On this week’s episode, we’re joined by Rebecca Gill of Web Savvy Marketing. She is a WordPress developer, an SEO consultant, and a general business consultant.
She’s an active member of the WordPress community, participating as a WordCamp speaker, podcast guest, and SEO educator.
Her company, Web Savvy Marketing, was founded in 2009 and is a creative agency based in Southeastern Michigan. They work with clients across the globe who range from bloggers and small businesses to large enterprises and universities.
The Web Savvy online store offers more than 20 professionally designed Genesis themes ideal for businesses, marketers, educational institutions, and bloggers.
In this 39-minute episode Brian Gardner, Lauren Mancke, and Rebecca Gill discuss:
- The accidental entrepreneur
- Empowerment in training others
- A holistic approach to SEO
- How to avoid risky black hat tactics
- The 3 most important elements of SEO
- Long-term SEO strategies
Listen to StudioPress FM below ...
The Show Notes
- Follow Rebecca on Twitter
- Web Savvy Marketing
- Web Savvy Marketing Themes
- SEO Consulting
- DIY SEO Courses
- SEO Bootcamp
A Beginner’s Guide to SEO that Works
Jerod Morris: Hey, Jerod Morris here. If you know anything about Rainmaker Digital and Copyblogger, you may know that we produce incredible live events. Some would say that we produce incredible live events as an excuse to throw great parties, but that’s another story. We’ve got another one coming up this October in Denver. It’s called Digital Commerce Summit, and it is entirely focused on giving you the smartest ways to create and sell digital products and services. You can find out more at Rainmaker.FM/summit. That’s Rainmaker.FM/summit. We’ll be talking about Digital Commerce Summit in more detail as it gets closer, but for now, I’d like to let a few attendees from our past events speak for us.
Attendee 1: For me, it’s just hearing from the experts. This is my first industry event, so it’s awesome to learn new stuff and also get confirmation that we’re not doing it completely wrong where I work.
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Jerod Morris: Hey, we agree. One of the biggest reasons we host the conference every year is so that we can learn how to service our customers — people like you — more easily. Here are just a few more words from folks who have come to our past live events.
Attendee 4: It’s really fun. I think it’s a great mix of beginner information and advanced information. I’m really learning a lot and having a lot of fun.
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Jerod Morris: That’s it for now. There is a lot more to come on Digital Commerce Summit. I really hope to see you there in October. Again, to get all the details and the very best deal on tickets, head over to Rainmaker.FM/summit. That’s Rainmaker.FM/summit.
Voiceover: StudioPress FM is designed to help creative entrepreneurs build the foundation of a powerful digital business. Tune in weekly as StudioPress founder, Brian Gardner, and VP of StudioPress, Lauren Mancke, share their expertise on web design, strategy and building an online platform.
Lauren Mancke: On today’s episode, we are talking search engine optimization with Rebeca Gill of Web Savvy Marketing. We’ll cover this topic from all angles, so listen in.
Brian Gardner: Hey, everyone, welcome to StudioPress FM. I am your host, Brian Gardner. I’m joined, as usual, with the VP of StudioPress, Lauren Mancke. We are very excited about the show because right now we are starting a new series where we are talking to members and experts, mind you, of the Genesis Community. Lauren, what do you think about that?
Lauren Mancke: Very excited to have everyone on.
Brian Gardner: We could probably go 30 or 40 episodes deep easily with people that I want to talk to. We’ll break them up into little compartments. But it’s going to definitely be fun for us. Today we’re joined by Rebecca Gill of Web Savvy Marketing. Rebecca is a WordPress developer, an SEO consultant, and a general business consultant as well. She’s an active member of the WordPress community with a variety of participation as WordCamp speaker, podcast guest, and SEO educator.
Her company, Web Savvy Marketing, was founded in 2009 and is a creative agency based in Southeastern Michigan. They work with clients across the globe who range from bloggers and small businesses to large enterprises and universities. The Web Savvy online store offers more than 20 professionally designed Genesis themes, ideal for businesses, marketers, educational institutions, and bloggers. Rebecca, it’s our pleasure to welcome you to the show. How are you?
