058: Everything SEO with Lindsay Halsey of Pathfinder SEO

About Lindsay Halsey:

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO and partner of webShine. As an SEO professional, her primary interest is search engine optimization for WordPress websites. Lindsay enjoys teaching business owners and web professionals about holistic SEO practices with a focus on actionable tactics that create results.

Find Lindsay Halsey: Pathfinder SEO | Twitter | | LinkedIn


Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
058: Everything SEO with Lindsay Halsey of Pathfinder SEO
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Transcript

Amy:

Welcome to women in WP, a bimonthly podcast about women who blog, design, develop, and more in the WordPress community.

Angela:

Hi. Welcome to women in WP. I’m Angela Bowman.

Tracy:

I’m Tracy Apps.

Amy:

And I’m Amy Masson.

Angela:

Our guest today is Lindsay Halsey, a partner in search engine marketing agency and co-founder of Guided SEO Software, who specializes in WordPress SEO. Welcome, Lindsay!

Lindsay:

Thanks so much for having me here today!

Angela:

I should say Lindsay is joining us from the Aspen, Colorado area and she’s also the owner of Pathfinder SEO. As for those of you who listen regularly and Lindsay, we like to start off each episode asking our guests how they got into WordPress. How did you get started?

Lindsay:

I discovered WordPress through an agency I was working for. I was a director of search engine optimization for an agency that actually specialized in Drupal. And so, all of the projects I did from an SEO standpoint were on Drupal and I learned how the system worked, some of the challenges that came along with it, and every once in a while, we’d get a rogue WordPress SEO project that would come in, and I’d always want to grab those ones because I found the WordPress platform to be powerful and scalable and really consistent.

Lindsay:

So, the ecosystem of the WordPress plugins and the way the sites were being built meant that the thing I did on one WordPress website worked really easily on another and I wasn’t discovering that in Drupal. And so, I really discovered WordPress and the platform there and then, years later, I was a co-founder or a partner in a search engine marketing agency and we decided we’d specialize in the WordPress side. And so, we actively started to go after leads and opportunities in the WordPress space.

Lindsay:

But, honestly, if we talk about when I discovered WordPress, even though I’d been working in WordPress for almost 10 years, I felt like really that discovery was the first time I went to a Word Camp. And I went with my business partner. We were just about to launch our software called Pathfinder SEO and we went to our first Word Camp thinking maybe we’d start to go to more events and get out there and we were going to a myriad of different events that summer. And we discovered the WordPress community at a Word Camp in Denver, actually, and absolutely fell in love and found it to be super welcoming and fun and educational and just this amazing blend that I’d never discovered in business conferences or communities to date.

Lindsay:

And so, that really, to me, was the actual beginning, even though I’d be working on WordPress sites for a long time.

Tracy:

I can relate to that, because I was working on WordPress for a long time, but then, when I started going to Word Camps, that’s when I feel like, okay, now I’ve used Word Press.

Amy:

Oh yeah, that’s when everything really started to change for me. So, let me ask you this. I knew you did SEO. I guess I didn’t realize there was a software. So, is this a plugin that you have?

Lindsay:

Good question. So, it’s not a plugin. Pathfinder SEO is what we call a guided SEO software. It’s [inaudible 00:03:28] space. It’s build on WordPress, but it’s not WordPress specific. So, we work with people in all sorts of different content management systems and we call it guided SEO, which really means we give three pieces of the puzzle of helping websites get found. One is process; so, the same process we follow in our agency, we teach in our platform in the form of an SEO checklist and some ongoing lessons.

Lindsay:

And then we have coaching; so, you get to have a one on one coaching session or more every month. And then some of the SEO tools or software pieces that you’ll need to deliver, like keyword research, keyword rankings, monthly reports, they’re all baked into Pathfinder SEO. And, really, our product, I should say, came out of our agency, came out of our services business, and that was that a lot of site owners, business owners, they couldn’t afford professional SEO services.

Lindsay:

And so, they went and took a DIY approach. They’d take courses and they invested usually a lot of time over the course of a year and then they’d come back to us and say, we couldn’t afford you a year ago, but wow, now we’re overwhelmed by SEO, we don’t know what to do. We’ve lost time, we’ve spent time and energy, and now we’re going to hire your service. And I would think to myself, but really, you’re in the same place. This is still outside of your marketing budget for maybe a small business to get started.

Lindsay:

And so, they’d say, well, could you just teach this. And the easy way or the better way to probably start teaching it would have been a course but, instead, we started to get creative and say, well, we should have had a course, but then you’re going to want to talk to a coach, you’re going to need that [inaudible 00:05:09] dynamic. Oh, and then [inaudible 00:05:15] out of that was born on more of a software-based approach.

Lindsay:

And we think of guided SEO as signing up for a gym membership with a personal training. And so, you come with a goal. We give you the trainer. We’ve got the tools and we’ve got the process and, if you’re willing to put in a little bit of the effort, we’ll guide you along the way, help you stay accountable and help you move through… the way I think about SEO, which is that it’s a series of small steps. It’s not one thing. You don’t sit down and do SEO in a day, but rather it’s a series of small steps.

