Episode 121: Design for Conversion with Dmitrii Kustov | Cemoh Marketing Podcast

Simon Dell speaks to Dmitrii Kustov - CEO of Regex SEO, a Houston-based Internet Marketing company which focuses on SEO consulting, Design for Conversion, PPC, Internet Marketing Project Management and Search Engine Optimisation for database and software development.


Simon Dell: So, welcome to the Cemoh Marketing Show. Dmitrii Kustov, you are in, I believe – are you in Houston, Texas at the moment?

Dmitrii Kustov: Correct. 

Simon Dell: On a complete side note here, I spent a week in Texas, getting in Houston, Texas, getting very, very drunk with my brother when he used to live there. And I went to some fantastic bars and restaurants. And in all honesty, Dmitrii, I couldn’t remember a single name of any of them. So, it was that good a week. So, tell us a little bit about yourself. Tell us about… You work for Regex SEO. Tell us a story about that.

Dmitrii Kustov: All right. So, Regex SEO. We are a full internet marketing – full-service internet marketing agency. We are, yes, located in Houston. And basically, our idea is that we can take anybody who come to us, any client, and we take them from zero to hero. The way we are different from our competition is that every decision, every step in our process, we run through data analysis.  

 So, instead of just trusting our gut, we trust the data. Our bread and butter is typically SEO. That’s most of our clients. Most of our work is about SEO. But in a lot of cases, in order to perform very good as your service, we have to make sure that the website is designed well, that it runs quickly, loads fast and anything else that is for leads, tracking, for conversions, tracking, all of that stuff. We need to make sure that all of that is done very much correctly and to its best ability.

Simon Dell: So, we’ve spoken about SEO on this podcast show a number of times in the past with other different people. One question I obviously wanted to sort of focus on with you is the design aspect. And a lot of people don’t quite realize that, you know, SEO, there is a key component of SEO, is the design of the website. What does that mean? When you kind of say good design, you know, what does that mean in layman’s terms to the business owner at the other end?

Dmitrii Kustov: Right. So, SEO. First of all, what is that? Search engine optimization. The goal of it is to rank on the first page of Google or any other search engine for the services you provide. And SEO has, really, four major parts of it, and the first one is content, then there is technical optimization, backlinks, and another one is user experience. And user experience really is – that’s what, typically, in layman’s term – in layman’s terms, people understand as design.  

 And the whole idea is that if you go to – as a user, if you go to any website from your phone or desktop or whatever it is, and it takes forever to load, or you can’t find a button to contact the person, or you can’t find anything, any type of information you’re looking for. Well, then you’re going to leave that website.  

 And in Google – for Google, it is in their best interest to show websites on the first page that are engaging that people do not leave quickly. So, that’s where the whole design aspect comes in, because that’s where the user experience happens. If the website is not loading quickly, if there’s any issues with navigation, that’s user experience, which in layman’s terms, again, means design.

Simon Dell: Okay, so what’s good design and what’s bad design? How do I know if I look at my website and – you know, what’s good and what’s bad?

Dmitrii Kustov: So, again, it’s designed as a word, as a thing, is quite subjective. Something that just looks good to you might not look good to me. So, really, what it comes down to is usability. Is it easy to navigate? Is it easy to find information? So, in this case, it’s designed not to look pretty, but rather to be easily so that users can find things easily. So that, let’s say a phone number is very prominent, that your contact page is easy to get to, and so on and so on.

Simon Dell: And so, obviously, things like phone numbers and contact pages. What about navigation? You know, there’s a lot of websites that you see with very complex navigation, but quite in-depth navigation. There’s a lot of it. There’s a lot of, you know, a lot of links. Is it sort of less is more in that context?

Dmitrii Kustov: Not necessarily. So, what most businesses do not realize, the business owners, is that whenever you develop a website, really, you should be designing for two entities. One of them is users, people and users. People like it to be pretty and flashy and kind of nice looking and slick looking, and all that stuff. However, Google, they like the user experience part, quickly find something not to get lost in the website. So, going back to your navigation, it needs to be intuitive for people.  

