Episode 118 : Understanding How SEO works to Boost Sales and Profits

Ronan Walsh has been working in Digital Marketing, specifically SEO for close to 10 years and is a lecturer in Web Design and Digital Marketing in Ireland. He’s the owner and founder of Digital Trawler a SaaS Marketing Agency based in Ireland. Digital Trawler helps companies with their marketing strategy and messaging and having experts in SEO, paid adverts, social media and conversion rate optimization.


  • Could you share with us a little bit about your journey? How did you get to where you are today?
  • You are big into digital marketing and search engine optimization, affectionately known as SEO. Can you share with us how you think SEO has changed over the past 10 years and as a business, especially in light of COVID and the pandemic globally, what do companies need to do to get to the top of their industry or their area where their SEO is concerned?
  • What are some of the things they need to look for when they’re hiring a Digital Marketing Consultant? Because you have a lot of people out there who market themselves in this capacity, but do they have that requisite knowledge and experience and exposure like what you just explained here to us to ensure that you’re picking the right person.
  • Could you share with us what’s the one online resource, tool, website or app that you absolutely cannot live without in your business?
  • Could you share with us maybe one or two books that have had the biggest impact on you? It could be a book that you read recently or about that you it many years ago, but it still has a great impact on you.
  • Could you share with us what’s the one thing that’s going on in your life right now that you’re really excited about – either something that you’re working on to develop yourself or your people?
  • Where can listeners find you online?
  • Do you have a quote or a saying that during times of adversity or challenge, you’ll tend to revert to this quote, it kind of help to keep you focused and get you back on track, if for any reason you get derailed or you’re de-motivated, do you have one of those?


Ronan’s Journey

When asked about his journey, Ronan shared that he actually think it’s kind of similar to Yanique’s journey where he started off, kind of in tourism, he didn’t really know what he wanted to do. So, he did a lot of kind of backpacking and he was a Surf and Kayak Instructor and he was primarily focused on the kind of tourism and travel industry. And that was kind of, he supposes, where his passion was, but he realized that it wasn’t a long-term plan, like there’s nobody on the beach who’s a surf instructor who’s 40 plus. They might be wealthy in terms of spirit and how they’re feeling, but there’s nobody, he supposes with a family of three kids or something like that, or that they have a house and kind of security and a pension and things like that.

So that was kind of eating away and in the back of his head, maybe in his young twenties and he was wondering how exactly he could try and kind of progress in his career. So, he finally was backpacking, he met a few people in the industry, in the kind of linen and clothing industry in India. And he started importing clothes into Ireland and he set up three stalls or kind of shops around the country. And he was running those in his early twenties, which was a fantastic experience.

What he wanted to do was try and push those as far as he could. And that’s really where Digital Marketing came into play because he realized that he was getting up at three or four in the morning to drive stock across countries and keep shops up to date. And he was trying to manage staff and make sure that there was a little bit of profit left for him at the end of the day.

And he built a website to try and expand that and to not rely on the brick and mortar kind of model as much, it came to realize soon after that, that it wasn’t actually going really be sustainable, but during the time building the website, he learned how to code, he learned how to do SEO, he learned how to do Google ads. And there was a local agency that took him in underneath their wings, and then showed him a lot of what he could do. And then that’s when he realized he had a real talent for Digital Marketing and that there was a real sense of passion to trying to help other people achieve their dreams, whether it’s getting their website ranking or helping them with a Google ad strategy.

And then there’s also helping the customer at the end of the journey. So for example, one of his first clients was a bridal boutique. And then if you’re able to match the person to the right dress, the customer at the end also wins, so not only does the business win, but the customer is getting exactly what they want. So there was loads of reasons for him to kind of get into Digital Marketing. And eventually that company that took him underneath their wing was bought out and they started passing leads onto him and he kind of fell into a freelance role. And from there then it’s just grown into what Digital Trawler is today. There’s five other people working in there, working on web design, Google ads, search engine optimization, social media, they have a project manager and then there’s himself as well. So, it’s a nice little business that is kind of running and their aim is to really kind of help others fulfill their dreams with business development.

How Has SEO Changed Over the Past 10 Years

Ronan stated that that’s a really good question because it’s changed a lot over the past 10 years. So, originally when he would have started off his digital marketing journey and doing SEO for other companies, it would have been a lot of what’s known as on-page optimization, which is, for anybody who has a WordPress website, that’s kind of Yoast, filling in titles, descriptions, keyword placement in your paragraphs and in your text, on your blogs and on your pages and making sure that all of that is correct, but that’s only a very small part of it today, whether it’s completely blown into what he would describe as marketing, like SEO is kind of a term he’ll use now to describe marketing in general, because you have to have a content plan, which means your branding has to be on point.

