Small Business Success Podcast 086—Ask the Expert—SEO for the Non-SEO Expert

Our resident SEO expert Rachel Meyers talks with Clate & Scott about how a business improve their SEO, even if they don’t have a lot of free time to dedicate to it. From hiring the right contractor, to avoiding the Google-slap.

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Transcript:

Scott Martineau: Welcome to this episode of The Small Business Success Podcast, I am Scott Martineau.

Clate Mask: I'm Clate Mask. We're co-founders of Infusionsoft, and we've got a special guest expert today with us. One of our own here at Infusionsoft. Why don't you take it away, tell us who it is that we've got today?

Rachel Meyer: I'm Rachel Meyer, and I'm the SEO Manager here at Infusionsoft.

Clate Mask: Rachel, when we talk about SEO Manager at Infusionsoft, this is something that we have needed at Infusionsoft for quite sometime, when Rachel came we were like "Yes," we're super excited about the work she's doing. We're going to share a little bit of that excitement and just some of that expertise with our listeners today.

Scott Martineau: I think this ... Let's just start way back at the basic. If I saw the title of this podcast, and it said "SEO Manager," and I said to myself "What is SEO? SEO, SEO," what is it in general?

Rachel Meyer: That's a really good question. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It's just a fine art of being found on Google. It's basically anything you can do on your website, or off your website to make sure that when people type in a keyword, or a search term, that your website is coming up for that.

Scott Martineau: I've heard this story, but our listeners haven't, how did you get into SEO?

Rachel Meyer: I was working for a surgeon doing policies and procedures manuals, and he walked by my office-

Scott Martineau: Was that a really exciting job?

Rachel Meyer: No.

Clate Mask: This is like 10 years ago, right?

Rachel Meyer: Yeah. This was 10 years ago.

I was kind of lost, I didn't know what I was going to do next, and I got that job, just kind of paying the bills working for him. He walked by my office one day and said "Hey, my competitor is above me on Google, that's your problem now." Because surgeons are always so mellow. I [inaudible 00:01:57] Google, in how to get first on Google, just took it from there.

The cool thing about SEO is that there's no degree for it, because it's constantly changing, and rapidly changing. By the time you get out of school, you're a year behind.

Clate Mask: Yeah.

Scott Martineau: Yeah.

Rachel Meyer: Google's algorithms update constantly. I've been lucky and blessed enough to be able to practice SEO at different companies and just kind of learned the skillset.

Clate Mask: If you're an SEO expert and you get to do that full-time, and keep up with all the changes in Google's algorithms, and the different things that are happening, that's one thing. What if you're a business owner and you're just trying to run your business, trying to grow, but SEO is important, what do you do? You can't keep up with all of those specifics. What are your thoughts for the business owner that's like just trying to keep up with the times [inaudible 00:02:45] on SEO to benefit from it?

Rachel Meyer: I'd say the one thing that has never changed is that good content is always valuable to Google. Even back in the day when we were all stuffing links and keywords, you know, this blue widget is blue, and we sell widgets. It was bad, but the content that was great, always ranked above that.

I would say really invest in keyword research, and when you're writing content, think about a problem you're solving, rather than just "I need to write content because it's Tuesday, and I write content on Tuesday." Think about a pain point for your customer, think about a question. Because the way we search has changed too. We speak into our phones, we ask questions of our search engines. It's not like back in the day when we just typed in keywords.

Scott Martineau: I think, I'm going to guess, I'm going to wager that most everybody listening today will probably never do anything related to SEO, some might, they would be the exception on my opinion. I think maybe as we're talking, let's try to relate this to ... If I'm trying to think about how to hire someone, or assign someone, as you got assigned, in my company to own SEO, what are the things I should be looking for? Let's maybe just draw that point out. If somebody is coming to you and saying "Hey, I'm going to get [inaudible 00:03:54] on SEO, I have a black hat," this would be a keyword, an underground trick that is going to fool Google, it might be the case that you would what? Get some short term wins, possibly, but at some point what you're saying is Google cares most about delivering relevant content to people who are searching, relevant, high quality content to people that are searching?

