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Author Chené Murphy
Chené Murphy
Created on Nov 22nd, 2022
Fact checked by Deborah Leigh

Submit Express 2023:  Building a Digital Presence with Pierre Zarokian

Founder and CEO of Submit Express, Pierre Zarokian has over 20 years of experience in internet marketing and writes for several internet marketing publications. In this interview, Pierre shares his informed perspectives with DeliveryRank on the importance of reputation management and key considerations for Foodservice industries when it comes to setting up their online presence.

How did Submit Express get started and how has it evolved so far?

I launched Submit Express in 1998 on my own. At first, we offered a simple tool for search engine submission, which was needed back then to get listed in the search engines. From there we expanded the services to SEO.

In the early 2000's we achieved success by ranking for "search engine optimization" in the top three of Google. As a result, by 2008 we had grown to 30+ employees and won Inc5000 Awards three times and Fast 500 twice.

In 2008, the recession hit, and Google changed its algorithms to make it much tougher to rank via SEO and tactics they considered to create low-quality backlinks. As a result, we lost our own rankings and many clients. We expanded services to Social Media Marketing, Online Reputation Management, and Web Design.

Up until the pandemic, we had an office with a staff of about 10, but after the pandemic, we decided to have everyone work from home and we’ve remained that way. I found that it’s actually more productive to have remote staff and also it reduces costs.

What are the main services that you specialize in?

We specialize in SEO, SEM (Paid search ads), Online Reputation Management, Social Media Marketing, Web Development, Email Marketing, and Wikipedia Page Creation.

How important is a strong online presence for companies within the food service industry?

Search presence is very important, but it’s also very important to have a Yelp listing and at least 4-star reviews on Yelp and Google Local Listings. The higher rating you have, the more business you’ll get. 

The business should have a way to collect customer emails and phone numbers, so then you can reach out to them to request reviews (via email and SMS) and send out marketing communications. If most of your customers are walk-in, the best way to do this is to offer a discount or free food items such as a drink, appetizer, or dessert in exchange for joining your mailing lists.

My company actually has a platform called RepEngage that simplifies this process. The platform can send out emails or SMS to request feedback. Those that provide positive feedback are then asked for a review on Yelp, Google, or other review sites. Those that post negative or average feedback, are just shown a thank you message, but you can follow up with them to resolve issues and avoid getting negative reviews.

What features should a good food delivery website have?

I would say:

  1. Easy Navigation, like having categories such as Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner with sub-categories of the different food types (Dessert, Main Dishes, Appetizers, Drinks, etc).

  2. Accepting different payment methods (credit card, PayPal, Apple pay, etc).

  3. A great design – modern looking design, not too messy, mobile friendly, and fast. Do some market research as to what a good site should look like. If you’re just in the process of developing a site, come up with 2-3 distinct design ideas and do market research or survey among friends and family to see which design is preferred by most. You can use online survey tools such as SurveyMonkey for this. You can also use free online tools to check your website speed and mobile responsiveness.

What are a few things to consider when implementing an eCommerce platform?

As a web developer myself, I’m often asked this question, when people are considering different platforms. There are several factors to consider, such as cost, ease of use, and compatibility/integration with other things you need to use, such as payment gateway or plugins.

A platform such as Shopify or Wix may be easy to create and manage, where even a staff member may be able to create a nice-looking site, but it may have some limitations. A professional platform such as WordPress or Magento may cost more but would offer much more flexibility and free or off-the-shelf plugins for different functionalities and integrations.

Lastly, what advice can you share with those starting a new small business and are new to Search Engine Marketing?

Specifically, to SEO I would say that SEO takes time, so start early. The earlier you start the sooner you’ll see the benefits. Typically SEO may take a minimum of three months but could take as long as six to 12 months to gain some top 10 rankings. If you want quicker results, then try Google ads and social media ads (Facebook, Instagram, etc). However, testing and ROI measurement is very important. 

Make sure to install conversion tracking codes and test each ad platform with a small budget to see what works best. Even within each ad platform, you can test different demographics and interests and some may convert better than others. So if your initial campaigns fail, that doesn't mean the platform was a failure, as you could’ve simply targeted the wrong audience. 

I highly recommend hiring a professional for all your online marketing needs and don’t do it yourself, unless you’re willing to fail and lose $$$ in the process of learning. If you decide to do it yourself, then it would be best if you take some courses, or do your own research, reading, and watching Youtube videos before you start.

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