Caitlin Strempel is the Founder and CEO of Rising Ranks Digital, a SEO and digital strategy agency. She helps businesses scale to million-dollar months more quickly and effortlessly through high-level marketing strategy and SEO management. She believes that if we champion for the success of others that our own success is inevitable.
As always, May I Have Your Attention is brought to you by captivate.ai, which turns your podcast into three months of social media content, you can find out more at Captivate.ai.
Caitlin’s background [0:17]
Life is really fragile [6:55]
Pros and cons of having a remote workforce [8:39]
SEO common mistakes that companies are making [11:06]
SEO vs ads [12:21]
When should a company start investing in a SEO agency [13:28]
How to keep up with the changes in SEO [16:46]
The impact social media plays on SEO [17:56]
What does networking look like? [21:48]
Justin Nassiri 00:01
On this episode of May I have your attention.
Caitlin Strempel 00:05
And it really was because I was going through phases I think all entrepreneurs go through at a point in time is really feeling like, Am I good enough? Well, I know I’m going to be good enough if I learned from the best.
Justin Nassiri 00:17
I met my guest today, Caitlin Strempel a few months ago, and just really enjoyed her authenticity and wisdom. And she showcases both of those on today’s interview. She started an SEO company about five years ago. And she shares two things in this conversation. The first is a lot of very practical tips and advice for SEO, why it matters, how to go about it, common mistakes that companies run into, and no matter what type of business you’re running, I guarantee you there is something you can apply from this advice. The second thing is she does a great job talking about her own entrepreneurial journey that started with relatively tragic event or a hardship that she went through with her family. And it convinced her to strike out on her own. And so she talks about that process as well. As always a captivate.ai you’ll find other episodes for me, I have your attention, as well as show notes with links to everything we discuss in this conversation. So with that, let’s get started with Caitlyn. Joining me today in Phoenix, Arizona, my guest is Caitlyn stemple. Caitlyn, welcome to May I have your attention. Yes. Hello, how are you? I’m good. I’m good for context for listeners. I connected with Caitlin maybe I don’t know, a month or two ago and just really loved speaking with her and was excited to pick her brain more formally on the show. But maybe for context, let’s take a couple minutes. What would you want listeners to know about what you do right now, but also what you did leading up to that that informed the work that you’re doing?
Caitlin Strempel 01:51
Yeah. So right now I am the CEO of rising rings digital, we are an SEO and digital strategy agency. I’m based out of Phoenix, like you said, but we have employees, contractors all over the US and a girl in Italy and one in London. So we’re all over the place. It’s great. It’s fabulous. And we’ve been going strong for almost five years now. So that’s been really exciting, really challenging, really fun, all of that stuff. Before that. I was always in marketing, always in advertising. I was in the corporate world for about a decade. And I worked with startups, global national companies, some really big brands. And it was always very fun, very exciting. But I always knew I wanted to do my own thing, I would go to a new job, and I get really excited about it. And then you know, for years to be like, okay, I feel like I should do something else. And I just get a new job. Not necessarily knowing exactly, you know what I wanted to do. And then fast forward from there a few more years, we move back to Phoenix, we had our first son and add his second month checkup, we went and going for a routine checkup and essentially left and we were told that we had to go straight to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and we found out he was born with a heart defect. So as a first time parent, let alone any parent, you know, it’s pretty devastating. So it was kind of just go go go at that point. I was by myself, I told my husband not to come with me. I was like, it’s you know, there’s gonna be nothing we’re good. Q viewers that are like on the phone, like we have to go to the hospital. So we went and we were very lucky for what he had. It was you know, for a heart procedure, it was very minimal. It was very routine. So that was good, very stressful. We were in and out of the hospital for a few weeks for monitoring, some complications, actual surgery, and then back again, and I essentially was in there and I didn’t work thankfully, I stole maternity leave, but my husband was still traveling and I didn’t leave the hospital, I did not see sunshine or breathe fresh air for weeks. And it kinda was at that point where I was just like, I am never going back in if anybody has worked in really large agencies, or just any really advertising agency or marketing, a lot of times you’re praised for pulling all nighters for working 15 plus hour days, and that’s what I was doing. And I just couldn’t do it anymore. So I knew I wanted to do something on my own. And so I thought about it. And you know, I knew I wanted to do digital marketing. I thought about what I wanted to do with you know, in that and it kind of occurred to me that when I was in the hospital, we were going and I had nobody I you know the first questions I had, I didn’t turn to the doctors, I didn’t call my husband, I turned to my phone, I turned to Google, and I searched the credentials of his surgeon what happens to a two month old if he goes under anesthesia, things like that. And it really occurred to me that people every day are searching online for things that they really need, whether it be you know, the local pizza shop or how to save their marriage. So it really triggered something in me and me wanting to go down the SEO route.
