On Episode 90 of The Edge of Innovation, we’re talking with SEO expert Jeremiah Smith. He’s Founder & CEO of Simple Tiger and he’s sharing his business and entrepreneurial advice with us!


How Jeremiah Got Into SEO
Jeremiah Smith: “Living My Dream”
How Jeremiah Started His Own Business
Jeremiah’s Business Lessons Learned
Advice For Starting Your Own Business
Jeremiah’s Business Book Recommendations
What’s With The Name “Simple Tiger?”
Closing Advice
More Episodes
Show Notes

Business Advice From An SEO Expert

How Jeremiah Got Into SEO

Paul: Welcome to another edition of The Edge of Innovation. Today we’re talking with Jeremiah Smith with Simple Tiger. He’s the founder and CEO. So, you’re an SEO company.

Alright, let’s shift gears a little bit here. This is The Edge of Innovation. While we’ve been spending a lot of time talking about – and I think very useful time – talking about how to do this incredible, important aspect of our web presence in SEO. We’d like to talk to people about why did they start a business? What in the world led them to do this? I’ve likened starting and running your own business as one of the hardest things you will ever do in your life. So, you told us a little bit about the mom and pop that you were working for and you learned SEO. Did you have an aha moment there and say, “I’m going to do this for the rest of my life?”

Jeremiah: Absolutely! It’s so funny that you asked me that because that’s exactly what happened actually. So, my mother was doing the book keeping for that company and she actually was the one that connected me with the company to begin with. They saw a website that she was showing them that I built, and they loved it. They wanted my web design ability, so I did that for them. Then I did the SEO thing because they asked for it.

And when I kind of got this little hunch that I’d seen the leads coming through the site ever since I built it and then did the SEO for the site and was actively working on it every day and I got really curious. I’m looking at the analytics and I see these big names that have come through. That these are guys that I’ve actually met out in our show room and shook their hands. And I generated them on my effort, playing on this little laptop in my office over there. And I was like holy cow its really cool! Something hit me that this is very, very real. This is, at the gut, at the core of a business and these guys are standing out in the showroom with a semitruck out in the loading bay area getting loaded up with twenty ATVs.

I was like, there’s so much value in what I’m doing here, and I got curious at the end of six months and I went and had my mother pull a report for me out of QuickBooks and I said, “Look. Here are the leads that we’ve generated from the SEO effort so far. I’m able to track those because again, this was about 12 years ago, so this was the early days of SEO. Google Analytics data was so wide open. You could get anything you wanted out of it. And so, I knew all these leads came in, out of all these different keywords and so I said I need to look at the books and see what kind of revenue these kinds of people gave us.

And so, she showed me. She generated a report, handed it over to me, I saw that two million dollar increase in revenue and my jaw hit the floor because I knew what they were paying me, which was peanuts compared to that but it was a good living for me at the time. I didn’t care and there’s no hate there at all. I was totally happy and blessed with it. But I saw the value. The proportion of what they paid me to what I was able to deliver through that effort and that was when I said, “I am on to something. I’m on to something that I think I can help a lot of other businesses with and this is what I want to do.”

So I put it on my resume and I said I do SEO full time and stuck my resume out there on Career Builder and it got picked up a couple weeks later by an agency in Atlanta called 360i and 360i – I didn’t know who they were at the time – but when I went in for my first interview, I walked down this long hallway with all these plaques on the wall that said MBC, MTV, E*TRADE, LG Electronics, Sports Illustrated, and I was like, oh my god, this is the big league. So those were my clients when I went on to work there and I took everything that I knew from helping that small mom and pop shop in to working at that agency and noticed that the difference was not that big between what I was doing before and what I learned there. It was just scaled up dramatically based on the budget that these clients had. So that was really the only difference.

Paul: Wow!

Jeremiah: And after that, I realized not only is this valuable but the playing field is level and it’s based on your pace – What can you do? What resources do you have at your disposal? You could leverage all those for SEO and you can see equal sized results.

Jeremiah Smith: “Living My Dream”

Paul: Interesting. So, when you were growing up, did you think you’d own your own business? What was your vision for your future?

