Joey Randazzo of Portland SEO Growth: “All it takes is time”

All it takes is time. Writing content is free. You can easily create a blog and start honing in on your SEO skills. You can do “free work” for a company and manage their PPC to test different strategies. Marketing a product or service today is easier than ever before in history. Using platforms like […]

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All it takes is time. Writing content is free. You can easily create a blog and start honing in on your SEO skills. You can do “free work” for a company and manage their PPC to test different strategies.

Marketing a product or service today is easier than ever before in history. Using platforms like Facebook ads or Google ads, a company can market their product directly to people who perfectly fit the ideal client demographic, at a very low cost. Digital Marketing tools, Pay per Click ads, and email marketing can help a company dramatically increase sales. At the same time, many companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools often see disappointing results.

In this interview series called “How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales”, we are talking to marketers, advertisers, brand consultants, & digital marketing gurus who can share practical ideas from their experience about how to effectively leverage the power of digital marketing, PPC, & email.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joey Randazzo.

Joey Randazzo is the founder of Portland SEO Growth, a Portland-based SEO company. They have worked with large brands like WebMD, Autodesk, NextEra, and Body N Brain. Portland SEO Growth has a mission beyond profits. They’re dedicated to hiring women and military spouses. They have a team of 19 people, all of which are women and 60% are military spouses.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I’ve always loved writing and creating. I find a deep purpose in creating something from nothing.

Before digging into my career backstory, I’ll take a step back.

I grew up in Las Vegas and my dad has always been a big military supporter. After 9/11 he created Defending Freedom, a nonprofit that donated 100% of ALL revenue to military charities. Over time, that nonprofit evolved into American Dream U, which helps military members and their families transition back to civilian life and find their dream job or start a business. They’ve had over 100 live events around the world at dozens of military bases in the USA, Japan, Italy, and Germany. Speakers such as Tim Ferriss, Joe DeSena, Chase Jarvis, and more.

I saw firsthand the challenges that military members and their families (especially military spouses) have finding purposeful work.

This backstory may seem irrelevant to SEO and marketing. I promise it isn’t.

After graduating from college, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in writing. I got connected with an SEO company in Denver and started working remotely for them. I knew nothing about SEO at the time. I only knew how to write.

I received no formal training. Let’s just say that this particular SEO company wasn’t very efficient or managed properly. Even though the company had its downfalls, it grew quickly and I was forced to keep up.

I decided to train myself. I read hundreds of articles and books on SEO and marketing. I watched hundreds of hours worth of YouTube tutorials. I was obsessed.

After 2 years with this SEO company, I became aware that they were doing a lot of things wrong. They were more money-driven than purpose-driven. So, in 2019 I decided to leave this company and start my own business which is now known as Portland SEO Growth.

As my company started to grow, I needed to hire people. Because of my upbringing and learning about military spouses, I decided to hire military spouses. And it was an incredible choice for my business.

The military spouses (and women in general) on my team are talented. They’re skilled, competent, and passionate about producing high-quality work. Without hiring these talented women, my business would be nowhere near where it is today. The women on our team have accomplished the following (plus a lot more):

  • Building a nearly automated process to produce 85+ pieces of content per month (over 170,000 words of content per month)
  • Creating complex equations and data-driven metrics to evaluate keyword potential
  • Implementing customer service strategies that has led to only 4 clients churning (out of 35) since our business started 2 years ago.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

One of the funnest marketing mistakes that I made was early on in my career. I was self-teaching everything I could about SEO. Naturally, when you’re self-teaching, you’re going to stumble upon content and resources that aren’t accurate.

With one of my previous SEO company’s clients, I decided to write content for EVERY keyword variation instead of properly writing content using “topic clusters.” Basically, I wrote 5–6 pieces of content around the exact same topic but just used slightly different keywords.

I wrote one piece of content for “does tattoo removal hurt?”, another piece of content for “is tattoo removal painful?” and another for “how bad does tattoo removal hurt?”

I clearly engaged in keyword cannibalization. A big no-no in SEO.

During this experience, my big takeaway was learning about how to write for “topic clusters” instead of just writing for specific keywords. This is a huge lesson since Google’s algorithm is getting much smarter and prefers comprehensive pieces of content around particular topics rather than writing for specific keywords.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Honestly, there’s not one particular person that comes to mind. My success has come from the culmination of many people.

1. My parents: they have been incredibly supportive and I’m blessed that they exposed me to a lot of new ideas growing up.

2. My wife, Emily: at the time I started my business, we were still dating. It was a big risk to go out on my own and she encouraged me.

3. Trevor Shirk: He was my boss at the first SEO company I worked for. He’s not perfect — nobody is. But he had faith in me and gave me autonomy to “figure things out.” I have respect for his ambition.