Justin Nassiri 05:00
That’s wild. My two and a half year old was in the hospital when he was one and a half. And it was just for a weekend for some breathing issues. And it’s probably the amongst the worst weekend’s of my life. And I just can’t even imagine finding that out being alone and all of that. But it’s also great to hear I mean, it’s a horrible phrase, or not a horrible phrase, but the phrase that came to mind is never waste a crisis. And I love that out of this crisis, it seems like there was a reflection on values and life and all of these things, and it led to a monumental shift.
Caitlin Strempel 05:34
Oh, yeah. So I mean, I was in the corporate for a decade, and I realized that you know, my edge to kind of like, keep jumping around was really me wanting to do my own thing, and never really having the courage to go out and do it myself. You know, I always had that fear mongering in the back of my head, and that little voice. And once you have something, go through something like that, you know, what real fear is, and it kind of just puts everything into perspective,
Justin Nassiri 05:59
I can picture myself in the hospital, too. It’s like going straight to Google to find the answers. And that seems like a really powerful driving force behind what you do. Now, one question I have is, maybe we’ll start with the entrepreneurship. Having been doing this for almost seven years now, what advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs about doing what you did,
Caitlin Strempel 06:21
I would say, if you have the edge, if it’s something that you really want to do go for it, you always have to take the first leap, you don’t have to totally turn over your entire life. When you start a business. It’s not like all sudden, day one, you’re up and running, and you have a million clients Go for it, you’re gonna start with one client, you’re gonna start with two clients, and then eventually, you’re gonna get to the point where you have so much courage and you’re like, I got this, that you can just take that final leap and go after it on your own. And you don’t have to wait for something really scary to push you into doing what you really want to do. But I really feel that if you do have that urge, it’s there for a reason.
Justin Nassiri 06:55
One thing that just comes to me is part of me feels like in the hospital, I would feel like there’s so much instability in my life with my child, I could see myself almost doing the opposite of what you did, which is like I want steady job, I want a steady paycheck. Do you have any thoughts on that about like, you really lucked into the unknown, you brought in a lot of ambiguity. And I’m guessing a lot of instability at the start was that unmanageable, having both instability at home, but also in your professional life?
Caitlin Strempel 07:24
For me, it was kind of the opposite, I took the point of view of, hey, life is really fragile, you know, we were faced with almost near death experience for our son, the day he went into surgery was the day his heart actually started to fail him. Whereas before, we had zero signs, so it just yeah, it gives me chills, even like, think about that. But what a better way, then, you know, to have a life than to actually go after what you really want to do. And it must have just been kind of in the moment. And I’m also very, like, if I get something in my head, I do it and don’t really think about it. So I guess it’s like a bad thing and a good thing. But I just took the leap with that in my head, and I had no desire to go back. And I could definitely see the instability. But you know, now through what I’ve seen with COVID, and you know, the pandemic is we did pretty good, you know, a lot of people who thought that they had stable jobs got laid off, you know, and thankfully, I run my own business. And I had that stability through that time. And I was one of the lucky ones to win the fact that, you know, we’re an online business, or a lot of businesses were coming online, but I also saw a lot of business owners who were brick and mortar or who depended on events really go into entrepreneur mode and shift in do great.