Jeremiah: Thanks for asking that. So, it’s funny, when I was a little kid I liked to take this little kitchen set thing that I had. It was like a little kids Fisher Price thing. A little plastic stove and refrigerator, sink and everything. And I’d drag it out to the edge of the street where my parents lived, and I’d take some of my toys that I didn’t want anymore and write some prices on them and stand out there all day and wait for someone to stop and buy one of my toys. No one ever bought anything from me except Mom and Dad. They’d come through and give me a quarter for a plastic dinosaur or something. I loved that and so did my brother. He did the exact same thing. We both did that all the time. Didn’t get much for it but we loved doing it.

Traveling around with mom, she was doing bookkeeping for different clients. I’d go to all these different businesses that she worked for and I loved the variety of going into these different businesses as a kid. Just getting to see them, you know. And she would talk to me about how the business worked. I would watch her balance her checkbook and keep her gas receipts and charge those to her clients and things like that. I just learned a lot about business by kind of watching that happen. And then my father being an actor, he was the self-starter and he had to really sell himself for roles. He had to put everything he had into making his roles something that he could win. And so, I was really just kind of a self-starting, business motivated person.

When I was about to graduate high school though, I was deeply interested in robotics and I thought that I was going to go to school for robotic engineering after high school. But my math grades were terrible. All of my grades were terrible. I had a terrible time in school so my prospects looking at Georgia Tech, robotic engineering degree was just shot. They weren’t going to happen. So right after high school, I did a semester of college, maybe a semester and a half, before I discovered SEO. Then I just dropped out of college and did SEO and it wasn’t until a few years later, that I realized, wait a second, I’m doing robotic engineering on the largest robot in the world! And I didn’t even think about it at the time!

And then fairly recently, about three years ago, I got pulled into the University of South Florida to do some honorary guest lecturing on search engine optimization to senior level marketing students in the marketing program there. And so, it really hit me that I came full circle from failing school pretty much and dropping out of college, to actually teaching college at a very high level on robotic engineering and so now I’m living my dream, knowing that I’ve accomplished that.

But I have to say that I don’t look backwards and see a lot of my personal efforts that led up to that. Based on my faith, I kind of see God’s hand at work and so a whole lot of divinity in that case.

How Jeremiah Started His Own Business

Paul: Very cool. So, you made the crazy decision at some point to start your own business. You were sort of doing it as one person, but there’s a big difference when you hire your first employer, your second employer and you actually realize you’ve started a business. Tell me a little bit about that because you were working at this… you made it to the big leagues and you were working for somebody else. But now you own your own business so how did that happen?

Jeremiah: Yeah, so while I was working for the agency that I mentioned earlier. I really loved it. I gained a lot of intelligence working for that agency. A lot of corporate expertise and understanding and got to dive really deep into working with large brands and playing the corporate brand. But after a very short period of time, I knew I did not fit that corporate model. It just wasn’t for me. And this was around the time that the four hour work week came out and I read that and it totally just shattered everything that I was doing at that agency and so I decided to start trying to shift things a little bit. I approached the agency with some ideas for doing allowing remote work and some other stuff. And my ideas kept getting shot down and so I got demotivated.

I was building this consulting practice on the side, and I was helping clients on nights and weekends. And eventually just decided, “I’ve got to grow my consulting practice into my own agency.” I had Simple Tiger then, but it was still just a little consulting business. It wasn’t until I brought on my brother Shawn, and he and I really joined forces and decided to actually start hiring a team and kind of adding more clients and offering a service that included implementation and production of content, links and things like that – Beyond just the consulting that I had been doing so far. So, when we decided to do that, we opened a whole new can of worms which was building a marketing agency and that was really fun. But I never expected to be here, to be honest. I didn’t plan to be here, but I would not want to be anywhere else. I absolutely adore what we’ve been able to create together and what we’ve been handed.

Jeremiah’s Business Lessons Learned

Paul: So, what would be… Well, I’ll ask that in just a moment. But what’s your business lesson learned or unanticipated event or “Oh my gosh! I didn’t realize that part of business!” Or staring your own business?

Jeremiah: Hmmm. That’s a good question. I think that being the somewhat visionary entrepreneur that I am, where I have these little ideas in my mind of what I’d like to create, having those get shot down so many times by the harsh realities of the world, was at times, demotivating. But it has, over time, educated me to realize that the world wants a thing and will pay for it, so you build it and you win money and sometimes that may not be as enjoyable to do because it may not be as enjoyable as the big grand grandiose idea that you originally had. But in doing it and in building it, on the way to delivering it, once you start to see it work and once you start to see people happy with what you’ve created, it suddenly can become much more enjoyable, especially given that the great idea that you had was just getting shot down. It was not getting validated.

