1643 – The Importance of Relationships with SEO National’s Damon Burton

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks to the President of SEO National, Damon Burton.

A client's question about Google sparked Damon's foray into SEO. He offered to help them with SEO, but with a unique twist – he would only get paid once they achieved a specific benchmark. This unconventional approach was a game-changer, leading Damon to offer the same arrangement to other clients. Fast forward 17 years, Damon now runs a successful agency with a team of 60 specializing in SEO.

While Damon's initial success was built on offering services for free, he has since shifted his focus. He now concentrates on giving away valuable content for free through social media and his book on SEO. According to Damon, giving value for free has been the most profitable thing he has done. It has helped him build trust and relationships with his audience, which is a testament to the power of free value.

When asked about the role of AI in SEO and content creation, Damon offered a unique perspective. He views AI as an amplifier and magnifier of what was already there. If someone had a strong work ethic and integrity before AI, they would be even better with AI. However, AI would only magnify those shortcomings if someone relied on cutting corners.

Damon humorously pointed out the difference between what Google says they're looking for and what they want. He believes that Google is likely working on improving AI detection to counter the abuse of content creation. However, he also cautions that Google's statements about AI usage should be taken with a grain of salt.


Key Points from the Episode:

  • The challenges and benefits of offering services for free
  • The role of AI in SEO and content creation
  • Damon's perspective on AI as an amplifier and magnifier of existing qualities
  • Damon's entrepreneurial journey and current day-to-day activities
  • The importance of self-reflection and personal growth for Damon
  • Damon's focus on team management and process improvement
  • Damon's thoughts on what Google is looking for in the next year
  • The potential improvements in AI detection by Google to counter content creation abuse


About Damon Burton:

Damon Burton is a renowned search engine marketing expert whose expertise makes businesses thrive online. Over a decade ago, he achieved a remarkable feat by outranking a billion-dollar company on Google, which inspired him to establish his own international search engine marketing company. His company, SEO National, has worked with prominent clients, including NBA teams and businesses featured on Inc5000 and Shark Tank.

In today's digital landscape, with increasing number of people seeking online content, Damon's knowledge is more relevant than ever. He understands that more than simply having a website is required. As a result, he has helped numerous high-profile clients drastically increase their revenue, some even earning more in a month than they previously did in a year.

Damon Burton's expertise has earned him recognition as a Forbes contributor, and his accomplishments have been featured in various publications, such as Entrepreneur Magazine, BuzzFeed, and USA Weekly.


About SEO National:

SEO National is a personalized and results-driven search engine optimization (SEO) company that goes beyond merely focusing on rankings. Their primary objective is to boost revenue for their clients, considering top rankings a valuable bonus. With an impressive portfolio, they have collaborated with recognized companies featured in the Inc. 500/5000 list in New York, high-profile attorneys in Florida and New Jersey, retail outlets in California, and various other businesses nationwide.

At SEO National, every SEO campaign is dynamic and tailored to each client's specific goals and desired outcomes. Their approach involves creating customized strategies to increase return on investment (ROI) while keeping costs low. Their ultimate aim is to secure top placements on major search engines and provide clients with measurable progress reports to track the success of their SEO efforts.


Tweetable Moments:

07:35 – “If you had a little work ethic before AI, then you're going to have a little work ethic after AI.”

16:34 – “So if you're willing to put in the time, have the patience, and it'll pay off.”


Apply to be a Guest on The Thoughtful Entrepreneur:

Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out SEO National website at

Check out SEO National on LinkedIn at

Check out SEO National on Facebook at

Check out SEO National on Twitter at

Check out Damon Burton on LinkedIn at

Check out Damon Burton on Twitter at

Check out Damon Burton on Instagram at

Check out Damon Burton on Facebook at

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Josh (00:00:05) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my influence and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my influence and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. With us right now. It's Damon Burton. Damon, you are the founder of SEO National. You are found on the web at SEO Damon, thank you so much for being here.

Damon (00:01:11) - Josh, it's a pleasure. I love your energy.

Josh (00:01:13) - Well, thank you. All right. So we get great SEO brains from time to time.

Josh (00:01:19) - And, you know, obviously I want to learn a lot more about what you do specifically. Well, let's go ahead and start there. Tell us about who you are, what brought you into SEO and kind of what you do today.

Damon (00:01:31) - Sure. Yeah. So I mean, there's lots of blips on the radar of the entrepreneurial journey, so I'll give you the crash course so we can go from there. Um, my background was originally in design, and then I had a client that said, What do you know about Google? And I said, I know enough that I think I can help you, but not enough that I feel morally okay charging you for it. But I also don't want to work for free. So how about we do this? Let me figure it out. Don't pay me anything unless we hit this benchmark. And then if we hit it, pay me it, pay me in retro, and then also start a retainer moving forward. So what that did was it created an opportunity for both them and I.

Damon (00:02:07) - So we were both incentivized to make this work. We hit the benchmark. I enjoyed the process. And so then I said, Well, let me take this to client number two and offer the same arrangement. And we hit that benchmark as well. So that kind of planted the seeds for the agency and then at least on the SEO side. And so right then very early on in my agency career, I never wanted to be an agency owner that did it all. And so I made the intentional decision right there to transition, to focus on purely SEO. So we do a lot of design. It comes with the territory. But as far as branding and everything, we just stick to SEO and here we are nearly 17 years later. I've got a team of 60 and that's all we do now.

Josh (00:02:44) - That's amazing. Well, congratulations. I, I can't imagine you still. That's your model today.

Damon (00:02:50) - Uh, the retro. No, no, no, no, no. Yeah, I was going.

Josh (00:02:54) - To say, the phone's going to be ringing off the hook with every Tom, Dick and Harry, so. No, no. Sure you can work for me for free?

Damon (00:03:01) - Yeah. Yeah. No. So I actually shy away from that now. There's.

Josh (00:03:06) - There's good, good move.

Damon (00:03:08) - Yeah. So it's a great opportunity. So for early entrepreneurs, I still think that's an amazing opportunity because what we'll probably talk about in this podcast is the importance of relationships and networking and giving value. And so that has planted so many seeds to to get me to a multi-million dollar agency. Now is all these relationships I establish over the years where I gave first. And so, you know, now I don't do a lot of rev shares and things like that because there's too many moving parts and other people can influence your outcome. But if you're new in the game, huge opportunity.

Josh (00:03:39) - Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. What do you say to someone who says, I don't want to I don't want to give away or put that much risk out there.

Josh (00:03:47) - I just want to get out there and start making money today.

Damon (00:03:51) - So free is by far the most profitable thing I've ever done, and it still is. So I still do free just in a different way. So, you know, if you get on a follow me on any social media platform, I give absolutely everything away. When I wrote a book about SEO, I give it away. So I actually take a literal monetary loss on printing and shipping books because the relationships and the credibility that establishes. So what happens? I'll give you just a quick social media example of giving things away for free. So whatever you do, the listener, you run a business or an entrepreneur, because either there's something that you're passionate about or something that you're the best at, right? And if it's not one of those two, then why are you doing it? So you should have one of those opportunities there. Now take that opportunity and showcase your personality behind that passion on social media. And what happens is the more you give something away, the more that they start to follow you.

Damon (00:04:45) - And in my mind, there's only three types of content consumers. There's the person that takes your advice and runs and that's okay because they weren't your client anyway, so you didn't lose anything, but you just increased your visibility and your credibility. Now, consumer number two is the person that says, I don't need your thing now, but man, Josh is really good. And so I probably need this thing later or I know somebody that does. And then the third type of content consumer is the person that goes, Josh, here's my money and just takes it right? And so the more you give away the value, the more people start to follow you and establish a trust, a relationship with you. And then here's where they convert. I want to add one. One more thing is don't be afraid to showcase your individual passions and personality, because when people convert in in my examples of giving out content is they convert on the personal things. They go, Hey, I know you do SEO, but that was really cool what you said about your wife or that was really cool what you said about your kids.

Damon (00:05:35) - And so when they relate to you as a person is when they go, okay, now I can trust Josh with my dollar, so don't be afraid to showcase some of your personal stories in your entrepreneur journey on social media.

Josh (00:05:45) - Yeah, and certainly too, not everyone is going to be a good fit for giving away your time and resources for free. And so hopefully there's some vetting mechanism in there because some folks are just, you know, they don't have to nickels to rub together. So we just want to be thoughtful. And by the way, like, you know, having interviewed Bob Berg, who I would argue is, you know, one of the granddaddy's of this concept of leading and generosity has a pretty thoughtful vetting mechanism. And, you know, he's he will spend and, you know, he will be very generous with you. But he you know, we only have limited bandwidth, Right? So we can only do that so many times with so many folks.

Damon (00:06:32) - Oh, for sure.

Damon (00:06:32) - Yeah. So give the value. But it doesn't mean you take every phone call.

Josh (00:06:36) - Yeah. So, Damon, let's talk about what's working well in SEO today. And again, I'd say one of the biggest headlines or biggest things that I think is impacting content in a huge way is going to be AI and the ability to create content so efficiently like never before. How is all of this playing out in your eyes? Here we are recording this kind of middle of 2023.

Damon (00:07:06) - It's interesting and it's constantly evolving. And where I find the most enjoyment in this type of topic of conversation is playing devil's advocate because there's so many people out there that promote AI. And so it's cool. It's romantic. I get why the attraction? So I'm not saying don't follow AI, but but I'd present the opportunity to look at it from a different perspective because what's happening is AI is, is just like money. Like money is an amplifier and a magnifier. So whatever you did before, money is whatever you did before.

Damon (00:07:35) - AI, you're going to be better or worse at that same thing after. So what I mean is if you had a little work ethic before I, then you're going to have a little work ethic after AI. And so if you have a lot of work ethic and integrity than AI is going to amplify that and magnify that. So a lot of people are going to use it to cut corners, which devalues the type of output that they create. Now when you look at SEO, it's largely quality over quantity. So a lot of people are going to be pushing out tons of quantity content, but it doesn't mean it's quality content. And just like we were talking briefly on social media and storytelling, you can at least in the current output of AI, you can tell when something's off, you know, it's a little bit robotic or there's a little bit of lack of personality. Now if you become more efficient with prompts, you can fine tune that a little bit. But I think there's a huge opportunity, probably largely the opposite of what other people will say is by showcasing your individuality.

Damon (00:08:27) - Because what's happening is all these all these people are leaning so heavily into AI that it's deteriorating their their ability to think creatively and it's deteriorating the ability for them to provide content that adds some personality and authenticity. And so if you take the time to, let's say, don't use AI, but maybe instead of using it for the actual output, use it for ideation, use it to go, what are problems that I can solve? What are things that I can write about? And then from there identify the pain points of your audience and write your individual piece on it instead of fully using AI to output it. And when you lean into your individual storytelling abilities and your experiences, then people are going to latch on to that. And so you're going to create your tribe through your authenticity and the consistency in the storytelling that you provide. So I think there's a lot of value both ways. You can use AI to scale your content, but I'm leaning into it more to use it for quality output than quantity.

Josh (00:09:20) - Oh heck yeah, yeah, yeah. And it's really interesting. And I think it's this age old debate is what is the lazy marketer going to do? Well, don't do that because there are way more. Here's my opinion. There are way more lazy marketers than there are. Well, at least they will make a lot more noise and ruin whatever they do for each other. So don't even bother with that. Think about, you know, to your point, you know, how can we improve the effectiveness of our touches? How can we be more meaningful in the lives of those whom we are serving as opposed to just a bigger, broader, messier, lazy net? That is my own ideas on that because I agree with you.

Damon (00:10:05) - But it's super, super applicable, especially in the world of SEO. Your comment about lazy marketers tend to ruin things. It depending on the listener and how familiar they are. With the world of SEO, there's all these different things you can do and every single one of them has been devalued over the years because marketers come in and abuse them.

Damon (00:10:21) - And so the probability of some sort of AI detection increasing in accuracy and then detecting the abuse of content creation at scale, there's high probability. Yeah.

Josh (00:10:33) - Mm hmm. So in your own work, tell me more about, you know, your own entrepreneurial journey and or, you know, I guess what your day is like today based upon the investments that you've made, you know, over how long have you been at the helm now?

Damon (00:10:55) - Almost 17 years.

Josh (00:10:56) - 17 years. That is that is long and storied, my friend. That makes you OG.

Damon (00:11:01) - Yeah, the day to day. You know, I try to focus. I feel like I'm entering the midlife unraveling phase where it's like, okay, what do I want to have accomplished a lot today? And I still have a long runway in front of me, so what do I want to do with that? I'm comfortable with where I am as a father and a husband. I'm proud of what I've accomplished as an agency. But but who am I outside of that? Who is demon outside of a father and husband and a business owner? And so I've been digging deep into diving deep into my own personal journey.

Damon (00:11:35) - And fortunately, entrepreneurship is provided the ability to try different things via financial stability and freedom of time. And so a lot of my time these days is, you know, checking on the team, obviously, and making sure our processes are staying current. The team does a lot of fulfillment. I'm largely migrating to be the evangelist of the company and then leaning into my own individuality, which I think once I figure that out a little bit more, which is a weird thing to say because you know, I think when you're in your 20s. You're confident in your 30s, you start to question things. In your 40s, you go, Yeah, okay. We're kind of starting over in a lot of ways, no matter your accomplishments, right? And so it's it's been an interesting self-reflective position to be in the last year. And I think it's exciting because I know whatever I end up coming out of through this journey, we'll just make the agency and obviously myself. Yeah, skyrocket to the next level.

