Shawn Lim
Sep 19, 2023

How Neil Patel's NP Digital uses SEO strategy to fuel its rapid APAC growth

One of the fastest-growing independent agencies according to Campaign AI, we take a deeper look at NP Digital, a performance marketing shop co-founded by Neil Patel and how the agency is growing its footprint in APAC.

(L-R) Guy Jarvie (GM ANZ), Manuel Denoual (MD Singapore), Dan Kalinski (MD APAC), Gary Cheung (GM Hong Kong and Taiwan),
Melissa Cheng (CM Malaysia)
(L-R) Guy Jarvie (GM ANZ), Manuel Denoual (MD Singapore), Dan Kalinski (MD APAC), Gary Cheung (GM Hong Kong and Taiwan), Melissa Cheng (CM Malaysia)

Having launched in Australia in 2021, Neil Patel's agency NP Digital has been expanding across Southeast Asia and the broader Asia Pacific region as it continues its global expansion. 

Patel, a self-styled marketing guru who repeatedly claims to be named one of the world's most influential marketers by The Wall Street Journal, co-founded NP Digital in 2017 to address the demand from marketers asking him for advice on their performance marketing strategies. 

In a year, NP Digital has boosted its presence in Australia with 25 new hires, including Dan Kalinski, the agency's APAC managing director, based down under.  

In addition, it has made several appointments across APAC, including former Twitter/X senior executive Manuel Denoual as managing director of Singapore, Melissa Cheng as country manager of Malaysia, and Prady Kumaar as chief executive of India. 

According to data from Campaign Advertising Intelligence, in the latest global indie agency rankings, the agency is ranked seventh after winning brands like Madhavbaug, Login Radius and Ivy Central in India. 

Neil Patel

"Our expansion into markets such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines is a response to the market demand, Kalinski tells Campaign.

"Our ambition in Asia is no different to the rest of the world. We want to disrupt the market and bring new quality with our relentless focus on business ROI and incrementality, our technology and thought leadership." 

Kalinski continues: "Our strategic focus is cultivating partnerships with enterprise clientele. This dynamic endeavour will bolster our mission by delivering tailored solutions that align with the unique demands of large-scale businesses, reinforcing our position as pioneers within the industry." 

The agency's focus on SEO

The agency has made considerable investments in technology and claims approximately 40% of its clients are active users of these tools.  

These investments in tech comes as changes in data privacy and user-level identification has seen advertisers often underutilise contextual solutions and rely heavily on keyword and category blocking. This approach is less sophisticated compared to their keyword strategies in search engine optimisation (SEO) technology.

Np Digital currently owns Ubersuggest, its SEO platform. In Q1 of 2022, the agency acquired AnswerThePublic (ATP), an audience research and content platform.  

Adding ATP, a Ubersuggest competitor, has allowed the agency to expand its user base of community members further, driving international services leads and clients in conjunction with Ubersuggest.  

The agency claims Ubersuggest hit 3.3 million active monthly users in 2023, averaging over 600 million monthly queries. It now offers Ubersuggest in nine languages and 150 countries.  

After approval from Google, NP Digital launched Ads Grader in mid-2022. Ads Grader analyses eight essential components of Google Ad accounts, advising users on optimising paid search strategy and maximising ad spend efficiency.  

CrazyEgg, NP Digital's conversion rate optimisation and user experience analytics platform, tracks and optimises website visitor behaviour through heatmaps, clickmaps and scrollmaps of web visitors interacting with a brand's site.   

According to Denoual, SEO and the lower-funnel phase of the customer journey are vastly interconnected and can significantly impact conversion rates when effectively combined.  

A well-executed SEO strategy can boost conversion rates by ensuring that a website appears prominently in the organic search engine results for relevant keywords during the lower funnel phase. 

For example, a brand called 'ABC Limited' may sell smartphones and implement a comprehensive SEO strategy that optimises its website for relevant keywords such as "buy smartphones online", "best smartphones deals", and "top-rated smartphones".  

Doing so ensures that ABC's website appears prominently during the lower funnel phase, leading to increased organic traffic, improved user experience, targeted landing pages, enhanced credibility, and ultimately higher conversion rates. 

(L-R) Dan Kalinski and Manuel Denoual

In addition to increased organic traffic, "an effective SEO strategy also includes optimising the website's user experience," Denoual tells Campaign. "ABC has ensured its website is user-friendly, loads quickly, and provides relevant smartphone information. This improves the overall user experience, making it easier for potential customers to find the information they need and navigate the site smoothly." 

NP Digital works with brands to create landing pages tailored to the lower-funnel phase keywords. For example, in the ABC brand example, a dedicated landing page for "best smartphone deals" showcases their current promotions and discounts.  

Having a landing page ensures that users on this page find what they are looking for exactly, increasing the likelihood of conversions. 

When brands like ABC consistently appear in the organic search results and provide valuable content related to smartphones, they can establish themselves as a credible and authoritative brand in the eyes of potential customers, making them more likely to convert and purchase. 

