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Growing Small Local Businesses Beyond the SEO Norm with Apurva Bose

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Apurva Bose

Apurva Bose, Vice President of Operations & Strategy at Overtake Digital

Apurva Bose, affectionately known as AB for ease, is a visionary in the fast-evolving realm of digital marketing. Currently serving as the Vice President of Operations & Strategy at Overtake Digital, a leading digital marketing agency located in the bustling Chicago area, Apurva has been instrumental in steering the company towards unprecedented growth. Specializing in crafting innovative marketing strategies for mortgage companies and automotive industries, his work has not only elevated Overtake Digital's stature among premier Google partners but has also solidified its reputation for delivering results-driven, comprehensive digital solutions.

With an educational foundation rooted in a Master of Business Administration from the University of Dubuque, coupled with a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communication from Roosevelt University, Apurva's academic credentials are as impressive as his professional achievements. His journey from a content writing intern navigating the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown to a pivotal role at Overtake Digital underscores a relentless pursuit of excellence and a deep-seated passion for the digital marketing sphere.

Apurva's foray into digital marketing was marked by the co-founding of, a pioneering digital marketing company that offered personalised branding services for LinkedIn users. His tenure there not only honed his skills but also underscored his ability to identify and capitalise on niche market demands.

His approach to digital marketing is holistic and integrated, with a keen interest in SEO, pay-per-click, and leveraging the multifaceted avenues of digital outreach. Apurva's self-taught journey through the complexities of Facebook marketing campaigns and his continuous learning attitude have been the cornerstone of his success, enabling him to craft and lead strategies that yield significant ROI increases for Overtake Digital's clients across various digital channels, including SEO, PPC, Facebook Lead Generation, and Content Marketing Management.

Beyond his professional life, Apurva is a fervent Arsenal FC supporter, embodying the same teamwork and strategy in his work as seen on the football pitch. He treasures his family time, especially with his son, who is the beacon of joy in his life. His journey from a first-generation immigrant to a keynote speaker at the National University of Health Sciences speaks volumes about his dedication and the respect he commands in the digital marketing community.

Apurva's narrative is not just about overcoming challenges but is a testament to his unwavering commitment to learning, innovation, and leading by example. He continues to be a guiding force at Overtake Digital, propelling the agency and its clients towards achieving their digital aspirations, all while remaining grounded and approachable - a 'regular guy' who has made an extraordinary impact in the digital marketing world.

The Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast with Apurva Bose

Watch the interview

(click on the 'cc' icon to view subtitles)

Listen to the podcast

(56 minutes long)

Unscripted Local Business Growth Q&As with Mark A Preston and Apurva Bose

Who is Apurva Bose in the SEO world?

My name is Apurva Bose, although I'm often referred to as AB for simplicity's sake. I serve as the Vice President of Overtake Digital, a rapidly expanding digital marketing agency based in the Chicago area. Our expertise lies in delivering cutting-edge digital marketing solutions to mortgage companies and the automotive sector. Aside from my professional life, I'm an avid Arsenal FC supporter, and one of my cherished achievements was watching Arsenal play at the Emirates Stadium in the UK. I also have a 14-month-old son, who is the absolute delight of my wife and me. We dedicate our free time to him. Nevertheless, at heart, I'm just a regular individual who is passionate about digital marketing, especially SEO, pay-per-click advertising, and embracing an integrated marketing strategy over a fragmented approach.

Could you share your SEO career journey with us, Apurva?

The path has been lengthy and insightful. Originating as a first-generation immigrant to the US, I pursued a postgraduate degree and achieved an MBA. Post-graduation coincided with the 2008 financial crisis, leading me to intern at a digital marketing agency that specialised in various insurance sectors. This internship was my entry into the field, necessitated by the internship hours required for my graduation. Interestingly, this was during the nascent stages of SEO, and the agency offered paid internships, a rarity at the time, which was my initial step into the professional world. Hired initially for content writing, I developed a keen interest in the nuanced art of localising content and engaging diverse cultures. My curiosity then steered me towards the technical aspects of SEO. Throughout my career, I've embraced risk, progressing from an internship to a digital marketing strategist role, experimenting and self-teaching, especially in areas like Facebook marketing. The digital marketing landscape has evolved, offering more resources than were previously available. Although I'm not very vocal on platforms like Twitter, I've learned immensely from the community, continuously enhancing my skills and broadening my understanding of digital marketing for both my clients' benefit and my personal growth.