So, what I usually recommend always to any of our clients that have troubles judging – or not judging, but making a decision if their website is good or bad. So, take your website, especially nowadays on a mobile phone, one of the smartphones, and give it to your grandma or grandpa. And just tell them, “Hey, can you go to a contact page?” And just observe. That’s it.  

 So – and if they have troubles getting… If it’s not intuitive, if they’re trying to click on something and it’s actually not clickable, if they are trying to scroll, but it’s not scrollable, things of that nature, that little test will tell you a lot.  

And then the second step, what I usually say after you give it to your grandma or grandpa, give it to your kid or niece or nephew that are 5 years old or something like that. And then, ask them similar questions and see how they interact with it. And as long as it’s intuitive… And people, even if you have your navigation has a thousand links, but people can get to whatever they want to get to, that’s not a problem.  

Like, think of Amazon. Amazon has thousands of products, probably hundreds of thousands now. And their menu is not small, it’s just built in a way that if you want to find something, you can find something. And sometimes, a search bar is very easy solution to that. If you have so much stuff, you can’t fit it all in the navigation, just make a search bar that works properly, that the suggestions and things like that, and you’re going to be golden.

Simon Dell: If you’re looking at your website and you’re not sure if it’s easy to navigate… I mean, I love the idea of the grandparent test or the 5-year-old test and see if they can find their way there. Is it better for people to… If they find that their website is hard, is it better for people just to start again, build a new website or redesign the existing… You know, is it enough just to do some quick fixes with the site?

Dmitrii Kustov: It definitely depends. Depends on how much thought has been put when the website was built originally. If your website is 10 years old or 15 years old, probably you need to be doing a bit more of a redesign, a bit more of kind of drastic changes. But in a lot of cases, small tweaks here and there make a lot of difference.  

And that’s what user experience optimization… That’s where the user experience optimization, as a service, comes in. That’s what we kind of do for a lot of our clients. And we spend a couple hours on the website, and then there are a lot of tools that allow you to see how exactly users interact with your website.  

Are they trying to click on something that they think is a button, but it’s not a button? Or it looks like a button, but it’s not a button? Or are most people going and clicking on something that is at the top of the page, but your main information is at the bottom of the page, so they don’t even scroll to it?  

 So, you just need to do a bit of analysis and reach out to somebody or do it with tools that a lot of them have free trials, or some kind of cheap plans for session recordings, for heat maps. And then, you as a business owner, you would be able to make some decisions, or at least you would be able to understand how much changes you need to do.

Simon Dell: Let’s talk about your clients. SEO obviously has a bad name in some circles. You know, there’s lots of people… I mean, we’ve all had emails from people in India and trying to sell us cheap SEO services. And not just India, like in multiple countries and things like that. What sort of results should somebody be seeing and how quickly should they be seeing them if they worked with a legitimate SEO company?

Dmitrii Kustov: That’s a very good question, I’m glad you asked this. So, a little bit – step back a little bit. As always, you get what you pay for. No matter what it’s for, what it is, SEO or a car or a drink, or whatever it is. The less you pay, most likely, the quality will be matching the price. So, that’s thing one. As for if the company is legitimate, how soon you should be able to see the results.  

It’s a little bit complicated, but the idea is like this. You should be able to see progress pretty much immediately within a couple of weeks. You should be able to see progress of some sorts. It does not mean that the company will be able to put you on the first page in two weeks. No. However, if you have been ranking on Page 10 or, let’s say, positioned 99, you might see that you actually rank in position 96. 

Simon Dell: Right.

Dmitrii Kustov: Or you’ve been getting, let’s say, on average, 100 visits a month to your website, and now you’re getting 101 visits. So, as long as there is progress. And another thing which is very, very important is a proper SEO agency or any marketing agency, they should – before they start charging you for anything, they should have a strategy meeting and expectations meeting. 