Rebecca Gill: I’m great. Thanks so much for having me here.
Brian Gardner: Yeah, it’s funny. When I sat down to think of the people who I wanted to have on the show there were a few names that instantly popped up, and yours was one of them. I was kind of hoping at some point, and maybe … I know down the road we have another series that I’m going to talk to Chris Cree who worked with you very closely and just recently left. We’ll be able to tackle both sides of your business where he also was involved. Let’s kick this off. I’ve known you for a number of years. You’ve been around the WordPress space for some time. Walk us through the early years of how you got started as an online entrepreneur and how you created Web Savvy?
The Accidental Entrepreneur
Rebecca Gill: I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. I was at a small company and I was their VP of Marketing. I was with them for about 10 years in total. The company dynamic shifted and it was evident that I really needed to leave, but it was the heart of the recession and there were no jobs in the Detroit area. The situation in the company got so bad that I was so distraught and distracted from it I actually mixed up my medication, put myself on the ER for eight hours, and ended up on the couch for a week recovering. It was at that point my husband and I were like, “You know what? It doesn’t matter what’s going on with the economy, you need to leave” It just it was affecting our personal life more than we could tolerate, so I quit.
I was going to go into SEO consulting and I started to do that. I actually had some initial success, but I quickly realized that the companies I was working with didn’t have access to their websites. Everything was in HTML and nobody could actually go in and make implementations of my SEO recommendations. I went back to my experience with Joomla and WordPress and started to work on web development. That was just a means to be able to get the SEO out there that I needed to for the small businesses. I quickly fell in love with the WordPress community and dove in. We started creating custom themes and development, and then when Genesis came out we jumped on the Genesis bandwagon and it’s been a great ride ever since.
Brian Gardner: It’s funny how many stories start with, “How I became an entrepreneur online more out of need than want.” Not many people have the luxury of saying, “I just think I’m going to wake up and one day I’m going to start this.” It’s really, “I got fired,” or “I had to leave my job,” or, “My husband lost a job and so I had to basically figure out how to make money online.” It sounds like your story is somewhat that way. Sometimes it’s also health-related and things like that. thank you for sharing that. It’s encouraging to other people to hear how that type of thing gets started.
Rebecca Gill: I always joke that I’m the accidental entrepreneur. My husband jokes that I can usually slip and fall but I always end up smelling like roses at the end, and I think this is a good example of that.
Lauren Mancke: Running a small business isn’t always easy, what are some of the things that you struggle with?
Rebecca Gill: I think, for me, my biggest struggle is a mental struggle, because I now have an agency and I hadn’t planned in having an agency. I spend a lot of time on operations and worrying about payroll and receivables and things like that, checking on projects. That’s all things that I don’t like. I would rather be doing SEO consulting and training and marketing and sales, because that’s really what makes me happy. I think if I were to say what is my struggle, that’s the biggest struggle. That I don’t get to focus on what I really want to focus on and where I know I’m really good. I have to focus on these other things. That can be a mental challenge that you just have to overcome and push through daily.
Brian Gardner: For me in StudioPress back in the day — I think at the core that all comes down to that struggle and how it affects us mentally. It’s sometimes related to our inabilities to let go off control. When we as independent people start something and do it all on our own, obviously it comes to a point where we need to scale and get bigger. With that comes the pain of doing things that we don’t want to do. For me it was support — as much as I love working with people, it just got to a point where I couldn’t work 85 hours a week. You have to entrust people — as you have, and have done successfully. Start to grow the company and entrust those responsibilities to other people so that you don’t become a nut case. That’s what I had to do. You know what I mean?
Rebecca Gill: That’s so true.
Brian Gardner: Genesis — let’s go right into this because you were one of the big, popular, most known Genesis agencies, along with Brian and Jennifer Bourn. Talk us through how Genesis came into your picture.