How do you position yourself in the multifaceted landscape of SEO?

Beginning my career in content writing has equipped me with a strong foundation in storytelling and content creation. While I've engaged with international businesses, my core expertise and contributions are more pronounced in local SEO strategies. This includes optimising listings, managing NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) consistency, and generating organic backlinks through collaborations rather than purchasing them. My focus is on fostering local engagement for my clients, leveraging multi-partnership advertising to enhance their local presence. This holistic approach to SEO, combining content creation with technical SEO strategies and local engagement, encapsulates my role in the SEO landscape.

What considerations should SEO professionals have when creating content for a local business to ensure it targets and engages the right audience effectively?

Indeed, tailoring content for a local business hinges significantly on the depth of research conducted. Unlike in an ideal scenario where one might have the luxury of unlimited time for research akin to Newton's contemplative moments with apples, the reality is far different. Time is of the essence, and learning to optimise the research process is crucial. An important aspect to recognise is that continuous blogging might not always align with a business's needs. Thus, a keen understanding of one's niche, coupled with a laser-focus on the intended audience, is paramount. The goal is not to cast a wide net but to precisely target those who are most likely to convert. Striking the right balance—neither too narrow to limit your audience to a handful nor too broad to attract millions—is essential. This middle ground is where you find those who see value in your content and are more likely to engage further. When starting to craft a blog or content plan for a client, my priority is to conduct thorough research with clear objectives and a well-defined target audience in mind. Ultimately, the success of content doesn't solely reside in traffic increments but in its ability to drive tangible business outcomes, such as sales, which is especially critical for small businesses operating on tight budgets.

What realities must SEOs working with small local businesses come to terms with?

Acknowledging that effort should not be proportional to the budget is a fundamental truth for SEO professionals working with small, local businesses. The misconception that lesser budgets warrant lesser effort needs dispelling. The reality is, most small business owners are deeply invested in their enterprises, often relying on them as the primary source of income for their families. Earning their trust involves demonstrating a commitment to delivering value, regardless of budget size. It's about understanding the profound impact of your work on their livelihoods and striving to achieve tangible results that reflect positively on their ROI. This involves looking beyond mere metrics like traffic or search engine rankings and focusing on actual sales and business growth. For small businesses, every penny invested in marketing is a significant outlay, and as SEO professionals, our role extends to ensuring that investment yields measurable returns. This perspective shift—from viewing projects solely through the lens of budget size to understanding their potential life-changing impact—is what makes working with small businesses uniquely rewarding.

Which KPI metrics should SEOs prioritise for small businesses?

Small businesses indeed crave tangible, hard-hitting metrics that directly reflect on their success and growth. Achieving visibility for lesser-known brands can be as exhilarating as clinching the Premier League title, given the significant impact it can have. Witnessing the tangible benefits of your efforts, through the satisfaction and optimism of a business owner seeing real returns, is unparalleled. Small businesses typically operate with limited budgets, not out of reluctance to invest in marketing, but due to financial constraints. An uptick in sales, however, can change this dynamic, enabling them to allocate more towards marketing efforts aimed at further boosting sales. Thus, the focus for SEOs should be on delivering results that not only enhance online visibility but also drive sales, enabling a virtuous cycle of investment and return. This direct correlation between SEO efforts and business growth highlights the critical nature of choosing the right KPIs—those that align closely with sales and revenue, providing a clear path to evaluating the success of SEO strategies.

What are the initial discussions with a new client typically about?

The initial dialogues with a new client revolve around gaining a deep understanding of their current performance metrics, far beyond mere search engine rankings. It's essential to delve into specifics such as average sales volumes, their most successful months, and current expenditure on paid search campaigns, which often highlights budgetary constraints. A key part of these conversations includes listening to the client's perspective on their competitors and understanding their short and long-term goals. This stage is crucial for setting realistic expectations. Often, clients might have ambitious targets that aren't feasible given market conditions. Therefore, honesty in these early interactions is vital; it's about balancing clients' aspirations with market realities to prevent future dissatisfaction, even if it means tempering their initial expectations. This candid approach extends to identifying specific areas of potential growth or concern, such as why certain targeted cities aren't performing as well as others. By addressing these points directly from the outset, we can establish a foundation built on transparency and realistic goals, which is instrumental in fostering a successful partnership.

How crucial is it to maintain honest and respectful conversations with clients?

