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Interview with Shawn Swaim from TheSEOGeek

Interview with Shawn Swaim from TheSEOGeek

This is the fourth interview of our SEO Expert Roundup Series where we publish interesting life experiences of top SEO experts.

Whether you are a freelancer or an agency, all we want is your passion for SEO and we will do the rest of the work to bring your story to life.

Shawn is one of OnPage Champ’s early beta user and amongst the first ones to validate the benefits of OnPage Champ for his SEO projects.

With 13 years of experience under his belt, Shawn has witnessed the evolution of SEO from close quarters.

Shawn is based out of Doylestown, Pennsylvania and runs his SEO agency, with major focus on e-commerce and SaaS marketing.

Let’s hear out Shawn and his SEO story.

Q. Hi Shawn. Let’s start with your 2 liner introduction.

A. Hey Tushar, I’m Shawn “the SEO Geek.” I am an SEO consultant that focuses on eCommerce and SaaS companies.

Q. How much experience do you have in the field of SEO? Any remarkable brand(s) you have worked with?

A. I have been doing SEO for 13 years now and have worked with over 500 individual companies/brands.

I have been fortunate to work with brands like Pyrex, 1000 Bulbs, Simple Tire, Renew Life, and more.

Q. 13 years is a lot of time. What’s your digital marketing career story like?

A. SEO is my top expertise as I have the most experience in it. I have also learned the process of Facebook and Google Ads (as part of promoting my own business) and can help clients with that as well, in case required.

I started my career as a web developer and fell in love with seeing websites go from just an online version of a brochure to something that generates leads and sales.

Q. What’s your one-liner definition of SEO (the way you see SEO as)?

A. SEO is giving Google what it wants.

Q. What are the 3 biggest transformations you witnessed in the field of SEO in the last 3 years?

A. The biggest shift by far is Google’s transformation to being an AI-driven machine. It has eliminated the “hacks” out of the space and made site owners and consultants think about their marketing holistically as opposed to something that lives in the background.

Q. The 20/180 rule of SEO on your website caught my attention. Will you like to talk more about it?

A. Sure! I discovered the 20/180 principle accidentally. It’s of course inspired by the Pareto principle but applied to SEO specifically.

I was working with a client that wasn’t getting the results they needed, so in an act of desperation, I decided to knock out a handful of things above and beyond our “normal agency” approach and they got a 13% lift in traffic and sales within a month.

Over time, I realized that yes, Google has 200+ algorithm signals, but around 20 of the actions we can take are the ABSOLUTE “cannot skip” action items.

Hence, 20/180 (20 +180 = 200). It’s basically a way of starting with the most important weighted SEO tactics to get some traction faster.

Q. How do you keep your SEO knowledge up to date? What’s your favorite blog(s)?

A. I really like SE Roundtable. I have a short attention span, so the quick feed feature is awesome.

Q. What’s that one single SEO tactic that you think is overrated?

A. Focusing on links from a quantity perspective is not necessary anymore. I often find agencies submitting a massive amount of links because it looks good in a report, but most are garbage.

Q. What’s that one single SEO tactic that you think is underrated?

A. People do not give enough attention to their content. Google’s job is to crawl the web and understand what a website is all about. If a website doesn’t give Google anything to read, Google can’t return any kind of information about your site.

Q. What’s your approach to building an SEO strategy?

A. I refer to my strategy as “Mathematical SEO.” What I mean by that is analyzing WHY your competitors are ranking rather than just diving into a cookie-cutter approach. If your competitor is ranking because their content is awesome, we will write better content. And so on.

Q. What are your views on on-page vs. off-page SEO? How do you approach both the components?

A. They’re both important, yet both executed poorly in most cases. I tend to start with on-page optimization because it’s the foundation of SEO. All the links in the world will not get a site ranked if the on-page is irrelevant.

Q. What are the 3 most critical SEO mistakes that you see your prospective clients making frequently?

A. First is, of course, ignoring SEO, lol. Second is thinking links are the most important aspect of an SEO strategy. The third is thinking SEO is a standalone strategy. It should be a part of the business’s DNA as opposed to being in a silo all it’s own.

Q. Any SEO advice for small businesses that don’t have the knowledge and the budget to hire SEO help? How can they, at least, get started with SEO before they hire a team or outsource their SEO work?

A. Sure, the best thing to do to get started is to stop thinking about SEO and thinking about your customers. If you include the products and services that your customer is looking for within your website’s content, you will be ahead of your competitors in most cases. Be open to telling stories about how you help customers and keep building content.

Q. What are the top 3 or 5 SEO tools you can’t work without (except the Google tools)?


SEM Rush

Screaming Frog

OnPage Champ

Q. How often do you use OnPage Champ for SEO assignments? What are some of the ways you benefit from it?

A. I use it almost daily. Definitely at the beginning of a project because it helps outline what your competitors are doing and falls right in line with my “mathematical SEO” approach.

Q. Do you have your own SEO education program or tutorials? Any plans for the launch?

A. Yes, I just launched SEO: Beginner to Pro. I am beginning to market it using Facebook Ads and a webinar. It will help independent e-commerce business owners get more SEO traffic by embedding the disciplines of SEO into what they’re doing already.

Q. What’s your advice to people who are just getting started with a website and have no knowledge of SEO?

A. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Speaking to them instead of Google will be a lot more profitable.

Q. Anything else you would like to talk about SEO/tools/digital marketing?

A. For SEO Specifically: Fear Google. I don’t mean sit cowardly in a corner, I mean expect Google to understand everything you’re doing.

If you’re building crappy links, Google will know. If you’re skipping out on writing quality content, Google will know.

If you’re trying to cut corners and take SEO shortcuts, Google will know.

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