Feel like you’re swimming in internet acronyms? Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the foundation of how you get found online. It’s also a tar pit of details that can get so overwhelming you wonder if it’s even worth it. On today’s Wizard’s Roundtable, Vi Wickam and Gary Bernier join me to help you understand the very basic of basics of SEO. Don’t know where to start? Start here
Runtime approx 20 mins
JOHNNY: Search Engine Optimization, that seems to be a pretty self-explanatory word. You’re trying to optimize your website so that the Search Engine Google can find you and know what’s on your site. But as is the case with so many things in internet advertising, that’s a lot easier said than done. So to help us through that, we’ve got a couple of our digital experts with us today on the Wizard’s Roundtable. In Loveland, Colorado is Vi Wickam. He is going to talk about the kind of content that you need on your website in order to help optimize it. In Toronto is Gary Bernier. He’s going to give you some Dos, Don’ts, and maybe even a couple of quick tips to help you through this as well. I’m Johnny Molson in Springfield, Illinois. These are the conversations we’re having with each other and conversations we’re having with our clients. Conversations normally you’d only hear if you were sitting around the Wizard’s Roundtable. Now I have to apologize in advance. I was having some trouble with my microphone while we were recording this interview. But you know what, you don’t need to hear from me, you need to hear from Vi Wickam right now, who’s going to tell us… What exactly is it that we’re trying to optimize?VI: What we’re optimizing is, we want to answer the questions that are being asked on the internet. And we want to show up when somebody’s searching for that question to be answered. So, for instance, I might ask, Who is Gary Bernier? Yay. And if Gary doesn’t have a page that talks about, about Gary, you know, it’s highly likely that somebody else might, and it might not be the answer that he wants to be shown. You know, so the idea is, if, if an if a question is being asked on the internet, and I am a relevant source to that, to answer that question, I want to be the one answering that question. Yes. So there are elements of relevance. So how relevant is the content that I’m writing? And there are elements of authority? So how authoritative am I as an answer of that question? And those are the two major elements that Google’s looking for? When it comes to answering that question.JOHNNY: So let’s take that kind of one by one. Gary, how does a business know what questions are being asked in order to answer them?GARY: That Johnny is the $10 million question right there? Yeah. Because you have to put your customer hat on. And you have to see the world from the perspective of the customer, which we define as being outside the bottle. So you can read the label. And where most customers find themselves is inside the bottle, staring at the back of the label. There that is the biggest challenge is often the businesses answering a question nobody is asking because they’re going at it from their perspective, not from the customer’s perspective. Now. Here’s the dark side of Google. They also sell advertising. Oh, so the best answer to the question is at the top of the search engine results, kind of, but there’s also this thing that Google’s created in the mix called featured snippets, which is a piece of content that they’ve decided has the authority and the relevance to answer the question is asked. So that is one place that if you’ve search engine optimized your content you can show up for. So to answer your question directly, Johnny, the featured snippets give you good ideas of the questions customers are asking about your service.JOHNNY: Okay, that’s, that’s an interesting insight there and that we’ve all seen those things that that seemed to get highlighted first. How can one dig for what my clients my customers are asking any recommendations you give clients by?VI: Yeah, absolutely. So there are a number of tools out there. My favorite quick reference tool is called Google Trends. And you can find it google.com slash trends. And it doesn’t work for what’s called a longtail keyword. So a longtail keyword would be something like you know, Loveland, Colorado podiatrists, but I could search the keyword podiatrists and I could compare it to foot doctor and I could see which one of those is searched on more frequently. So it doesn’t tell you who’s searching but it’ll tell you how frequently they’re being searched and how, what the trends are. In this search, so what Gary said about putting on your customer hat, that really is the first thing if I’m looking for computer repair, you know, my computer’s broken? Am I looking for computer service? Or am I looking for computer repair? You know, if I’m a customer, and I want somebody who’s going to fix my computer, I’m going to be looking for laptop repair. I’m not looking for a computer services company, you know, because that’s, that’s industry-speak, that’s like, Oh, yes, I want an IT service company. No, who cares about that if my computer breaks, I’m looking for computer repair.JOHNNY: What does it mean to be an authority?VI: Being an authority means that Google recognizes you as authority? authority. So it doesn’t matter how smart I am, or how good I am within my field unless people are referencing me online, as far as Google goes. So Google’s recognition of authority is a separate thing from actual authority in the real world. So right, I could have a Ph. D. in neuroscience. And unless I’ve written a lot of content that people have referenced and linked to Google doesn’t recognize me as an