Maintaining honest and respectful conversations with clients is paramount. These discussions are not personal but are aimed at achieving the best possible outcomes for the client's business. The lack of soft skills in the digital marketing field often means client communication is overlooked, yet it's a critical component for those aspiring to consultant roles or senior positions within a company. The ability to explain complex strategies in simple, jargon-free language that anyone can understand is a significant asset. For instance, ensuring your explanation would be comprehensible to someone without a digital marketing background, like the local pub owner, is a good benchmark. This approach not only aids in building trust with clients who may not be well-versed in digital marketing terminology but also demonstrates a genuine interest and investment in their business success.

Is it important for SEOs to avoid technical jargon when speaking with clients?

Absolutely. The essence of effective communication, especially in SEO, lies in breaking down complex concepts into easily understandable language. While technical jargon might be suitable for industry conferences attended by professionals, it's not appropriate for clients who are experts in their fields but not necessarily in digital marketing. A small business owner, such as a plumber or a welder, is primarily concerned with tangible outcomes like sales and revenue growth. They have little interest in the minutiae of SEO tactics. Tailoring the conversation to align with the client's level of understanding and industry not only facilitates better understanding but also showcases a personalized approach to their business. This method underscores the importance of relating to clients on a level that resonates with them, focusing on results and strategic impacts rather than the technicalities of SEO implementations.

How do you approach link building for small local businesses?

Effective link building for small local businesses often involves leveraging local community connections. A common strategy we employ involves engaging with the local Chamber of Commerce, as membership often provides access to a .gov URL, which is highly authoritative. If the business is already a member but not listed on their website, or if there's no link back to the business's website, we reach out to request inclusion or a link addition. Another successful tactic is establishing joint partnerships with complementary local businesses, such as a gym collaborating with a local smoothie maker, to offer mutual promotions. This approach extends beyond digital efforts, recognizing the importance of offline interactions due to the high volume of emails these organizations receive. Sometimes, a more direct approach, like phone calls or personal visits, can be more effective. We also encourage clients to participate in or sponsor community events and charity causes, enhancing their local presence both online and offline. This method requires active participation from the business owner to ensure authenticity and effectiveness in building those crucial local links.

Is local link building primarily about fostering real business relationships?

Precisely, local link building transcends mere online interactions; it's fundamentally about establishing and nurturing real-world business relationships within the community. This involves putting the brand and its representatives out there, engaging in networking, and participating in various events, not limited to one's immediate business niche. It could mean getting involved in charity events or community networking activities, which necessitates consistent presence and engagement. The goal is to integrate your business into the fabric of the local community, thereby building relationships not just with businesses in your sector but across a broad spectrum of the local community. This broader approach to community engagement, rather than focusing solely on direct business benefits, fosters lasting connections and can significantly enhance local visibility and credibility.

Should SEOs focus more on shared audiences rather than just link authority in local link building?

Indeed, in local SEO, the emphasis should shift towards identifying and engaging with shared audiences rather than solely concentrating on link authority. The essence of local SEO involves a human element, where understanding and connecting with the community plays a pivotal role. Building a brand locally means creating meaningful interactions and relationships that resonate with the local populace. This approach not only aids in building a solid local presence but also in establishing a business as a trusted member of the community, which is invaluable for sustainable growth and visibility in the local market.

Is local SEO more about assisting in the development of a brand locally, beyond mere SEO metrics?

Indeed, adopting the perspective of a business owner is crucial when engaging in local SEO. Many aspire to enter consulting with the notion that it solely focuses on improving SEO metrics, yet the essence of local SEO is much broader. It involves considering the impact of SEO activities on the client’s bottom line and how these efforts fit within the larger marketing strategy. This approach requires demonstrating how SEO contributes to the overall marketing objectives, such as reducing cost per click through effective content strategy or linking Facebook campaigns to conversion-optimized landing pages. The goal is to paint a comprehensive picture of SEO's role within the marketing mix, fostering a deeper understanding and collaboration between you and the client. This dialogue is key to aligning their objectives with your strategies, thereby enhancing both the relationship and the business's performance.

Should SEO professionals adopt a holistic approach to the businesses they serve?

Absolutely. The term 'holistic' might have garnered some scepticism, yet it precisely encapsulates the approach SEO professionals should embrace. Marketing efforts should not operate in silos but be integrated and aligned with the overarching goals of the business. This integrated marketing strategy ensures that all actions are coherent and contribute towards a common objective, be it for a specific campaign or the broader business vision. When planning strategies over the short or long term, adopting this wide-angled perspective is indispensable for nurturing a successful partnership with the client and achieving tangible results for the business.

