SEO. Search Engine Optimization. It makes many of us want to put our head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist, am I right? I’m guilty of having done that for years until I realized it’s not as scary as we’ve made it out to be and there are some major benefits that can come from some simple implementation on your end. So today I want to break it down and demystify this topic for all of you – because it’s time to put some strategy behind our search engine results.
Search Engine Optimization basically means the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine. SEO can be a really complex topic to cover (especially on a podcast!) so my goal today is breaking it down to the basics, tell you where best to invest your time, and prove to you that it’s not so scary so you take action and get started. In my experience, even starting out small with a simple strategy can make a big impact on the traffic that is coming to your website…. Because what good is a website if no one knows it exists?
Let me give it to ya straight: this blog post is only the outline of this show. To get the full impact of this show, I recommend reading along with this blog and writing down all the specific details to maximize your SEO journey
If you hit play on this episode, my guess is you already know you need to be doing this – so let’s not ignore it anymore – ok? Here are some guiding principles and places to get started.
Breaking down the verbiage: Keywords
Keywords are the words you’ll be identifying as ones that you think your audience will be searching for and that you want Google to show your content in their search results. Don’t overcomplicate this. So many of the strategies needed for SEO are probably already things you are doing in your business in other places and can simply be tweaked and executed and your keyword strategy is a great example of this. You won’t be starting from ground zero on this. (To hear all of my best tips for picking keywords, tune into the episode!)
Pro tip: Start with 5 or so main buckets of topics you talk about on your blog and create a spreadsheet with these as your columns. Next start brainstorming a list for each area with as many thematic words around each bucket you can think of. Insert any hashtags around each topic you’re currently using that are general and make sense for a keyword. Then take these words and search them in google or the Pinterest search bar. I like using these two places because of the guided search feature on these sites. Guided search means it will take the word you searched for and tell you what other similar words other people are searching for and this is a great way to expand your keyword list.
You should have a pretty solid list at this point and we’re not done yet. Next, I want you to look anywhere your target audience is talking about the topics and pull keywords from things they are saying. Examples of places you could look would be comments on your blog posts, common questions they ask, survey results and comments on social media postings. Check out reviews on Amazon for books on the topic. What are people saying about it? What questions do they have? What do they love about your topic?
At this point, your list has been solidified. Keep this master keyword list handy and refer to it anytime you’re writing content for your site. You want to infuse as many of these words where you are writing on your website whether it’s a page on your website or a blog post. You’ll also be identifying a “focus keyword” or words for each page or post on your site which means the main word that best represents the content.
Next up is what’s called the SEO title. Now, this is different than the post title or page name. Let me walk through an example to help best illustrate this. Naming each blog post is a critical step because this is what’s going to determine if someone is going to click through and read the content. Now, a clickable title like “5 Emotions Every Girl Boss Experiences” might be different than one we would write for SEO purposes. Let’s say the keyword we’ve identified for this post is “successful women entrepreneurs” because the post is about what women go through running successful businesses. The SEO title allows you to name the post with SEO in mind while also naming it creatively so people click through and read.
So the title of the blog post is “5 Emotions Every Girl Boss Experiences” and the SEO Title is “Successful Women Entrepreneurs on the Goal Digger Podcast”. The blog post title is what is shown publicly to your audience and the SEO title is what search engines use to determine what the content is about.
The next SEO terminology to cover is what’s called a slug. This is what the actual link will look like so for example, these shownotes are clearly found at www.jennakutcherblog.com/seo . That /SEO is what’s known as the slug. SEO best practices state that the slug should be short and contain your focus keyword if possible.
This description is what will be shown as the first few lines of text under the title when your content shows up in search results. Think about when you google something, you’ll see about 8 or so post titles that Google believes the best match your search text along with 2 lines of text below it to help you determine if it’s what you’re looking for. This is the meta description and if you haven’t been writing meta descriptions, Google will automatically just grab the first few lines of text on the page. This is an opportunity to write click-worthy meta descriptions because it’s not enough to just show up in Google results, you also need to get people to see your content and click through!
A final definition to cover before we can get into the good stuff is “alt text”. This is the text that is tied to an image. This is text that explains what the image is and it’s important because it can be used by search engines in addition to the text in your post or site content to figure out what you’re writing about.
