The New Jingle: Woodland Grad Heads Web Marketing Business
You’ve heard them before.
At the end of a television commercial or radio spot, a company or organization’s catchy musical tagline hijacks some unseen auditory loop inside your brain, causing you to mentally repeat it throughout the day. You may realize you’ve completely memorized a plumber’s phone number before tracing the source of this newfound knowledge back to one of these carefully marketed tunes.
But, according to Alex Laldin, that’s the old way of advertising. The modern way is a bit more technical.
“Online marketing is the new jingle,” he suggests.
Laldin, 22, is the cofounder of AMARA Technologies, an IT solutions service for growing businesses. A 2011 graduate of Woodland High School, he got his start in the business world working on websites for local businesses before he ever received a diploma. As a lifelong student of his father and fellow co-founder of AMARA, Asher Laldin, who is an IT professional himself, Alex Laldin already had much of the necessary know-how to handle computer-related projects on his own.
During his freshman year of college at Kennesaw State University, he and a friend set up a website with Google AdSense, which monetizes web traffic through the placement of advertisements on a web page. They picked a number of niche topics to write about and began producing content relevant to very specific interests. Laldin and his friend then received a certain amount of pay depending on how many web users visited the site. This introduced Laldin to the concept of keyword ranking, or figuring out what specific content people were searching for that brought them to his site. Eventually, the pair sold the website and made a decent profit.
Before long, Laldin received a call from a business owner who asked if he could build a website for them. This time, however, the client asked whether Laldin was familiar with Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. According to internet marketing consulting company Moz, SEO is defined as “the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of the traffic that you earn through the organic results in search engines.” This basically means that those who practice SEO are in the business of drawing more attention to companies by gaining them a more visibility on search engines such as Google or Yahoo.
Laldin took the job. And then, he took another. Before long, he was working with three businesses in Cartersville, as well as some in Duluth and Kennesaw.
“From that point I kind of knew I was on to something,” he explained. “Because the feedback that I was getting was that I was good at taking the technical side that was really complicated and kind of bringing it down and making it where people could understand at a price they could afford without going and pumping out two or three grand for some of the bigger agencies.”
Because it is a two-man operation (the elder Laldin handles high-end development and project management), AMARA Technologies is able to offer what Alex Laldin says is a less expensive, more localized IT service. And even though AMARA offers a number of services, marketing tactics such as SEO and web design have proven to be the most sought-after.
“Basically, I specialize in all-encompassing IT solutions for the growing business. So with that comes the inner-IT, or re-doing computers, providing networking, stuff like that. But really, where my bread and butter is, is online marketing, the online brand management — and with that comes the search engine optimization, the web design and all of that.”
The businesses Laldin worked with saw increased web traffic and, most importantly, an increase in the amount of customers seeking their services. Now, he has about eight residual clients who he works with on monthly basis. One of those is Anytime Septic, a Cartersville-based septic maintenance and installation company started in March 2014 by brothers Toby and Jason Evans. They sought Laldin’s services earlier this year after hearing about him from a mutual friend.
“We were talking about it because we knew that we had to do something with the Internet. And we didn’t really know anybody that worked on websites or anything like that,” said Toby Evans.
So Laldin sat down with the two of them and hashed out a plan: What does your business do? Who are you trying to reach? How can we get more people to see your business and hire you? Based on the answers to these questions, Laldin could design the Anytime Septic website and produce content for it in such a way that search engines displayed it to potential local clients as one of the top options for septic services. It’s the concept of “organic search results,” or as Google puts it, “A free listing in Google Search that appears because it’s relevant to someone’s search terms.”
But what does “relevant” mean in relation to a local business? Wouldn’t a Cartersville company like Anytime Septic be dwarfed by daunting corporate big boys with fleets of vehicles and millions of dollars to be spent on advertising? Not necessarily, said Laldin.
“If we reach out and we try to rank for things like ‘roofing supply Cartersville, Georgia,’ ‘hardware store Cartersville, Georgia,’…stuff related to what you do and what you sell in the town you sell, we can create targeted traffic that’s very specific to customers that you can you can actually help,” he noted. “When you do it from the reverse side, where you try to blanket out something very broad, you’re starting to compete with some very large competitors — Home Depot, Bernard’s, Ace, Lowe’s — with budgets for one keyword that are more than your business may clear in a whole year.”
Therefore, by targeting a very specific audience, Laldin is able to increase the number of local customers who come calling. He uses analytics programs to research keywords that people are searching for and is able to determine not only what they search for but where they are searching from.
“With each one of my clients, we’ll sit down each month and say, the site may have gotten 5,000 users (who) hit the site, but only 200 of those were from Georgia. And out of those 5,000, (the) only ones we really care about are 200 because those are … really the ones you can service. So we’ll look at those (and say), ‘OK, how can we improve those 200? How long were they spending on the page? What pages were they visiting? What content was giving them the best information? Are they getting what they need? Is your phone number properly displayed? Are you getting 200 users and no calls? Or are you getting 200 users and 50 calls?'” he explained. “And you look at those kinds of conversions and those ratios and kind of tell how good of a job you’re doing. Because with the phones not ringing, your website’s useless.”
By keeping track of these metrics, Laldin can strategically plan how to gain more local customers over time. He is able to see — and show to his clients — the markets in which the clients are performing well and in which ones they are not. So as he sat with the Evans brothers of Anytime Septic at a local restaurant earlier this month, armed with a laptop and not much else, he could tell them precisely how people were finding them and how more people might continue to find them in the future. And that has proven to be rather valuable for the local startup. How much, though, has their business grown since beginning work with Laldin?
“With what we have coming in, probably 30, 40 percent,” Toby Evans stated. “Without it we would be slow, really slow.”
As far as Laldin’s future plans, the finance and computer science double major said he wants to finish school and see how much larger AMARA Technologies can become in the future. As rapidly as changes can take place in the technology industry, Laldin pointed out, there’s no telling what there will be a demand for even five years in the future. But until then, he’s going to keep doing what he says he does best.
“Understanding what it is that (clients) do, how you do it, why you do it, how long you’ve done it and taking your expertise and putting it online is where I really excel. Honestly, I’m just trying to grow at this point,” he said. “I like seeing small business excel in what they do. And I like them helping online.”