Rebecca Gill: I actually tried the beta version of it. When it didn’t have trial themes. I created a website that is still out there today, that is using that original version. That was me going in –that was still when it was me hacking themes and customizing myself, which I shouldn’t be doing. I’m not allowed to do that anymore. I had a familiarity with it, but then Chris Cree, who you mentioned earlier — when you came out with the real Genesis framework and the trial themes, he said, “We need to start using this.” He explained to me how we can have a base trial theme of the things that I like and we can use that as our box that we are going to play in.
We started with it and I quickly found that it was just such a good path for us. Not only do you all produce really good code and a great framework for us to work within, it creates a box for my team where we have a set of best practices and standards. We’re all beating at the same drum. I think that from agency owner’s perspective that’s really invaluable to me. Plus, I just know that my clients — somebody has got their back besides me. If I get hit by a train — or whatever reason Web Savvy goes away — I know they have you and they’ve got the Genesis community that can pick right up where we left off. That makes me really happy. We made that decision early on, jointly with me and Chris. We’ve never strayed from it and I’ve never regretted it.
Brian Gardner: That’s music to our ears, right, Lauren?
Lauren Mancke: Definitely.
Rebecca Gill: I’m a Genesis cheerleader, I can’t help it.
Brian Gardner: We like those.
Empowerment in Training Others
Lauren Mancke: Aside from the general services you offer. I heard you’ve gotten recently into training. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Rebecca Gill: I’ve actually been doing group training since 1995. First it was an operational training. My first job out of college I was an Operations Manager. Then, when I worked for the ERP Software Company, I was doing training for the user base. I’d go onsite for five days and walk people through the setup of the system and talk about everything from bill of materials and manufacturing production lines through the general ledger and accounting. That’s been in my blood.
I haven’t done it for years because I’ve been so busy building up the agency, just with the daily to-dos. We’ve got a really good project manager now who manages all of our custom developments. That’s freed me up so that I could go back to training and start really using my SEO education and sharing that. The reason I’ve been doing it is because, from an SEO standpoint, it’s a lot of labor. There is only so much of me to go around and I only have so many hours in the week. I don’t want to be working those 85 hours that Brian mentioned.
I’ve been starting to do more and more training — both in the course and then with the boot camp — so we can really spread that education and empower people. Let them have that education so they can have a long-term path. Honestly, I love it. It’s like Chris creating the support forum, he loves that and I love training. You just empower people and you make them happy. The light bulb goes off and they are thrilled with that. Then you know that you’ve given them a foundation that they’re taking forward with them.
Brian Gardner: When I started StudioPress, training was definitely not something on my radar. Only because — like I said earlier — I was so busy trying to keep up with the creation, the ideas. This even was before Genesis, back in the days of Revolution. I was just creating the product and micro-training in the sense of writing tutorials and things like that. For me it never clicked, there was never that, “Hey, you should do paid training.” That’s basically a way to scale your time because you can create something and then charge for it and then build that out.
Not until StudioPress merged into Copyblogger did I really understand. Back then, Teaching Sells was our big training thing. I realized very quickly that there was a lot of opportunity, just in general, across the Internet space for training. You see places like Lynda.com and stuff like that now. It seems like everyone’s doing training. That’s interesting. On your website, you have a dedicated section to SEO consulting. As you mentioned, you like to teach, you like to do SEO, and folks can hire you to do SEO consultant. In fact, I just recommended you within the Genesis Facebook group. Someone asked about SEO. They lost their SEO person. I don’t know if they contacted you or not, hopefully they did.
Let’s talk about what got you interested in SEO. From a web standpoint, from a design and development it’s “less appealing.” It’s that almost taboo word where people are too afraid to even mess with it because they’re not sure what it is or how to do it. It’s easy to make something pretty and put it online, but as I’ve always said, a well-designed website without traffic is a well-designed website without traffic. Talk to us about SEO and how that came into your life from an important standpoint, and just a little bit about the consulting that you do.