authority.JOHNNY: So explain the process for Gary to become an authority? What does one have to do?GARY: Since a lot of our customers use mass media, whether that’s a combination of radio and television, Google actually treats those broadcast centers as authoritative sources. So if you can get those guys to link to your website as part of your advertising package, you have increased the authority of your site, by association with them.JOHNNY: You’re saying if I can get my media provider to link to my website, that that’s going to help?VI: Absolutely,GARY: Yes. Because they provide the news. And in Google’s eyes, credible news, and that is an authoritative source. Google, again, back to the Prime Directive, we want to answer the question as asked. They look at those guys as putting out to the world on a daily basis the best answer to what’s going on in the world, which we call news. And so that makes them by default, an authoritative source. So as a business owner, I need to really think about content.JOHNNY: Okay, and then what constitutes content?VI: Content is multiple things, but the content that Google reads the best is text. So it’s articles that are written in a way that is well written in human-readable format, as well as computer reading, readable format. So when you’re writing, what I would call content marketing, which is really the direction that SEO has gone today, so content marketing is a buzzword. And what it means is writing answers to people’s questions in a way that’s well presented and that’s well written. And it’s done so in a way that both Google can read it well, and a human can read it well. So that’s the trick, if I write just for Google, a human is likely to come along and read it and say, “This is a bunch of gobbledygook. I don’t care. You know, next.”JOHNNY: So gone are the days when you would try to keyword pack your webpage by saying in Loveland, Colorado, AC repair is done by this Loveland, Colorado company. And you can kind of sense it, Google is really into the that user experience of “Did I did I get the information that I was looking for, that the user was looking for?” So with that in mind, you need to create some stuff that is usable to the user but is also recognizable by the search engines. So Gary, where do things like keywords come into play there?GARY: Well, Vi opened the door when he said that it has to be machine-readable, as well as human-readable and join us on it. So yes, the keyword phrase, like you said, AC repair leveling has to be embedded in the content in a particular way to make a computer-readable to give you a chance of showing up in the search engine rankings. Because if that’s not done, you don’t even stand a chance. So to Vi’s point, you need a certain amount of content, the keywords need to be placed in the content a certain way that’s that that should be open to that technique. Yeah. That just gets you in the game. But here’s the challenge Johnny that a lot of businesses have is the question The consumer might be asking is not something the business wants to answer. So how do I repair? How do I know whether I need to hire a technician to repair my AC? So are they going to provide how-to information? So one of the top searches, especially on YouTube, is by open the door number one reason people are going to YouTube today is, how do I fix this? How do I deal with this? How do I work this? So lots of how-to questions are being driven through YouTube, for example, and then maybe content that the consumer wants, but the business is uncomfortable providing because they’re like, but that’s what I do. And they haven’t yet grappled with the fact that the person that solved it for themselves wasn’t gonna pick up the phone and hire them in the first place.JOHNNY: That’s a really interesting balancing act there. You want to provide the content that the user wants, but you don’t want to give away the store? How do you weigh those two? How should a business weigh those two, I guess is the question.GARY: If you do give how-to information, the ones that can do it for themselves do it for themselves, and they’re happy to get the answer for you. So device boy earlier, now you started coming up 40 on that, which means your site rates up higher, that’s the second part of it is if they get stuck partway through the How to or find it’s too big of a thing for them to get into. You’re already associated in their mind with being able to solve the problem. The famous words of anybody that works with their hands. I wish they hadn’t been tinkered with it first, they made my job harder. job harder means I get to build more. Yeah, I don’t see a problem. No.JOHNNY: So content obviously being a big factor in SEO, what other things do businesses maybe miss for the SEO for their website?VI: I think it’s being remarkable. So if you want to establish authority, you have to get people to link to you. So that is in Google’s eyes, what authority is inbound links from other people’s websites to my site. And if I want people to link to me, I can’t be like boring and pedestrian and be saying the same things that everybody else in my interest industry is saying. I have to be remarkable. People have to remark about me because I’m doing something different. I’m saying something different. I’m doing something in a different way. That’s interesting. That’s something you know, bold, courageous, etc. to cause them to want to remark.JOHNNY: Anything you’re thinking of, Gary, that businesses often miss with SEO?GARY: Yeah, a couple of things. First one, often they try to optimize the long pages. So we try to optimize their homepage, for example. And that is not the page you want to optimize. We want to let the other pages be optimized