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SEO: How to Sweat the Right Stuff
3rd March 2015 • Hit Publish • Rainmaker.FM
00:00:00 00:29:02

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Search engine optimization helps people find the useful content you’re creating. But does it need to be a full-time job?

Today’s guests don’t think so.

This week on Hit Publish, I’ve invited three Copyblogger experts to share their best advice on optimizing for search the easy way.

Discover how to make SEO part of your content routine so the content you create will stand out.

Tune in to hear from Sean Jackson, Katy Barrileaux, and Jerod Morris as we discuss:

  • Why the term “SEO” is out-of-date, and what we should be calling it instead
  • The bare minimum requirements you need to optimize a page or post
  • How to target older content and optimize it so it’s easier to find

Listen to Hit Publish below ...

The Show Notes

The Transcript

SEO: How to Sweat the Right Stuff

Pamela Wilson: I wanted to call this episode “SEO in Ten Minutes a Day,” which might seem a little hard to believe, so I’ll find another name.

But between you and me, I’m pretty sure that ten minutes a day spent applying what you are about to learn will make a world of difference to how easily your site can be found on the web.

Welcome to Hit Publish, where I cover simple ways to get better results with your online business. This is Pamela Wilson of Copyblogger Media.

This week I’m bringing in Copyblogger team members to share their answers to your online marketing questions and show you how to build a business that grows your profits.

I want to thank you for downloading this podcast and I want to thank Rainmaker.FM for hosting it. Ready to talk SEO? Let’s Hit Publish.

Why the Term SEO is Out-of-Date, and What We Should Be Calling it Instead

Today we’ll start with Sean Jackson. You know, just about everyone at Copyblogger has multiple skills: I think it might be some kind of requirement for working here. Our Chief Financial Officer, Sean, has a strong background in search engine optimization (SEO). He helped develop our Scribe SEO product, which makes optimizing your content for search really easy. And that’s why I wanted to tap Sean for this first question because it’s kind of a biggie.

You see, SEO is always changing, so I asked Sean to tell us about the state of SEO today.

Sean Jackson: The reality is, I’ll make it change even more. SEO is dead.

Pamela Wilson: Oh, no!

Sean Jackson: I know. It’s something I wrote about last year on Copyblogger. There was the number one post on Google+, and it s where I outline why the term SEO is really just not applicable anymore.

It used to be this idea of a black box and a mystery, and you had to know some secret formula to get your stuff to the top of Google. It always inevitably had some spammy connotations and quite frankly I think the term is no longer useful. I think the tactics are, but I don’t think the term is right. I think there is a new term we should be using.

Pamela Wilson: All right, I want to hear about this new term then.

Sean Jackson: That new term really cuts to the heart of anything that you do in content marketing, which is once you have written that content, you are going to want people to see it. You want to do things that maximize this exposure.

So I’ve come up with a new term called MCD (Maximizing Content Discovery) because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s really about. It’s not a black box. It’s not a mystery. It’s not a spammy thing. It is the things that you need to do to maximize the ability for people to discover your content.

You know, if I said to you “SEO,” people immediately think Google, right?

Pamela Wilson: Right.

Sean Jackson: But reality is that we discover content in a lot of different channels now. We go to Amazon and that’s a way to discover content. We go to Instagram. We go to Pinterest. We go to LinkedIn. We go to Twitter. We are now discovering content in a variety of different sources and sure, Google has a big chunk of that content discovery, but they are not the only ones anymore.

A recent shift has happened where Google has lost some market share, and now Yahoo is coming back to be important. But I think that will fracture more. I know a lot of mommy bloggers out there that swear that Pinterest is one of the best ways for their audience to discover their content.

So let’s stop using this term “SEO” and really focus on which is what we all want the ability to maximize the discovery of this content. Our MCD.

Pamela Wilson: I love that idea.

So what does that break down to on a daily basis? What do we need to be doing to make sure we can maximize content discovery?

