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Jason White

Who is Jason White? Cycling, high-fives, copious coffee consumption and burrito judging is where he starts. Director of SEO at DragonSearch is where Jason continues. He has been actively involved in many different forms of marketing including: branding, print and media buys, guerrilla marketing, pay per click, mobile campaigns, email marketing, reputation management and his favorite, search engine optimization. His role evolves as the field changes but his core skill sets enables Jason to draw from previous experiences, connecting multiple platforms to create holistic campaigns that deliver results. Jason has spoken at Search Marketing Expo, New York University and the Mid-Hudson Valley Digital Marketers with work featured on Search Engine Journal, The Marketology Blog and interviews appearing on Inc., CNBC, WordStream, CIO and Techwyse. Follow Jason: Google+ and Twitter LinkedIn
Jason White

Blog Posts by Jason White

7 Tips for Creating Relevant Website Audit Reports that Build Client Trust

July 2nd, 2014

Since making the jump from in-house to agency marketer, I have been fascinated by the intricacies of client, agency and team member relationships. As a Project Manager and Director of SEO, I am responsible for both client retention and the growth of the department. It is essential to my success, and ultimately the success of DragonSearch, to deliver superb work that extends beyond my client’s established goals, project after project, day after day.

The sometimes misguided practices of the minority in the digital marketing industry have given practitioners a bad name, while leaving the clients that pay for underdelivered services a wretched taste in their mouths. I have often felt the animosity and uncertainty caused by the lack of trust when meeting prospective clients for the first time. At Cannes, the creative agency, RPA, delivered the findings behind the survey, The Naked Truth which caught my eye because it examines the agency to client relationship and why the killer variable of trust is missing. Reporting is often our chief communication method with clients, which is ignored in favor of vanity metrics, fancy outreach methods and shiny new tools that aren’t fully understood.

Our industry’s reliance on communication-via-reporting sucks and it kills the trust clients have in their agency, even our industry as a whole. Most projects that I’m involved with begin with a Website Audit and results in what can be a 40-page, 10,000+ word beast that thoroughly calls-out every detail that is wrong with the client’s web site. It feels like calling the client’s baby ugly and telling the website development team that they suck at their job. I will note here that I don’t actually call the client’s baby (web site) ugly, nor do I tell the development team that they suck at their job. However, I imagine that’s the thud they feel within their guts as they review the document. This presents a challenge for building a strong, trusting relationship that must be overcome.

The Value of a Thorough Audit

Clients should expect more out of their reporting and agencies should deliver to exceed expectations. To ensure that your reports add value, are actionable and help build trust, follow these 7 essential tips:

Tip #1

Include recommendations specific to the website after each section. Mentioning an issue without offering analysis or recommendations as to why it’s an issue leaves the client wondering. Cookie-cutter analysis can scram.

A quote in response to an SEO website audit report on a purple background

Tip #2

Give clear analysis. Presenting Google Analytics data without analysis should be avoided at all costs. If clients wanted to look at Google Analytics, they’d login and take a look themselves. They want you to explain the key issues, what they mean, and what can be done about them.

A quote showing client trust on a yellow-orange background

Tip #3

Use visuals to enhance understanding. Screenshots can do more in explaining an issue than a verbose technical answer. They should always include additional overlays, arrows, etc. that highlight the issue. Clients largely don’t know what they’re looking at. Do you want them to spend their time trying to understand a graphic, or do you want them to focus on buying into your solution?

A quote in response to a website audit reports on a red background

Tip #4

Cap examples at three. Repeated examples of the same thing wastes time and does not drive the point home any further.

A quote in response to an SEO website audit report on a blue background

Tip #5

Deliver reports that prioritize issues and offer actionable recommendations. Audits cost real money, so reports should maximize the return on this substantial investment and not focus on trivial issues that offer a low return.

A quote showing built client trust on a yellow-orange background

Tip #6

Provide clear next steps. The client should never get to the end of a document and wonder “what’s next?” A clear understanding as to who is responsible for what, how it will be fixed, what support is needed and the timeline for completion should be as clear as day.

A quote in response to a website audit report on a purple background

Tip #7

Respect their input and knowledge. Everyone should feel that they have a seat at the table and can offer their expertise. Ask stakeholders about your recommendations and what they feel needs to be improved. By including them in the conversation, it shows that you respect them. Respect builds trust.

A quote showing client trust on a blue background

Get Ready for a Great Relationship

Education and transparency are largely the fuel that feeds trust. Clients should hunger to understand what their agency is doing on their behalf and agencies should go to great lengths to help their clients understand the strategies, tactics and the reasons why those tactics are so important. There is no better SEO  deliverable that can connect with a client and set in motion the success of the campaign than the website audit. Transparency and education become paramount, showing the client from the start that you have real value to bring to the relationship, becoming a partner in its success. Value the relationship above all else and the trust will follow.  

