In this week’s “From the Ground Up” interview, we sit down with Kevin Fidler, founder of NuStream Marketing, an UpCity Certified Premium Partner and one of the top digital marketing agencies in the country. Below we discuss how to teach yourself SEO, what to do when a Google algorithm update shakes up your clients’ traffic, and more!
Q: So, Kevin, tell us a bit about yourself, your history, and how NuStream Marketing got started.
A: Everything started for me back in 2001 with another business I owned called EZ Franchising. I ended up going to five different web design companies (I was pretty thorough!), and I couldn’t find the right fit. They ended up putting a lot of the work on the customer, they weren’t very forthright with their processes, and I was overall unhappy with the service I received.
I realized right away that there was an immediate need to try to fill the gaps that I was seeing. Small business owners have enough on their plates. Having a website is hugely important, but there are a lot of other things that compete for their time. I wanted to make the web design process a bit more efficient and take some of that work off their hands. Now, I have designers, content writers, videographers, and more all under one roof at NuStream Marketing; we offer web design, SEO, and other types of digital marketing from video to PPC.
Q: Did you have previous experience in marketing? How did you gain the expertise to start a digital agency?
A: As funny as it sounds, I went out and bought a book on SEO and started teaching myself. I went online and learned about different white-hat techniques, backlink strategies, how content should be structured, how to do keyword research, and how to utilize schema markup.
We’re talking about 18 years ago, so things were still in their infancy with Google and their algorithm. I was able to build up our clientele slowly, self-train everyone we hired on the things they needed to know, and stay very hands-on with the whole process. I mean, there were times when I’d work 14 hours per day multiple days per week, but I knew that that’s what it would take to build up the kind of team I wanted to have.
The tough part about SEO, as you know, is that once you think you know something, Google goes and switches everything up. There was just another core algorithm update in November that shook up the local pack, and now there’s BERT. Every time there’s a big update, you must go back to the drawing board and reverse-engineer and see what changes work.
What makes our job even harder is that clients don’t want to hear that their traffic is down because of an update. They’re paying us to do the marketing, and it’s our job to know what’s going on in the space and adapt.
Q: That’s a great point. Too many people forget that!
So, what do you do in those in-between times, the times when an update just happened, and you’re still testing to figure out what strategies are going to be best?
A: We’re as transparent as possible. Most agencies like to shy away from talking about factors that are outside of their control like Google updates; we take the opposite approach. I always try to explain as much as possible up front, so there are no hidden things at play. Typically, clients appreciate that and are understanding that there are some things you just can’t control.
The hardest thing to deal with are the clients that think that the industry controls Google. We don’t control what they change; we just react to it. Luckily, we’ve had very few of those. We’ve been extremely fortunate with the type of clients we’ve brought on; we only take on clients that we feel fit our mold, and we fit theirs.
We’ve retained almost 60% of our clients for over six or seven years because we’re thorough, we’re honest, and we follow through. Sometimes that means telling people what they don’t want to hear, but I’d rather be the bad guy and do the right thing, be able to sleep at night, than lie or sell a half-baked service. We’re here to help other people’s dreams come true; that’s legitimately what we do.
Q: That’s exactly the type of mission we have here at UpCity, as well. We’re hoping to help as many businesses as possible in whatever ways we can. I think most successful businesses these days are the same way.
A: Absolutely. A lot of companies say they care, but they might have other things on their agenda. Everyone I’ve spoken with from the UpCity team has been great. When I send an email or call, I get a response in minutes. My account manager, Trent, has called me on the weekend after I sent him an email with a basic question when he’s out of town! I appreciate that kind of care. That’s what it takes to provide the highest level of customer service.
We try to provide that same level of service to our customers. I’ll reply to emails late at night on weekdays; I’ll take client calls on Saturdays and Sundays; our team will jump online to help put out a fire with a client’s site. I 100% believe in the people that are behind our work and our service because we’ve built out a team that all have that same goal.
Q: Well, thanks so much for sitting down with us today to share your story, Kevin. Are there any closing thoughts you’d like to leave off with?
A: To new business owners out there, I’ve been in your shoes. It’s stressful, and it costs time and money. It can be easy to sit back and think that your money was spent in vain, but if your business is your passion, you have to keep at it.
Read books. Watch videos. Learn from stories like mine. Take lessons from others’ mistakes so that you don’t repeat them.