to doing those things for about 6 months? I can’t think of many cases where a local business couldn’t absolutely dominate their local search results!

What would your advice be to people who are looking to take up digital marketing as a career choice?

Three things:
(1) Check yourself. The world doesn’t need another marketer who registers low on the integrity scale. So do some soul searching: why does this appeal to you? Is it for the right reasons?

(2) Go ahead and decide right now just what kind of client you’ll not work with. When that prospect comes a knockin’, wanting you to cut corners or even help
him/her sell their bad product or service, you’ll be prepared to respectfully decline.

And (3), constantly strive to set clear expectations for everyone—you, your clients, your scope, your cut­off time (your family). Especially, set up your clients—
educate them that the best marketers didn’t get to be that way by never failing. No one worth their salt walked through life exempt from failure. Expect to fail. Be
grateful for the wins.

Sahil Kakkar
Sahil is the CEO and Founder of RankWatch - a platform that helps companies and brands stay ahead with their SEO efforts in the ever growing internet landscape.Sahil likes making creative products that help in the automation of mundane tasks and he can spend endless nights implementing new technologies and ideas. You can connect with him and the Rankwatch team on Facebook or Twitter.