You have to really understand your customers, issues that they’re having in order to find the content that you need to write about. You need to have a PR strategy that gets you exposure out there and links back to your website. Your website needs to be in tip-top order, there can’t be any security, or technical issues with it.

And then, like he was saying, there is obviously the element of on page where you need your titles and descriptions and things working for you as well. It needs to be visually appealing. And of course, there’s a little bit of Social Media involved in it as well. That kind of falls underneath the PR element as well, that you’re kind of getting your own brand out there a bit more, and you’re developing your business in the traditional sense, but Google picks up on that a lot more these days than they would have back in the day.

And that’s really what kind of SEO is today in his eyes. That all-encompassing view as to “How can we really drive our business online, where are our audience, what forums are they on? Can I get my business there? Can I get a link back to my website? Can I get my local press or my national press or my industry press to write an article about me and push my brand out there that little bit more again, so that people know me?”

And Google’s constantly picking up on all of these and they’re looking for how frequently you’re doing it. They’re looking for what sort of authority do the other websites have, and they’re tying this all together and they’re giving your website a score, and then that score is how you’re competing for that number one position on Google.

Me: And the competition on Google is global as in, when you’re ranked on Google, is your company being ranked across the globe or is the company being ranked as the best in your country?

Ronan stated that that’s a really good question. So, search engine optimization, so there’s a tool called search console. And in search console, you can choose whether you’re global or whether you’re country specific. So, when you are global, you’re competing across the world.

So you’re telling Google you’re more open to having people come to your site from anywhere in the world but you’re competing across the world so it becomes a little bit more difficult and there’s a number of elements that you have to bear in mind, such as like where your website’s hosted.

So for example, he’s in Ireland at the minute but he has a niece in Australia and they were searching for a birthday present for her and they were on all of these toy shops and the toy shop image on the product page loaded so slow that they had to leave the site, they were waiting maybe 10 minutes.

But that’s an issue and it’s kind of slowly being eradicated, but it’s an issue to do with that in Australia, that website probably loads perfectly, in Ireland it’s to come the whole way across the other side of the world so it can actually take quite a while for that image to be processed.

And so, you would kind of combat that by using something called a CDN, not to go too complicated on it, but basically it’s a Content Delivery Network. So, basically your website isn’t just hosted in Australia, it’s hosted on multiple servers throughout the world. So, it’s things like that become more complicated as you expand your targeting area, where if you say, “Look Google, I just want to target Ireland.”

Google would give you a preference, so you’ll kind of be given a higher priority to rank there. And of course then there’s your country-specific domain names as well. Like in Ireland, they have .ie in the UK there is .co.uk

And if you buy a domain name with that, or you’re using that domain name, well then your specifically tied to that country. So, there are a number of factors to take into consideration. And then on top of that, then you have languages, so languages, or even another more complicated element where you have to have specific bits of code on each page to tell Google what language unlocked browser should be prioritized for this particular page. And if there’s alternative versions of it, what are those alternative versions and do they all link correctly together.

So there’s quite a few moving parts. So to answer the question, it’s entirely up to the person who is developing the site, or who’s running the business. Personally, he targets across the world and that’s what he’s focused on. That’s why he’s here on a podcast with Yanique and trying to push the Digital Trawler brand, he’s trying to push the Ronan Walsh brand a little bit more across the sea and trying to attract people and get people interested in his brand.

And then this, even what he’s doing now is considered SEO, if you were to leave a link or even on the page where you’re writing the podcast, that’s giving Google a sign that, “Okay, Ronan’s out there, he’s doing podcasts and he’s talking about Digital Trawler and I can see that comes from Yanique’s website, which is very iterative in the podcast area. So just that ranking maybe Ronan for more podcast keywords.” and then that’s kind of the way Google works.

So it’s really about getting out there and getting your name out there as much as you can and being as creative as possible. Because when he first came to SEO, it was a little bit boring in the sense that you’d go in, you would optimize a keyword, your page would rank a little bit more and you’d be focused on ranking.

Now it’s about creativity that you’re going out and you’re wondering, “How can I get more links back to my site? How can I get people to pick up on this content so I’m beating the competition and I’m getting higher score than them?” And that he supposes really helping them kind of develop really good campaigns and things like that, because it’s creativity really is getting back to marketing basics, which is fantastic.