Website Audit Guest Lecture at NYU with SEO Jason White

May 1st, 2014

Speaking to a room full of college students who are quickly becoming digital marketers scares the crap out of me. Not because I have to stand up in front of people and drop SEO knowledge bombs but because I know they’re gunning for my job. Despite this plausible fear, I jumped at the chance to speak to Matt Capala’s students who are a part of his Inbound Marketing Clinic and M.S. in Integrated Marketing Program at NYU. Most SEO’s I know don’t have a formal degree but that is about to change.

My assignment was to speak about technical SEO website audits which is a task I love. The SEO team at DragonSearch once delivered an audit where the client reported back that they decided to drink a glass of wine to calm their nerves in anticipation of what we found. Apparently they finished the bottle by the end of the audit because they felt so good about everything.

I was excited to show the students the nuts and bolts of performing technical audits but in the end, we covered much more.

The Two Minute Drill of Website Audits

Tom Brady gets charged up about where a website puts its Analytics tracking code

Tom Brady minds the placement of the Google Analytics tracking code, do you?

We started by reviewing the differences between performing an audit for a prospective client or link target. Much like Tom Brady runs an efficient and precise two-minute drill, the prospect audit needs to identify weaknesses and issues quickly. I explained that we look for the following elements:

  • Usability: What is the site about? Is it clearly displayed? What is the navigation structure?
  • Structure: What does the URL structure look like?
  • Tracking: Is Analytics in the Source code? Is it in the correct spot? What other tracking or testing code can be found?
  • Blog: Does the site have a blog? What does the category structure look like? How often do they post? What topics do they cover? Are they utilizing authorship?
  • Robots.txt: Is there a robots.txt file? What does it contain? Does it link to an XML sitemap?

We took a few moments to discuss what a robots.txt file is used for, how it’s used and its importance. Adam Audette wrote an excellent piece recently (holy cow, almost two years ago!) regarding robots.txt and the best practices for SEO. We ended the session by discussing Annie Cushing’s Website Audit Checklist (a benchmark document for website audits) and how that can shape what issues to look for and how to discover them.

Keyword Research Evolution

Professor Capala then asked me to discuss how we perform keyword research, a process that has evolved greatly since I’ve gotten into the SEO game. What was once a ridged procedure is now very free form, factoring in many different data sources to make informed decisions. We did some live action keyword research showing the different ways you can bend the Keyword Planner to your will while you analyze the searcher’s intent behind a phrase, the competitive nature and volume behind terms. We also discussed how you can research additional ideas using Google’s Auto Suggest, Related Searches and Trends and the differences between long tail and head phrases.

Hey User, This Title Tag was Crafted for You; DragonSearch

With finals approaching and my time playing teacher running out, I fielded some questions to see how I could help the students prep. This led to a discussion surrounding Title Tags and Meta Descriptions. With so much changing in the Google SERPs, we mostly kept to the classic approach since counting pixels can be challenging to wrap your head around. We chatted about how:

  • Title tags and Meta Descriptions are your first line of offense to convince the searcher that your result is the best answer for their query.
  • Title Tags should be about 64 characters, use the primary keyword phrase and end with the brand name (although this is changing).
  • Meta Descriptions should be about 165 characters (again, this is changing too) and should focus on writing compelling ad copy to earn the click.

I can’t remember if I mentioned it during the lecture but I should have – chapter six of David Ogilvy’s Confessions of an Advertising Man should be required reading. It can shape how you write compelling copy. Are books TL;DR? Checkout Benjamin Spiegel’s blog post: Writing for Search: Where Meta Tags Meet David Ogilvy

By the end of class, my fear was validated – a new crop of digital marketers are coming and they know their stuff! It was a rewarding experience and judging by the list of marketers who have spoken at the class, these students are getting some top rate knowledge!

Thanks to Matt Capala for graciously inviting me and to his awesome class for hosting!    

Reconsider Your Penguin Recovery Strategy

February 27th, 2014

Reconsideration Request: 4,590,000

That’s how many results are served for the query ‘reconsideration request’. This is the query I searched for after being tapped to write a piece outlining the DragonSearch reconsideration request process. After a good head scratch, I wondered…what do I have to say that will provide value to the SEO community and our clients? Read the rest of this entry »

Giddy Up! How to Ride the Bull and Help Clients with Google Penalties

July 30th, 2013

For a time, I wanted to be a professional bull rider. Infatuation could be linked to one bull in particular whose name alone was brassy as all could be: Bodacious. He was one of the most fear-inducing bulls, known as ‘the greatest bull to ever buck,’ allowing very few cowboys the safety of an eight-second ride. Most rides ended after Bodacious performed his signature move – a one-two combination that started with a jump of the rear-end and ended with a swift swing of Bodacious’ massive (and very hard) head into the rider’s face.

