SEO is a key strategy for having your business discovered online. But what is SEO and how do you take advantage of it? SEO is more than just flipping a switch on your website—it’s a long-term, intentional strategy. But getting some of the basics right are easier than you think.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. That refers to organic search results compared to paid search.
Google doesn’t really change the rules very often so don’t overthink it. Great content will get you a long way.
Three main areas to focus on for organic SEO:
- Technical: becoming pretty easy in most cases.
- Speed: Simple theme with a good host
- Mobile responsive
- Magic checkbox: “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”
- On-site SEO
- Page titles, avoid jargon
- Content: headers and separate pages
- External links: hard to get anymore, Get the low-hanging fruit
- Organic SEO and Keyword Research
- 5 Tips to Improve SEO for Your Service-Based Business
- Instantly Improve Your SEO Writing
- SEO Best Practices You Should Do No Matter What
- Why is Organic SEO a Long-Term Strategy?
Robert Carnes 0:05
This is the brighter web podcast insights on grow the small business using the latest technology and marketing best practices. I’m Robert, and I’m here with Mickey. And so I wanted to dig into SEO. So what does that even stand for?
Mickey Mellen 0:22
So SEO, of course, is search engine optimization is the idea of trying to get your site to rank better in Google and Bing and others to some degree. And really, there’s two different ways to approach it. There’s organic SEO, where you generate great content and try to get your site to rank better organically, and then paid SEO like Google ads, that sort of thing. Today, we’re gonna focus on organic. And as we get into it, the main thing I like to get across is that Google doesn’t change the rules, all that often people complain that Google changes the rules all the time, and really, My take is that Google gets better at enforcing the rules, they set the rules back in 1998, you know, produce great content and don’t cheat. And most of the updates are just following up on that. Certainly, as new things have come in, we didn’t have mobile phones back then. And that matters more now. But really, the rules don’t change. So don’t overthink it. Great content is going to get you a long way.
Robert Carnes 1:09
Well, thanks for that good overview of what SEO is, it’s obviously something we talk about a lot in marketing. And it’s pretty important for getting found on the web. So you know, it can be pretty overwhelming to dive into a topic that’s that big. But you know, as you’ve told me before, there are kind of three general buckets. That kind of SEO fits into it to having a good SEO strategy. So what’s the first thing that you’d say for a business person to get started with, with SEO.
Mickey Mellen 1:38
So I think the first big bucket is just the technical side of things. And this is becoming easier and easier in most cases, then tools like WordPress, and Shopify, those handle a lot of that automatically for you. But there’s some things you can do better. So the first one is speed, you know, faster site loads better. In terms of WordPress, I always say should have a simple theme that is dumb and pretty, and have a theme that looks great. Of course, you want a good looking site. But themes that are loaded with tons of features and stuff you don’t use are going to slow you down and make things tough. And these are good host is always going to help with speed as well. And security. If you get hacked, of course, that’s not good. And by good host, I’m talking about hosts that cost like $15 a month, which is a lot and the hosting world there are hosts out there for you know, three or $4 a month. But in the grand scheme of things, 15 bucks a month isn’t really anything. Who do we use again for hosting? I like flywheel. They’re owned by WP Engine, either. Those are great. Lots of great hosts out there. Yeah, but yes, flywheel is certainly my top choice. But there’s you could argue the other ones are better. And you may be right, but happy to have that conversation. Another big piece for technical is having your site be mobile responsive, you know, so the one site loads, the same content on your phone versus your tablet versus your desktop, I’m just going to reformat it to fit that device. Again, most themes kind of handle that automatically these days. It’s not a big deal anymore, but worth testing, make sure it works well.
Robert Carnes 2:53
I want to jump in real quick with a quick point of clarification. Because, you know, a few years ago, there used to be mobile straight up sites, right. Like it was a separate mobile website versus the desktop website. So there was a slight difference between being that a mobile site and being mobile responsive. So I don’t know if you want to unpack that for just a quick second.
Mickey Mellen 3:12
Yeah. And so the idea here is you have that one site that just kind of bends and flexes to fit whatever device you throw it on where it was before you sort of had to have a separate mobile site. The tricky part now is what is mobile, I mean, there’s small phones and big phones and get small tablets that are the same sizes, bigger phones than bigger tablets, they’re about the same size as a laptop, and there’s no clear dividing line between mobile and desktop. And so it’s having a site that will bend and flex and fit any device you throw at it is the best way to go. That’s a that’s an interesting, like, philosophical question. Maybe for another time, like,
Robert Carnes 3:44
What is mobile? Can you shove an iPad into your pocket and walk around with it?