Hiring the Right Digital Marketing Consultant with the Requisite Knowledge, Experience and Exposure

Me: So a lot of our listeners are small to medium size business owners and they’ve listened to a lot of what you’ve said about how SEO has changed over the last few years and especially as you went into the details a while ago, positioning yourself either country-specific or global in terms of being seen across different platforms. But let’s say for example, they don’t have the experience in-house in their businesses to do this on their own and they’re going to hire a digital marketing consultant. What are some of the things they need to look for when they’re hiring somebody? Because you have a lot of people out there who market themselves in this capacity, but do they have that requisite knowledge and experience and exposure like what you just explained here to us to ensure that you’re picking the right person.

Ronan stated that it’s a minefield out there, you are 100% right. There are hundreds of consultants and the biggest thing for him, and he thinks this doesn’t just go for SEO or digital marketing, but it’s communication. They see it the whole time they’re working with web developers, they’re working with other digital marketing agencies and PR agencies and things like that and you can see projects kind of snowball and next thing the client’s saying, “Well, you didn’t deliver this.” And the client saying, “Yeah, but I asked for this.” And it becomes a back and forth and those engagements can get really sour. So for him, it comes down to making sure that the owner understands what they’re signing up for.

So expectations from the outright and you’re agreeing on, this is the end goal. This is how many users I want signed up, this is how many email addresses I have to or leads I have to generate from this or this is how much revenue or return on advertising spend that I need to get back. So there are very clear goals for an agency to go, “Okay, I can do that for you.” And it becomes very clear then as well that if you have that set out at the start, it becomes a lot easier to have a conversation if your agency isn’t hitting their targets, if you have not defined at the start, you can go back to them and say, “Look, this is what we set out to achieve. We’re not doing it. We need to wrap this up or you need to change what you’re doing.” So that is kind of one area to look out.

The other thing that he sees is a lot of SMEs, maybe if there’s 5 or 6 employees, they might look at maybe taking on a marketing staff. He often finds that those marketing staff aren’t able to deliver on what the owner wants. They’re quite good at agreeing to saying, “Yes, I’ll be able to deliver that at the start.” And they don’t really know what they are able to deliver and you can’t expect one person to be able to do SEO, Google ads, social media, like update your website and expect them to be able to do all of that and do it to the level that Coca-Cola or Nike or any of those sites are doing.

And he thinks that that’s kind of the expectation that a lot of SMEs have. So you need to support that person in their role or else, maybe perhaps get an agency in to define what their role is going to be, and maybe give them some freelancers to support them in that role as well.

So you might have an agency come in, design the strategy, set up the processes, train your marketing admin person in what they should be doing and looking out for, and then have some freelancers behind that person to support them in the SEO role or the Google Ads or social media or something like that.

Like, you know it yourself, you’re running a podcast like editing this takes time, then there’s the promotion on social media and just straightaway there, you’re onto podcast editing, you’re on social media, scheduling and admin in terms of replying and things like that. And you’ve got graphic designs, there’s three different skills there that are needed in order to produce a podcast.

And then you stick it up onto your website as well. So now you need kind of the technical knowledge there. So like really you should have four people there that you were able to go, okay, podcast is done. It gets sent to John, who’s going to edit it. There’s another person there who’s going to schedule all the social media posts.

There’s Emma who’s going to put together the images using Canva. And then there’s Joseph who’s going to upload it to WordPress and you need that team behind you in order to actually really deliver. And there’s a whole load of freelancers out there who are looking for that work and they’re quite happy to take on that work as long as it’s kind of consistent. He thinks that’s kind of the trick to keeping those freelancers happy.

They want freedom that they’re able to maybe spend time with their kids or collect them and drop them to school. And they still want a life outside of us, but they’re quite happy to kind of go on maybe an hourly contract per month or something like that that will allow you to produce quality content that will get your name out there. And you can come to an agreement, fair enough. Their price per hour might be a little bit more than what it would cost an employee, but it’s going take them half the time and it’s going to be twice as good.

App, Website or Tool that Ronan Absolutely Can’t Live Without in His Business

When asked about an online resource that he cannot live without in his business, Ronan stated that there’s so many. He mentioned they’re entirely remote. They rely on a lot of apps for our communication in particularly. There’s many there that might be irrelevant like Gmail is priceless to us and just being able to communicate by email and Slack is another one. But he thinks one in particular actually is Teamwork. So, it’s actually an Irish based company, www.teamwork.com and it’s a project management software. And once a week, they go through all of that, they upload all of the tasks, they make sure that himself and the project manager sit down and they go, this needs to be done for such and such a client and so on. And they make a big list out and then they upload that to Teamwork and everybody by Friday evening will know all of their jobs that they have to do the following week so that they’re able to plan. And every Monday morning, then they have a team meeting with everybody.