4. TJ Cooper: TJ is a marketer that taught me a lot, especially when it came to technical SEO.

5. My team members: Most of my team members are smarter than me. Over the past 2 years, since starting my business, many of my team members have had brilliant ideas that have allowed us to grow and succeed.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our company stands out because of our values and our social mission. Our business is not strictly motivated by money, like a lot of other SEO companies are.

We want to grow our business to do two things:

  1. Help small businesses get access to SEO at a more affordable cost than other agencies (our prices are about 30% cheaper than the average SEO company), while getting better results.
  2. Hire as many talented women and military spouses as possible. Our goal is to have 30+ military spouses on our team by the end of 2022.

Here’s what some of our team members have to say about working for Portland SEO Growth:

  • Brittany Allen: “During the past decade, I’ve had six or seven different careers, and this is the first job I’ve been able to take with me and move with. Not only that, I was able to continue my role through a move, a deployment, and a pandemic”
  • Courtney Kirk: “Most of us are moms, and most of us wanted the same thing — we wanted to be home with our kids, but we also wanted to work. We understand each other, we understand the challenges of deployments and frequent moves and can support one another from hundreds of miles away.”

Just today, I got a Slack message from one of my team members named Jessica. She’s currently pregnant and due in November of 2021.

Here’s what she said:

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Leveraging Smart People: Like I’ve said over and over, my business would be nowhere without the talented women that I’ve hired.

Early on in my business, I thought I could do it all. As I got more clients and was working 10+ hour days, I realized that wasn’t feasible. I needed help.

2 years later, I’ve learned that hiring talented women is the BEST thing I can do for my business.

2. Beginner’s Mindset: SEO and digital marketing in general is complex. It seems to be changing daily. The only way to be the best is to have a beginner’s mindset every single day.

Even though I’ve been doing SEO for 5+ years and I’ve proven myself, I know I can’t get complacent. I have to approach every client, every challenge, and every situation as a total beginner.

For example, Google is currently releasing the new Page Experience update. Leading up to this new update, I spent hours reading and learning about what Google was planning on doing. With that in mind, our team was able to position our clients to be in the best position possible to succeed during this update.

3. Be Data-Driven: Marketing and SEO work best when you rely heavily on data. Early on in my career, before I became competent in data analytics, I trusted my gut to make decisions. Wrong move.

As a marketer, I need to let the data speak to me.

This is why, with every single one of our clients, we run a comprehensive technical SEO audit and content SEO audit. Then, based on the data that the audit produces, we build a roadmap from there.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m currently working with a partner to build a SaaS product that will help the average small business owner become more efficient and effective when it comes to their SEO.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. As we mentioned in the beginning, sometimes companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools like PPC campaigns often see disappointing results. In your opinion, what are a few of the biggest mistakes companies make when they first start out with digital marketing? If you can, please share an example for each.

1. Not using data to make decisions:

This is what usually happens…

Me: What are you doing for marketing and why?

Business: Well, we’re doing X, Y, and Z. We’re doing it because that’s what we think is best.

Me: That’s what you think is best? How do you know if it’s working? What’s your ROI? How much does it cost to acquire a customer using these methods?

Business: Uhhh… Well, we don’t know.

Too many businesses run their marketing campaigns based on a “gut feeling” instead of data.

For example, many companies write blog content internally. When I ask them why they’re writing content on these topics, they usually say something like “Well, we think it’s an interesting topic to write about! And we’re supposed to write blog content, right?”

After I look into the data, I find that their target audience does not in fact care about the topics they’re writing about. The business finds the topics interesting, but their target audience doesn’t care at all.

Too many businesses spend time, money and energy creating content that their target audience doesn’t care about.

2. Not creating a content calendar:

Too many businesses are sporadic with content creation. At the beginning of the year or quarter, the marketing team will go to a conference room and say “We need to create content!” Then, they’ll brainstorm some ideas. They’ll get really excited.

Two months later… no content was written because they didn’t create a proper content calendar and hold themselves accountable.

If you could break down a very successful digital marketing campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.

Here’s what a successful blueprint looks like:

  1. Run a comprehensive audit on your marketing to see what’s working and what isn’t
  2. Use the data to double down on what’s working and fix what isn’t working

It’s as simple as that! Too many businesses fail to use data to their advantage. Their marketing campaigns are built on “hunches” and “gut feelings.”

Let’s talk about Pay Per Click Marketing (PPC) for a bit. In your opinion which PPC platform produces the best results to increase sales?

It totally depends on the business! We’ve found that some businesses that cater to older folks do really well with PPC on Bing. Yes, Bing! Why? Because a higher percentage of their older audience uses Bing over Google. And Bing advertising is often cheaper than Google, leading to higher ROI.

