We go back to basics in this episode by covering what’s really important and dispelling some common SEO myths.SEO isn’t rocket science, it’s just about providing your user with the best possible experience. Click To Tweet
In this episode, we’ll cover…
- Is SEO is dead?
- How can we, as personal brands, compete with huge companies?
- How going niche can help your SEO
- How to optimise for the services you offer
- Why ‘big keywords’ aren’t all they’re cracked up to be
- How to use content marketing to boost your SEO
- Why the rule ‘300 words per page’ doesn’t work
- Is it worth paying a company to do SEO?
- The dangers of cheap SEO agencies
Time Stamps: In a rush? Get to the section you need to below!
0.54 – What is SEO?
2.14 – Is SEO still relevant?
4.43 – How can we compete against big companies in search results?
5.50 – Niching your business and the benefits to SEO
7.50 – Why you need access to your entire site for SEO
9.12 – Don’t just focus on your homepage
10.49 – Think about optimising for all your services
11.33 – What we mean when we say keyword
13.41 – How content marketing can improve your SEO
15.36 – How to conduct keyword research for content ideas
17.39 – How to optimise your posts and pages
21.58 – Should you hire an SEO agency?
Useful Resources and Links
KWFinder (Keyword research tool)
What To Do Next
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Episode Transcript Below
Lyndsay: So, the first question I have, really, Martin, is what is SEO? Because there’s a lot of information out there on the Internet about SEO, but it can all be a bit confusing, can’t it?
Martin: Yeah, it’s not the easiest topic for people to just jump into, really, partly because there’s so much information out there, like you said. But, I just want people to be aware that when it comes to SEO, we’re just talking about online visibility. We’re talking about getting more traffic to your website. We’re talking about not having to pay for advertising, necessarily. That’s kind of what we’re talking about when we talk about SEO.
Martin: More specifically, though, we’re talking about search engines like Google. So, when somebody goes to Google and types in your name, or your business name, or any keyword based around your topic of expertise, that is kind of what people want to rank for on search engines. And they always want to rank on the first page, because-
Martin: … that gets most of the traffic. So that’s what we’re talking about, really.
Martin: And there are a number of things that you can do on your website to be able to increase your chances of ranking highly in search results, like Google, like Bing, like Yahoo, because they are valuable as well, it’s just that Google have a huge market share, which is why so many people focus on ranking highly on Google.
Is SEO Dead?
Lyndsay: Yeah, okay. So, why is it important? Because I have seen a lot of things where people said, you know, SEO is dead, or SEO just doesn’t work anymore. I mean, is it still important? Is it something we should be focusing on?
Martin: I think it’s as important as me saying to you, if you were to look for a product, or a service, or maybe you wanted to go on Holiday, what would you do? You’d probably go to Google. You’d probably type in cheap flights, or you’d probably type in hotels in Florida. Hopefully, anyway, with Star Wars Land coming out that’s what you’ll be typing in. That would be nice.
Martin: But yeah, that’s what you do. It’s the first thing we all do. We like to research products and services before we buy anything. I mean, it’s just phenomenal how many people now rely on search as a trustworthy method, really, and that’s why it’s so important, because Google is the number one website in the world.
Martin: Just shows that people, they don’t go on Facebook or Twitter to search for products or services. Yes, they may ask for recommendations from friends and family, but if you’ve got your credit card in your hand and you want to buy something, first place you go is Google, and then you might go to Amazon. So, it does matter, search matters, and making sure that your website appears higher up in search results is definitely going to have some impact on your business.
User Experience and SEO – is there a difference?
Lyndsay: Yeah, definitely. I think I agree with that, and when we get asked this question as well, there’s … We do get asked this question from clients quite a lot, , you know, should I do SEO? Should I focus on it? And generally there’s not that much different between SEO and just good user experience.
Martin: Exactly, yeah.
Lyndsay: So, if you deliver one, generally you’re delivering the other, aren’t you?