Lindsay:

A lot of them are real world marketing steps. They’re not actually SEO specific at all. But it’s helping people know what the next step they should take in breaking that down into something bite sized that they can take action on.

Tracy:

That’s fascinating. How is it transitioning from that service to more of a product offering?

Lindsay:

Well, it was a big new world to us. My business partner and I were both non-technical founders, which meant we didn’t write the code for the software. So, there was that new world to navigate, and it’s really different selling your service and your own time, versus selling a product and learning the marketing behind that and how to reach out to people. How to reach your audience was relatively easy for us because we’re SEO, so we can do content marketing and things like that. But, really, then how to get the messaging right.

Lindsay:

So, when we launched our product, we actually called ourselves WPSEO Hub because we didn’t know a lot, but a lot of businesses in the space named themselves with a WP in it, so we went with the trend. And everyone just thought we were plugin, and so we had our name and our branding and our messaging on our website absolutely didn’t align with our offering. And it took time. We brought our product to market. We didn’t call it guided SEO back then. That came over time where we started to have those ah-hah moments and better ways to describe what it was we were trying to accomplish.

Tracy:

Nice.

Angela:

I was struck when I was looking at your website not that long ago. I teach a six hour SEO class, so I often mine your sight for some juicy tidbits and I always include a link to your site and your services in my SEO talks, like if you want to go further, do something, and particularly for those small business owners, that in your tool set, you’re really giving people access to, for a very modest budget, tools that, in and of themselves, would cost that much.

Angela:

So, if you get [inaudible 00:07:57] or you get any of these other tools easily cost $100 a month each, so are these tools packaged in with your service?

Lindsay:

They are packaged in with our service and one of the echoing things we heard in the SEO space and something we experienced was, a lot of the tools are really feature rich that are out there. So, think of an [inaudible 00:08:23] so on and so forth, they’re amazing tools. But, really, they’re built for professional SEOs, professional marketers, and in there in that tool proliferation game. So, they’re all adding and layering in tools, going from SEO to SEM and paid search, getting into the content game.

Lindsay:

And so, those tools are super valuable in and of their own right but, for most of us, when we log into them, we get total data overload, analysis paralysis. And so for most site owners, it’s too much. And what they really need is a simplified version that lets you focus on the metrics that matter and the actions that matter and ignores a lot of the noise and the red flags that come out of a lot of automatically scanning a website and saying, “you’re missing page titles on these pages,” people will go down that rabbit hole and fix all of those things, only to find that that was an underlying issue. There would have been more impactful things for them to do.

Lindsay:

And I should mention, we also work with a lot of freelancers and agencies who are offering SEO services, following our process, and using our tool set. And so, we’ve also been scratching our own itch with this project, which is our agency wants an SEO software that’s process oriented that makes it easy to train junior members, that has everything baked into one. And so, we’re finding that piece of our audience is another fun segment to work with and we’re basically teaching other people how to do what we did over the years at our agency because we think these services are really best delivered by your designer, by your developer and under one umbrella.

Angela:

I am so intrigued. I want to sign up, Lindsay.

Lindsay:

Thanks!

Tracy:

How do you keep up with changes because I can imagine with software and keeping that up to date, how is that process as things change and ebb and flow in the industry?

Lindsay:

So, it’s a little bit of both sides of the coin. I have to admit, yesterday was a Sunday and I spent that day in the office recording some new videos because there’s evolution, I can’t find the time during the week, and so the weekend it is. And so, things do change, and that’s one of the things we want to try to help people solve for, is not having to follow along with every change, but let us to elevate when something is big that we all need to focus on and let the rest of it be a little bit of noise in the background.

Lindsay:

And so, that’s one piece, which is, yes, there’s change, there is evolution, and that requires us to update our SEO checklist or create an ongoing SEO lesson, email our customers, and share those insights. On the other hand, and Angela, you can probably speak to this, having been teaching SEO as well. What I find works for websites 10 years ago, five years ago and today, it’s similar; I feel, oftentimes, like I’m still saying the same phrases, a lot of the same things that I would have said years ago in different versions. So, content still matters. This is what we’re seeing resonate in terms of content marketing and SEO.

Lindsay:

So, it evolves and with that, thought, the core is the same, which is that you want a user friendly website with great design, with great content, that other people also say is great by linking to them, by leaving reviews on Google maps, et cetera. And so, I do always feel like that, while so many years, people make SEO seem ever-evolving, really complicated and something most people shouldn’t learn or can’t learn, that’s actually totally a trick and that the reality is that it’s all really basic and it’s all just following the steps and taking the actions, creating that piece of content, writing that blog post, doing a little outreach, doing a little PR work, asking your customers for a review. It is ultimately pretty basic in it’s nature.