This is also the text that is carried through when someone pins your image to Pinterest which gives us a little bit more control in terms of making sure our images have high-quality descriptions there.
Let’s look at an example. Going back to my long-tail keyword example above of “Milwaukee Spring Wedding Photography” – let’s say there is an image of a couple at the art museum. My Alt text in this example could be “Milwaukee Spring wedding photography at the Milwaukee Art Museum by Jenna Kutcher.” This alt text both uses our focus keyword which is helpful for search engine optimization purposes AND provides more context for what this actual image is about and gives me credit for the image so that when it’s pinned, people will know who it belongs to.
How these all fit together
Now that we’ve got a basic understanding of what some of these words mean, let’s talk about how and where they are used. If you’re starting from scratch and want to know where to begin, my best tip is to download the SEO by Yoast plugin if you’re a WordPress user. Once the plug-in is activated on your site you’ll see an area at the bottom of the post that says “SEO by Yoast” and here you’ll be able to easily enter a focused keyword, meta description, SEO title and slug to optimize each post. That cheat sheet we’ve got for you to download in the show notes is a screenshot of this plug-in filled in for one of my posts.
My favorite part is that the plugin will also grade the post for you from a search engine optimization standpoint and offer suggestions to make improvements and also tell you what you did right. This is such a great way to learn SEO best practices while jumping in and getting started with search engine optimization right away.
Tips to incorporate SEO into your workflow
This wouldn’t be a goal digger podcast episode without me giving you tangible ways to incorporate this teaching into your day to day workflow. Here’s some things that have worked for us:
A lot of the critical thinking that goes into optimizing content for your site for SEO purposes is going to payoff in other places as well so we like to batch this type of work together to save time and energy.
An example of this would be writing the alt text with Pinterest in mind. Pinterest, also a search engine – will see your content as valuable if the pin description matches the words found on the post it’s linked to. For this reason, we write the alt text as our pin description when optimizing the post and then pin at that same time.
Similarly, you might start with keywords that would be great hashtags on Instagram. Writing your Instagram post that’s going to link to the blog post makes sense to complete at the same time. In general, when you’re writing content for your business, think about all the places it’s going to be promoted and write that all at the same time.
Start with your focus keyword first
It can be tempting to write a post and THEN figure out what your focus keyword and titles are going to be. We’ve found it’s so much easier if we do this the other way around. Come up with a clickable title and strong keywords for your audience and create content around those. This will save you time and energy trying to force a keyword or strong title later and I believe this will make your content stronger as well.
Keep track of what’s working (and what’s not)
Since this blog post is already getting quite long, I am going to limit how much I type about this, but if you tune into the episode you will learn everything you need to know about google analytics and your blog. I get it, learning “one more thing” can feel exhausting, but this is crucial. In the episode, I teach you what exactly you need to be looking for in your google analytics, what numbers are “good”, which are “bad”, and how this can transform your business. Seriously, this segment of the episode is GOLD, and I don’t want you to miss out.
Keep It Simple! Here are 3 Steps To Live By
1. Start a keyword spreadsheet
2. Download the SEO by Yoast plug-in and take a stab at optimizing old posts to get the hang of the process
3. Install Google Analytics to help direct and refine your strategy going forward
Focus on People, not just search engine optimization
The one thing I want you to take away from this episode is the importance of focusing on people and not search engines. It’s easy when you dive into the world of SEO to feel overwhelmed and like you need to follow a crazy-long list of strategies and rules that leave you feeling deflated and questioning if you’re wasting your time (or heck, if you’re even doing it right.) This is what held me back for years, because it simply felt overwhelming.
But if you refocus your WHY, it will help you stay focused on the right stuff: focus on people not just on search engines. When building out your search engine optimization strategy, it can be tempting to get really technical in your strategy in an attempt to have your pages and posts rank better. My philosophy is that if we build our content with people in mind, it will do well for search engines as well. If we truly think about our ideal clients, what their pains are, how we provide a solution, and what they are likely searching for, we can truly create a system that helps you reach the RIGHT people (which to me is more important than landing at the top of google for the wrong things.)
At the end of the day search engine optimization is ALL about proving to search engines that your site and content is the best so that it will serve it up when your audience is looking for solutions to problems you can help them with. In summary, Create epic content serving your audience and the search engine optimization will follow.