Rebecca Gill: My background with SEO was at my prior job where I was the head of marketing. We didn’t have a big marketing budget, and I taught myself SEO because I was in the marketing department. I competed against people like SAP, Microsoft, and Oracle — really large organizations that had teams of marketing people and teams of SEO people. I quickly learned that that team environment was very fragmented and they didn’t have a good structure. If I could just learn and apply I could beat them and get on page one. I grew the sales that we brought in from the Internet — it became our lead source and the majority of our sales.
We grew the company 400% in two years. When you are selling a $100,000 product, that’s a lot, that’s a huge shift. To me that was empowerment. I really fell in love with SEO then, because I realized how much control you have over things and how much good you can do when you just work hard and do the right thing in the right path. That really got me set. I had SEO on our website for a while but then I pulled it back because I didn’t have time to do it. I was so busy with custom work that I didn’t have time to work on the projects. Again, bringing Mary back on with project management — it’s freed some of my time up so that I can do consulting projects with people.
Now we do a mix of both. From an SEO project standpoint, I will work through the project with you — keyword research, sitemapping, down to optimizing your content. We also do customized boot camps on-site for SEO, blogging, and social media. Now we’ve got the courses that we’re offering at diyseocourses.com, as well as the seobootcamp.com, which is our new in-person training in a group setting in Dallas. We’ve evolved it, and it’s really my effort of trying to help as many people as I can and teach them the right way to do things.
I don’t want to everything for everybody because I don’t think that that’s good for them long term, but I want to teach and I want to train. That’s the heart of our SEO. Even when we’re doing a project with somebody, I’m not going to just do everything for you. I’m educating you along the way with best practices and the right way to do things, so when I’m gone you can take that forward and continue on your path and have good success.
Brian Gardner: That’s like the whole “teach a man to fish and he eats forever” type of thing. The Facebook group — when someone says, “I lost my SEO,” if they’re not taught good SEO or at the very least, the fundamentals of what the person that hired them to do has done, then they feel completely lost. Like this person probably says, “Oh my gosh, my person fell off the radar,” or they closed their business or whatever, “What will I do?” The services that you offer — it’s great that you teach them at least the basics. That way, if something would happen to you, God forbid, they don’t feel completely in the dark. They can at least take that and try to apply it towards the stuff that they produce there in the future.
Rebecca Gill: One of the questions that I ask people — it’s an onboarding question when I first get an inquiry in about SEO — I always ask them, “Have you hired an SEO consultant in the past and what did they do for you?” You would be surprised at how many people have hired somebody and it’s not just one, it’s two or four or five at different stages through their business, but they have no idea what the SEO company did. They don’t know what they were doing behind the scenes, if they were doing anything. Every time I hear that — and it’s like 80% of the time I get that response — it makes me sick to my stomach.
That’s like the guy in Facebook. He may not even know what his SEO person was doing, if they were doing anything. It’s tainted the SEO industry and the consultants. There’s a lot of really good SEO consultants, but there’s a lot of less aboveground people that are really doing high-quality work, telling their client what they are doing, and showing them what they are doing and educating along the way, which is the way it really should be.
Lauren Mancke: That’s true, that there’s a lot of stereotypes in the SEO world. You say on your website that you have a more holistic approach. What does that mean?
A Holistic Approach to SEO
Rebecca Gill: For us, I’m not going to just do for you. We’re going to take you in the process from start to finish and you’re going to learn along the way. Whether I’m doing a consulting project, whether you’re taking my course — which is 8 hours and, I think, 65 lessons — or whether you are doing our boot camp. Holistic, to me, is we first start with your target market, we define who that is and who you are selling to, and what are their pain points and what solution you offer. That kind of information. We look at your competitors. You do research.
From that research, now you’ve got some data that you can start to plan and start to strategize. Then as you work through that, now it’s under education. Then you look at analysis to see what worked and what didn’t work. You go back and you rinse and you repeat. That’s about keyword research and sitemapping and investigating competitors, auditing your content in your existing site, down to writing the really good content that’s going to be good for the user and optimizing it. Then, off page, link building and things like that.