Angela:

It is the one class that I teach that I continue to teach. Like if I’m really overloaded with a lot of things, I have a lot of other classes I’ve taught, but the SEO class is one that, oh, yeah, I just need to tweak a few slides, add a new page ranking factor in. Are people in your world becoming alarmed by the algorithm update unrolling this summer? I’ve been trying to keep people from freaking out and watching a lot of webinars that say, yeah, maybe it’s not going to be that big of a deal. Just keep doing good things. But what’s your take on that?

Lindsay:

Yeah, so, about a year ago, Google announced that there’d be an algorithm update coming in 2021 and it was right as the pandemic was starting that this announcement came out and you thought, “really, Google? Right now?” But the reality is that Google is tweaking and changing the algorithms all the time and so this is just one of those times where Google came out and said, we’re going to reward page experience more starting in 2021 and we want to give you a little lead time to get ready.

Lindsay:

And page experience is all about delight. And so, when you think about the things that are important to users when they come to a given page on your website, security is really high on the list. They may not say that or notice that, but that’s really high on the list because we all want to secure experience, we don’t want to fill out a contact form or make a purchase and have that information insecure or out there. And so, that’s step one, and most sites have already solved for that. So, we’re in good shape there. If you’re running your site on WordPress and you have some good security rolling, you’ve already checked the box.

Lindsay:

The other big one out there is mobile usability, and that’s already been a ranking signal for a long time and it’s more important that SEO; it’s all about your actual website visitors. And so, we’ve already solved for that one. So, again, most websites are just checking the boxes under page experience. And then comes the doozy that’s called core web vitals, and there’s three statistics in the core web vitals. And this is where it gets tricky because this is speed and performance and interactivity.

Lindsay:

And the challenge for all of us there is that Google has changed some of the metrics and then changed the bars on what metrics matter. And so, you do feel like you’re hitting a moving target and, just recently, Google made another change in the space to say, okay, this algorithm update, now there’s a new tool in the Google search console. You can go look at your page experience scores and every single account… I’ve looked at more than 50 or 75 websites over the last week. Every single one says you have no good URLs on your website.

Lindsay:

I’m like, really?

Tracy:

Yeah.

Lindsay:

When I run my site through Page Speed Insights, it’s really lightning fast, and yet I don’t have a single URL that’s good? And so, there’s some really frustrating disconnects on the speed side. And the big thing that we’re helping people understand is, one, keep working at it. Speed and performance, it’s an incremental initiative. You’re not going to go from really poor speed to super fast. And the other is, everyone’s in the same boat, so we’re not going to see, who’s Google going to show, if not one of these sites has a good URL? Are all of these URLs going fall out of the index? I don’t think so.

Lindsay:

And that this change is going to be gradual. It’s going to start, I think they said mid-June and roll out over the summer and they’re describing it as adding seasoning to a recipe until you get the right flavor. And so, it’s going to roll out really gradually and we’re not anticipating, for our customers, any major shifts in the rankings or the results. I don’t think I’m going to roll into the office on a Monday morning and have a nightmare on my hands.

Lindsay:

And so, that’s how we’re trying to teach people, is be aware, see what your metrics are, evolve where you can, and then keep an eye on the data and what’s happening in the industry space, and we’ll all change throughout the summer months and early fall as this rolls out.

Amy:

That’s really interesting. I like what you said about how having a great site and having great content are important and I’m always telling people this, SEO does change a lot, but those things aren’t going to change. Having great content is not going to change, and if you give me three sentences, I can’t do anything with that.

Amy:

How do you go about getting people to provide you with great content?

Lindsay:

That’s always a good tricky one. Maybe the hardest part of my job as it’s the hardest part of your job. So, the first thing that I like to do is express to people the why behind it. So, a lot of times, your customer, the business owner thinks that they don’t understand the why, and so that doesn’t motivate the action enough. And so, I really try to explain to them that, the reason we need great content is for our users and because Google rewards sharing of your expertise and you can’t share your expertise in three sentences.

Lindsay:

And so, you have to think about, if you have a specific field of expertise and you want to get out there in that space, you’re going to have to actually share and give a lot of that away. And so, you’re going to need length, and so we express that to people. Then we show them that content doesn’t always have to be pitted up against good user experience and design. So then, the next concern people get is, okay, great, I need more words, I agree, but I think it’s going to look terrible on my website. Can you hide that content? I literally still get asked that question once a week. And I’m like, nope. Can’t hide it. Got to put it out there.

Lindsay:

And so, that’s the next thing, is showing people how a website can have really good user experience with a lot of great content and some of the techniques we use there is, if this is a services page, then it’s not only the what is the service content that counts, it’s the FAQ content at the end, and I guarantee your customers have questions about your service. So, let’s document them and add that in an accordion style FAQ at the bottom that’s keyword rich, and now we’ve tackled two things; we’ve added content to our page and maybe you’ll get less phone calls and more people just hitting the buy now button because you’ve explained your product better.

