Ric Dragon is the author of Social Marketology and the DragonSearch Online Marketing Manual, both published by McGraw Hill. He is the CEO and co-founder of DragonSearch, with more than 20 years of extensive experience in graphic design, information architecture, web development and digital marketing. As an artist, Ric has been shown in countless group and solo shows.

He is a regular guest columnist for Marketing Land, and Social Media Monthly, and a speaker at many marketing and business conferences.

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Start of Interview with Ric Dragon

Jason Hartman: My pleasure to welcome Ric Dragon to the show. He heads up a company called Dragon Search Marketing and he is the author of DragonSearch Online Marketing Manual and Social Marketology, published by McGraw Hill in 2012 and the CEO and co-founder of DragonSearch. He’s a regular speaker for Google at their Get Your Business Online seminars and covers all sorts of areas of marketing online, whether it be SEO, pay per click, social media, etcetera, etcetera. So, looking forward to having him on the show today and learning more about him. Rick, welcome. How are you?

Ric Dragon: Thank you. Quite well, thank you. Thanks for having me.

Jason Hartman: Well, the pleasure is all mine. So, how long have you been in the online marketing space?

Ric Dragon: Well, I’ve been in online marketing for about 16 years. I started off in the area of web and application development and information architecture, and we were always involved with digital marketing, but somewhere along the line our business partner came to me and said “You know, Rick, we really need to be in search marketing” and this was about 7 years ago. And I said, no, I don’t think I want to be in search marketing. There’s too many charlatans and snake oil salesmen in that business. And he prevailed. He said, no, our clients need it. Let’s go in that business. So we did. We started DragonSearch at that point and ended up selling the other company and going full blast into the search and then search marketing became full digital marketing when social media became a power in its own right.

Jason Hartman: And what is your main focus now? Or is it sort of evenly divided between the different disciplines?

Ric Dragon: Well, actually, it’s funny. When we started out, each person had their particular specialties, so this person would be involved with search engine optimization and that person would Google or Bing advertising, this person over here with the emerging social media as it took place. And then what we discovered very quickly over time is these things really needed to be integrated to be more effective so that you get more bang for your buck. So if we can integrate these digital advertising to Google, which also, by the way, goes into Facebook advertising, LinkedIn advertising and Twitter advertising along with all the other social platforms and we can integrate that with search engine optimization, and then SEO, search engine optimization and social media really do belong in the same bucket today, so it’s all integrated.

Jason Hartman: So, any particular area where you think businesses and individuals who are promoting themselves have the highest ROI potential?

Ric Dragon: Well, each one of the major buckets drives a different type of ROI if you will. There’s those things you need when you need immediate growth in business. I need new customers coming through that door or I need new sales to take place within the next 6 months, we typically reach for the paid advertising. Because, with paid online advertising, we can really tweak the demographics, we can tweak the keywords to being just the right ones that drive the most value. And for the right business, paid search can be extremely effective. And I say for the right business because you have to have enough of a margin on a particular product or service or transaction or total lifetime value of a customer to make it worthwhile. There’s also a bit of a competitive landscape.

SEO, search engine optimization, can drive a lot of business over a long period of time – incredible, incredible ROI. We’ve seen pieces of content produced – for instance, let’s say that a piece of content that took 24 hours to produce that went on to drive over 100,000 visitors to the site. And even at a conversion rate of half a percent drove extremely high ROI. The same tends to be true with social, but one of the things that social is very powerful, and I’d like to get beyond the concept of ROI just to a larger concept of business value and brand equity. And that’s where social really comes into play because it can really help grow awareness, advocacy, and other aspects of brand awareness beyond just transactions.

Jason Hartman: So tell us about that story of the organic search engine optimization content that drove I think you said 100,000 site visitors?

Ric Dragon: That is correct.

Jason Hartman: Give us the case study.

Ric Dragon: Well, it was a particular blog that was written and it was very well researched and very well written, and over a 4 year period drove 100,000 visitors. I could find lots of equally great stories around content marketing. Even at a higher price tag, Unilever was working on one particular campaign. They had done a very large piece of research and that research identified that only 4% of women think that they’re beautiful. And this was astounding piece of research that they then leveraged into a video that they did spend a lot of money on that particular video. And after creating that video, the director of the piece had some extra budget. He took less than a little under $100,000 and created this video of a model, starting off as just an average person…

Jason Hartman: Yeah, I know that one. That’s a famous story. It’s incredible. And it shows how they’re modified through Photoshop and etcetera.