Unfortunately, a lot of old-school SEO consultants still focus on link building. That’s their primary focus because they can control that themselves and they don’t need the client involved. They can do it all on their own, so they say, “That’s what you’re paying me for.” That’s the wrong approach in today’s world of Google and Bing. You have to have holistic. You have to have the user, the website visitor at the forefront of your objectives and goals to make sure that they’re happy. Because if they’re happy, that makes the search engines happy, and the search engines will reward you with more traffic. When I say holistic, it’s a full circle from start to finish. With, again, education along the way, because I want people empowered.
Brian Gardner: Before I get to my next question, I want to go back. You’ve said these phrases a couple of times now, and I want our listeners to understand. You said, keyword research and sitemapping in particular. Let’s do a quick definition of a what each of those are just to give them an idea, for those who don’t know.
Rebecca Gill: A lot of people, when you talk to them they will write a piece of content and throw it up in the web, which is great. I wrote the rant I had the other day about SEO, but before I actually posted that I did some keyword research to see what phrases would relate to that so I could utilize that within the post and optimize it. That’s one form of keyword research, and that’s the shortest version. The other version is really doing a full plan to say, “What is a phrase or multiple phrases that people might search to reach my site or my blog?” What are they searching for, whether it’s their pain points or it’s solutions or it’s people — going through analysis.
You start with a seed list. You generate your seed list. You come up with all of your potential possibilities that you think. Then you look at your competitors and you learn from them. You do things like you look at Google auto-suggest and related searches and you add that. Now you go to keyword tools to see what volumes and what other variations you can have. Then you look at that and you compare that to your existing site and what your future content may hold. You start mapping one keyword or phrase to a particular piece of content. That’s the sitemapping part.
That part is not a quick process. It takes weeks to do it if you are doing it right, because it’s data, it’s analysis, and it’s research. That’s the part everybody skips. They just go and they jump to content, and they may or may not have a keyword for the content. Or, worse yet — and I hear this from mid-market companies, which is a dagger through my heart — they say, “We look at the website as a whole. Our website is optimized for X, Y and Z. ” But they never actually assign it to content. What the problem with that is, is when you’re doing that you’re asking the search engines to decide which piece of content is the best one for a given phrase.
That’s the wrong approach. Keep a simple form, don’t make them think. Make it easy for the search engines to find the exact right page or post or product for a given phrase. There is no question if they know this piece of content on your website is the best piece of content for this phrase. That’s the whole purpose of keyword research and sitemapping, is to do that. Once you get yourself into that process you’ll never leave it, because you’ll realize it just makes common sense. You’re doing what’s right for the visitor as well as the search engines and it helps you win in the end.
Brian Gardner: Not only does it make common sense, it’s probably something that bears fruit, too. I think the way you explained SEO probably resembles to some degree the idea of — and this is a great time for us to talk about it because the Olympics are going on — it sounds like SEO … There is a lot of training in a lot of endurance in things like that where you have to do the right steps. You can’t just hop off a couch and run. You have to eat well. You have to sleep well. You have to train well. To some degree, it sounds like you can cut corners in SEO but then you just won’t run as far and things like that.
Rebecca Gill: Correct, and it’s short-lived. The one problem that I see all the time on people’s website is you ask them and they say, “My focus keyword is X, Y, and Z.” You say, “Okay, tell me what piece of content on your website is reflective of that.” They either give you 10 or they have no idea. That’s the same problem with the search engines. They are not going to know either.
If you do and it’s short term — you’re trying to build a long-term plan for yourself, your visitors, and the search engines. The more research and planning you put into that and more due diligence at the front of the process, the more results you have and the longer your results are going to sustain. There are still people sitting on page one of Google for highly competitive phrases that I helped optimize eight years ago. That’s because they did it the right way and they had the planning before the actual execution.
Brian Gardner: House built on solid rock versus house built on sand?
Rebecca Gill: Yes. It’s hard to get people to do that because they want to rush ahead. They want to see that end fruit and they want to just plow ahead. It’s like, “No, no, no.” You’re pulling the reins back and not letting them do it. Sometimes I feel like I’ve got to lock them in a cage and say, “No we’re not doing that.”