These days, I sometimes feel like I realized my dream of bull riding.  As a Penguin-wrangling SEO ‘cowboy,’ I often feel like I’m in the starting chute, preparing for the ride and not really knowing what way the ‘bull’ is going to shimmy and shake. While the SEO Bull rider’s eight-second ride doesn’t end with physical harm, each ride is just as exciting as the last, leading to the growth in a diverse skills set that can apply to the next ride.

Client Guidance Under Penalty

Bodacious the Bull photo credit: mixingonbeat.com

When Penguin hits a client, it hurts more than just visitors and traffic; it guts a website of its ability to achieve its purpose and often quite a bit of income along with it. Take away revenue and website owners understandably can get a little edgy. It is likely that the Penguin penalty isn’t a result of the work that you did, but rather the work from a previous SEO or agency. The previous practices are what they’ve been taught to rely on and are now being unraveled along with other quantities of work. This is going to bring some trepidation when the client is not sure what way is up and who should be trusted. I’ve found that this predicament is the cause of some wild swings in emotions, but understanding this has allowed me to anticipate needs before they are first encountered.

The set-up before you’re even out of the gate is important. Early in the process – before the project is kicked off and is still in the sales stages – its important to stand firm in your beliefs, your knowledge and how that will be applied to their website or project when it differs from the client’s point of view. This is hard to do while trying to earn their trust and business but it will get the relationship moving in the right direction. In bull riding, it’s called a ‘turn back’ and is used to describe a bull that displays a bucking pattern which heads one direction but then makes a sharp move in the opposite direction. No matter how strong the relationship is with a client, there will always be a turn back moment. I’ve been on the receiving end of:

  • Rage, disgust grief and disapproval
  • Terror and fear
  • Remorse, acceptance and amazement

When the turn back comes, however it is displayed, empathizing and sharing in the client’s worry while understanding where they’ve been, what they’ve been taught and how what you’re recommending goes against this grain can help the SEO cowboy stay on the bull. Keeping an eye on the long-term results can be a lonely uphill battle but keeping firm with what you know and hold true is important to demonstrate early so that you always have the ability to do what is right vs. what the client believes is right.

Beat Penguin with Data Not Feelings

Bull riders do their homework. They may not know which bull they’ll draw so they have to be ready to ride any of the bulls at the event. They study each of the bulls on tour relentlessly to understand their tenancies, which way they cut out of the gate, what signature moves the bull  has and how that can be exploited to earn the points of an eight second ride. The tools and skills that the cowboy has are the same, but the application of those skills will be different every ride. Emotions will get a cowboy hurt but using senses and data to make smart decisions will keep them in the rodeo.
conversion rise from organic traffic due to testing while website was under penalty
I’ve learned that the clients who are hardest hit with a penalty often don’t think like a cowboy and make judgments based on their feelings and not the data available to them. The DragonSearch team that works with clients affected by a search penalty are spreadsheet freaks who dig through the data to understand how the penalty is behaving website to website and what they can do to get a website back on top. They know that the secrets are found in the data, not in feelings.  They are able to tie together the hard facts found within the endless spreadsheets, deep dives into Analytics and during conversations with the client, to complete the story and educate the client with facts. Feelings can be misleading and they’re believers in our process because the small wins found in the data will help the client survive and turn into bigger wins as the stakes rise.
With an understanding of what is working and what’s not, its important to consider anything and fix everything. Penalties are not about just the cause of the ills. Everything relating to the website is important from Social Media to Pay-Per-Click to Email Marketing and beyond. Even under a search penalty, the rules are still the same – relentlessly test, analyze, retool and do it again because, even with bad traffic, you can do more with what you have when you dig. Relying on feelings doesn’t give you the ability to make good decisions that move the needle the way that actionable data does.