Lindsay:

And then testimonials. Testimonials count as content. So, let’s take some reviews, curate them, get them on our website as testimonials and add a section there. And so, you start to teach customers that it’s not just that intro paragraph that you’re trying to tease from two sentences to four sentences, it’s thinking more conceptually and what are the pieces of content that need to go on this page to make it competitive for SEO? But also, it turns out, most of those things are good for users.

Lindsay:

And e-commerce sites are my favorite because the bar is so low. Their only content is the product description and maybe some reviews on the product and all we have to do on the SEO space is go into those category pages, those collections and groupings of product and do these things; expand some content [inaudible 00:19:42] around it, not lose user experience and they excel because their [inaudible 00:19:48] solution isn’t [inaudible 00:19:52].

Angela:

With those e-commerce, with the WooCommerce category pages, I find I come up against this all the time and I feel like those are so right for optimization. They are such amazing pages. There’s two issues with that. One is where to put the text content so that it doesn’t push your grid down too far so that [inaudible 00:20:12] actually at the bottom. So, that’s one strategy. The other is just the paragraph, at least that, you can fit a juicy paragraph above your grid and not break the layout too badly.

Angela:

But the other is that people tend to use their categories unwisely and they’ll create all this duplicate content because they’re not being very strategic about their category use and I’m sure you face all those issues. But I’d love to know where you shove the content, Lindsay.

Lindsay:

Sure. So, I actually just, minutes before this, sent an email to a WooCommerce site. It’s in development and they have these beautiful category pages, essentially, built out as pages. They’re using a page builder and those pages have content at the top, a great header, then the content, then the product grid. It looks really beautiful. Then the FAQs, and then a couple testimonials, and then a way you can actually contact us if you need us. Layout to these beautiful category pages that are not actually category pages. They are, right now, classified as a page and they’re built using a page builder.

Lindsay:

And those are going to rock and roll for SEO. But then I went into the WooCommerce settings and I saw that they had 151 categories, each with one product in it with no SEO on it, and my question is like, what’s the plan here?

Amy:

And they’re being indexed?

Lindsay:

And they’re going to get indexed if we don’t do something. And so, I need to know what the big picture vision is from a business standpoint so that I can make some recommendations and do the legwork on the SEO standpoint. And one thing could be that this site in particular might continue and just say, well, we’ll only index the page versions, but we’re not actually going to use the categorization within the WooCommerce taxonomies, or we’re going to get rid of those pages and we’re going to move in and we’re going to turn these category pages into something super robust.

Lindsay:

And I’ve seen WordPress developers out there. I’m not a WordPress developer, so I get to be an idea person behind it, but actually add fields into there so that I can add in content that’s not just the intro paragraph and make it so that the client is locked in to, if I have a new category, I have to put a description, I have to add FAQs, and I have to add a testimonial, in addition to just firing up new categories, which are really easy to do on the click of a button, it turns out.

Angela:

Yeah, and with those categories, you can add advanced custom fields and page builders. With the page builder, you can design the category page.

Lindsay:

Exactly.

Angela:

To look exactly like the [inaudible 00:22:47], and I’d recommend that because then all your bread crumbs work.

Lindsay:

Yeah, and my hope here is that I can move them out of the page. I don’t like having categories under pages. I like using custom post times and using the taxonomies the way they’re designed. And so, yeah, it’s having those discussions and doing that planning and the infrastructure that sets the client up for long-term success.

Tracy:

Yeah, and it’s going to last longer because when updates, you’re actually using the capabilities of the software as they are intended, so it’s not going to break when you do the next update.

Lindsay:

Exactly.

Tracy:

So, along the same lines of all the duplication stuff, is there ever where you have too much stuff?

Lindsay:

Yeah, actually, a lot of websites have too much stuff right now. And so, that’s one of the things I would say has shifted in SEO, especially in the WordPress space that I’ve noticed, is if you asked me five, six, seven years ago one of the reasons why I loved WordPress, it was because you could have a blog and then you could categorize your blog, and all of the sudden make your website relatively big, even though you have a relatively small website, and Google rewarded the size. So, that was something that we noticed as SEOs, was that the bloat, some of those thin taxonomy pages, categories and tags actually had SEO value.

Lindsay:

And so, that’s not the case anymore. Everyone jumped on content marketing, blogging. Everyone used tags like a keyword, everything, so there was no actual organization or infrastructure around their tagging strategies, and then Google said, hey, you know what, I think you guys all think of us as having unlimited resources, but our [inaudible 00:24:36] are actually limited. We don’t have unlimited bandwidth. And so, we can’t crawl these ginormous websites that should be big sites and big sites that should be medium sites and so on and so forth.

Lindsay:

And so, now, as a marketer, you’re diluting your website’s power by making Google spend as much time crawling and indexing this thin tag page as they would spending on that really amazing 2,000 word blog post you wrote. And so, Angela, I think I’ve heard you talk about this before, too; one of the first things we do with people is, let’s go through and actually decide what content types, what taxonomies we want the search engines to crawl and index and let’s be pretty conservative there. And then, let’s do leverage information architecture and categorization and tagging, but let’s do so in a way that fits the size and scale of your website.