Rachel Meyer: Yes.

Scott Martineau: Beware of those signs.

Rachel Meyer: Yes. If someone ever says "Hey, for $99 I can get you first on Google," or "I'm in with Google, I work for Google," no one who works for Google is going to do your SEO, unfortunately. Those are definitely scams, they might work in a short-term, but it really breaks my heart when especially small business owners fall victim to those because your agency is going to leave you, and you're going to be penalized by Google, and you're never going to come back from that. If you don't hire someone who then knows how to bring you back from a penalty, that's really expensive.

Clate Mask: Okay. Maybe first thing that we wanted to talk about in discussing SEO for the non-SEO expert, that's who we're talking to, is beware of the scams. There's a lot out there.

Rachel Meyer: There are.

Clate Mask: There's a lot of companies, and a lot of individuals that are trying to sell the next shiny object that you can jump on, that's going to change everything for your business in terms of SEO. The failure rate of those kinds of programs is incredibly high.

Rachel Meyer: Yes. It's very, very high. It might work for a little bit. I mean, for the first couple months, you might even see like "Oh, my traffic is up by 100%, I'm driving in all these new leads." Google is not stupid, they're going to catch up to you, and you'll get a big scary email, and then it'll say "you have a manual penalty against you, until you fix this, you will not be put back in search. If someone searches even your business name, they cannot find you." You'll be taken out until you pay your penance and you do what Google asks you to do. If you don't know what you're doing, it's going to be very expensive to fix that.

Clate Mask: That's not so affectionately known as the Google slap.

Rachel Meyer: Yes.

Clate Mask: It's become a phrase that sends shudders down the spine of people, shivers down the spine of people who have invested a lot of money in a program, and it's working short-term, then all of a sudden they get the kibosh on their program. Why do they get the kibosh? Because I think that'll help our listeners understand what to be wary of, but what is it that Google is doing when they say "Nope, you can do that anymore, if people search even your company name they're not going to find you?"

Rachel Meyer: Google's main intent is, I mean, they're in business too, they want to serve the best content to somebody who searches for them, whether it's an ad, or a movie time, or a company website, somebody searching for a solution. If they find that you have super thin content with just a ton of links, and you're just trying to rank for specific keywords and you're trying to knock other people out, they might rank you for a little bit, but once the user start bouncing off your page, and leaving, and going right back to Google because they didn't find what they wanted, that's a quality signal that Google is going to say "Okay, we're not going to serve this page anymore."

Then, it sends a flag up to Google's employees, who will manually go in and look at your website, then put a flag on it, and send you that email.

Scott Martineau: Maybe we can just dig in that just a little bit. Google is tracking, not just who's clicking on links, but they're able to see if somebody clicks on a link to come to my site, and they then leave the site quickly, and go back to Google to look for more results, they're tracking that as well.

Rachel Meyer: They are.

Scott Martineau: That's called bounce rate.

Rachel Meyer: Yep.

Scott Martineau: One of the ways to measure that is bounce rate.

Rachel Meyer: It's bounce rate. It's also time on site, or time on page. If you have a page that should be performing really well, and has a ton of content on it, but it's keyword stuffed, or you've somehow finagled that you had a keyword in your title, and a keyword in your meta, and people clicked on it, but it's not going to solve their problem, they're going to piss out and go right back to Google. That sends that signal to Google that they didn't find what they were looking for based on this query.

If that happens enough, then Google is going to start lowering your rankings. If it just keeps happening, then they're going to actually look into it.

Clate Mask: Got it. Let's say I type a search term for Arizona chiropractor or something like that, and I see 28 billion results when I look at the top.

Rachel Meyer: Right.