So, what we do with our clients? We sit down and we say, “Okay, based on the data on your current state of the website, on your current state of optimization…” Because everybody is different, somebody has been doing this for years already. “So, based on your stuff, we can get you to here in this many months.” And therefore, we can kind of track the progress over time and, “Are we hitting those milestones? Are hitting the goals in the month? In the two -” whatever those milestones are. So, as long as you see progress, and the company you work with is transparent, that’s pretty much the sign that the company knows what they’re doing.

Simon Dell: And I guess the million-dollar question, how much should people be paying for it? And I guess, obviously, you get what you pay for, but you know, there’s some agencies out there that might be charging a certain amount of money, and some charging a different amount of money.

Dmitrii Kustov: Right.

Simon Dell: How do you look at that from a layman’s terms, from a business owner who doesn’t understand SEO and go, “Should I be spending $500 a month? Should I be spending $2000 a month? Should I be spending $5000 a month?” What are those numbers?

Dmitrii Kustov: So, golden rule for digital marketing, or marketing in general is 10% of your revenue. 10% of your revenue, you should be spending on some sort of marketing. It doesn’t have to be just SEO, could be a combination of things. And another question which I always encourage business owners to ask is, “How much are the results that the company tells me that they’re going to deliver are worth to the business?”  

So, let’s say you come to me and say, “Look at my data, what can you project? How many leads or sales, or whatever it is, you can bring in a couple of months or a year, or whatever it is?” We sit down, we say, “Okay, it looks like based on these numbers, we can get you three extra sales a month.” 

So, to you, as a business, how much are those sales worth? Is it just $100, or are you selling something very expensive and it’s $100,000? Therefore, you kind of, again, the expectations should be that around 10% of that extra revenue, that’s what you’re going to be spending. That’s just kind of makes sense, right?

Simon Dell: Yes, yeah. And I guess, probably, the challenge then is yes, you might start seeing results straight away, but you might not start seeing revenue right away. So, you know, there’s a difference between a result of a growth in a particular keyword, or a particular traffic that doesn’t necessarily turn into revenue straight away, right?

Dmitrii Kustov: Yes, that is correct. It’s typically a numbers game, so there is an average for each website, for each business that is going to be an average conversion rate. Meaning out of 100 visits to the website, you’re going to get this many leads. So, I think industry average is around 3%.  

So, typically, you can expect 3 leads from 100 visits to the website. And out of three leads, typically, you look at your own business data sales out of three leads. How many do you typically close? Is it just one? Is it two? Is it all three? Are you that awesome? And that’s how you can project.  

So, whenever you are talking to any marketing company, they should give you projections for increase in website traffic and website visits. And therefore, looking at your website conversion rates, you can predict or project how many more leads you can get, and therefore – and when you can get them.  

Because as you mentioned, it’s going to be kind of a slower growth. So, in how long or by what time can we get an extra 100 visits a month? Is it going to be in a month, or is it going to be in three months? And again, you just make those simple calculations, and typically, good as your company as good marketing companies, they will present that up front before you start paying. Or at least in the discovery stage, they were presented, and they kind of guide you through that.  

And typically kind of a golden rule is the less they talk about data, the worse the expectations should be, right? So, if they all just like, promising everything, “Yeah, we’re going to get you 100 leads, and don’t worry how we get them,” then something is not right. Just trust your gut in that regard.

Simon Dell: Let’s finish off, because I want to understand, you’ve been running your agency for what, over 5 years now? I think 5 to 6 years?

Dmitrii Kustov: Yeah. Yeah, it’s 6 now, right.

Simon Dell: Okay, six. Yeah. How do you find your own clients? I mean, obviously, I would imagine you have your own SEO strategy, but what other ways do you find sourcing new clients? How do they reach you?

Dmitrii Kustov: Right. So, as you said yourself, our one of our biggest lead drivers is SEO. So, we are ranking number one in Houston for SEO companies. So, if anybody googles “SEO Houston-“

Simon Dell: And what particular keyword is that, is that “SEO companies Houston,” or is there…?

Dmitrii Kustov: There are a few. So SEO Houston, Houston SEO, Houston Company SEO, Houston SEO Agency and so on. So, we are number one, sometimes we’re number two. So, that’s one of the biggest ones. And other than that, we do outbound strategies. So, we kind of try to pursue specific clients we want to work with, based on case studies and knowledge of the industry.  