Mickey Mellen 3:49
Pretty soon you’ll be able to have that you may be able to and looking at GreenMellon’s stats in Google Analytics, we have hundreds and hundreds of different screen resolutions that browse our site every month. And so finding what’s mobile and what’s not is such a tricky thing. So a well designed mobile responsive site will just work for all of them. Next piece is SSL just having a secure site. This is where the very top instead of HTTP, it’s HTTPS, which to be honest, doesn’t really matter. For most sites. From a security standpoint, it doesn’t help you not get hacked or anything. It just protects the data coming to and from your site. So if you’re selling a product and taking credit cards, it’s essential. If you have a blog, it’s not as essential. But Google looks at it as a ranking factor. So, therefore, it is essential. So like, even on my blog, I had an SSL, there’s no technical reason really, I should have it. But Google looks at it. It looks good. It shows a nice green padlock. So it’s worth having it on there. And most hosts, especially the good ones, like we talked about before, include SSL for free. So there’s no longer the technical or financial barrier to it. It’s easy to do.
Robert Carnes 4:51
Do people need to know what SSL even stands for? Because I don’t think I do.
Mickey Mellen 4:55
Basically, it means secure socket layer. There’s different levels of it. There’s different technologies, basically means if you browse a website, normally without SSL, if someone’s sitting in the middle, they can see what you’re typing and what’s going on on the site, which, again, on my blog, I don’t care if people see that. But if I’m typing your credit card in, they can see that too. And this encrypts that data as it travels from us to the site. And so just makes it safer for credit cards and that kind of information. And then the last technical thing is very WordPress specific. We’ll talk more about this in future episodes. But in WordPress in the settings, there’s a checkbox that says discourage search engines from indexing this site, discourage discouraging? Yeah, well, they make it even clear there that not all search engines will listen to that, but Google and Bing in any reputable and will, and they will literally stop coming to your site, you will not show up in Google if this one stupid little checkbox is checked. And so it’s worth just checking on that checkbox to make sure it’s not checked.
Robert Carnes 5:49
It’s essentially toggling on or off a little piece of code, right? It says, Hey, don’t bother listening to us on your site, Google or Bing. In some cases, that sounds like that might be something that some sites want to use. But for most of us, we want to get found correct on search engines. That’s the kind of point in this episode, I’d say.
Mickey Mellen 6:08
99% of the time when that checkbox is checked, it was by mistake. And someone didn’t mean to the one time. The reason is there, because some people say why even have that is because if you’re building a new site on a test domain, you don’t want Google to see your new site and your old site at the same time, because it’s going to confuse them. So your testing sites should have that checked. And that’s where the problem comes in. People have a testing site, they properly check that box to hide Google. And then they go live in the chaos of going live, they forget to uncheck it. And Google listens very well. And they just disappear until you uncheck that box. And then it takes weeks to recover. So just a little thing there.
Robert Carnes 6:39
Okay. Well, that was a really good overview of all the technical stuff, some of the things of SEO. There’s a lot more that goes into it. But that’s a good summation for anybody, especially the non-technical folks, like me. You’re a lot more technical than I am. So, you know, I focus a lot more on the content side of things. So I think that’s, that’s the next bucket that you’re talking about. Right is the is the on-site kind of content, and how that impacts SEO,
Mickey Mellen 7:06
For sure. And that’s, that’s the main thing, the technical stuff should just take care of itself. Most of the time, look for some of those things we talked about. But don’t overthink it. But content is really what Google’s after Google wants to surface, the best content. And if you look at it from their perspective, when someone does a search, Google wants to give them a great result for it. Because if they don’t people stop using Google. And so really, there’s two angles to look at there. One is the keywords. Just making sure you’re targeting the right keywords in your content. avoid jargon, you know, to the extent possible if you have some fancy word for things that people don’t search for, use the word that people search for, and then teach them your fancy jargon later, right? Use just common words that people might search for when looking for your thing. And then in terms of placement, really, if he was put in the title of your page and title of your post, that is by far the most useful place to put that keyword, you know, if you can title your pages and posts with those keywords in them, you’re well on your way.
Robert Carnes 7:57
Avoiding jargon is probably a good marketing best practice, just in general. Yes. But that speaks to I think your point of, yeah, if you’re making a good user experience, then Google and Bing and all those other search engines are going to reward you because they want to give people sites that give them a good experience. So it’s kind of a circular thing in a way. So yeah, avoiding jargon and making sure that what your content is all about is very clear and upfront.