Clate Mask: I have this feeling like "Well, there's no way I'm going to ever get ranked for this term," right? Give us an idea of what is possible for business owners, then maybe I'd like to go a little bit into if we, we've kind of talked about some of the signs to beware of, but what should we be looking for? If I'm going to go out and try to hire somebody, what should my expectations be around performance? How long should it take? Maybe how much money should it take? What are kind of the signs that would give you confidence "Okay we've got someone that I think we can have some trust in?" I realize that's hard to do in a short statement, but I think that's the reality of what our listeners are dealing with, right?

Rachel Meyer: Answering your first question, I always ask "Okay, if I type in Arizona chiropractor, what's that going to give you?" If you're a chiropractor and I'm just typing in Arizona chiropractor, that's so top of funnel that I might think, I might need a chiropractor, but I haven't identified that I even have back pain, or it's low back pain, or it's been happening for six months, or I fell and now I have back pain.

Look at those kind of things, and go to the incognito mode, because Google will start to personalize their search results. That's the other thing, if someone ever says like "I can get you first on Google." The search results will change. We can pull out our phones right now and search the exact same thing, and our results will all be different because Google personalizes this for people based on your intent, based on your history, things like that.

I would say go to incognito, so that they can't see your previous history, and start searching for problems that you know people are going to have, things like mid-back pain for six months, or low-back pain for six months, or I have a twitch in my left lower-back muscle. Then, write content for that, and look at what your competitors are doing, who are ranking near the top, if they have a list of all the symptoms, maybe you also want to put a list, but then put a summary of each list item, make your content better, but you don't have to reinvent the wheel, you can see what other people are doing.

Scott Martineau: Interestingly, I went to a chiropractor, and what I was searching, I just remembered this as you were talking about it, but I had an achilles problem in my left achilles. I went on trying to understand, I don't remember the exact search term, but it was probably something like "How do you treat sore achilles," I think what I was probably afraid of "Is my achilles going to snap at some point?"

Really, in kind of an awesome twist of fate, I found a video of a chiropractor and it turned out that he was an Infusionsoft customer, and was educating on this technique called The Graston Technique. I reached out to go, I clicked on it and say "Wow, this is awesome, I want to go meet with this guy." Anyway, it turned out, I had already visited his clinic in the past, and it causes me to go back to the clinic and say "Wow, this guy, he knows what he's doing, he's got this technique that he uses."

Just a perfect example of what ... He had done that because he created content and a video explaining the technique that was a specific solution to the pain that I was feeling in my lower-left leg.

Clate Mask: A couple of thins real quick there, that's a cool story, and it really illustrates how content is the key, as you described, something you hear people say all the time, "Content is king."

Rachel Meyer: It is.

Clate Mask: Let's back up there a little bit, because I want to talk about how do you create content, first of all. Then, the second thing, I want to just [inaudible 00:11:27] this, you just said real quickly, go incognito, go to incognito, what does that mean for our listeners who are not quite, like how do they do that?

Rachel Meyer: If you're in Chrome, and I only know how to do it in Chrome, Mac users can maybe help me out with Safari, but you just go up to file, and new, and it'll say "Go to," or "Open new incognito window." That basically strips out all of your old search history, so that you're starting brand new and fresh. Google doesn't have any of your previous intent, because like with the query you were saying, they already knew you had been searching for foot pain, probably, and heel pain, and things like that. They knew what to serve you.

Clate Mask: The point you're making, Rachel, is that when you do research, you've got to do research generally, not based on who you are. Your web browser knows who you are, so you've got to go be somebody new, a brand new, fresh person, and you do that by opening up a window incognito. In the Chrome browser you can go in "Open a new window incognito."

Rachel Meyer: Yeah.

Clate Mask: Okay, what that does is now that allows you to research form kind of a blank slate and understand what your competitors are doing, because then you talked about how you don't need to go recreate the wheel when you're building new content, you can go see what other people are doing that looks like it may be working. It's getting them a certain ranking. Then you can look at it and say "Oh, here's how I might make that content even better."