Desperate SEOs Will do Desperate Things; Not Always at Fault

roll stuffed with dollars to make the point that its not the cost of something, its about the qualityI spent an enjoyable portion of my younger years employed at one of Boston’s best bicycle shops. The shop was on the higher end, selling bikes that were at the pinnacle of the sport, made with exotic and rare materials that came with the appropriate price tag to reflect their space-age construction. My employer would often exclaim to clients and visitors who remarked at the prices: “You can pay a dollar for a hamburger but you still have to eat it.” It’s a clever remake of an old adage that still drives the point – you can buy really cheap food, but is it really something that you’d enjoy and want to eat? I see a lot of the same rational with clients – counting the nickels and dimes and expecting supreme performance from them. You can buy large quantities of cheap links or have content created by people who charge pennies per word but, is that something that you want to have related to your website? Would you be proud to show what your digital marketing team is doing to someone you’re trying to impress or would you have to backtrack and explain why something is sub par? The SEO’s that have to work under these constraints make bad decisions not because they’re bad SEO’s, but because they’re under the pressure to produce under unrealistic expectations and haven’t properly communicated this with the client. Expecting magic to happen without any money to do so, or placing value on tactics that don’t provide the right kind of value to the client will enviably take them right back to where they came from. I don’t blame these SEO’s for doing these things, but I do blame them for not having the client’s best interest at heart and discussing with them why bad tactics are going to hurt them.
Search Engine penalties are a wild ride that requires an attack from many different angles. After each ride, I’m always just as excited to get back in the starting shoot, climb aboard the bull and see if I can hit the right combination on the eight-second ride of success. What have Search Engine penalties taught you?
Just FYI if you’re interested in seeing the bull Bodacious in action, don’t do a search for him without safe search turned on! 

Matt Cutts; Quality Guidelines of Knowing a Web Spam Team Member; DragonSearch

May 8th, 2013

Quality Guidelines of Knowing Matt Cutts

In the middle of a call with a client he stopped me.

“Rowler! Do you know that you’re the first SEO that I’ve talked to that hasn’t claimed to know Matt Cutts?”

His southern accent had a tendency to take my chosen title of SEO Rouleur, a French term for a good all-around cyclists, and mispronounce it with his distinct Southern twang.

“Nooooo! Are you serious?!” I replied.

“Yes, sir. First one. One monkey told me ‘Oh, yeah. I’m going to go have lunch with Matt later today!’ Holidays are coming up rowler, you better get yourself invited to his table ‘cuz we need to get out of this Penguin mess!”

Do You Know Cutts?

It was pretty funny at first. But the head smack moment came when we started having discussions with businesses owners who had websites obliterated by the Penguin algorithm. One call after another I was asked variations of the same question:

“Who do you know on the web spam team?”

“When was the last time you talked to Cutts?”

“When will you ask Matt to let us back in the SERPs?”

Who Does Know Matt Cutts?

Now, I don’t know anyone on the web spam team and I certainly don’t know Matt Cutts so I asked around the DragonSearch office in search of someone who does:



With no concrete answers to be found; I went to LinkedIn:



Come on, man! You Don’t Know Cutts Either.

I think it’s safe to say with a scant 360 connections on LinkedIn, you don’t know Matt Cutts either.

Use the Tweet button below and let the world know that you don’t know Cutts and aren’t ashamed to announce it!

And if you do know Matt Cutts, can you give him a high-five and tell him I said to keep up the good work?

Link Building Strategies of Yosemite Sam Meet Google’s Disavow Tool

November 1st, 2012

Link Building Strategies Create a New Persona

I have a client that came to DragonSearch having been deeply impacted by Google’s Penguin update. As the team and I have waded through the toxic mess of links that take us to some of the internet’s bad neighborhoods, I’m often left imaging what the original link builder was thinking when they first found the link “opportunity.” Many times, I’m looking at a website that contains thousands of three-sentence blog posts covering wide ranging topics such as teddy bears, men’s gold watches and the best avocado farm in the Sahara – often with exact match anchor text. Eventually my imagination usually leads me to thinking about Yosemite Sam. Much like the community managers of the social media world talk about personas; link builders can be defined with a persona.

Yosemite Sam’s Link Building Techniques Exposed by Penguin

Yosemite Sam, the gun-slinging, grouchy outlaw from Looney Tunes usually sprints into Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from LinkLove: Link Building is Social Media Relationship Building

April 20th, 2012

Somehow it’s already been three weeks since LinkLove Boston and I’m still feeling the after-conference buzz. No, I didn’t play too much cornhole at the bar; the buzz I’m talking about is from all the advanced link building techniques and energy that happens when the SEO tribe comes together: new friendships and concepts to give thought to. I’d be naive to say that I didn’t learn anything new (I most certainly did), but for me, the biggest value was not in what I learned that was new, but rather new ways to apply the skills and tools I use already. For this reason, Wil Reynolds’ presentation on link stalking caused more than one mind explosion to happen inside my head. When implemented with thought and purpose, Wil’s techniques on building links by building relationships is sure a winner. Read the rest of this entry »

Social Media Archiving With SocialSafe: More Than a Backup Tool

April 4th, 2012

It was my very first week as an agency man; my spirits were high and I was soaking in the mind-blowing marketing magic that was happening around me. As the emails slowly trickled into my shinny new email account, a message came in asking me to test out SocialSafe, a social media management tool that allows users to archive their data. Read the rest of this entry »

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