So for me, I think you know, I started Simple Tiger as an agency that did everything. It was web design, logos, business cards, it was awful. I was doing way too much. When I narrowed it down to SEO, that helped me a whole ton. Simple Tiger actually started growing. And then we narrowed it down from just SEO to just software companies, Saas companies specifically. It got super narrow and I was able to have basically almost the exact same conversation on every call with clients and deliver better results, deliver a deeper product, a more innovative solution on everything, every time, for each new client to the point now, our customer success is so high and so strong that I am just elated every time I sign on a new client because I know I’m about to have a new best friend or a new happy customer. Whereas before there was a lot of heartbreak in everything because I was kind of managing a mess that I created and not really delivering happiness to my clients as much. So, I think for me, to answer your question, the challenge and the “ah ha” moment was, for me, to develop something the world wanted versus something I wanted to develop. If that makes sense.

Advice For Starting Your Own Business

Paul: Yep. I get it. What would be your best piece of advice for somebody out there saying, “I want to do that?”

Jeremiah: If by “that” they mean start a marketing agency?

Paul: No, I mean more general than that. There are all sorts of specifics in every different vertical and people are probably listening and saying, “No, no, tell us that.” No I mean, really everybody has their own ideas for businesses or those that have them, have them. What would be your advice, warning, caution, whatever it might be?

Jeremiah: So, for me, from my angle, my last name is Smith and I often times think of myself as what you would consider kind of an old-fashioned smith. A trade person who works with their hands to create something. A technician to a degree. And so, I think of myself as a technician often times. And sometimes, if I really want to get into a groove with my agency, I just jump in at the technician level and do some technical work and I’m like, “Ahhh!” I feel like I belong. It just works for me. I think that’s just in my blood, so my recommendation is probably going to come from that angle.

If you find yourself doing some level of technical work, whether you’re with a company or you’re an employee of a company or an organization or you volunteer in some area of your life. Maybe you’re not doing some technical work for your professional trade or anything like that but you’re doing technical work in some volunteer area or you’re consistently helping family or friends or something like that. And it’s something that you actually, when you get into it, you just know that you’re good at it. I recommend crafting something around that.

It’s something like, there’s this Venn diagram but it’s made of three circles, if you can kind of envision this with me for a moment. One circle is something that you’re good at. Another circle is something that you enjoy doing and then the third circle is something that the market itself wants. Alright. Now the market wanting it doesn’t mean there’s no competition there. A lot of people hear that and think, “ohhh, no competition.” No, you want competition, trust me, because if there’s no competition there, you’ve either struck gold which is highly rare or there’s no money there. No body wants it. So that third circle has to be a good market.

In the middle of these three circles – what you’re good at, what you love doing, and what the market wants – is what I think you ought to build a business around. And if that business is just you, doing freelance consulting work for a while, do just that. And don’t build anything else out of that unless, at some point, you feel compelled to move on to the next step and grow up from a consulting company into something else. But for me, actually, I got to be honest, while I love running my agency as it is right now, my second favorite job I ever had was when I just did consulting and Simple Tiger was not producing content, not implementing things. I was just consulting companies. I really, really enjoyed doing that.

Now during those days, I was the technician and I was the only guy so if anything was wrong, it was one hundred percent my fault. Nowadays, I run my agency and I try to remain humble where I can, so if something does go wrong at my agency, I still take responsibility for it. And I’m still to blame for it but in those days there was not a system there was just me. So, it was a little stressful and if I didn’t go out and do sales, I didn’t have sales. And so that was really hard too. But yeah that’s what I would do. I would look at that tri-circle Venn diagram I came up with there and find out what’s in the middle and then build a business around that.

Jeremiah’s Business Book Recommendations

Pual: Now, good business books or books that you would recommend reading, one or two?

Jeremiah: One or two? That’s tough. Well, coming from the marketing angle, one would definitely be, “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek, which if you want to, you could just watch the Ted Talk. Its eighteen minutes. Look up “Simon Sinek Ted Talk Start With Why.” Then the second one is probably, “Tribes” by Seth Godin, where he talks about knowing your tribe and appealing to your tribe. Your audience basically is what he means. So those are my two favorite business books from a marketing perspective.

From a business perspective, I’m just going to leave “The 4-Hour Workweek” and its hall of fameness. That would be one of them, but I don’t want to recommend that one because everyone would probably say that. Something by Peter F. Drucker. “The Effective Executive” most likely would be one of my number one business books. Absolutely incredible and eye opening and some simple things about business.