Ric Dragon: Exactly. And millions upon millions of people have passed that piece around.

Jason Hartman: That was for Dove, right? Did Dove do that?

Ric Dragon: Yes, that’s correct. They’re a Unilever brand, so yeah, it was Dove, beautiful piece. And I see those types of things over and over where people really invest in creating something of value. Now, that’s also a fundamental concept in good search engine optimization. There’s still a whole world of people out there that think that search engine optimization is about gaming the system. Well, what can we do to game the system to get above our competitor?

Jason Hartman: The black hat sort of philosophy?

Ric Dragon: Exactly. And Google constantly, constantly works – it’s an ongoing struggle, but they’re constantly working at preventing the black hatters from dominating the search engine results pages. So they focus on great quality. Now, it’s ultimately what they want.
So, organizations that create really wonderful quality content, they get spread around socially that people want to share with others, is tending to drive sites up more and more.

Jason Hartman: So, any examples of how a small business can do that or any great ideas? You know, everyone’s just looking for that. It’s the Holy Grail. I mean, what you’re mentioning is the Holy Grail of internet marketing. Just any suggestions you have for how people can do that.

Ric Dragon: It’s the Holy Grail and yet consistently I still see people who think that they can dash out a quick blog post and put a few keywords in there and it’s gonna drive traffic but they’re not creating value. How do you really, really create value? And that’s a wonderful thing I think for all entrepreneurs to really meditate on. I mean, it’s embedded in the lean and the Toyota production system. How do we eliminate waste from the customer’s viewpoint? How do we create value from the customer’s viewpoint? And what our customers, those dream customers of ours really need, what would be fabulous for them? So using our resources, our knowledge, can we create a piece of research or content? Now, we recently spent a tremendous amount of effort here at DragonSearch creating a white paper on the concept of using advanced Boolean search in social media monitoring tools. Very niche, but it’s getting a tremendous amount of play out there and a lot of people want to share this piece of content with one another. And we think, over the long haul, the investment we made into that piece of content is gonna pay off many times over.

Jason Hartman: Yeah, good. On the pay per click side, the Google AdWords and so forth, it seems that a lot of businesses, they kind of just waste a lot of money on that. It doesn’t work for them. And one aspect of that is knowing how to do it right, I’m sure. But another aspect of it that I’d also like you to address is the aspect of click fraud. And Google has been accused of that. Of course, you don’t hear too much about it. Maybe they’re suppressing those search results.

Ric Dragon: Click fraud really has been addressed wonderfully. If you do maintain a Google account, you’ll notice sometimes that the report of clicks, let’s say you had 1000 reported clicks and you come back in and they’ve only charged you for 720 and that’s because they detected through their algorithms behavior that did not seem copasetic. Now, they can tell…

Jason Hartman: But you have to trust them, obviously.

Ric Dragon: We do and we know from experience that we can tell the behavior of traffic and the amount of conversions that we do get, I really don’t lose any sleep over the concept of click fraud anymore.

Jason Hartman: So 5 years ago it was real, and did it stop being a problem 4 years ago, then?

Ric Dragon: Oh, yeah. I mean, it could have tanked Google. Google is, of course, many, many billions of dollars of business there, and so they put the highest priority on stopping click fraud. I think that they’ve done a great job of that. And if they detect anything that feels like click fraud, they don’t charge you for that.

Jason Hartman: Okay, good. So how about doing it right?

Ric Dragon: So, here’s some of the challenges that businesses have. And, by the way, Google does not want a businessperson to go in and put $100 or $300 a month on their credit card, set up a Google account and just walk away and forget about it. Because you find out a year later, wow, I just spent $1200 or $3600 and didn’t drive any business and then you don’t use Google again. They really don’t want that. They want you doing smart things. Now, if you budget, your monthly spend is little. And what I mean by that is let’s say under $2000 a month spend, your challenged because in order to hire somebody who really knows what they’re doing, you’ve got to at least be paying $500 a month. What we typically do in the industry is we charge a percentage, 15% to 20% of your spend for managing your spend. So if your spend is too low, I just can’t put enough time into your account. But when you start getting over that, you really want to get professional help, because good professional pay per click managers can save you a lot more than they cost.