If we applied it to kind of the Arizona chiropractor situation, and let's say you're an Arizona chiropractor, you wanted to start from the beginning, you say "Oh, I know content is king, what do I do here?" You'd start by going and opening a browser incognito, and opening a window, and then seeing, typing in Arizona chiropractor, typing in perhaps things more specific like in the case of Scott's example, you type in achilles problems, or something like that. Then, you could see what kind of content they have, and figure out "Okay, I could get a lot more specific about the kinds of problems that someone like Scott is experiencing right now." You called it Grafton-

Scott Martineau: Graston, I believe, I believe that's the term.

Clate Mask: Yeah, the Graston Method for lengthening or improving your achilles.

Scott Martineau: Maybe the way to start would be what are the most valuable things you're providing? What's kind of your secret sauce that you're providing to the world? If I'm an attorney, or a physician, I guess we already gave an example of that. If I'm an attorney, and I'm a particular type of bankruptcy attorney, and this or that, I'm going to start writing as specifically as I can, maybe to the problem, not necessarily the term. Like Graston is something that I did discover-

Clate Mask: You wouldn't have searched for-

Rachel Meyer: Right.

Scott Martineau: Yeah, it was really around my pain [inaudible 00:14:04] the achilles.

Clate Mask: But, on the other hand, it provided an answer to your achilles problems. When you start looking at it, now you've got a chiropractor that's got this expertise. It's interesting what you describe, Scott, you viewed him as a different kind of expert now. Even though, you'd already been to his office, and had looked at, and had received his services. That shows the power of what content can do. Not only does it bring a very qualified prospect to you, but it actually elevates you as an expert.

Scott Martineau: Totally, yeah. The next time I went in I was like "Wow, this guy-"

Clate Mask: "You're the guy that's-"

Scott Martineau: "You're the guy on the internet."

Rachel Meyer: Right?

Scott Martineau: Okay, can somebody ... Let's go back to "I'm not ranked." What can people promise me, or what should I expect ... you know, I'm going to go hire somebody, can I hire somebody who's going to tell me "Hey, I'll get you top ranked in Google by next Tuesday?"

Rachel Meyer: I would stay away from that, and I would say the best characteristic of a good SEO is that they're scrappy, and that they can say "Okay, look, I looked up all your competitors, and I saw that no one has video for achilles pain, let's make videos. We can fill that hole, we can fill it very quickly. We can shoot them on iPhone, they don't have to be Hollywood motion pictures, let's just fill up this content gap, and let's do it." Or "I looked at your competition and I saw really thin content, I know I can do better than that. I just need to sit down with you and figure out what do you do well, and what questions can you answer, and what are your pain points for your patients and your clients, and then let's write really in-depth great content based on that because no one else has."

I'm not going to go after Arizona chiropractor, and I'm very honest about that. I never promised that we would be first for Arizona doctor, Arizona surgeon, or-

Scott Martineau: Well, you didn't promise anything, he just told you-

Rachel Meyer: Yeah, basically. He had said "This is what you're going to do."

Scott Martineau: Okay, that's a sign, if somebody is digging in to understand the nuances of my business for the purpose of creating valuable content, that's good, that's good.

Clate Mask: What's the line between scrappy and-

Scott Martineau: Amateur.

Clate Mask: Shady. No, that's going to get you the Google slap. How would you guide the listener to say "Yeah, that's the good kind, the scrappy, that's the kind that's going to get you into trouble and not get you sustainable results."

Rachel Meyer: If someone never asks to look at your analytics, or never asks you about that kind of content, topic, and questions that you can answer in pain points, generally are the black [inaudible 00:16:31]. It's because they're just going to stuff links, they're going to buy links, they're going to stuff keywords in, they don't want to know what can we write an epic guide about, they just are going to start kind of scamming the system, and throwing in a bunch of code, and things like that.

A good SEO will understand that content is the way to do this. They're going to recommend that we invest in creating a white paper, an ebook, or an epic guide, or a video, or even just a long form piece of content with graphics and pictures.