And then actually some of the writings by Edward Deming as highlighted by Tony Robbins in his book “Awaken the Giant Within.” I recommend that book personally. I think it’s a fantastic book but in that book, he goes into Edward Deming and defining some business principals and Edward Deming’s business principles were just stellar and they’re so awesome and they’re still completely applicable today. I think they’re elegant. I think they’ll probably apply for the next fifty to a hundred years potentially, so I’d highly recommend people study that.

Just a quick highlight and a reason why you should study Edward Deming. He went to the big three auto manufactures in the 60s and said, “Hey, here are some things that you guys should do instead of what you’re doing right now, that are going to make you behemoths in the automotive industry forever.” And this was the 60s. The automotive industry was booming. We just came out of the 50s, where we had this kind of credit thing being created and people were buying cars on credit now and they couldn’t manufacture cars fast enough in the US. So, the three auto manufactures laughed him out of the room. So, he went to Japan, and he talked to Honda, Toyota and Nissan, who nowadays are eating our lunch. They listened to him. They paid him, and they implemented what he said. So, I think you should listen to Edward Deming. He’s incredible. He will teach you things that apply to your tiny small business all the way up to Toyota sized companies.

Paul: Excellent. Yeah, I’ve had a lot of experience with Deming and he definitely has some insight. Some amazing insight.

What’s With The Name “Simple Tiger?”

Paul: Okay, final question. Maybe. We’ll see. What’s with the name Simple Tiger?

Jeremiah: Ah. Good question and I like it. My father always used to call me “Tiger” growing up. And when I was thinking about starting a marketing agency or consultancy, I wanted a name that would stick in someone’s mind. And so, one of the key things or components you could have in marketing is something that’s not conceptual but is concrete. So, think “Apple.” Right? That sticks in your mind. You see it visually. Tiger was that for me. I wanted to carry with it a differentiator that applied to business that wasn’t so esoteric as tiger. How do you apply “tiger” to business? I wanted to take something complex, like search engine optimization, and simplify it and make it simple. And I wanted to apply the 80/20 principle, the Pareto Principle to everything. And I saw that as simplicity. And I saw simplicity as this art form where if I can master simplicity in what we do, then that would make me happy and so Simple Tiger thus was born. “Tiger” kind of carrying the effective component of our brand and “simple” kind of carrying the, I guess, the simplicity element of our brand.

Paul: Cool. Very cool.

Closing Advice

Paul: Well, we’ve been speaking with Jeremiah Smith of Simple Tiger and he’s an SEO expert and they’re an SEO agency and as you can tell there’s a lot of value here, in what he said. So, as you’ve been listening, we’ve been throwing out book names and different things you should go and look at. All of that will be in the shownotes so I encourage you to look there. You’ll find links to Simple Tiger and a way to actually contact Jeremiah. So, Jeremiah, thank you very much! Is there anything you want to close out and say as we sort of wind down here?

Jeremiah: I guess, if I could just leave everybody with one marketing maxim, it’s something I really like. I think the CMO of Ammex said this about branding specifically. So, if you’re dealing with your brand messaging right now and everything right now, this is just a really cool piece of advice. It’s really simple. “Be clear, not clever, be different, not better.”

And I love that because the idea there is that a lot of brands try to come up with some clever name or clever lingo or clever brand messaging and end up confusing people and not actually connecting. So, instead of being clever, just be clear. Be very clear about what it is that you do and who you are. And then, don’t be better, be different because better is completely subjective but different is very objective and you can speak directly to a person’s concerns if you can differentiate yourself into their category. And then, that’s how you can appeal to people. So that my favorite marketing kind of maxim.

Paul: Very cool. Well, I want to thank you. Thank you for spending the time with us. And who knows, maybe we’ll have you back soon.

Jeremiah: That would be awesome. I’d be happy to come back. Thank you so much for everything, Paul. It was an honor to be here.

Paul: Alright, thank you.

More Episodes:

This is the Part 5, the final episode of our podcast with Jeremiah Smith!

If you missed any of the previous episodes from our conversation with him, you can listen to them here:
Part 1: An Introduction to SEO With Jeremiah Smith
Part 2: SEO: Google & Artificial Intelligence
Part 3: SEO: How To Create Content For Your Business
Part 4: Is SEO Always Worth It?

Show Notes: