Great ideas are often stifled by overthinking and overplanning. Taking action and just simply getting started is the best way to accomplish any goal.
Matt Bentley is the CEO & founder of SEO software company CanIRank and Open Development, Inc. Part data scientist and part marketer, Bentley specializes in leveraging machine learning to bring greater accountability and transparency to organic marketing channels like SEO, PR and content marketing. Before starting CanIRank, Bentley served as the CEO of Sedo.com. He holds a Master’s degree in International Business from Kedge Business School and a Bachelor’s degree in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University.
Where did the idea for CanIRank come from?
The idea really started as we were combing through about 50,000 rows of SEO data. We initially wanted to learn what underlying patterns we could discover, but then a bigger question came about: “What does a business owner with no knowledge or background in SEO do with all this data?” The other SEO tools on the market really focused on providing a lot of raw data and technical insights, even many of their users had no idea what to do with this information. We knew we could provide much more value for business customers by creating a platform that gave them specific actionable steps that they can take to improve their organic rankings. From there, our SEO software became the first to use AI to provide specific action recommendations to help marketers execute tasks such as on-page optimization, link building, and content strategy.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
As I’m sure you can imagine, my typical day tends to be pretty busy and filled with team meetings and client calls. We keep things productive with a pretty organized calendar and a checklist of things to cover on each call/meeting so that we make the best of our time throughout the day. I also segment my day into blocks of time to accomplish tasks and automate a lot of time-consuming tasks to be more productive.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Getting consistent feedback and suggestions from our team members as well as our clients is a big part of how we generate new ideas. Great ideas can really come from anywhere, but the best ones come from the people who use our software every day. Each week I take time to speak with our consultants and encourage them to provide their honest feedback on how we can continuously improve our tools and better serve our customers. Our team also strives to have an open line of communication with each of our clients to get suggestions on what we can do to ensure that their experience with our software, and company, remains a positive one.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One trend that I’m really excited about is seeing so many new entrepreneurs who are taking the initiative to learn more about SEO even before officially launching their businesses. Search engines play such a major role in attracting new customers and gaining website traffic. A lot of entrepreneurs now know that it doesn’t make sense to wait to learn about SEO. We’ve seen an even great trend in new entrepreneurs taking the time to learn more about keyword research ) and which keywords they should target for their products/services.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One habit that has made me much more productive is focusing on a solution to a problem rather than worrying about the problem itself. I’d say about 98% of the problems we encounter throughout the day are easily solved by effective communication and creative thinking. Worrying about a problem, instead of finding a way to solve it and move on, can really drain your energy and time.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I’d tell my younger self that’s it OK to get started on your journey without an exact plan on where you’re going or what will happen. Great ideas are often stifled by overthinking and overplanning. Taking action and just simply getting started is the best way to accomplish any goal.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Most professional SEOs don’t know how to do on-page optimization correctly (to say nothing of the more challenging aspects of SEO!)
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I make sure to spend time with my family and loved ones. I always make time to travel and enjoy the outdoors as well. The most important part of entrepreneurship is having balance and not overwhelming yourself. The best way to do that is to make sure you take care of yourself and spend time doing things you enjoy outside of your business.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Automation and outsourcing. I can’t stress the importance of those two things enough. Entrepreneurs can’t do everything on their own. Automate as much work as you can and outsource any work that can’t be automated. You will save yourself a lot of time and headaches. The key to successfully growing a business is working smarter (not necessarily harder) and leveraging tools, resources, and teams to expand your reach and client base.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In the first iteration of CanIRank we built an SEO software solution that was so good at analyzing data and recommending actionable solutions that we thought it would eliminate the need to hire an expensive SEO agency. But we didn’t realize that even when you tell people exactly what they need to do, many people just don’t have the time or motivation to execute. Only once we launched our SEO consulting ) division so that people could delegate tasks to an expert with just one click did the business really start to take off.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
GlassDoor for employees.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Can’t beat all the wonders that come with an $80 Annual Pass to the National Parks.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
We currently use Trello to manage our SEO work and communicate as a distributed team. It’s an awesome workflow tool that lets our clients see the progress of our work in real time.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I strongly recommend reading Robert B. Cialdini’s “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion“. Business and entrepreneurship is all about human interaction and understanding the motivations and objectives of others. This book is great at discussing what generally motivates people to make certain buying decisions.
What is your favorite quote?
“Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar” It’s from a poem by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado. It roughly translates to “Wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking.”
- Work in time blocks to accomplish specific tasks to increase productivity.
- Automate anything that’s very time-consuming and tedious.
- Don’t overthink or overplan things. Once you take action and get started, things will fall into place.
- Continuously get ideas and suggestions from multiple sources of inspiration including your team members and clients.
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