and pull people into the site. So focusing on the wrong thing there. When it comes to content, Vi mentioned the content pile. If you’re already competing in a messy content space, where there’s already a lot of content around those keywords, you’re going to need that angle, something that sets you apart. But the other thing that I think the business owner underestimates is, they may have been told that SEO is free. SEO is not free, it takes time, which we know can either be time or money to produce this content. And you need to publish that content on a schedule in order to feed the algorithm in a predictable way because it likes that. And so there are people like that. Yeah, and your consumer likes that. Like whether you’re publishing the Monday Morning Memo and it goes out at the same time every day that predictability makes it very easy for Google the combined sweep up the new keywords and digested added to the pile. So all of this is to get you an impression, which may result in a click. I would say this is not a quick fix. The other thing is that SEO gets sold as a quick fix-all. Just do some SEO optimization in your business and you’ll get a bunch more leads. It’s like, “No, I’m giving you an opportunity to get a bunch more leads.” Right? Well, there’s got to be a good reason for somebody to pick your business out of the pile.VI: Absolutely. I think that clients or businesses also miss who they’re talking to, and what they should be talking about. Too often I’ve had clients who are like, “Hey, I want you to create pages that talk about how awesome I am and how everybody should pick me because I’m the awesomest person in my business space. And they should just know that like everything I do is better because I’m the most awesome.”JOHNNY: I think that’s a great slogan, though (laughter).VI: But they forget that what the customer wants is, how are you going to take care of me? And how are you answering the questions that I have? And that being of service to the customer is ultimately what makes SEO work. That’s what makes content marketing work, is I am looking at the world through an empathetic lens through the eyes of my customer, and answering the questions that they are asking in a way that’s supporting and caring for them.GARY: The other I’m gonna say trick these days Johnny is Google My Business. Very useful. Every business should have a Google My Business account. And for our Home Services, clients that take pictures of water heaters and whatever, they should upload some of that those photos into their Google My Business because Google My Business reads the data that’s inside the photograph. So when you do Water Heater Repair near me, if there’s a photo that’s been taken, very close to your geo coordinates attached to a business, you’re setting yourself up that way.JOHNNY: And now, none of these things by themselves seem like they’re going to change the world. But when you stack them and do a little more, a little more, a little more. So I guess the but it can also feel very overwhelming for business. But that’s absolutely it. That’s the challenge for the business owner. So I’m a business owner, looking at this overwhelming list of things that I need to do, where the hell do I start?VI: So you start by having a website that is fundamentally sound. If you look at the Internet, the website is your home. The social media is the coffee shop where you go meet people. Your Google My Business is your address book, your phone book where people can find you. But you’ve got to have a fundamentally sound website that can convert those visitors into customers. Because if you don’t have a website that can convert a visitor into a customer, I don’t care how much traffic you have, it doesn’t matter because none of those people are going to become your customer.JOHNNY: So here if there’s step one for businesses, let’s look at the website and make sure that it is capable of doing what I need it to do. Is that fair to say?VI: Correct. That is that’s the foundational element that you must have when I have a customer who comes to me and says, “Hey, I want you to manage Google AdWords.” I first look at their website and I decide is this a website that needs changes to be made to it before I can convert those visitors into customers? Because the last thing I want them to do is to light their money on fire by putting it into the Google machine without a website that is fundamentally sound.JOHNNY: So Gary, how do I know if I have a fundamentally sound website? Every time we peel back a piece of the onion, there’s another layer under there.GARY: Great question, Johnny. And it’s actually a simple answer today. Pull up your website on yourself. Ask yourself these three questions. How easy is it for me to click and call the business from the website? How easy is for me to find the address and the hours of operations, whether they’re open or closed or whatever? So that basic simple information should be easily accessible on page one. And the third question is, do you do what I’m looking for? So above the fold, it has to say you’re solving the problem that I’m looking for. Otherwise, I’m just going to bounce and go to the next thing. Because if I’ve gotten to the website, the most important question it answers is, yes, you can solve my problem.JOHNNY: Search Engine Optimization, one of the many layers that go into making your website usable and findable. And if you have any other questions, please leave them in the comments below. And remember that Wizards Roundtable is also a podcast. You can hear the audio version of this anytime. Just subscribe to Wizard’s Roundtable wherever it is you get podcasts. And if you have any other questions you are welcome to email us.