Martin: Yeah, that’s what Google want at the end of the day, they want a nice experience for your user. They want to make sure that you’re reputable, and, generally speaking, it’s quite easy for Google to work out if you’re a reputable company if you’re showing up on the first page, most of the time, especially over the past few years, they’ve managed to get rid of a lot of spammy websites out there. Spammy, un-user friendly, horrible websites that don’t work on mobile devices.
Martin: So, if you focus on users more than SEO rules, then generally you’re on the right path, and having a user experience mindset about what a great website would look like in the eyes of the user, you’re generally kind of the first step in ranking highly on search engines.
Lyndsay: Yeah, absolutely, because it’s in, obviously, Google’s best interest to provide the best websites in their search results-
Martin: Exactly, yeah.
Lyndsay: … so it makes absolute sense.
How do Personal Brands Compete With Big Companies in terms of SEO?
Lyndsay: So, coming on to this next thing, I mean, we’re personal brands. We might be a one man band, or we might have a small team of people. You know, how do we compete with these huge companies? I mean, you know, a lot of personal brands sell books, for example. How are we going to compete with Amazon, you know, on Google, you know, in terms of their SEO power? How can we do that, how can we compete with huge companies?
Martin: It’s a fair point, and it’s what holds people back when it comes to getting into SEO. And SEO can be as simple or as complicated as you like, but far too often people just look at the first page of Google, and they see Amazon, they see big companies like that advertising there and taking up all the top spots, and it’s like, oh, surely this would cost me thousands to hire a company to do, or lots and lots of man hours. Now, I just want to run my business, I don’t necessarily want to work out all of the technicalities to how to rank online.
Martin: But, more often than not, there are reasons why Google, now, are favoring smaller businesses and smaller websites, because if you are a … Let’s just say that you are a property expert, for instance. You may think that the kind of the BBC property website might be the best place to go, and how are you going to outrank them?
Martin: But if you specialize in a specific niche within that industry, and you focus all of your efforts on creating a website that’s interesting, and engaging, and valuable, with all of your rich content on there, then you are, in fact, more likely to rank on the first page of Google than some other companies out there that specialize in all of these massive, broad areas, because you’re super niche, and that’s what Google want.
Martin: If you type in a question into Google, they want you to be able to answer that question, and if the big company aren’t answering that question, then … and you, you’re able to create a piece of content that answers that question better, then that’s what Google care about. Yes, they care about your, , how long your website’s been going, and how many visits did you get.
Martin: But, ultimately, when you go to Google and you want an answer to a question, or you want a product to solve your problem, the best solution that Google find, it’s generally the one that they’ll put on the first page of Google. And that’s why it’s so much easier when you think about it from a content perspective, and providing answers, then you’ve got some power.
Lyndsay: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I agree, I think with larger companies, they don’t have the advantage that small companies do have, because, like you said, if someone niches down to a really, really specific topic, which we always recommend that people niche down in their business, you know, they can really own that, whereas a large company probably tries to do a much broader overview of lots of different things. So, yeah, I think that is a really good advantage that small, personal brands do have in terms of SEO.
Martin: Yeah, definitely.
How Can Personal Brands Improve Their SEO?
Lyndsay: Okay, so, what is it that we can do to improve our SEO on our website? Is there any easy tips you can give our listeners that can help them?
Martin: Yeah, there are a few things that you can definitely do on a basic level, so you don’t have to get into any advanced strategies. One of them … Or before you actually do anything, you need to make sure you’ve got full access to your website. This means if your web designer is doing it for you, or you’ve got your cousin to do it for you, or maybe you’ve paid a big agency, make sure that you have access to edit the settings on every page, that’s the main thing.
Lyndsay: Yeah, definitely, and I think we’ve found this with some of our clients that have actually come to us. One of the reasons people have actually come to us is because currently they didn’t have access to their whole website, so they were really limited in things that they could do in terms of, well, yeah, like SEO, or, you know, content marketing. And I think that’s one major tip that we would give people if they are searching for a web designer, is make sure you get full access, because it’s going to be really, really difficult for you to do things like SEO properly on your website.