Lindsay:

So, if you have 100 posts, maybe six, seven categories would be plenty. You can’t organize 100 things 100 ways and have value in that organization. You actually have to have a scale differential there.

Amy:

And I find a lot of people, they want to set up all the categories and tags. They think just by virtue of having them, they’re going to get indexed and they’re going to get all this search in them, but they won’t put the time into writing category descriptions or optimizing the categories other than just the fact that they exist.

Lindsay:

Exactly. So, I tend to lock them out of that. I come in and I’m a little bit of a bully and I’m like, okay, you keep blogging. Let me play with your categories and tags. I’m going to cut way back and then, when you’re ready to invest in writing these descriptions and doing this work, we’ll roll this back out. So, that’s one piece of duplicate content going from larger website to slightly smaller website.

Lindsay:

The other dynamic at play that’s changed is we don’t want to write about the same topic 10 different ways. So, instead of having 10 posts on one topic, a lot of times we want to combine those and have more comprehensive content. And so, years ago, it was all about posting frequency and I worked with this client that had a product, and the product was designed to protect things against predators. So, to protect your garden from a deer, to protect your garden from a coyote, to protect your dog from a coyote. So, you can imagine, if you have all the things you can protect, and all of the things that might attack and might be a nuisance, there’s a lot of intersect and we wrote about it, every intersection of these 10 things and 10 things like five different ways because we blogged for them every single week for many, many years.

Lindsay:

And then, it turned out, they started losing traffic, significant amounts of traffic, and it was all because Google just said, well, what is the best page on your website for protecting a garden from a deer? I’ve got five to pick from and I’m not going to show them all. So, then they’d start not showing them at all and we had to go in and consolidate.

Lindsay:

And so, those are the two dynamics that I’d say have changed over time that caused a little bit of a strategy change, is the size and scale of your site and then changing that posting frequency more into a post quality type approach.

Amy:

Yeah. In 2013, I went to my first Word Camp and there was a blogging session and the data they gave us was, four times a week, 300 to 500 words. And so, for funsies, we decided to do that, except for we didn’t do it four times a week. We did it every single day for six months and our traffic skyrocketed. Our Google search ranking, everything was great. But now, eight years later, that’s no longer a working tactic.

Amy:

So, what would be, if you were telling people that same kind of guidelines? How frequently would you tell people they need to really be producing content?

Lindsay:

So, when we talk about posting frequency, I think about content evolution, and that is that you need to be evolving your website so it’s not static. Part of that, for some businesses, is blogging because their business is their expertise. So, if you’re in a larger industry space or if your audience is going to get value out of the content you’re writing, then you need to be blogging and, in a lot of business, that’s going to be once a week to once a month, depending on the competitiveness of their industry space. But that’s enough to keep it fresh, enough to get out there. And, since you’re writing more sizable posts, it’s still about the same time investment.

Lindsay:

On the other hand, I also challenge people to sometimes think about, does your blog reach your audience? So, there’s a lot of times we come into a client project where they’ve been blogging and blogging and blogging because someone told them to, and they’re getting no traffic, but then, even if you get the traffic, you’re like, would you see more sales from this? And, for this, I think of a dentist’s office. When was the last time you read your dentists’ office blog? You don’t.

Lindsay:

If you moved to a new city and a new place and you’re looking for a dentist and you don’t have friends to ask, you’re going to Google “best dentist near me,” or “family dentistry in Seattle” or whatever it’s going to be, and you’re going to look at your Google maps reviews. You’re going to look at their website and you’re going to look at their services pages to see that page about maybe their family practice, and what you want to see is what the practice looks like, what you need to do to make an appointment, and then trust symbols, five people that have said great things about their practice. Never once did I click on blog in that. I didn’t find that dentist by searching the latest techniques in dentistry. That actually reaches other dentists.

Lindsay:

And so, whenever I start with a content strategy with a client, I ignore a little bit of what they’re doing and I just start at the beginning and say, okay, where are we going to evolve your content? Is it going to be your home page and your services pages and those category pages or your product? Is it going to be there or are we going to start blogging? And, often times, more effort is needed than meets the eye on the pages that are static and less emphasis needs to go on hitting that mark of posting once a week.

Angela:

Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense.

Amy:

Yeah, and we have. I have since moved to a more once a week posting rather than the 2014 style, six month, every single day post that worked really well for me then, but it’s really hard to maintain at this point. I’ve run out of things to say.

Lindsay:

And I will say, within our own team dynamic at Pathfinder, we moved away from weekly blog posts. We even restructured our blog to be all about categories and the different audiences we work with, and so we don’t actually have a chronologically ordered blog. Our resources, our blog posts are organized by theme. But we shifted too far to the right. So, we shifted too far from let’s post three times a week, which we were doing, to let’s just write lengthy blog posts as we can. And so, first of all, everyone on the team is, when am I going to have time to write 3,000 words? And then, even just the editing and getting the images right and maybe making a video for it, they turned into these massively ballooned projects to get one blog post live.