Lauren Mancke: I had a client one time ask us to call Google. They wanted us to call them and get them on the front page.
Rebecca Gill: Isn’t that funny? There is consultants that promise that. That say, “I know Google, I know exactly what the algorithm is.” That’s BS, you don’t. You don’t know people at Google. Just because Matt Cutts may have tweeted you five years ago doesn’t mean you know people. You surely don’t know the algorithms. You may suspect elements of the algorithms and what factors are, and you may have learned something through trial-and-error, but you don’t know precisely every single algorithm, and you’re supposed to because the search engines don’t want you to.
The 3 Most Important Elements of SEO
Lauren Mancke: For people that are a little bit overwhelmed when it comes to SEO — they hear the phrase and they are just like, “I don’t even know where to begin.” Can you break it down into the three most important elements of SEO?
Rebecca Gill: My three most important would be keyword research, sitemapping, and then high-quality content. Granted, there is a lot that falls underneath each of those, but those are the buckets. I’ve structured my online course to have that. You start with basics, then you go to keyword research, the next segment is sitemapping, the next segment is content, and then you have the gravy that is the offsite stuff. If you skip those three blocks you are going to never succeed. Because the offsite activity that people want to do is pointing to a bunch of garbage that’s gobbledygook that the search engines can’t understand. The offsite that you’re doing will never help unless you’ve got that core foundation set.
Brian Gardner: We talked about keyword research, and you also mentioned how you got your clients on page one of Google eight years ago. It reminds me back to eight years ago — remember the shoe money days and all of that stuff? I want to be very specific , keyword research is not the same thing as keyword stuffing, which is something that back in the day — people don’t even know what that is anymore because it’s so archaic in a sense. This was back when Google actually cared about the keywords that you would put into the post meta that would show up in the source heading. Google finally said, “People are obviously stuffing keywords by trying to cram them in and make every other word ‘jewelry,’ ‘diamonds,’ and stuff like that,” to try to whatever.
Even back in the day — Rebecca and Lauren, you guys probably both remember — I think I even tried this at one point, where at the bottom of your page you would write a bunch of keywords and then change the font color to white so no one would see it. Google finally got smart enough to realize that that would — and they would then penalize you. There was actually a non-benefit to doing something like that. It reminds of all of the black hat tactics that would be used by either people who didn’t know any better or people who were just following like sheep the people who said, “Hey, this black hat stuff works.”
How to Avoid Risky Black Hat Tactics
Brian Gardner: You, Rebecca, you’re stand up. You certainly prefer to keep your hat white. What are the points of establishing a … I guess this goes along with the three most important elements of SEO that we just talked about. The encouragement to do it the right way. To keep your hat white, which is what’s called white hat SEO, which basically means you are just doing it the right way. You are not trying to trick the system. I’m assuming you are an advocate of that and you would encourage anyone who is trying to really invest in SEO to do that, right?
Rebecca Gill: Yes. First, your point of the hidden keywords at the bottom and the meta keywords in the source code stuffed with just a bunch of words — I still encounter that every single week with prospects or clients. You called it old school. You know it’s old school, I know it’s old school, but people still do it today. There’s still that philosophy that that’s what works, but it doesn’t. If you break down white hat SEO to this: to be successful in search you have to make the search engines happy. Let’s take Google, for example. What is their goal? Their goal is to make money. They are a for-profit company. They sell ads, they have other products, but that’s their goal.
The only way they’re going to do that is if they keep people happy. People come to the search engines, they search for something, they get good results that take them to a good website or blog that answers their question. If you veer off from that and you don’t pay attention to the actual user and the visitor to your website and keeping them happy, you are not going to be successful with the search engines because you are not helping them be successful. That’s white hat. It’s focusing on your visitor. Writing content for the visitor. Making sure that it’s fast, it got great performance, it’s designed well so it’s easier to read and the site flows. Keeping that visitor happy will make the search engines happy, because that visitor will come back to the search engines and use them again.