Martin: Yeah, it is one of the things that you should make sure of. Ask your web designer, or if they’ve already built your website, really, you need access, I mean-
Martin: … you do-
Martin: … you do. And part of the success of an SEO campaign, really, is just having access and following a simple set of rules, and that’s as simple as it is, really, when it comes to SEO.
Martin: Now, once you’ve got access to your website, I want you to not put all of your eggs in one basket, and what I mean by that is don’t just focus all of your efforts on the home page. So, when we give people a set of rules to follow, yes, there are little, technical things that you can do on each page of your website, but most people just do the homepage. They write lots of content, they try and include all the keywords that they want to rank for, and that’s not the right way to go. That’s the kind of thing that happened 10 years ago, maybe.
Martin: What I want you to do is to think about each individual page of your website being a website within itself. So, maybe you have coaching as a service, for instance, or maybe you have speaking as a service, imagine if you tried to include all of those keywords on your home page. It would just look a little bit crazy. It would look stuffy, it would look …
Martin: I mean, you can include elements of them, obviously, which is a good thing, but if you’re trying to rank for all of these random different keywords and you’re only trying to rank your homepage, that’s a big as for Google to give you all that credit for all of those different keywords.
Martin: So, our suggestion is always to create pages for those individual services and optimize them individually with a simple set of rules.
Lyndsay: Okay, so, this is another thing we get asked, actually. So, say I’m, like, an editor or a proofreader, a lot of people just put all their services on one page. So, they might have a menu item and call it services, when you click on it, they might say, okay, I do editing, I do proofreading, I do coaching, and I do speaking, and then put a little bit of information about it.
SEO: Do You Need a Page For Each Service You Offer?
Lyndsay: So what you’re saying is that you would need an individual page for those services, is that right?
Martin: Yeah, if you want to rank for copyediting or proofreading, then you’re much better going for a tactic of … Only it’s not really a tactic, it’s just common sense. If I’m on a website and I want to buy some proofreading services, ideally I want to click on a menu item that says proofreading, and I want to consume all that content. The other content might not be relevant to me, and … bad user experience.
Martin: And that’s why we keep saying, if you think about your users first, then SEO will follow, and your rankings will follow. The main reason for this is you can rank for proofreading, but you can also rank for why you need a proofreader, or how much does proofreading cost?
Martin: Now, if you’ve got a full page for that, just about that specific service, then you’re more likely to be able to include keywords around your main topic. And when we say keywords, and I want everybody to be aware of this, because we live and breathe this every day sometimes I have to cast my mind back to what it was like when we was learning this stuff, when we say keyword, it doesn’t actually mean a single word, it means a topic, it could be a word or a phrase.
Martin: So, if you’re trying to optimize your webpage or blog post for proofreading services, then that would be a keyword. So, don’t get too caught up in the specifics, but a keyword is not simply a word, it’s kind of a phrase, or it could be a word, or it could be a group of phrases, like how much does a proofreader cost, that’s a single keyword.
Lyndsay: Okay, so that’s quite interesting, actually, because I think when people think about this, they want to aim for the big keywords don’t they?
Lyndsay: So, say I’m a proofreader, I want to get on the first page of google for proofreader, but actually it might be better if I try and hit how much does a proofreader cost? And, you know, answer those questions. That’s a really interesting way of looking at it, isn’t it?
Martin: Yeah, definitely, and that’s part of the barrier that people face. It’s the first thing you think, I want to rank for insurance company, I want to rank for writer, do you know what I mean? It’s just … It’s just a big, broad phrase that so many people want to rank for.
Martin: And when you check online, on these keyword research tools, you’ll see that those are the ones that people search for mostly. But, in fact, when you add up all of the other little keywords that people search for around that general topic, you find that those keywords, when you look at them on a big picture, they all add up to more than the big, , money keyword, the big, powerful keyword that we think, and people don’t know that.