Lindsay:

So then we had huge gaps and we did notice some traffic going down on posts that weren’t doing great, so we’ve shifted back to saying, yeah, we should be publishing once a week, consistently, and yes, they should be comprehensive but, no, you don’t have to write 2,000 to 3,000 words to get published on the blog. You can tackle smaller topics and still write something of value and it’s making it easier to public faster and we’re seeing traffic as a result.

Angela:

Yeah, I’ve rested on my laurels because I wrote one blog post. I have a one hit wonder that just has perennial, thousands and thousands of hits every month, and so then I wrote an FAQ on that, which was about the same length, and these are lengthy, 4,000 to 5,000 words. And then I wrote another method of this, so I have four posts on the same topic, but totally different strategies step by step, and it’s where all my traffic comes from. But, because I get so much traffic on it, now I’m like totally demotivated to write anything.

Angela:

Now I try to write once a year. If I can write a really good 5,000 word article once a year, usually I’ll hit something. Sometimes not, though. Sometimes that’s where content marketing is a problem. You can invest so much time and energy on these posts and get nothing.

Lindsay:

It’s true. We’re SEOs and we do keyword research and we write in the SEO space, we write in the Google analytics space, and then we cross SEO with Shopify or SEO with WordPress and, I have to say, that when I think a post is going to crush it with organic traffic, sometimes I totally miss the mark and it doesn’t do that well. And then, something that I didn’t even think would begin to rise to the top will do great.

Lindsay:

And so, I try to get out of my own way there and do some keyword research, obviously, and use those phrases. But then, just get in the exercise. It’s like going to the gym; just keep at the repetition, keep doing it, and what might not be a hit today could become a hit down the road. We wrote a post about how to start an SEO business or an SEO agency and it didn’t really do much until there was a pandemic and people were trying to figure out how to grow their businesses and how to do things, how to expand their existing offering to offer SEO.

Lindsay:

And then, all of the sudden, that post that was just sitting in the back depths of our blog started to get a lot of traction and we obviously noticed that with software with Pathfinder and Google search console and then I’m like, we better update that post. That advice is outdated and, since no one was looking, we weren’t keeping it up to date.

Angela:

Well, and that’s amazing because it really meets a need of the time, and that’s where I focus. Now my posting efforts are more about, if I personally could use this post to share with people because I get asked this question a lot, I’m writing it for me so that I don’t have to answer the question again and I don’t care what Google thinks. I have a link now to send to people and so that’s a little bit more motivating for me.

Angela:

And so, that could be a way for customers, your clients, is writing this post going to save you time other places that you’re always having to talk to customers for 15 minutes about?

Lindsay:

Precisely. And I consider a lot of that to be sales enablement, so I write on blog post topics that are not SEO motivated at all. They’re not about driving new traffic. They’re about meeting somebody with the right messaging at the right time in the sales process. It’s about having a tool for when someone gets off a demo on our team and they need to get back to a prospect with more depth on a topic. We want to have all those sales enablement materials on our blog to get people back in so that we don’t have to say it or write it 100 times.

Tracy:

I’ve been teaching a course for people that are just starting to learn about marketing and digital marketing and such, so one of the questions that I get asked is how do you even start, first off, just some of the terminology of, what’s the difference between SEO and SEM, and how do you figure out that keyword research? Where do you even start?

Lindsay:

That’s awesome. So, when I start with businesses, I usually ask them for a phrase that they use to search for their business and then I use that as a demo in a live version, like in a Zoom call, and I share my screen and I teach them about the real estate and I break it into blocks. So, I break Google into blocks and I talk about how dynamic it is, so we could all be seeing something a little different based on where we are and past search behavior, but you should understand, conceptually, that the top block are your paid ads, and then you have free listings and, within that, you have local search results and you might have [inaudible 00:36:40] people also ask, and you might have all sorts of different blocks coming in for different search queries.

Lindsay:

And so, at the outset, one of the early things they need to decide is which spaces are they going to invest their time and energy into? And it comes down to paid, organic, or both, typically. So, that’s the first dynamic that’s really important for people to understand. And then, they need to understand the concept of keywords next, because this is where we all hang our hopes and our expectations, is around keyword space, and most of us have either too small or too large of expectations. No one’s ever right in the middle when you first start chatting.

Lindsay:

And that’s where you want to come to. And I use Google search suggest. I don’t use data. I use brainstorming, and I start to type in a phrase and I see what the search suggest options are, and if the phrase I start to type in doesn’t appear in search suggest, that means probably no one’s searching for it, so you’re going too narrow. You’re looking to rank number one for something that’s going to drive zero traffic and zero sales.