Mickey Mellen 8:20
Yeah, for sure. And then in terms of the content itself, Two other quick thoughts, they want us to use good headers on your page. And to your point, again, this not only is good for Google and Bing and stuff, it’s good for your users that have headers going down the page to break up the content, make it readable, but Google will look at what those headers are, and see what’s going on, into a further extent, separate your content into separate pages, to the extent where it makes sense. You know, Google doesn’t rank websites, they don’t say the site’s all about whatever they rank specific pages, based on what that page is about. If you do a search for most anything, Google’s not going to give you a list of home pages, it’s going to give you specific deep pages on the site that talk about that exact thing. So for example, if you have eight services that your company offers, and you have our services page that lists them all, you’re not going to rank well, for any of those services, you might rank well for the word, our services, but you’re competing against a lot of other companies there too. But if you have a separate page for each service, when someone searches for that service, Google says, hey, this one page talks about that exact thing you’re looking for, and go check that out. Yeah, more pages, generally speaking is better if you can provide great content and each of those pages.
Robert Carnes 9:23
And be focused on a specific thing, be focused on whatever that service is, or whatever that blog post is about or something like that the more focused and quality that you can be with that content on that page is going to, it’s going to help you out for sure.
Mickey Mellen 9:37
And to that point, two blog posts, by and large are considered separate pages, you know, people see pages and posts and from our end, we see them as different things. But from Google’s perspective, they’re both just separate pages, there’s a page that’s about one of your services, there’s a page that’s a blog post, it’s just a page that can come up in a search result. So that’s why blogs can be so good. It’s a great way to get lots more content out there and many more separate pages for Google to perhaps show to people when they visit? Yeah, absolutely.
Robert Carnes 10:02
So blogging is still relevant, which I’m sure is going to be a topic that we’ll probably talk about again because that’s, that’s a whole nother thing to dive into. So we’ve covered the technical aspects of SEO, we talked about content on site, which is important. So what’s the third bucket you’d address when you’re helping somebody with SEO?
Mickey Mellen 10:22
The third one is the toughest, but it’s the off-site signal. So the on site, the content, you can control yourself, but off site is kind of a Google on the map, they decided in 1998, that if one site links to another, that’s kind of a vote of confidence for that site, and they rank a little bit better for it, so getting more sites to link to yours is hugely valuable. But becoming very difficult because it’s been abused for the last 20 years, you know, that you can’t just trade links with someone or do any of those little tricks like you used to before, it’s very hard to get those inbound links. But there are two things you can do that can help. One is, again, writing great content. I know on my blog, I link off to other resources all the time, if I see great content out there, I will link to that great content, because people that read my blog will appreciate me sharing the content and Google will see the link and give that other site a boost, which they deserve, because they wrote great content. So that’s one way. And then there’s other low hanging fruit you can go after, if you’re a member of your local Chamber of Commerce or business association, or anything like that you have a profile on those sites. And those profiles almost always include links. And Google generally says, Hey, this is a chamber of commerce site, it’s generally well respected. If you have a link from it to your site. That’s a point in your favor, a small point, but if you can find some of those places where you’re mentioned, or you have profiles, getting those links will help a little bit.
Robert Carnes 11:35
That makes sense. And to your point there’s no more backlink farms, right? They’ve been shut down, because Google realized, hey, those are they’re trying to game the system here. Let’s not do that. Trying to build reputations and connect with other sites. And yeah, that’s kind of one of the most general things that you can help, especially when it comes to off site links, which are a little bit out of your control. But you can influence those things.
Mickey Mellen 11:58
This goes back to what I said at the very beginning, where Google’s not changing the rules much, you know, people say, Oh, they hammered all these sites for these bad links, Google’s changing the rules. But Google said that from day one, like don’t create these link farms and do silly things, and Google’s just getting better at cracking down on that. So the more you follow the rules, when you hear about a big algorithm update, you can rest well, no, you’re gonna knock a lot of spammers off and you’re gonna slide up a couple of spots higher if you follow the rules. And it’s great.
Robert Carnes 12:22
To your point that you said before that, like, they really haven’t changed the rules a ton. They just, they’re tweaking the way that they enforce those rules. They’re figuring out better ways to be more efficient too, to help give you the websites you want to see. Yeah. To recap, right, quick, the technical aspects of the website are really important, but usually kind of one-off things that you’ve got to do on the back end of your site. You want to continue to deliver great content on the front end to your site, and then work with other businesses, other sites to build the kind of relationships that link back to you. Would you say that’s a good summary of how a business could kind of build good SEO?
Mickey Mellen 12:58
The way I say this is don’t mess up the technical stuff and produce great content. And that’s kind of the key right there.
Robert Carnes 13:03
That seems pretty doable. Yeah, that’s a lot more manageable than just like, go do SEO. Yeah, exactly. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for listening to this episode of the brighter web podcast with Robert and Mickey. We are marketing people over at Green melon, you can visit our blog at Green melon media.com. For more great content like this. If you want to get the show notes for this episode and more, visit a brighter web.com.