So, let’s say if we were able to achieve really good results for a HVAC company, like an air conditioning company in one area, then we can implement the same strategies and do the same thing for a company in a different area, so that they’re not competing. But we can more or less, not guarantee, but we can show that we’ve done this for this company. We will do the same thing for you, and we are much more… We’re much more… What’s the word? I’m lost for words now. We are much more sure that we can get that new company to get good results based on the previous experience.

Simon Dell: And with the outbound strategy, what are you finding works best for you? Emails, phone calls?

Dmitrii Kustov: Cold emails don’t work, cold calls don’t work. It is all about relationship building. It’s about finding the right person, and in a sense, becoming friends. It doesn’t have to be in like, a normal sense friend, you know, have lunches together or anything like that. That would be great, if you can. If you meet somebody in some kind of a networking meeting or conference, or whatever it is, that’s even better.  

But other than that, nowadays, especially with COVID, everybody is online and there are a lot of groups that you can make “friends,” online friends through Twitter and all the social medias. And even things like finding – now it needs to be natural. You shouldn’t kind of fake it, right?  

So, if you do enjoy somebody’s content and you like what their company is doing, but you see some potential – and it’s really for any business. Like, let’s say, like… What’s a good example? Well, I mean, sure, I’ll stick to marketing, since I know it.  

If I see a company that does really cool stuff, but I see there’s like, a little hole in their marketing strategies, I’m like, “Hey guys, you probably should be doing this,” and then kind of run them through it. And typically, if you can provide value beforehand, before you charge anybody, you trust builds up and that way you kind of become friends before you start any business relationship.

Simon Dell: Okay. Last question for today. What are your favourite brands aside from the marketing space? You know, is there something in Houston that we ought to know about, whether they’re in marketing or any other consumer brands? A business that perhaps impresses you a lot.

Dmitrii Kustov: Oh, that’s a loaded question, for sure. So, I am a foodie. I do like really good foods. And actually, before I started any of the marketing stuff, I worked as a chef for quite a few years. So, there are a couple good, small restaurants you don’t find on TripAdvisor or anything like that.  

Velvet Taco, they have a very few locations. Very small place, and it’s amazing. So, if anybody is in the Houston area, do visit Velvet Taco. As for just bigger brands, I like Tesla.

Simon Dell: Yeah.

Dmitrii Kustov: Because of kind of the futuristic aspect of it. There’s a lot of talk about electric cars. Are they better or worse than in terms of pollution, and all that stuff? But just the idea of kind of thinking about the future and going to the future, instead of trying to get the most out of right now? Well, let’s concentrate on the future and capitalize on it little bit later. I like that kind of strategy and future planning. I do enjoy that part. And their car looks cool, so yeah.

Simon Dell: Cool, cool. Mate, look, thank you very much for your time today. It’s been great learning a little bit more about your SEO approach and also your business as well. If anybody wants to reach out and find you, what’s the best way of getting hold of you?

Dmitrii Kustov: All right. So, the easiest way is to contact us on the website, through the website at www.regexseo.com. Regex stands for “regular expressions”. That’s a technical term, and SEO is SEO. Or if you would like to reach me directly, then I’m on LinkedIn, Twitter and social medias, and my handle is @digitalspaceman. We are in Houston, NASA, all the goodness, you know. And then the whole space going up, improving. Like there’s the background –

Simon Dell: The little space man behind you, yeah.

Dmitrii Kustov: Yeah. 

Simon Dell: Cool. Awesome.

Dmitrii Kustov: So, yeah. @digitalspaceman.

Simon Dell: Thank you very much for your time today. Have a good rest of your day. I have no idea what time it is there with you. I lose track of everything.

Dmitrii Kustov: It’s night, almost. 

Simon Dell: Cool. All right, cool. Thank you very much for being on the show, Dmitrii. Thank you.

Dmitrii Kustov: Thank you for having me.

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