They run through all of the tasks and then they communicate over Slack in the week to make sure everything’s running okay. Without Teamwork, they’d be lost because they’re able to share files for certain clients and it’s really been a great lifesaver. So if there’s any agencies, whether they’re digital or whether they’re accountants or whatever it is, he’d recommend looking into that. It’s kind of similar to like Asana or Trello or something like that, but Teamwork just kind of seems to have a little bit more functionality than all of those, a little bit of a learning curve at the start, but definitely worth it.

Books That Have Had the Greatest Impact on Ronan

When asked about books that have had the biggest impact, Ronan shared that the two books that he read recently, one is Clockwork: Design Your Business to Run Itself by Mike Michalowicz. And then there’s Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machineby him as well.

In fact, actually he read Clockwork and he liked the book so much that he went out and bought all of his books that he’d ever written. So yeah, it’s pretty good. So, he has another book by him, The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field by Mike Michalowicz and Fix This Next: Make the Vital Change That Will Level Up Your Business that are next to read on his list. But Clockwork is basically talking about how your business should be able to kind of run basically by itself. So it’s kind of similar to like The Four Hour Work Week, which he’s sure Yanique is familiar with, but, it’s maybe a little bit more practical than that.

So it’s talking about being able to give yourself a month off and the idea isn’t that you need a month and you deserve a month off and all of that.

It’s more that if your business can last a month without you, like within a month, you’re going to have your invoicing, you’re going to have new sales come on and you’re going to basically like every cycle runs at least once in a month.

And basically, it kind of takes you out of your comfort zone to let go of loads of tasks as owners of businesses. So like particularly SMEs where we’re terrible for jumping in and trying to fix issues that our employees and maybe there was a communication issue or maybe they didn’t do it exactly how you like. If you can leave those things, you need to be able to move on and look for new clients and set up processes and then move on again and focus on growing the business, that’s what Clockwork is about.

And then Profit First is all about kind of cashflow management. So, there’s a law of which is Parkinson’s law, that if there’s kind of a void to fill, you will fill it. So basically, if you’re given a task and used to do it within a week, you’ll get it done within that week. But if you’re given a month, it’ll take you the month as well.

And it’s the same with Profit First, which is when your bank account is full of money, you’re very likely to spend it on kind of new ways without a huge amount of strategy going behind it. He talks about setting up these kinds of different bank accounts and that you’re basically using kind of like an envelope system through your bank accounts to run your business. So you have a certain amount for expenses, you have a certain amount for profits, certain amount for tax, certain amount for paying yourself. And they’ve only just set that up and it’s going to be exciting to see how well it works, but it’s going to force him to maybe cut some expenses that he probably doesn’t really need.

What Ronan is Really Excited About Now!

Ronan shared that something they’re doing themselves actually at Digital Trawler that he’s quite excited about is they’re going to start bringing out new courses pretty soon and they’re going to be free. So like Yanique, they want to help business owners, so they’re going to have, and he might be a bit overenthusiastic with this, but he thinks by the end of February, they should have a Google Analytics course out.

They noticed that a lot of marketing managers really struggled with analytics and trying to extract data and understand what’s going on in it. So they’re going to have a course coming out, it’s going to be free. And similarity with SEO, Google ads, there’s going to be free courses there for that as well. So get onto their mailing list and as soon as they’re available, you’ll be getting the first invite to it.

Where Can We Find Ronan Online

Me: So that dovetails very nicely into my next question. So they listened to this podcast, they’re really intrigued about what your company is doing, Digital Trawler, especially the whole concept of how SEO has changed. And of course, how to hire that right person to assist you in building and developing and getting that presence that you need across the globe, depending on the platform that you operate on. And then you drop this great nugget to say, you guys are going to be releasing free courses in relation to helping people understand the data better. Where can they find you online?

LinkedIn – Ronan Walsh

Website – www.digitaltrawler.com

You’ll be able to find all the resources in there as well. They have a free Google, their free audit as well, just from an SEO perspective so they will give you feedback on your site at no charge. They have some plugins there as well that help you identify where your users are coming from. So, that’s www.digitaltrawler.com and you’ll be able to sign up for those courses there as well.

Quote or Saying that During Times of Adversity Ronan Uses

When asked about a quote or saying that he tends to revert to, Ronan shared that there’s one that he finds himself going back to year after year, which is, “Actions make money.” And basically the more actions you take, the closer you are to getting to what you want to do and it’s just really simple and it’s really easy to action. So just break down your tasks and just get out there and get them done. And that would be for any entrepreneur, that’s kind of it, of course, having a clear plan behind it really helps you identify which actions to take. But if you’re taking the wrong action, you’re better off learning about it sooner. So the sooner you take that action, the sooner you learn that that was the wrong one time and the sooner you’re going to find the right one.

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