Clate Mask: Okay, we've got narrowed down to the fact that content is the key here to effective SEO, specific, relevant, specialized content that has got pointed out is really the expertise that I offer as a business owner. If you're sitting out there listening and you say "I don't have any expertise," that's not true, you do have expertise, you've got expertise in different problems that you solve, you've got expertise in your industry, you've got expertise in the way that you serve your clients, you've got expertise in your background, there's all kinds of ways you can bring your expertise to bear in your business.

We're saying "Okay, content that's centered around my expertise that's going to differentiate me from competition," and as you put it, Rachel, "fill a gap in the content, you know, fill kind of a content hole that exists on the internet."

Here's the question I have. Can that content be filled by, if I'm the business owner, can I go find someone to go write that, or create that content on their own, and come back to me next Thursday and show me what they've done? Or do I need to create that content? Or is there some combination? How should I think about creating great content?

Rachel Meyer: Depends on how comfortably you are with writing content. If you feel like you are the expert, and you're a great writer, and it's not going to be a messed up grammar, I'd say do it yourself. You are the expert. It builds that trust where you're the expert, you're giving me this great information for free, now I'm interested in you and I see you as the expert, now you have my trust, and I might actually end up going to you or using your business.

You can also use content writers, but make sure that they're not just writing thin, top of funnel content about Arizona chiropractic work, but that they're putting in the effort to write about specifically achilles pain, or low-back pain, or things like that, because that broad content just isn't going to rank, because everyone has written broad content.

Clate Mask: Right. A lot of times business owners are going "Okay, I want to write that specific content, but add that to my list of 72 other things that I'm trying to get to," so content just doesn't happen. I'm trying to figure out, okay, how can we help the listener get off the schneid, get content, but maybe not have to feel the full burden of creating all that content themselves?

Rachel Meyer: I'd say, if someone writes it for you, make sure you check it, make sure your voice is in there, make sure that the facts are right. When I worked for the surgeon, or I worked for the medical marketing agency, I didn't put out a piece of medical content without a doctor looking at it, because I'm not a doctor, but I can write about it, and then he just needs to check it to make sure it's factual, and that it's information that he can put his reputation on.

Clate Mask: One thought I have for you is, and you can tell me how well you've seen this work, but maybe an interview with the content writer to extract your expertise, then they go do a draft, and come back, and you review the draft, and make sure that it conveys what you know, what your expertise is, and that it's not just kind of thin content as you described.

Scott Martineau: Recordings of sales conversations, because a lot of that content is being talked about in sales conversations all the time.

Rachel Meyer: Exactly. Talking to people who manage customer service, or finding what the biggest pain point is, those people are the ones that are going to know.

Clate Mask: I would say, I've talked to a lot of business owners who just get stuck and it feels like they get writer's block on this content creation. I've said "Go back and look at your sent items, and your email, and look at all of the rich, explanatory discussion you've had with prospects over the years, you share a whole bunch of really valuable information, and that's content, you can literally go swipe that from your sent files, and build content around that. You don't have to sit there and dream it up from scratch."

Rachel Meyer: Right. You already know that it's going to be a topic that people want to read about, because you're answering a question for your customers.

Clate Mask: Exactly.

Scott Martineau: Awesome. Rachel, it's been so great to have you today. We have a really special gift for all of our listeners, we have a guide called SEO Basics for Small Businesses. Don't pull out your phone and go hear right now if you're driving, but the URL is bit.ly/sbsseo, that stands for Small Business Success SEO, Search Engine Optimization. Bit.ly/sbsseo. Go there to download the guide that will cover some of the basics we talked about today, and a little bit more.

Again, I just want to thank you, Rachel. I know everybody is excited about this idea of creating ongoing organic ways to acquire customers, this was such a great conversation. Thanks for being here.

Rachel Meyer: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Scott Martineau: All right, we're going to call that a wrap of this episode of The Small Business Success Podcast.