White hat is focusing on that. That’s your primary goal. When you start to look at any of the cheats — any time you start to want to manipulate the search engines with quick link building or hiding that text or keyword stuffing or having five pages of the same content with just slightly varied keyword-focused phrases — none of that’s going to work. That’s all black hat, and the search engines are way too smart for that today. They’re putting more emphasis on bounce rates and click-through rates. That tells us that they are moving even further ahead with a focus on the user experience.
Brian Gardner: One thing we didn’t talk about with black hat SEO is — I’m sure you’ve encountered this too — some of these SEO consultants that we’ll call black hat, not only are they trying to trick Google and the search engines into stuff that benefits the client. They actually go — I don’t even know if it’s a blacker SEO or blacker hat SEO, where they would actually go in and try to manipulate the results so that it benefits them as the SEO consultant. In other words, they are stuffing these words at the bottom of the page that may link to their website, which is even worse than trying to do it for the client. They are actually trying to mooch off of that themselves.
That’s just definitely not a thing that should be happening. It’s obviously something that when folks hire SEO consultants like you they really should find someone that they can trust, find someone that has been referred to by them as a successful, holistic, white hat SEO type of consultant. Even if that means pay the extra money, because you do go get what you pay for at times.
Let’s shift this a little bit away from the technicalities of SEO. For our listeners, who many of which are just starting out on the web. Maybe we call them the DIY-types where they are just trying to get online and just start. They’re not ready yet to hire an SEO consultant in all of that. You believe that great SEO begins well before the website goes live, right? Which means you have to plan before you even just launch?
Rebecca Gill: Yes. If we’re doing a custom development project with a small urban market company, for example, and the project includes both SEO and design and then the buildout in WordPress, we don’t even start design until we work first on SEO. Going through research, planning and sitemapping and talking about their website personas and mapping the paths for the website that the users are going to take. Then, after we go through all of that, now is when we actually start the design process with the graphic designer. After the things are built out and content is going in, we come back and optimize again, but that design phase doesn’t even start yet.
I think that that’s a mistake that a lot of people make. They look for a theme that makes them happy as opposed to saying, “What do I need? What does my visitor need? What kind of content do I need to display? What visitor paths do they have?” Then looking for a theme that matches that. They jump ahead. So you get those questions from people and email all the time, and I’m sure you guys do too is, “What theme should I pick?”
I don’t know what theme you should pick. I don’t know enough about your content and your personas and your visitor flows and your paths and your objectives to be able to pick a theme for you. That’s a process. It should be a process. I think that those are the steps that you need to do before a launch, as opposed to launching a pretty site and then adding in SEO after the fact. That’s the wrong path and it creates extra work and a lot of delays and a lot of frustration.
Lauren Mancke: I definitely agree with the content-first mentality when it comes to design. I run into that issue all the time with people of stressing how we need to go through the content first because they think that that’s just an afterthought, which is definitely not the case. What are some other common mistakes you see businesses and bloggers making?
Long-term SEO Strategies
Rebecca Gill: I think a big one with SEO is expecting immediate results. It doesn’t happen. Can you get immediate results within a week or two for a long tail keyword? Yes. Can you get it for something that’s competitive with 20,000 searches per month? No. That’s going to take time to work up and build and you have to be really focused. I encourage people to have a couple of those, three to five of those high value phrases and know that it’s going to take time to build up. That’s definitely one mistake. Skipping the research and the planning phase is a huge mistake as well because, like I said, people want to jump ahead and they’re eager. That’s just the wrong way to go.
I think the last one, I would say, is outsourcing everything. Don’t outsource everything, educate yourself. Read high-quality blogs. Take an online course. Educate yourself on the process and then hire someone to help you execute that. In that way, you are knowledgeable, you know who you’re hiring and whether or not they have a good approach to SEO and whether they are solid. That way you’ll have success today and success five years from now. Like I said, eight years from now they are still sitting on Google, even though they may not even be doing anything.