Justin Nassiri 08:39
What about you talked about at the start? Yeah, I mean, you have a team that’s distributed on two different continents. How should listeners as they think of expanding their team, do you have any thoughts on like, either the pro con of having that sort of remote workforce versus having the team around you and Phoenix?
Caitlin Strempel 08:59
Yeah, so I do have one girl here. And I do love that. It’s kind of it’s very easy to have her come in and just kind of see what I’m doing on a day to day basis. But also having a team worldwide. It’s great because we can cater to a lot of different clients. And I think it was a learning curve for me of just being a leader, people who I didn’t see every day and it was making sure that I learned how to communicate openly. I made sure that everything I was doing I was videotaping I was sending out I was keeping people excited, but it is that extra step. You know, when you have somebody next to you, it’s kind of easily just like by osmosis, they learn. don’t have that when you have people who aren’t around you. So just being very conscious about that. And it wasn’t something that came naturally to me. It was something that I had to learn and I had to make a few mistakes to get there. And I just somewhat found my way I wouldn’t say totally felt my way but I’m working on it.
Justin Nassiri 09:52
What are some of those mistakes or more importantly the lesson learn from the mistake
Caitlin Strempel 09:56
a lot of it was how to communicate with clients. You know what When you’re on the phone with them, how do you act? You know, how do you act professional? And how do you go through a difficult time which know some of those things, that’s when I first started and for serving on a team, I was the one who was the main communicator with clients. And when I started passing that off to their people, I quickly saw that they didn’t have that experience that I did, I was one thing. And it’s just again, being very conscious of knowing your values, and knowing every step of the way. And just there’s always a missing link. Sometimes with somebody who comes in and takes over your role, you kind of forget that there’s some things that they don’t automatically know that you know, just from years of experience,
Justin Nassiri 10:35
that’s great. I’m just thinking of all the times like you’re so steeped in it, it becomes an assumption. And you don’t even realize the pieces that people need to learn. And I’m working on patients in general. But that’s one of the things I’m hearing is to like maybe be a little bit more patient and supportive with Team workers than I am currently.
Caitlin Strempel 10:51
Yeah. And I heard a great quote is actually just a few weeks ago, and I was like, it’s typically not your team, it’s you. And it usually has to do with communication. And that is something that I’ve really been trying to work on of like, okay, they didn’t do that. Right? How could I have communicated that better to them?
Justin Nassiri 11:06
Yeah, I like that. One thing I wanted to ask about is, obviously, with rising ranks digital, you work with a variety of clients, everyone’s unique, you’re taking, I’m guessing, a very tailored approach based on their needs. But I’m wondering if you can abstract from the work you’ve done in the last six years, and then the 10 years prior to that, do you find common mistakes that companies are making, when it comes to SEO, when it comes to marketing, or common things they don’t realize they need to be doing.
Caitlin Strempel 11:35
SEO is always an afterthought. You know, sometimes I’ll get the startups who are really techie and just automatically know, but for most of the clients that we get, they’ve already done their Facebook ads, they’ve already done email campaigns. And really, they’re just like, what’s next, or they’re at the point where like, we need to add a little bit more grown up and get a new website. And that’s really the point when SEO kind of comes into play. So even if you’re just getting started as an entrepreneur, or if you’re in business, now take a look at your website and just have a team go in there. It’s really easy these days just to do it yourself. Honestly, the basics with Squarespace, Wix all of these websites where you can build your own, they just have forms, we just can go in and start to do you know, your SEO, and I think even the basics, and starting as soon as you can, or really put you ahead of the competition,
Justin Nassiri 12:21
how would that change? Like, it is interesting, it is an afterthought, and people come to you and they’ve already started running ads, if they had done let’s say, if they had done the reverse and set a foundation of what their SEO guidelines are and foundation are, how might that influence what they did with ads or with other marketing or advertising?