Jason Hartman: So how do you pick a good one?

Ric Dragon: Well, that’s a challenge. You have to read reviews, you should look for customer feedback, all of these types of things, how people are perceived in the industry. We’ll see that the companies of credibility are respected in the industry, they tend to be involved, they tend to blog or speak at conferences like SES or SMX. So those are good signals to look for.

Jason Hartman: And what else is there to know about it, though? You mention that Google want ongoing customers. You talked about hiring a good consultant to do it, so maybe someone listening, their budget is lower than that or they just want to try to do it themselves, or they want to hire someone but they also want to have some real knowledge about it so that they can interact with their campaign intelligently.

Ric Dragon: Sure. So there’s a couple of different options. One is Google has something called AdWords Express for very low budgets. If your business is a lot like a lot of other businesses, so for instance if I’m a dentist in Peoria, Illinois, I’m a lot like a lot of other dentists elsewhere, and they really have some great algorithms and they can set up these automated accounts that do pretty well for local areas. And that’s for very small budgets I think where those are most effective. If your budget is still in between and you want something a little bit more custom made for you, but you can’t afford the ongoing management, you can hire a good consultant to help set you up and then do periodic, say every 3 or 4 months, a check-in on the account just to get a feel for its health and making the adjustments that are needed. They can also come in and give you coaching.

Now, really learning to do PPC well is a lifetime endeavor. I mean, my guys who do this, they eat, drink, and sleep PPC, and the other side to that is something called conversion optimization. So that’s when somebody comes to a webpage, are they doing what you want them to do? There’s a lot of really wonderful tricks in learning how to make pages so that they’re more effective when people land on them.

Jason Hartman: Tell us some of the tricks. You may get the person to click through, which means you’re paying for it, so then you gotta convert them by having the right offer or the right page, right?

Ric Dragon: So what we do as professionals in the field is we do what’s called AB testing. So we will create 2 versions of a page and set it up using software so that the system is testing the two pages against one another. So we’ll test page A and perhaps the headline will say “Buy our farm fresh eggs today!” and maybe the B says “Special deal on farm fresh eggs” or something. We’ll test these two headlines. We may test the color of a button or whether a button has rounded colors or square buttons, whether there’s a picture of a person smiling on the page or an illustration, and whether the person smiling on the page is looking up at the button that they want you to click or looking directly in your eyes. We’ll test all of these variables to see what’s actually creating more conversions.

Jason Hartman: And is there sort of a standard answer to that? Like, I’ve agonized over colors of buttons myself. Is a green one good, is a red one good? Should it be orange or blue?

Ric Dragon: It’s interesting. I know a lot of people say don’t use red, that it symbolizes stop and what you want is green, so you see a lot of green buttons. You’ll see frequently what is called in the industry the BOB, the big orange button. You’ll see that a lot, a lot of different things. As an information architect and a designer, what I tend to find works well is, whatever is the overall look and feel of the page, that the call to action has some differentiation. So, if throughout the page we’re using the Helvetica font and we’ve got rounded corners and we’re primarily using blues, perhaps over here on the call to action I’ll use square corners, I’ll serif font with rounded corners. Sometimes it just makes the eye go over to it, which is really what you want. But you also want to communicate the value proposition why somebody should click, what the value is to them. Hopefully it will align with the text that’s over in your actual ad that drove the person there so that there’s not a discontinuity. There’s quite a few elements to it.

Jason Hartman: What about social media? And when you talk about social media, do you do both the advertising side of social media and the organic side of it or just advertising?

Ric Dragon: We certainly do. A good paid Facebook campaign can really do great kick starting of a Facebook page. My bailiwick, personally, is I’m very involved with creating social media marketing strategy for all sorts of companies. There’s tremendous amount to do with that, we designed a framework or processed framework to do that and it was the first such process framework for social media marketing published in this company and is used in a lot of teaching situations in schools throughout the country.

