It turns out that intentionality is the only thing that achieves goals.
Tom Casano is an SEO consultant and the founder of Sure Oak, an SEO agency based in New York. Tom has core competencies in link earning with outreach, keyword research, on-page optimization, technical site audits, strategy, content planning and content marketing. Tom grew a startup, LifeCoachSpotter.com, from 0 to 20,000+ organic visitors/month with SEO, having worked extensively in the field by personally testing dozens of strategies and techniques to boost rankings. Tom hosts the Sure Oak podcast with weekly episodes of interviews with other digital marketing experts.
Tom grew up on Long Island, New York and he lives in Manhattan, New York City with his wife and daughter. He works full-time as an SEO consultant, digital marketer, and he runs an SEO agency, Sure Oak.
Tom built his first website when he was 13 (in 1997). He studied Philosophy at Providence College and spent 10 years trading in the stock market. In 2013, he started working on SEO for Life Coach Spotter and the rest is history.
Tom grew up in the suburbs of Long Island, New York, a 3rd-generation Italian. Tom went to public school and excelled in sports. He studied Philosophy at Providence College and spent a lot of time reading and learning from ancient philosophers. After graduating from college, he went off to work on Wall Street, day trading at a proprietary equities firm in Manhattan. In 2013, he started digital marketing for LifeCoachSpotter.com where he learned SEO from the ground up.
Tom struggled with SEO for Life Coach Spotter for years, trying every tactic the so-called “experts” had recommended. When he finally “figured it out”, he knew he had to share his own expertise to drive results for other businesses who were struggling with their own SEO. Most of what experts advise drives little to no impact. There are only 3 areas to focus on to drive impact for your site’s SEO: links, optimization, and content. That’s it. Tom spent years banging his head against the wall so that now you don’t have to. It’s both fun and profitable to get monthly recurring traffic back to your business’s website.
Today Tom serves a number of clients through his SEO agency Sure Oak. He works with clients from around the world and he is lucky to have a passionate and dedicated team to work with who is well-versed in SEO, content-marketing, technical development, outreach, and more. He is forever grateful to the amazing team at Sure Oak.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Sure Oak is an SEO agency. I had spent years struggling with SEO, following the advice of gurus, and banging my head against the wall because nothing was working. When I finally got traction with another business I was running, and we got a 500% increase in organic traffic in a 2 month period, I knew I was on to something. SEO is a valuable service that can help B2B businesses that earn more per visitor make more money. When I went from 5k visitors/month to 20k+ visitors/month, I knew that I had to sell this service to businesses that can capitalize on it more than my own.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’ve been working on my productivity a lot this year, and it’s still challenging. I’ve been pushing myself to delegate more, to systematize and automate, and to ignore the things that don’t move the needle. It’s only psychologically hard because I am prone to doing things that make me feel like I’m “accomplishing” something, even if it’s not driving our business numbers up.
These days, I am typically doing a multitude of things, which is part of the fun of entrepreneurship. It nevers gets boring because you get to have your hand in a myriad of different things.
I have a to do list of my own top priorities that will move the needle for the business, and I assign a time period it will take to complete that task (e.g. 20 minutes). That helps me stay focused and knock things out. Aside from that, when I’m not knocking out the things that need to get done, I might be in a meeting with team members, chatting on Slack, answering emails, and communicating with team members, clients, partners, and the like.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I very much believe in the power to imagine and envision something, and then turn it into reality. Reverse-engineering what has to happen to reach a desired result is what I’ve found to be the best way forward. You can make an action plan and a set of steps of what you need to specifically do in order to bring an idea into life. Inevitably, there are challenges and obstacles that will come up and become insurmountable. Focusing a lot of energy into overcoming or working around or through these obstacles is key to moving the ball forward.
What’s one trend that excites you?
As I am in the online marketing space, I’m excited that voice search will create new opportunities for SEO agencies like my own. A new opportunity is being created for agencies like me who can find clients who want to optimize for voice search. I’m also excited by the relative ease and scale of deployment of software on the web. We’re working on a Saas and using AWS to host it, which creates a scalable and fast opportunity for software creation.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
The ability to prioritize and focus. By assigning an amount of time that a task should take helps me to keep the pressure on and get that task completed in that given amount of time. It turns out that Parkinson’s Law is true: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. As a perfectionist myself, it is highly true for me. So I need to set limits and stay focused.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to just focus on the main drivers of business success. While there are quite a lot of moving components for any business, distribution in terms of marketing and sales are key. I have wasted a good many hours not moving closer towards my goals because I have gotten distracted or a case of shiny object syndrome.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Good question! This is the Peter Thiel question. I believe that none of us should be working. We should all be retired and have machines, robots, AI, and other tools do all of our work for us. Life is too short to spend 40 hours per week for 40 years devoted to “work”. You only live once, and we need to make the most of every second. I want everyone to have the freedom to spend their day however they want, whether it is with their children or quietly in a room meditating.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Stay focused. Be intentional. It turns out that intentionality is the only thing that achieves goals. And commitment to those goals. But without intentionally trying to hit a specific mark that you have set — and having clarity on that mark beforehand — you will land to a default state or circumstance that you didn’t intend. You have to pivot and adjust all the time as you evolve, but you must be intentional, all day, every day.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Finding what works and then doubling down on that. It just so happened that the platform Upwork has accounted for over 90% of my new clients. I didn’t see that come and I didn’t plan for it, but once I realized it was working, I put more and more energy into optimizing for it and maximizing the value out of it. So you have to double down on what’s working.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We used to have a very high churn rate. A client would start with us and 3 months later they would be gone. What you focus on, you create more of. So we intentionally focused on account management, documenting the reasons client were leaving, and figuring out how to keep clients happy and getting what they want. We now have a dedicated account manager on our team to keep clients happy and loving the work that we do for them.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think that there is an enormous opportunity for an entrepreneur to create an integration of cryptocurrencies with daily payment systems. If we could seamlessly send, store, and use cryptocurrencies instead of credit cards, banks, PayPal, and so on, transactions would happen fast, virtually free, and the world would be better for it. I believe that cryptocurrency will be adopted — but we need an entrepreneur or business to bridge the gap between the current state of it not being integrated into daily life.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I had a coaching session with my coach, Danny Coleman. He got me realizing that I’m spending time in too many meetings, and that I should let my team have those meetings without me. He easily saved me 5 hours per week, every week, which over the course of this year, will equate to a ton of time savings.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I simply use a countdown timer to make sure that I get my task done within that timeframe. It’s just a simple tool, but it helps me set limits and stay focused in that time period.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I have found the greatest value out of 2 books. One is The E-Myth by Michael Gerber, which gets you to realize that you must work ON your business and not IN it.
The other is Traction by Gino Wickman, which basically gives you the operational business model that every small business needs to succeed in 6 different areas.
What is your favorite quote?
“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”
- Focus on what moves the needle to be more productive and get the most out of your time.
- Be intentional. Focus on your top goals and put energy into them, and those are the things that you will create.
- Be flexible and willing to pivot. Opportunities will present themselves and so will enormous roadblocks. Stay open to changing your course.
- Stay disciplined. Do what has to be done, not what you feel like doing.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.