The combined impact of increased organic traffic, improved user experience, targeted landing pages, and enhanced credibility, all steer brands like ABC towards higher conversion rates.  

Users who arrive at their website through SEO-driven efforts are more likely to convert into paying customers since they actively seek smartphones and are presented with relevant information and compelling offers. 

As data analytics often drives effective SEO, the agency designed a scalable and localised SEO strategy for a real-life brand and client, HP, targeting the brand's B2B customer base. HP aims to lead the global market in large-format printing solutions. 

"Through intensive keyword research, we shaped detailed content briefs for blog articles addressing specific lower-funnel inquiries tied to large format printers," explains Denoual. 

"This, coupled with a strategic off-site backlinking initiative, amplified the authority of referring domains, significantly boosting HP's organic traffic, keyword rankings, and domain authority. We achieved a yearly organic session increase of +1122%, a +1387% surge in new audience acquisition, and a more than 10-fold growth in ranked keywords." 

Leveraging programmatic ads

Like other performance agencies, NP Digitial also uses programmatic buying for its campaigns.

Programmatic buying uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to evaluate each person based on their behaviours, demographic data, cookie data, and other criteria before bidding on the available impression. It's not limited to online audiences either.   

To target B2B event attendees programmatically, for example, the agency could begin by running DOOH at airports and ride-sharing companies leading up to and after the event.  

The agency could then geo-fence the event to target eventgoers and save device IDs. NP Digital would then use the pooled device IDs to remarket services to event attendees later precisely. 

While location data can enhance DOOH advertising, data quality is crucial. Poor data quality can lead to ineffective targeting and wasted ad spend. Marketers should carefully vet location data sources for accuracy and reliability to ensure campaign success.

"There are many ways to target via programmatic buys, including demographic, behavioural, lifestyle, contextual, lookalikes and first-party data. Of these, although relatively new, the ability to use audience data for OOH advertising offers incredible targeting opportunities," explains Kalinski. 

"We now can use location data to analyse consumers' movement patterns throughout the day to understand behavioural trends to ultimately activate digital out-of-home screens at the right time and place to reach our client's audience." 

Kalinski adds: "For example, if we are promoting a new protein drink, we would look for people who frequent gyms, nutrition stores, fitness expos and so on. The consumers who frequent these places are pooled together, and their behaviours and movement patterns show us what places and time of day the audience over-indexes; we can, therefore, know to serve our programmatic DOOH ad at those places and times." 

How the agency is using AI

Generative AI has made significant strides in enhancing programmatic advertising by enabling hyper-personalisation and optimising ad creatives, placements, and bidding strategies. 

Ad giants like Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google are rapidly advancing their machine-learning capabilities to enhance their AI-generated programmatic advertising features. 

NP Digital has embraced the tech as it believes generative AI has empowered the agency to provide clients with superior recommendations that are better-informed and more comprehensive.  

Internally, the agency is testing new implementations of generative AI technology in its work. It has developed strategic grouping and clustering of keywords by search engine results page (SERP) intent at scale. 

The agency has also built rapid identification of semantically related SEO terms, enabling it to optimise content with greater precision and accelerated identification of content consolidation opportunities to determine the optimal number of content pieces needed to cover a specific topic and its sub-topics. 

Most importantly, NP Digital has added a layer of brand guidelines and tone of voice enforcement, ensuring consistency and adherence to its client's brand identity. 

However, while the agency continues to explore new applications of generative AI tools to enhance client outcomes further, it wants to do so with a 'strong sense of responsibility'.  

Denoual claims the agency maintains the same high-level data protection and privacy standards. 

"We also acknowledge that the initial outputs of these tools may be insufficient due to their potential for plagiarism and hallucination. We employ a multi-layered approach where the outputs only serve as initial inputs, which are then thoroughly reviewed, significantly enhanced, and quality-assured by our dedicated leads and strategists before being shared with clients," explains Denoual. 

"This allows us to leverage the technology while incorporating the experience and expertise of our team. Our department leaders oversee all AI-related initiatives, ensuring that the integration of AI enhances our processes without compromising the excellence we strive to achieve for our clients." 

The future

As an independent and privately owned agency, the agency says it wants to continue to focus entirely on its clients, teams and solutions as it continues its expansion, rather than please shareholders expecting their return. 

NP Digital says it plans to invest in its capabilities and talent ahead of the revenue, structuring client-dedicated teams with a guiding philosophy of doing what is suitable for the long term and focus on business metrics, not media metrics, delivering true ROI, not ROAS. 

With a focus on soft skills and accountability, the agency says it enjoys strong client retention based on its track record of providing value. 

"Our goal is to create platforms that inspire, educate, and help marketers worldwide do performance marketing better. By offering free search engine marketing and content solutions, we have amassed a dedicated following and user base in the millions, which has helped build our brand while building trust within the marketing community," explains Kalinski. 

"The users we have supported for years are now in senior marketing positions and making agency selection decisions. These loyal decision-makers have helped propel our business into the global market. Our free search and content marketing solutions are at the heart of giving back to the marketing community." 

Campaign Asia

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