Lindsay:

On the other hand, we’ll work with somebody in the e-commerce space and they’ll say, I want to rank number one for mugs. And I’ll say, okay, yeah, no problem. Brand new website, I think we’re going to have to get more specific than that. Tell me more about your business. Well, we do wholesale. Okay. Is wholesale and bulk, are those the same ideas? Okay, great. Now, tell me about your mugs. Are they just run of the mill or are they all the same color or are they for a specific thing like printing your logo on? And we start to build this out and we start to demonstrate that there’s demand for that more long-tail or longer phrase.

Lindsay:

And so, I do a lot of that education very early on to get everybody on the same page because it’s happened before that I’ve done an SEO project and a client then later, this was years ago, was like, oh, I thought we were doing Google ads. I’m like, how do we intercommunicate on that topic?

Tracy:

Wow.

Lindsay:

Yeah. That’s bad, right? Or we’ll have people that’ll come in and they’ll sign up for both and then they can’t differentiate the two and they don’t understand, why are we talking about ad spend here and this there? The vocabulary is hard, and so I try, from a vocabulary standpoint, to pull out industry jargon and replace it with words people understand so when they’re like, “I’m looking for SEO,” I say, okay, great, let’s talk about how to get your website found on Google. And instead of talking about an XML sitemap, I’m like, yeah, this is like your website’s resume. You just need to file it away, it needs to be accurate and up to date, but then no one’s really looking at it. Okay, they nod your head, and that concept fits in their brain and we’re good to go and can move on.

Angela:

I remember, at Word Camp, there was a talk on breaking down all this terminology to make it user friendly. Was that you?

Lindsay:

I’ve given that talk a couple of times.

Angela:

Yeah.

Lindsay:

So, it could have been me. There could have been somebody else giving a similar talk out there. Yeah, we talk about that. We also, from learning SEO, and I think this is probably true of learning anything in the digital space, you need scaffolding to hang each lesson on and I didn’t get that when I learned SEO. I learned on the job by reading and doing and I learned in a series of a million different tasks in an array that other people would tell me to do; go write page titles, go write this piece of content; go fix these broken links.

Lindsay:

And I was like, okay, okay, and I just kept doing, and people were seeing results, but I really had no idea how all these things fit together or how somebody would know that I should go and do that. I just followed assignments. And it took me about a year and going to a couple conferences to be like, oh, okay, I get it. This is technical SEO. This is content. This is onsite optimization. This is offsite SEO. And this is why each of these things are important and why you need a foundation in each area and here’s how to look at a website and say that their strengths are these and their weaknesses or opportunities are these in a broader picture.

Lindsay:

And so, we try to really start the story with our clients and with our training at Pathfinder around the concept of four pillars of SEO so that everyone has something to hang a learning or a lesson on, being, okay, I’m in the world of technical SEO right now and here are the big pieces of that and here’s why this is important. But it took me forever to figure that stuff out.

Amy:

I find most of the business owners I work with, they really want SEO, they want to understand it and they want to do it themselves, but they don’t have the time to learn it or to understand it, and then they get very frustrated that they’re not seeing progress, but then they think that they’re going to be able to do it one day and it’s going to work.

Tracy:

It’s like a button. It’s like SEO.

Angela:

Just do the SEO. Could you do the SEO?

Amy:

Right? It’s like I did this and that and nothing, I did all this last week and I’m not seeing any changes. I have a hard time portraying how they need to set their expectations in a realistic way for what results actually look like.

Lindsay:

I think that’s the name of the game, is setting those expectations around the concept that SEO’s a long-term initiative. That being said, the flip side is that it’s not a forever initiative. You should start to see results, not a year from now, but earlier than that. But that they snowball and so these steps add together and the results get to be cumulative and what it looks like for a business that’s been doing SEO for 10 years on versus for six months, they have vastly different traffic profiles, obviously.

Lindsay:

And it’s really helpful to have stories to tell in these moments so that you can figure out what this client is like that you’ve seen somewhere else and tell them a predictive story around what happened in that scenario. And so, yeah, you can see we’ve got our e-commerce stories, we’ve got our brand new business stories, right? They never had a website, they just invented this new business, they built a website, what should they expect? What’s somebody that’s been around blogging once a week but not having any professional SEO help, what should they expect out of their results? And having some predictive stories.

Lindsay:

And then, also, some of it is my responsibility and some of it isn’t. So, I can build improvement sand keyword rankings and get them more exposure, but I can’t control that fewer people searched for Portland Vacations or New York City hotels in the past year. And so, we can’t control some external factors and we can’t predict traffic, but we should be able to communicate and realign expectations as we go and say, okay, now that I’m in here, I’ve said this, hey, I didn’t think your industry space was going to be so competitive when we first did our analysis, but look what I’m seeing. This is working well, and look at the stuff I thought would work really well that isn’t. And instead of finger pointing in that scenario, the client’s like, thanks for sharing those insights with me. That makes sense because X, Y, and Z, external things, and then you’re all on the same page.