Lyndsay: Yeah, definitely, and you might find as well that someone searching for proofreader might just want to know what a proofreader is. They might just want to know a definition, whereas if someone’s searching for how much does a proofreader cost, they’re actively looking for a service. So, it’s actually probably more targeted, isn’t it, to do it that way, rather than go for big, broad, you know, keywords, where a lot of your audience might not be applicable. So, that’s really, really interesting.
Content Marketing and SEO
Lyndsay: Okay, so, I mean, we’ve briefly touched on it when we said how much does a proofreader cost? I mean, we did a blog post, didn’t we, that was how much does a website cost, and that’s probably one of our most trafficked blog posts. So, I think that goes on to my next question, really, which is content is king. So, if you’re trying to rank, how would you use content in order to do that?
Martin: Well, like we said, we already know what your main services are, you will know, if your business, what your main services are, but you’ll also get a series of questions about that main topic. And, like I said, if we just wanted to produce one blog post about how much does a website cost, then we’ve got a certain amount of traffic on that. But, if you really break it down, like, for instance, we broke it down, we said in the previous episodes, we said, “Why are we so expensive? Why are we so cheap,” and we’re currently writing one at the minute that says, “How much does it cost to build your own website?”
Martin: We treat that kind of question as an idea for lots of other questions that we can ask, and that’s why so many people are talking about content marketing these days, because they understand that without going that deep into your, content efforts, you’re going to limit the amount of people that come to your website.
Martin: And that’s why, if you only have a five page website, and you only have five different services, yes, that’s good, because you can optimize those individual pages, but you’re only going to reach so many people based on five different questions on five different topics. And that’s why people are writing lots of blog content, producing podcasts, and just stretching out that content and making it so that you can rank for hundreds and thousands of keywords, rather than just five or 10.
Lyndsay: Yeah, that makes complete sense. So, if someone were to think, okay, well, how do I come up with these ideas for content? How would you recommend that someone do that?
Martin: Well, the first thing, really, is again we come back to user experience. What are the kind of questions people ask you on a regular basis? Likelihood is if you get an email and people say, “What does proofreading actually include, or what do you actually do when I pay you?” Then chances are lots of other people online are searching for it.
Martin: And if you don’t have a big following at the minute, and you don’t have lots of people asking you questions about your services, you can use online tools, like keyword research tools, for instance. There’s one that we always recommend. It’s quite expensive when you’re starting out, but they do a free trial, and it’s called KWFinder, and if you just search for KWFinder you’re able to throw in a keyword and test it out for free. You can use one try within 24 hours.
Lyndsay: So, we’ll add that to the show notes.
Martin: Yeah, KWFinder. There are lots of other ones as well, and some of them are free, and some of them are premium tools like that one. But it’s worth just kind of taking one of your services, like proofreading, or speaking, or coaching, or whatever, and actually throw it into KWFinder, and you’ll find out how many people actually search for that topic. Not only that, you’ll be presented with lots of other ideas for keywords that you could potentially optimize for, like the extended keywords that we’ve been talking about.
Martin: And I don’t want to get too technical, but if you’ve ever heard of the phrase long tail keywords, then that generally means three or four words, like how much does it cost for a proofreader? Or what is included in proofreading services? Those kind of keywords are the ones that are going to pop up when you type in that kind of big money keyword.
Lyndsay: Okay, great. So, once we have some ideas, either from the questions that a lot of clients, or potential clients, have asked us, we’ve done some keyword research, so we start writing some blog posts around these topics that people will be pointing to Google. Is there anything then … So, you have your blog post, is there anything then that we can do with the blog post to really optimize that for Google?
Martin: Yeah, I mean, lots of people say that the only text that you need on a webpage, that’s a blog post, that’s a page, it doesn’t actually make a difference, really, in the eyes of Google, but one of the things people say is you only need 300 words. And we know from experience that there are tools out there that they you only need 300 words and then you can move on to another page.
Martin: We’ve found the most successful blog posts are the more in depth ones, the ones that really break down the question, or the topic, in mind. And when you do that, you give yourself an opportunity to include more keywords.