One of the interesting challenges that businesses have with social media marketing is even just the word social media marketing or that phrase because it suggests that it means one thing. What we actually have found that it means is about 5 different things.
And the first is what we call just brand maintenance. That means getting your social media accounts, monitoring mentions of your name, responding to people, posting a little bit here and there. That’s just your standard maintenance. It’s community management mode.

The second major mode of social media marketing is community work, whether you’re working with brand advocates or whether there’s a particular interest community that you’re joining and you’re helping to nurture and be a part of and be central in, that’s a second type of social media marketing.

A third is influence or marketing. In influence or marketing, what we often do is we identify the most influential people in the niche or the industry that we’re involved with. We listen to everything those people say, we try to engage those people ultimately in conversation, and try to create relationships with those people. It’s very akin to old fashioned PR.

The fourth mode is often referred to as thought leadership. It’s very related to reputation management work. So that includes blogging, doing conferences, doing podcasts. You’re doing thought leadership work. That’s a very strong mode.

And then the fifth mode is the one we frequently most often see and remember in social media marketing and that’s what we call the big splash campaigns, those big splashy sorts of actions that get lots of attention. They don’t build community. They don’t build or attract influencers. They’re not about thought leadership. So, let’s say like the Old Spice man campaign or Pepsi’s “Refresh” campaign, those are big splash campaigns. And they can be very effective in building up a lot of connections over a short period of time. So those are the five major modes of social media marketing that we work with.

Jason Hartman: Yeah. And what would you say would be maybe one of the more important ones of those for a small business or a solopreneur to work with? Some are costly and some are kind of organic and roll up your sleeves and just engage.

Ric Dragon: Sure. The interesting thing, when I wrote the book Social Marketology I joke that I could have prepended every single sentence with “Depending on your business.” So if you’re a professional services, or if you’re a B2B or if you’re consumer packaged goods, each one of these major business areas are going to find one or a mixture of these modalities more or less effective. So, for instance, if you’re a consultant, we all know that the thought leadership way tends to be the most effective. You’re establishing credibility and trust when people are looking around looking for that particular consulting service. They find you, you’re showing up in the search engines, and they can see that you’re talking the talk as well as walking the walk. And other businesses, for instance, often in B2B, I was speaking with Jason Eng who is the social media manager for Sony Professional. Now, they make these cameras that can be incredibly expensive cameras. We’re talking $60,000.

Jason Hartman: Like a RED cam?

Ric Dragon: Exactly. And they are used by cinematographers and major studios, very small group of people out there in the world that really are relevant to what they sell. And those people tend to come and belong to the Sony Professional Forum. So they’re doing community work there. It’s absolutely brilliant. So, each organization or each brand type is gonna find value in different ways.

Jason Hartman: Yeah, they sure are. That’s good stuff. So, what do you see as the future of this? When you look into the future and you see these different forms of marketing, is there something that we can really kind of get on the bandwagon early and cease an opportunity while maybe a lot of our competitors aren’t in that area yet?

Ric Dragon: Well, as I look across a lot of different industries, while so many people are using hashtags and have Facebook pages, I really don’t see a world where the majority of American businesses are active on social in a proactive valuable way. So that’s one aspect. I do believe that the content marketing play is one of the most powerful. And people have been doing content marketing. If you go back and look at advertising and business magazines from 1910, businesses were writing books and say, hey, write us for a free copy of this book. And that was content marketing. The Burma-Shave signs were content marketing.

Jason Hartman: Remind me about the Burma-Shave.

Ric Dragon: The Burma-Shave signs, it was one of those brilliant pieces of advertising in American history. These guys, the Odells, their business almost went out of business and the son came along and said “Pops, give me $250. I want to try something.” So he got the money and he went out and he made a set of 5 signs and they had some little jingle to them. And he basically put them like every 100 feet on a highway. So, imagine it’s 1935 and you’re driving down the road and you see a sign. And you’re like that’s pretty neat, and then you see the next sign, the next sign, and the next sign, and the last one would inevitably finish up the little jingle by saying Burma-Shave, right? So, an example is “Shave the modern way…No brush…No lather…no rub-in.” Big tube, $0.35 drug stores, “Burma-Shave.” Little things like that, so people driving down the road would start anticipating these things. And some of them were quite funny. So they were entertainment. I mean, our kids today, with their noses in their devices aren’t gonna be that entertained, but back then in 1935 it was a hoot.