Lindsay:

So, it’s all about communication with businesses and the people who the traffic matters to.

Amy:

So, before we go, I have one question that might be longer. And this has probably never happened to you, but you go and you do the SEO and you work really hard and it just bombs and you don’t see results. Have you ever had that happen and what do you do?

Lindsay:

Yeah, so, typically I wouldn’t say it bombs because we don’t lose ground. We usually just don’t meet expectations, right? So, we start in on a project in a space and we have that predictive story. It was even a predictive story we were telling ourselves about what would happen for this website. And then, six months into the project, we don’t see the results that we’re looking for. And so, that’s where I usually pause, try to get on a phone conversation, this isn’t an email with the decision makers and the people involved, and I tell them the story; hey, this is where we’re seeing traction, this is where we’re not seeing traction. I would’ve expected to see this traction here. How do you feel about it?

Lindsay:

And I keep it open ended, right? So, I’m feeling disappointed about the results because I thought we’d have more here and then I wait to hear back from them and if they come back and say, hey, we get it, this is going to take more time, then I’m ready to say, okay, great, let’s talk about the [inaudible 00:45:13] things we need to do. We have to double down our efforts, we have to work out harder to get into this space. And so, I just try to stay ahead of it so that it’s not that it bombed, it’s that we didn’t meet our expectations. Some things worked, some things didn’t, and if I’m transparent about what didn’t work, [inaudible 00:45:30] everybody thinking together about what we need to do to get into that space or say, hey, we’re going to throw in the towel here, right?

Lindsay:

So, we had a budget and we’ve been spending and we’ve been working hard and we’ve been doing all the things that normally work and we’ve been doing this for long enough to know what that normal is and so we let the business owner, they’re not on a 12 month contract. They can say, you know what? I’ve put in as much effort here as I want. Maybe I’ll do paid advertising to get into that space. So, it’s all about communicating and making sure that everybody is in alignment and reorienting a strategy three, six, nine months down the road.

Angela:

The nice thing about SEO is you can approach it from so many different prongs. It’s not just all about the syrup, it’s what are other ways we drive traffic to your site?

Lindsay:

Exactly, and so you might have to pivot and say, we’re not going to get an end road here, so we’re going to start getting in front of our audience via a different set of key words or with a different approach.

Angela:

Or social media, that kind of thing, or an e-newsletter. Whatever. There’s just so many ways to get those people in.

Lindsay:

Exactly. And so, sometimes, yeah, we work ourselves out of a job and say, we came to this roadblock and now I think you should go and try something else in this space or, hey, I think we should keep trying, but we’ve got to either try harder or try in a different way or we all need to be doing this or something like that and make sure everyone has some good buy in there.

Angela:

Well, I think what’s so unique about you, what I miss about with a lot of SEOs and I know we’re starting to run over, is that you actually do focus on content, and so many SEOs, they call themselves SEOs, but all that they’re doing is paid search, and that’s not SEO, that’s paid search, but they call themselves SEO companies, but they don’t… I’ve rarely, if ever, seen a professional SEO company even touch a website, do anything with technical, do anything with content, nothing. And they’re getting paid $2,000 a month and they’ve never even been inside the website.

Lindsay:

Yeah, that happens. We’ll get a new account and we’re like, okay, we should probably remove the old company, and they’re like, remove them from where? And I’m like, from WordPress, the users, and they’re like, no, why would they have had access to our website? I’m like, oh, okay. Well, I know I have a blank slate. That’s good news. But that’s a big part of my motivation in the SEO space, is I get sad when I hear these stories from business owners who paid $2,000 a month or whatever those figures might be and had a bad experience. It really doesn’t reflect well on the industry space.

Lindsay:

And I think part of the solution to that is empowering the designers and the developers who already know the customer, who already know the customer’s businesses, and who know the website to go through and do these things, because they can be the quarterback, they can be steering that ship really successfully and delivering so much more value than somebody that labels themselves as an SEO or an SEO agency. And so, that’s a lot of what we’re trying to do at Pathfinder.

Angela:

Yeah. And you’re one of the only SEOs I’ve ever met who even knows what happens inside of WordPress.

Lindsay:

And I can only scratch the surface. Every time I learn something new, I’m like, how did I not know that. Oh my gosh!

Angela:

No. It’s amazing. You’re very unique and it’s been so lovely to have you here.

Lindsay:

Well, thank you so much. Really enjoyable chatting with you all and thank you so much for your time.

Amy:

Can you tell our listeners where they can find you online?

Lindsay:

Sure. Lindsay@pathfinderseo is my email and I’m also on Twitter and, yeah, reach out anytime, SEO questions, you can probably tell, I like to talk about SEO and I’m happy to help in any way I can.

Tracy:

Thanks for listening. Follow us at Instagram and Twitter or join our Facebook group. We would be honored if you subscribed to the show. You can find us on Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, and iTunes.

Tracy:

Finally, if you want to be on the show or know someone who would, visit our website at womeninwp.com. Until next time.

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