Highland Canine Training uses SEO and blog content to increase trainer school applications by 176%
If you own a small or medium-sized business, Jason Purgason’s past experiences with digital marketing agencies may be familiar.
Purgason formed Highland Canine Training, LLC with his wife, Erin, in 2006. The husband-and-wife team started with just three kennels on a parcel of land in North Carolina, attempting to fill a void that was missing in the industry – to train ‘aggressive’ or ‘problem’ dogs that other businesses were unwilling to work with.
Time is the most precious commodity
In the early days of the business, Purgason had to take control of its online presence, including developing the company website and increasing Highland Canine’s online visibility through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). As he outlines, this wasn’t easy to juggle.
“I was spending every weekend – and most days and nights – putting some effort into developing pages, keeping up with algorithms and trying to optimize pages as best as I could. It can be a very intensive job. Trying to run the business and do that on the side was frustrating and a lot to keep up with.”
Purgason had done the hard yards of building and maintaining his website. He had taught himself how SEO and blog content could benefit Highland Canine. The business was growing.
Continued growth - but a dilemma
But because the company was experiencing this growth, his time was increasingly occupied by spearheading the day-to-day operations of the business. He lacked the necessary time to develop the website.
Like a lot of small and medium-sized business owners, Purgason faced a dilemma.
Should he focus on the website himself, at the expense of other aspects of his business (such as his team, or service development)?
Or should he outsource website development, SEO work and blog content to a third party – hoping they will recover some of his lost time, and get the benefit of experts dedicated to helping grow the company’s online footprint?
Many businesses choose the second option. Unfortunately, as Purgason – and several other business owners will attest – the varying levels of quality and reliability among SEO ‘experts’ mean that it can sometimes take more time to unravel the problems caused by these third-parties.
About Highland Canine Training, LLC
Highland Canine Training, LLC is one of the largest professional dog training companies in the United States.
Formed in 2006 as a husband-and-wife team, Highland Canine has grown into one of the most respected dog training organizations in the country, with headquarters in North Carolina and locations in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
Over the years, the business has diversified to provide fully-trained service dogs, military dogs and police dogs, and also offers world-class canine education at the School for Dog Trainers.
Dog Training & Canine Education
Harmony, North Carolina
So, how would Purgason describe his experience when he started to outsource SEO and website development?
“It was horrible. Totally horrible. I’ve hired companies over the Internet. I’ve hired a local company here in Statesville – they were horrible too.”
Letting anyone loose on your website is a huge decision. It requires you to trust in the methods and expertise of the agency you’re working with. Unfortunately, as Purgason found, the methods weren’t always effective.
“It was always the same stuff – “we’re gonna get you rankings for all these keywords” – and yeah, they’re keywords that nobody’s searching for and aren’t relevant to my business.”
Purgason’s experience is not uncommon. Website owners frequently receive spam emails or contacts from SEO agencies, making extravagant promises and showing no understanding of the business or industry.
Even worse, when these agencies are enlisted to do the work, they are often unable to actually convey the work that they’re doing.
“There was a lot of ‘we’re doing stuff on the back end’ – and I know there is a lot of back end stuff that can be done. But when you can’t articulate what you’re doing on the back end to benefit me on the front end, and then I don’t see those benefits – it’s pretty obvious you’re just taking my money and doing nothing.
For every legitimate SEO person out there, there’s a hundred scam artists who will take your money, I truly believe it.”
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A different approach
After his bad experiences in the past, what compelled Purgason to choose True Boost Digital for SEO and blog content services?
“In dealing with True Boost, you spelled it out right up front – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You said, “I’m not going to show you remarkable things in a month, but here’s a plan.”
So you created a plan – stuck to the plan – and here it is ten months later and we’re seeing the results of it.”
The partnership means Highland Canine receives the benefit of SEO expertise and high-quality blog content – all driven by strategy and research to achieve optimum results. True Boost’s work has included:
- Producing comprehensive SEO strategies to improve search engine rankings and visibility
- Designing content strategies to achieve maximum engagement, increasing social and organic reach
- Optimizing and rewriting existing website content to improve conversion rates
- Creating engaging, compelling blog content across all business areas to improve brand authority
- Consulting on all facets of the organization’s digital efforts to build brand awareness
In addition to their pet dog training services, Highland Canine also has other business areas, all with their own distinct websites and brands:
- School for Dog Trainers – the global leader in canine education, offering a variety of different programs, including the renowned 24-week Master Dog Trainer program.
- Autism Assistance Dogs – providing autism assistance dogs to help improve the lives of children with autism, in addition to offering fully-trained service dogs to perform specific tasks.
- Tactical Police K9 Training – offering high-quality working dogs for police and military use, combined with best-in-class K9 handler education.
Purgason says he has seen the benefit of the work carried out across all business areas.
“We looked at it and our school applications in twelve months had more than doubled. Not to include the number of contact form enquiries and new forms that we developed since then – I’m not even counting those.
Our January school filled up earlier than any school we’ve had so far. July’s starting to fill up now, because all those people who wanted to get in for January.
We’ve seen an increase on our waiting lists on the service dog side too. True Boost made big strides with the School, but we’ve seen increases in sales on the service dog side and on the pet dog side – we’ve seen increases all the way across the board.”
Advice for small and medium-sized business owners
Purgason and Highland Canine have had their fair share of experiences – good and bad – working with digital marketing agencies. What advice would Purgason give to those small and medium-size business owners who are thinking of working with a digital marketing agency?
“Do your homework. Get references. Talk to those references. Call the people and hear what their experience was actually like. See how they similar they are to the objectives and goals you actually have.”
While many agencies apply a haphazard, scattergun approach to SEO and content, Purgason says he has noticed a difference working with True Boost.
“The biggest thing I’ve noticed is the strategic planning of design, content, development – that’s huge. I don’t think it’s something people understand. I think people really think that you go on the Internet and you create a few pages, and within hours, people are making your phones ring off the hook – and it doesn’t work that way.
Having a clear plan, having a clear strategy, being very methodical, and executing on that is critical – and you’re not getting that from 99% of people in the industry. That’s what sets True Boost apart.”
Moving into 2020, Purgason has plans to work with True Boost to continue to increase Highland Canine’s brand authority, in addition to growing two newer websites.
- A Life of Dogs is a podcast which is now entering its second season. The podcast features a number of captivating, inspirational stories, showing how our canine companions provide help, assistance and inspiration in a variety of unusual situations.
- Highland Canine Connect is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, working with local communities to improve the lives of people in need. In addition to donating fully trained service dogs and police dogs, the organization works with elementary schools through its popular reading program.
Achieving success across all aspects of the business is no mean feat, particularly with six different websites to manage. Purgason understands the benefit of a sustainable, long-term investment in his website, as he outlines in his final words of advice for other business owners.
“The thing that businesses really have to understand is getting people to click on your website is great – but if they don’t do business with you, what good is it doing you? If they don’t like what they see – if they don’t trust you – if it’s not relevant content – they’re not going to do business with you, so you’re literally wasting all your money and effort on people who would never do business with you.
You need something that’s lasting and long-term. You need to find somebody you can trust and who knows what they’re doing if you’re going to make that investment in optimization.”