Josh (00:12:31) - We already talked about AI a little bit and I think that that's a big chunk of this question, But what is Google looking for over the next year, do you believe?

Damon (00:12:41) - Well, I'm glad you said. Do I believe at the end? Because I think there's a big difference between what Google says they're looking for and what they're actually looking for. So an inside joke in the world of SEO is basically never listened to anything Google says and do the opposite. So there's a lot of I made a I made a an analogy the other day on a social media post and somebody was screenshotting a new policy that Google defined. And I said, I think Google defines makes Internet definitions the same way that the Fed makes money policies where it's like, you know, whatever they say is largely inaccurate. And there's really something else going on behind the scenes. And so I think that's how Google is. What they've said is they don't have any problems with AI as long as you use it to write content that is customer first and not to use it just for SEO, which is which sounds true, but I think they're loading up the big guns to have some sort of counteroffensive.

Damon (00:13:38) - And if you think about AI that there's no way that they didn't already have a tool similar to ChatGPT before it came out. But you have to realize it would destroy their revenue model. And so they didn't put it out until they were forced to put it out because they came out with, I think, their AI tools called Bard. They came out with that four months after ChatGPT. There's no way they could. It created and produced that and rolled that out to a live format in that short amount of time.

Josh (00:14:03) - Yeah, right.

Damon (00:14:04) - So I think they're I think they're building up a counteroffensive to go, okay, we need to put this quantity in check and it's not the first time they've done it. They've done it with in 2011, they had an algorithm update called Panda that focused on quality content because people would do what's called scraping content. Still other content and spin rephrase it. So this is not new territory for them. It's just a larger scale.

Josh (00:14:24) - Yeah. And Damon, who would make a really great client connection for you.

Damon (00:14:33) - Uh. Do I? Do I swear on this podcast? Because we have a criteria that's that's no aholes. So that's, that's our number one criteria. Yeah. There's rule.

Josh (00:14:45) - Number one. Yes. Um.

Damon (00:14:48) - Beyond that, someone.

Josh (00:14:49) - Just listening to us when. Okay, check, check. That's not me.

Damon (00:14:54) - Beyond that, we're fairly agnostic to industry. So what we've learned is we've gone down the path of going Who's our avatar and who can we best serve. And it really is an industry specific, it's owner or founder specific. And so it's the owner that is passionate enough and still new enough and still involved in their company that they want to see it succeed, but that they're they're also experienced enough to know to get out of their own way. So the clients that we have the most success with are the ones that say, okay, I understand SEO, at least the fundamentals and I don't want nothing to do with it, but I understand it's important, so just go and run.

Damon (00:15:33) - So, so the seasoned entrepreneurs that understand the importance of hiring experts, dressing their judgment and then getting out of the way.

Josh (00:15:40) - You, Damon. You have a book called Outrank Your Guide to making more online by showing up higher on search engines, now ranking your competition. I would assume that's we should mention that. Anything else that you'd recommend for someone that's been listening to our conversation?

Damon (00:15:58) - Now that mean outranks a great book. I wrote it like we talked about earlier, to help out the little guys. So I figure either you have the money to invest in SEO and if you don't, then you should have the time. And so if you have the time, that book is your blueprint and it'll give you the entire process as my agency runs. So as far as SEO, the beyond that, the number one thing you want to know is, is to have realistic expectations. It takes time, right? The logistics behind creating content, distributing it, updating your website, doing all these technical things, it just takes months, if not years to close the gap between the head start that your competition already has.

Damon (00:16:34) - So if you're willing to put in the time, have the patience and it'll pay off.

Josh (00:16:39) - Yeah your website SEO, click right there, click on the orange button that says Work with us. Or again, grab the we've got a free SEO book, you've got a free SEO report and anything else that we missed.

Damon (00:16:53) - No, I think we nailed it.

Josh (00:16:55) - All right. SEO National. Damon Burton, founder, 17 years at the helm. Damon's been great having you. Thanks so much.

Damon (00:17:03) - Appreciate it, Josh, Thank you.

Josh (00:17:11) - Thanks for listening to the Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. If you are a thoughtful business owner or professional who would like to be on this daily program, please visit up My Influence slash guest. If you're a listener, I'd love to shout out your business to our whole audience for free. You can do that by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or join our listener Facebook group. Just search for the thoughtful entrepreneur and Facebook. I'd love even if you just stopped by to say hi, I'd love to meet you.

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