Caitlin Strempel 12:39
Yeah, well, I always say that, I feel like if you can do it all, that’s great. Not everyone can do it all. So with ads, it’s you know, you put money in these ads, and the traffic comes right away. But once you start paying for the ads, the traffic leaves, which again is totally fine. And SEO is the opposite, you have to put money into and you have to put time into it. And after a few months, you’ll start to see the results. But once you get to the top and you’re pretty stable there, you can back off, and you don’t have to optimize every day, or you don’t have to pay an agency to do it for you, it kind of just it will run on its own eventually, which is really awesome. So I would say if they’ve started running with ads, that’s totally fine. But just to think of your long term goal, every company I think, should have short term goals and long term goals. And a lot of ads and the marketing that people first go after are going to be from what I’ve seen is really more of like the immediate results.
Justin Nassiri 13:28
Do you have a sense like with your clients? I’m wondering that what size of company, people should start to think about investing with a company like yours. But I’m also kind of curious, is there a point at which they grow out of it, they become so big that they start doing it internally do like any insights on those size characteristics?
Caitlin Strempel 13:46
Yeah, that’s interesting. When it companies start bringing in house, they are pretty big. They’re like multi million, but we’ve worked with some really big companies as well, kind of, you know, they’re still multimillion, but more on like the lower end, and we’ve kind of come in and done it for them. It’s I think it’s more based on their mindset on you know, do they want to bring it in house? And what’s their marketing plan, like already? versus do they want to work with a specialist and sometimes with SEO, it is very, very specialized that I typically don’t see people bringing in SEO specialists until they’re very, very big,
Justin Nassiri 14:20
because just that general SEO practices can get them to that level where then they need to niche down and that specialist would be on your industry, I’m guessing.
Caitlin Strempel 14:28
Yeah, I think service based is a really good group in itself. And that’s what we focus on. And then you know, products always a little bit different. Then you have SAS and then you have local. So I would say those are the big four categories. And you probably want a specialist in in one of those areas, depending on your business.
Justin Nassiri 14:44
Let’s say someone listening where to start working with you. Just walk us through what’s your approach, I’m guessing there’s some component of understanding their goals. But what are the steps that you’re taking in the first call it three months of working with a company
Caitlin Strempel 14:59
Yes. We always start off with a kickoff call again. Yeah, like you said, looking at the goals, figuring out what they want to ring for what kind of questions they get asked, and then we’ll go in and we’ll do a full deep dive, we’ll do an complete audit. And that really is the basis and jump point off of what our strategy is for the next six months. So what do we need to work on? Is it increasing their domain authority, so you know, getting backlinks to them. So other websites to point to them, which is digital PR business listings, depending on what their business is, or is it just we need to restructure their website or just put the basic SEO on their website. So really, that audit is the forefront of everything. And really, that’s what everything is dependent on. But we will do that in house. And then we’ll have one big call after that and kind of look at the strategy for the next six months, we’re checking out optimizations every week, and then every month, and then every, you know, three months, every quarter. And the cool thing about SEO is that it is so measurable that you can see it. And it’s really based on analytics. So if you know if you see something going one direction, you can really plan for that and figure out what your next step is. So we’re always again, it’s just really going back to the communication part is we’re very open. And we’re very honest. And everything we do is in a Google share, Doc. So the biggest thing I see when people come to me is Hey, my SEO person, I have no idea what they do, they just go away for a month, and I have no idea what’s going on. Or you know, they’re not getting back to me on emails. And you know, I don’t think everyone needs to get back to their emails, especially, you know, paying clients, but we have a really great system set up where they can just come on and see exactly what we’ve done every every single day, we put into kind of like a little status report. And they might not know exactly what it is, but they know that we’re working on something. And if they want to know more than we’re always an email away, or a call away.