Martin: So, let’s just say you are wanting to optimize your blog post for how much does a proofread cost. May as well stick with this same question, can’t really get it out of my mind at the minute. But if you’re thinking of writing a blog post about that particular aspect, then the best thing that you can do is think about the subcategories of that question.
Martin: So, really break it down and think, well, if I was to give this blog post sections, like chapters of a book, for instance, then what would those chapters be? And we call them subheadings. So, when you’re reading a blog post you’ll notice that you’ve got your main heading, and you’ve got lots of little subheadings within the post as well.
Martin: You can take all of these additional keywords and questions that people have been asking about this main topic and use them within the subheadings. That’s a really good thing that you can do.
Martin: And, although, again, we’re trying to keep it quite basic, if you’re using WordPress or any other content management system, you can actually assign heading tags to these individual subheadings. So, it’s not enough to actually just use them as subheadings, you actually want to tell search engines that they are subheadings, like heading twos, or heading threes, and you want to use them throughout the blog post. So that’s one main thing that you can really do to give yourself the best chances of ranking highly.
Optimising Posts and Pages
Lyndsay: Okay, so, to take the example that we’re using, obviously, how much does a proofreader cost, you might have subheadings that say what is the industry standard for proofreading costs, or what are the disadvantages of hiring a really cheap proofreader. You might break it down like that and then assign them heading tags as you suggested.
Martin: Exactly, yeah.
Lyndsay: Okay, that makes complete sense.
Martin: Yeah, so that’s one thing. I mean, obviously with WordPress you’ve got the Yoast SEO plugin, which I’m sure lots of our listeners will be using. So you can obviously assign an overall topic for your title tag. So, you’ve got 50 to 55 characters that you can actually put the main keyword, so we have to spend a little bit of time on this to make sure that you’re including the keywords, it’s not too spammy, it looks like, because that’s what’s going to appear on search engines. When somebody searches for that question they see the title tag, and that is actually looked at quite highly by search engines.
Martin: So, things like that, the way that you save your images, you know, your filenames, sometimes, if you have taken an image on your iPhone it will come up with all the random numbers, it’s best to include your-
Lyndsay: Yeah, like, photo 54347.
Martin: Yeah, exactly, or if you take it on a Samsung you might get SMG 345, and ideally you want to get in the routine of changing those. Funnily enough, we do have a blog post about this, and it goes for pages or posts, but we actually wrote a blog post about 12 months ago which breaks down all of the different things that you can do to optimize your content, and it includes a few of the things that we spoke about as well.
Lyndsay: Yeah, absolutely, I’ll put in a link to that blog post in the show notes, because, you know, obviously explaining on a podcast where you fill in your title tags or meta descriptions is quite difficult, but on the blog post we make it really clear, and really break it down how to optimize your blog post. So, I will pop the link into that, that’s great.
Martin: And it’s not just the blog post as well, I mean, the same principles you can apply to your home page, to your service page, to your about page even. So, don’t just think we’re talking about blog posts here, and we’re not saying that you have to focus all of your efforts on writing brand new content. If you apply these same principles to your individual pages, then you’ll be on the right path.
Is it Worth Paying an SEO company?
Lyndsay: Absolutely. So, my final question, which is probably one of the most popular questions we get. It’s probably a good keyword, actually, is it worth paying a company to do SEO for me?
Martin: I get it, yeah, we get a lot of … a lot of people ask this question, and I’m not surprise, because there’s so much information out there you’re not sure who to listen to, what book to read, what video to watch. So, at some point you might just say, you know what? Can I just pay someone to do this for me?
Martin: But I would tell you to hold off on that as long as possible. Much like the question in episode one, which was should I build my own website? Same principles, really. If you hire an SEO company to do it for you, that’s okay if you have the budget, but you need to know a little bit about what they’re going to be doing, first. So, I would at least learn a little bit about it if you’re going to hire a company.
Martin: And we actually used to sell SEO services up until recently, and we still do have a few SEO clients, but we don’t actually sell it as a service anymore, which is why we’re open and honest about all of the information and what to do, because we just want to see you guys make a difference before you part with your cash.