Brian Gardner: Dictionary Brian jumping back in. You mentioned a phrase that I want to go over because this is huge. I think another one of the mistakes is people focus on these keyword phrases that are just too broad. You brought up the term “long tail search.” I know what means and I’ve gone into my own analytics and seen the effect of long tail search. It’s changed the way I — whether it’s on StudioPress or the Copyblogger stuff that I write or even my own blog — I try to change how I’m trying to write and which words I’m trying to write for because I see the benefit of long tail search. Can you explain to our listeners what long tail search is?
Rebecca Gill: Sure. When you look at the keywords, you’ve got really broad, which in our case would be design. You could be designing anything. You could be designing diapers, or a car, or a website, it’s too broad. Now you go into the next category which is more focused, which is website design. Much more focused, although that is still kind of broad because it could be website design in Joomla or Drupal or small business or enterprise. Now go a little bit more focused, which is WordPress website design. Now, from a service page that’s a great keyword, because it is your target market, it’s what you do. It’s going to drive conversions when they actually hit the website.
A long tail, which would be more usually focused on a blogpost, could be a problem that someone is having and it could relate to a plugin for a specific function. That’s a long tail search. It’s very precise, it’s very focused. Those are much easier to win on and have success with than something that’s very broad like design or web design. What people usually forget is you don’t want design. You don’t want web design because a lot of those aren’t going to convert. You want specific to what you do so the traffic you are getting is precisely focused on your offering and how you can help them. That’s really going after that long tail and making sure that you’re providing very focused value to your visitors. That’s what leads to success with conversions.
Brian Gardner: Not that I particularly care for conversions, especially with this blogpost that I wrote. But an example of the difference between a broad term and more of a long tail search term is a post on my blog where I wrote about my experience buying a MacBook Pro — how I returned my thirteen inch MacBook Air for a Mac Book Pro with retina display. I certainly don’t get traffic when people type in “MacBook Pro.” I get a ton of traffic when people search derivatives of how much does a MacBook Pro weigh, which is a much longer term.
I will get zero hits. In fact, I probably won’t even be on the first 100 pages of Google for something as generic as “MacBook Pro.” But when you write something, and again, there was no intention here. I had no intention of trying to capture traffic or do anything with it. It was just to share a story. When you write something that’s a little bit more — maybe answers a question. When you think of writing something, write out in your mind, “What would people Google for?” When you type in, “How much does a MacBook Pro weigh?” I come out, I think I’m number one in Google. I might even be in the snippet that shows up at the very top now for that particular question.
Start to think about that when you write your content, unless your site is extremely authoritative and gets a lot of Google juice. You may have to bank on the fact that the long tail search type of thing will bring more traffic in the long run.
Rebecca Gill: It really adds up. People always want to go after that high volume, that 20,000 searches a month. Guess what? You end up sitting on page 100 in Google and no one ever sees you. Even if you’re on page 3 people rarely see you. But if you take 10 long tail phrases that each have 50 searches per month, that adds up quickly. Now, not only do you have 500 visitors coming, they are very targeted to what you do. It’s in your benefit to focus on the long tail. It’s easier for you. It converts better. It’s easier to win. And it overall will make everybody happy.
Brian Gardner: Rebecca, you mentioned a little bit earlier in passing, SEO boot camp. It’s something that you just recently that came out with. I’m going to do a direct pitch for our audience. I have a question: Have you ever wondered why your online marketing efforts haven’t been successful? Learn the right way to do SEO with Rebecca from Web Savvy Marketing, along with other friends of ours, Carrie Dils who will be on a future episode, as well as Coy Miller of iThemes, who is a friend of mine and also will be on a future episode here at StudioPress FM. Jumpstart your website by attending their SEO boot camp conference on January 11th through 13th, 2017 in Dallas, Texas. If you want more information on that you can check it out at seobootcamp.com.
If you like what you heard on today’s show, you can find more episodes of StudioPress FM at — you guessed it — StudioPress.FM. You can also help Lauren and I hit the main stage by subscribing to our show on iTunes. It’s a great way to never ever miss an episode. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.