Justin Nassiri 16:46
One thing that’s always intimidated me about SEO and definitely seems like an area I know so little about and it seems like you actually really need to know what you’re doing. How do you stay up to speed on changes? Like how do you kind of keep yourself growing and deepening in your craft,
Caitlin Strempel 17:02
there are always a ton of changes with the algorithm. I’m personally part of a mastermind with just SEO professionals. So I make sure that I get the latest and greatest from the gurus out there and staying in touch. And also you learn a lot by just working on a ton of different websites, things that might not actually go with the trends or might not be thought about, which has been really interesting. So that has been One really cool thing is making sure that our team comes together. And we go over the monthly reports. And we talk about what the insights are and what we’re seeing and really keeping each other accountable for finding out what’s working and what’s not working. So that’s been really interesting. However, I will say that the foundation’s, even though algorithm updates are always crazy. And all the time the foundational aspect of SEO is has been the same. And that’s to create really great content and serve people in a really authentic way.
Justin Nassiri 17:56
I love that I was just writing that down, like create great content and serve people in a great way. You know, again, as a SEO, complete novice what impact you find social media playing on SEO, if any, like I see a lot of companies that invest heavily in posting frequently on a variety of channels, does that impact in SEO in any way?
Caitlin Strempel 18:18
It doesn’t, it really actually goes back to the digital strategy. Part of it is, hey, you’re creating content and you want to get it front online. Like let’s optimize it for SEO. But not just that, how can we get that across all of your channels in a way that drives traffic back to your website. And you don’t do this for every post, but maybe once a week, you do a social media post based on your latest blog post, have that hook in there and get them back to read more on your website. And that’s really interesting, too, because Google does pick that up. It’s called social signals. And it’s been debatable over the past two years on if really helps SEO. But as a digital strategy. And as a whole of just marketing. In general, it does help you get new people back to your website that way, which is your 24, seven salesperson, and then you’re also optimizing on SEO, and you’re getting your website to the top of Google and you’re getting brand new traffic that way from Google who would have never found you on social media. But once they hit your traffic, and if your ads are set up properly, then you can retarget this traffic that you wouldn’t have necessarily gotten before. So it becomes like this very cohesive marketing plan if you want it to be and if you make it out to be.
Justin Nassiri 19:21
That’s great. That’s great. I mean, it just keeps underscoring the sense of like, really needs to start with SEO because everything impacts that. You also mentioned that you’re part of this mastermind group, and I’d love to learn a little bit more about that, like what was the intention of joining and how does that group play a role in the work that you do?
Caitlin Strempel 19:40
Yeah, I joined it when I was very new in my business. And it really was because I was going through a phase and I think all entrepreneurs go through at a point in time is really feeling like am I good enough? And it was based on that. I was like well, I know I’m going to be good enough. If I learned from the best. It really is based off of the hat and making sure I didn’t get complacent and that I was always on top of my game. So it came from a place of just not knowing if I was going to be good enough, being really hesitant as a new entrepreneur, and it developing into like, well, I can do something about that, if I’m having issues with that, I love
Justin Nassiri 20:14
that I wrote that down, I know, I’m going to be good enough if I learn from the best. And I think that that’s a great way to continue to sharpen and continue to grow. One thing I also wanted to ask about is, so with captivate, like, we usually work with companies that are 20 to 100 employees, that seems to be a sweet spot for us. And so being smaller than that myself, I do a lot of what we tell our clients to do, but I’m also realizing, hey, we’re smaller, we need to be doing things with sales. And with marketing, we can’t just rely on this social media strategy for acquiring customers. And so I’m curious for you, as you’ve grown your own business. What are ways that you found to acquire clients in addition to SEO?