How can you assist local businesses in utilising storytelling?

Storytelling is a potent tool for local businesses, each of which has a unique narrative waiting to be told. The key is to listen attentively to what the client wishes to convey about their journey. Whether it's the origins of their plumbing business or their transition from a previous career to entrepreneurship, every detail contributes to their distinct story. Successful marketers excel not only due to their expertise in promotional strategies but also in their ability to craft and share compelling stories. This narrative should resonate with the target audience, emphasizing that the business isn’t just another corporation but a vital part of the local community. It's about highlighting the unique aspects of the business, such as their involvement in local charities or special services they offer, which distinguishes them from competitors. Effective storytelling goes beyond a simple ‘About Us’ page; it weaves the business’s ethos and community contributions into every marketing message, thereby deeply connecting with potential customers.

How do you extract unique stories from local business owners who view their experiences as ordinary?

Extracting unique stories from local business owners, who may consider their experiences mundane, involves a blend of curiosity and tact. Everyone is different, and while some may be reticent to share, there are ways to encourage them to open up. Highlighting your genuine interest in understanding their business more profoundly can be a good starting point. For instance, posing questions that prompt reflection on aspects of their business they are proud of or areas they believe could be improved can yield insightful stories. This approach not only aids in gathering valuable information but also demonstrates your commitment to tailoring your services to their specific needs. It's about initiating a dialogue where they see the value in sharing their experiences, understanding that these insights are crucial for differentiating their business in the marketplace. Patience and honesty are key; reassuring them that this process, while possibly tedious, is foundational for crafting a marketing strategy that truly resonates with their brand's unique attributes.

Is it crucial for SEO professionals to actively listen to their clients?

Active listening is paramount for SEO professionals when engaging with clients. The practice goes beyond merely hearing words; it involves understanding the underlying messages, concerns, and aspirations communicated by the client. In conversations, it's easy to become preoccupied with your response or next question, but true engagement means focusing intently on what the client is expressing. This level of attentiveness can uncover hidden gems in their narratives that may otherwise be missed. These insights can be pivotal in developing a more effective and personalised SEO strategy. Therefore, SEO professionals should cultivate the skill of active listening, as it not only enriches client interactions but also enhances the ability to capture the essence of what makes each business unique.

Is understanding the 'why' behind a business critical for future-proofing their SEO strategy?

Indeed, comprehending the 'why' behind a business is crucial for devising a future-proof SEO strategy. This understanding goes beyond surface-level details to grasp the core purpose, motivations, and goals driving the business. Asking probing questions and encouraging clients to elaborate on their visions and challenges can reveal insights that significantly influence the direction of your SEO efforts. This deeper engagement ensures that strategies are not only tailored to current objectives but are also adaptable to future developments. Such an approach transforms SEO from a purely technical task into a strategic partnership, where the unique identity and aspirations of the business are central to shaping its online presence. By aligning SEO practices with the business's foundational 'why', you ensure that the strategy remains relevant and effective in the evolving digital landscape.

Is it essential for SEO professionals to have a deep interest in the local businesses they serve?

Absolutely, fostering a successful partnership necessitates more than just a superficial engagement with the business's financial aspects. It's about genuinely immersing yourself in the unique story and ethos of the local business. Surprisingly, many business owners report that it's rare for marketers to delve deeply into what truly drives their company. Discovering the passions, family importance, and personal hobbies that define the business owner not only enhances the relationship but also enriches the marketing strategy with a personal touch. This approach builds a foundation of trust, indicating to the business owner that your interest extends beyond the transactional, fostering a deeper, more meaningful partnership.

How crucial is it for SEO professionals to venture beyond their comfort zones?

Stepping beyond one's comfort zone is pivotal, not just in the realm of SEO but in personal and professional development overall. Embracing challenges and unfamiliar situations can initially seem daunting, yet it's through these experiences that growth and resilience are fostered. The ever-changing landscape of SEO, coupled with technological advancements and algorithm updates, can make the field appear formidable. However, perseverance and a willingness to adapt and learn new skills are key to navigating these changes successfully. Engaging in hobbies and interests outside of work also plays a vital role in maintaining a balanced and continuously evolving personal and professional life.

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