Jason Hartman: Yeah, well we’ve got more clever stuff today, too, that actually captures attention now and then. What about the aspect of viral marketing? I mean, you touched on it. Of course, everybody wants their ad to go viral. Any stories, case studies or tips that you have on that type of thing? You talked about the Dove beauty thing, I mean that’s great. But it’s kind of expensive to produce. And you said that you had an extra $100,000 leftover in the budget. For most people listening, that’s not what they’re gonna throw at a video.

Ric Dragon: Right. And if you’re B2B, you don’t necessarily need the next viral video. It’s not necessarily going to help you. What you want is your audience reading it and, again, being very focused on creating something of real value, tends to be what it is. Now, if you’re in B2C and you are trying to cover a large marketplace and you do want things to go viral, there certainly is a whole body now of research and case studies around what has caused videos to go viral or what content go viral. And we’re seeing a lot of different things. A lot of them tend to be fun, they tend to be unexpected, many of them bring in people to participate – it’s participatory media often, all of these different things. We’ve seen very expensive viral campaigns, they often get boost with traditional media. And then we’ve seen something like the Blendtec case study.

Jason Hartman: That’s just awesome.

Ric Dragon: It certainly is. So for the cost of a $250 flip cam and they started just making these videos and putting them up, it grew their business tremendously since doing that.

Jason Hartman: And everybody, just in case you don’t know the Blendtec story, that’s the “Will it blend” video. So this blender company has these very, they say, durable blenders that are very powerful, so they stick things like iPhones in them and see if the iPhones will blend. What a genius.

Ric Dragon: So we’ve seen these things and we watch them over and over. The guys who wrote or did the Mentos lab sort of video that went viral did a very good thing. They wrote a book about viral videos. I don’t remember the title right offhand. I reviewed it on social media today. But they talked about a lot of the various elements that they found. And they do find that it’s our temptation, as business owners, to go sticking our logo on the front or to say some promotional thing at the end of the video. And they do find that the things that go viral tend to be really soft-shoed when it comes to branding.

Jason Hartman: Really understated. Yeah, that’s sort of counterintuitive. You’ve got to resist the temptation to stick your logo and your phone number in your website all over it.

Ric Dragon: Exactly. And I think that’s a fundamental also of social media in general, that we want to go out there as businesses because we’ve got 100 years of marketing and advertising behind us. And what if we’re social 3 out of 4 times, and on the 4th time we give a little promotion. And the answer to that is no because you’ve developed trust with someone, and the second you’re a salesperson, people’s gates go up. And if you’re in a social situation, you just want to continue to create trust and, over time, if you’re providing value, people are gonna stop and go, hey, what is it you sell?

Jason Hartman: Exactly, creating value. And that’s the content marketing, social media, long-term thought leadership type of relationship, and it’s a great one because you really win people over because it does take a little bit of time to do it and it’s not a get rich quick scheme, but boy they’re loyal and dedicated and they understand what your offer is so they don’t require a lot of education because they already got it in advance. And they’re a very nice, pleasant customer to work with usually.

Ric Dragon: That’s right.

Jason Hartman: Yeah, good stuff. Well, Ric Dragon, thank you so much for joining us today. The website is DragonSearchMarketing.com. And any other resources or websites you’d like to give out?

Ric Dragon: Well, you can certainly find me on Twitter @RicDragon. You can easily find me on LinkedIn and Facebook. I’m all over social media, of course. Feel free to reach out and say hello or ask a question. It’s always wonderful to meet new people out there.

Jason Hartman: Well, Rick Dragon, a pleasure to have you on the show today and thanks for giving us some insider tips into different forms of online marketing.

Ric Dragon: Thanks so much, Jason, pleasure.

Narrator: This show is produced by The Hartman Media Company, all rights reserved. For distribution or publication rights and media interviews, please visit www.HartmanMedia.com or email [email protected] Nothing on this show should be considered specific personal or professional advice. Please consult an appropriate tax, legal, real estate or business professional for individualized advice. Opinions of guests are their own and the host is acting on behalf of Platinum Properties Investor Network, Inc. exclusively. 

Transcribed by Ralph

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