Caitlin Strempel 20:54
Yeah, so SEO was big for us for local, that was great. And it kind of just snowballed from there, we started getting a lot of referrals. And then it got to the point where like, okay, I don’t want to fully just depend on this. So we made sure that we put together an affiliate program, we reached out to our current clients, and we actually made a process out of it. And also networking to that’s been really great for me personally, is getting out there and reaching those, those high end clients that typically aren’t spending their days on different platforms. But for me, networking has been the number one thing right now. And I will say, though, that whenever I reach out to somebody, and they go to my website, they always go to my social channels, and it kind of is just like, encompassing at all. They’re like, I just like your vibe. That’s why with us that we just like your vibe, I checked out your social media, people check you out. They check you out on Google, they check you out on social media, they people are searching.
Justin Nassiri 21:48
I like that too. Because to me that kind of underscores this thought that you can’t really outsource who you are like the activities, I’m guessing are pretty authentic on social media. And it does the job of broadcasting values, knowledge, like all of these things. I’d love to to double click on that thought on networking, because I think that’s really powerful. What does that look like for you? Are you going to local events or Chamber of Commerce? Are you reaching out to people on LinkedIn? Are you commenting on posts? Like what does networking look like?
Caitlin Strempel 22:17
So for me, right now, I have three or four big networking groups that I’m a part of, it’s taken a few years to figure out what groups are good for me and good for my business and just, you know, ones that mesh well with our company. And it’s Yeah, it’s just showing up for them. It’s making sure that if somebody has questions, show up and serve them and answer their questions, help them out. And if they have an opportunity to present present, if they have kind of like a little board area where they can go and ask questions online, I’ll go and I’ll answer on the message board and help people out and just being really proactive of getting to know people and getting on the phone with them getting on zoom. And I always try to follow up with them on social media afterwards to just to know that like, Hey, I value you, I value your connection, and try to give them some love on social media too. But I think first and foremost, it’s really just not just being a part of the networking group, but actually being active.
Justin Nassiri 23:11
That’s great. And I think it’s helpful to hear that it took several years to find the right group, the right fit how you were going to act there too. And I appreciate this sense of generosity that’s going along with this of answering questions like I feel like for myself and for people I speak with sometimes it can be easy to become myopic, of Will this interaction lead to a sale and it’s not only desperation, but it kind of keeps you from seeing the bigger picture of establishing a relationship just genuinely adding value. And generally it seems like good comes from that, even if it doesn’t come on an individual case by case basis.
Caitlin Strempel 23:47
Yeah. And I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve answered a question, but somebody else has seen it that never even posted or I didn’t even know like was part of the group that would reach out be like, Hey, I saw your post. I would love to chat with you. And they’ve become a client. Yeah,
Justin Nassiri 23:59
that’s great. Let’s never know. Yeah. Well, I know that we’ve covered a lot of different topics. But I just wanted to end with making space for Is there anything we didn’t talk about that you really wanted to make sure was worked into the conversation or any final thoughts before we wrap up?
Caitlin Strempel 24:15
Yeah, and I touched on this earlier. But I think that if you’re in the business of really wanting to impact the world and really wanting to help people, then SEO really is a non negotiable because that’s your fastest way people are asking questions all the time, and you have a chance to show up and again, serve them and answer their questions and really create a relationship that is great for both of you. Yeah, and I think that’s basically the gist. And really my passion for SEO is making sure you can show for the people who are trying to find you.
Justin Nassiri 24:45
That’s great. Well, I will put in the show notes for this episode. Links to Caitlin’s company, her LinkedIn, her social media so you can find her if you’re driving the name is rising ranks digital. They’re located in Phoenix, Arizona, but they do work. With companies everywhere. And Caitlin, thank you so much for your time and perspective today. Thank you so much. This was so fun. Thank you for listening to me I have your attention. Each episode I meet with top marketers thought leaders and experts to find out how individuals and brands can get keep and make money with attention. You can subscribe to me I have your attention on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, show notes are provided for each [email protected] slash podcast. May I have your attention is brought to you by captivate.ai, which turns your webinar or podcast into three months of social media content, find out [email protected]