Martin: There are good times to hire an SEO company. For instance, if you have a big budget, and you have lots of competitors, then you can hire an SEO company to go out and build loads and loads of back links to your website, you know, high quality back links. They’ll write guest posts for you. They’ll do loads of stuff. They’ll go out to media influencers and write guest posts and get back links to your website, and that’s all well and good. That costs a lot of money, though.
Martin: So, there’s like these big companies that do all this for you, but you’re talking a lot. I mean, you’re talking 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 pound a month in some instances, and you don’t necessarily need that at this point if you focus on the basics.
Lyndsay: Yeah, okay. So, I mean, we see a lot of SEO companies, and I’m sure our listeners have seen a lot of SEO companies as well, that offer a , I don’t know, SEO for 100 pound a month. So, if I had that option, okay, I’ve got a company that offers, you know, 100 pound a month for SEO, or I can spend my time doing, you know, content marketing, and just optimizing my pages myself, which is the better option there? Because 100 pound a month sounds pretty attractive.
Martin: Yeah, it’s pretty cheap, and that’s exactly the kind of service that you’re going to get, if I’m being honest with you. It’s going to be a minimal. For 100 pound a month … I mean, you have to think, if someone’s getting paid an hourly rate, they might get paid, , 20 pound an hour, 30 pound an hour, and if they’re spending those five hours actually working on your website, what are they actually going to be doing?
Martin: And let’s not forget that SEO is ongoing. Now, most of the things that we’re talking about in this podcast episode you can do, and you can optimize your website, and you can spend a weekend on it and do it all in one go, just a few of the aspects, you can make a real difference to your rankings.
Martin: But with an SEO company, you have to pay them for a long time. So that 100 pound that you might pay them for whatever work they’re going to do-
Lyndsay: That can add up.
Martin: It can do, yeah, and unless you actually know exactly what they’ve done on your website, it’s very difficult for you to get an idea of whether or not that money’s being well spent. Because we know what it’s like, I mean, you ring a company and you’re like, “I want to cancel my services,” and they say, “Well, this happens if you cancel your services,” and you get into this kind of rot, really, where you’re just not sure what the best situation is.
Martin: We’ve had clients come to us that say, “I’ve been paying an SEO company for three years and it’s not been working, and every time I speak to them, they say, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re just going to … the mobile update’s just come through, we just need to do some more work,'” and then there’s always another reason why you’re not seeing results.
Martin: Yeah, if you’re paying 100 pound a month and you’re getting results from it, then great, as long as you-
Lyndsay: That is rare though, isn’t it?
Martin: As long as you can get a return on your investment, then fantastic. But SEO is a very, very kind of content driven thing, really. So, yeah, if you’re writing lots of content every month, and they’re optimizing that content for you, then fantastic, 100 pound a month is glorious. In fact, I might hire them, please send me the details.
Martin: But, nine times out of 10, you’re going to get trapped with an SEO company for that amount of money who are doing the bare minimum, but you may find it difficult to get out of that.
Lyndsay: Okay, that’s really interesting. So, I think we’ve covered quite a lot there. Certainly the basics of SEO, and I think it’s a topic that we could talk about for a long time, isn’t it?
Martin: Exactly, yeah.
Lyndsay: So, we will be doing a lot more about SEO on the podcast in the future, I’m sure. So, I do hope that you enjoy today’s episode.
Lyndsay: Just to go back to our free Facebook group that I mentioned before, please do join that group, because as of recording we are doing our free website critiques, where we tell you exactly how you can improve your website. That’s every week, and we look forward to every week don’t we, Martin?
Martin: We do, I love it.
Lyndsay: It’s really nice, really, really nice. And you can join that by visiting jammydigital.com/Facebook.
Lyndsay: Okay, and another thing we would really love you to do is to subscribe to us on iTunes, leave us an honest review. It really helps us reach more people and deliver lots more great content.
Lyndsay: Okay, so, see you next time on the Make Your Mark Online Podcast.