For other businesses, Instagram or Facebook might be the best option.

It depends on the product and target audience.

Can you please share 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful PPC campaign?

  1. You need to know where your target audience spends their time. Do they watch lots of YouTube videos? Are they scrolling through Instagram?
  2. You need to know what their deep pain points are. Instead of running ads that share your product’s features, you need to showcase how your product can solve that person’s problem.
  3. You need to know the data. You need to track as much data as possible to know what’s working and what isn’t so that you can pivot.

Let’s now talk about email marketing for a bit. In your opinion, what are the 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful email marketing campaign that increases sales?

  1. You need to know if your target audience wants to be emailed in the first place! Email marketing is not a one-size-fits-all.
  2. Just like with PPC, you need to know your target audience’s deep pain points. Then, you need to add value to your target audience through email marketing. Too many brands spend spammy, self-promotional emails.
  3. You need to know the different segments of emails that you have. If you have an email list of 10,000 people, it’s likely that your email list needs to be segmented so that you can create different sequences for different personas.

What are the other digital marketing tools that you are passionate about? If you can, can you share with our readers what they are and how to best leverage them?

I love SEMrush. Our team uses SEMrush daily. It’s an amazing SEO tool that is extremely helpful when:

  1. Auditing a business’s SEO
  2. Doing keyword research
  3. Running competitor analyses
  4. Creating content

I’d highly recommend leveraging SEMrush for your SEO needs, especially their “keyword magic” tool.

Here is the main question of our series. Can you please tell us the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career as a digital marketer? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. You need to be a self-teaching machine: I learned everything I know today through self-teaching. I’ve never had formal marketing training.

If you want to have a successful marketing career, then you need to devour content online. Nowadays, you can learn anything by doing a Google search or going to YouTube.

The same is true with digital marketing. You can become an SEO expert within a couple of weeks if you spend enough time reading content or watching “how-to” videos.

You can learn marketing analytics and how to leverage data by finding an expert online and reading his/her content.

Don’t make excuses and don’t wait to be taught. Go out there and gather your own knowledge.

2. You need to move quickly and test different strategies:

You can go online and read articles about marketing strategies all day long. But if you don’t implement those strategies? You’ll never truly learn.

The best way to learn how to be a successful marketer is by DOING. Go out there and test strategies. Test what works and what doesn’t.

All it takes is time. Writing content is free. You can easily create a blog and start honing in on your SEO skills. You can do “free work” for a company and manage their PPC to test different strategies.

Being a successful marketer requires that you consistently test different strategies.

3. You need to ask for help and leverage brilliant minds:

It’s rare for one person to run a successful marketing campaign by themselves. To be a great marketer, you need to leverage other talented marketers.

Think about all the different types of marketing:

– Email marketing
– Social media marketing
– Branding
– Sales copywriting
– Partnership marketing
– Traditional marketing (radio, billboards, TV)
– Video marketing

There’s NO way you can be an expert at all of these. Therefore, you have to know when to be humble and say “I need help.” If you can do that well, you’ll be a successful marketer.

The only reason my business has achieved the success that it has is because of my team of talented women and military spouses. I needed help and I found brilliant women to support.

4. You need to rely on data instead of gut feelings:

Too many marketers fail to leverage data. If you want to be successful, you have to become obsessed with data. You have to become obsessed with tracking what works and what doesn’t.

The best marketers in the world are data fanatics. They track every metric possible. They split test different strategies. They build comprehensive dashboards.

If you have transparent data, you’ll be a successful marketer.

5. You need to be be emotionally intelligent and empathetic:

At the end of the day, marketing is about connecting with people. You’re building campaigns and strategies that are attempting to convince a person to take action.

To be a successful marketer, you need to understand how your target audience operates. How they live. What keeps them up at night? What scares them? What are their goals? What language do they use to describe their problems?

If you can become emotionally intelligent and empathetic to your target audience, you’ll have a better opportunity to connect with them.

What books, podcasts, videos or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?

I love Backlinko’s content. Brain Dean is a genius and I’ve been following him for years.

Neil Patel and Search Engine Journal are also high on my list. I subscribe to their content and stay up to date on SEO trends and patterns through their content.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would start a movement to encourage employers to hire talented military spouses and women in general. As I’ve mentioned before, my business would not be where it is today without our team of women.

Unfortunately, military spouses are underutilized and forgotten by a lot of companies. Military spouses have to move frequently (every 1–2 years). Because of this, many employers turn them away.

With the rise of remote work, military spouses are now in the perfect position to find high-paying and purposeful jobs. They’re incredibly talented and skilled. They’re resourceful and innovative.

I’d encourage employers to seek out military spouses when possible.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Go to to find our up-to-date resources section with how-to articles on SEO and digital marketing.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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