Sean Jackson: That’s a great question and I think the good news is, you may be doing it already. But sometimes it’s always in the details. I’ll give a great example.

If you’re trying to maximize your content, then one of the ways to expose your content more is by putting share buttons on a post.

In Rainmaker we have these really nice ways and elegant ways of putting share buttons on a post. So you want to make sure they are there and they are obvious. You need to make sure that people know they can click it. But even more important is the text that you put into those share buttons, that would appear in that tweet stream or on that LinkedIn post. Because that’s also something that people need to concentrate on. It’s not the headline that you put on your page.

The nice thing about a page is it has context, it has imagery, it has more that could establish that headline but if you are trying to share something out there, that title and description that you put on that page has got to sustain itself with all the competition that is out there.

So I think that is a very easy way of looking at this MCD approach. You know, making sure that those titles and descriptions that are put into those sharing capability are exactly what you think will draw the audience in. It doesn’t have to match and probably in some cases shouldn’t match what the headline on the page is. And I think that’s really important. I think focusing on those two elements helps people to discover your content easier.

Pamela Wilson: I always tell people that the title and the description are like an ad that you are writing for your content. So it sounds like I’m not too far off.

Sean Jackson: You’re 100% correct. And I think let’s go a little deeper in that because they are the ad for your content.

But you know, search engines are discovery engines. They are also very smart but they need help. And out of all the years that I have been doing optimization efforts and I have read a lot of academic papers on information retrieval, there’s a lot of algorithms out there. There’s a whole society of information retrieval scientists out there, and while I am not smart enough to be a member of it, I can at least read what they write.

I want to tell you some things that have never changed in the numerous years that I have been researching this.

Number one: what type of keyword you use really does matter. Now there are some changes that Google did in their discovery engine but certainly some of the other sources are not as sophisticated but it doesn’t matter. At the heart of it is the keywords you use, and they will always will matter. And not only do they matter to make it something that the user can identify with, which is the most important, but also so that these algorithms and indexing systems can properly take your content and put it in its place.

So keyword is very important but it’s important, not just for the term itself, but it’s also in its usage. You want to use it in the title. You want to use it in the description. You want to use it frequently in the content.

Now discovery engines are getting a lot better but at the end of the day, they still have to have a term or terms to center off of. And if you are not taking the time to put those keywords in your title, in your description, so they appear in your social media sharing, so they appear in the HTML of your page, and you are not using those terms frequently in your content, then you are really hamstringing yourself.

Pamela Wilson: So we can’t ask them to think for us. We really do have to help them along.

Sean Jackson: That’s true.

And the other thing that helps them along is if you write long content. That’s another thing that blows people away. The more content you put in a post or in a page, the easier it is for a discovery system to understand what you are talking about.

So if you are using images, describe those images. If you have a post that you are writing, you don’t just want 200 or 300 words. At a minimum you want 500 to 700 words. This seems to be the most optimal amount because you are giving more information to these discovery engines so they can properly understand it. “Okay, you are using this term. You are using other terms related to it. This page/post etc must be about that.”

So it’s keywords, it’s frequency of those keywords and it’s the length of the document. In the 15-20 years that we have been really talking about this idea of SEO, it really hasn’t fundamentally changed. They really just don’t change.

Pamela Wilson: It’s good to know that some of the basics are still around but we also need to focus on maximizing content discovery, by making sure that as we spread things around, the right message is getting out to people.

Sean Jackson: Absolutely and each of these discovery engines and I like to think of them that way. It’s not search engines but discovery engines. Each discovery engine has something that it keys off of.

In the case of Twitter, it’s about the number of retweets that you had. It’s the number of people that are talking about that particular thing that you put out there.

In the case of Google, it’s links.

In the case of LinkedIn, it’s shares.

And in the case of Pinterest, it’s pins.

See, that is something that I think people who grew up with SEO started to understand. This content that I am creating has to have some sort of engagement, so that these discovery engines can figure it out and put it on their radar screen. “This is something that other people find valuable.” We all know about links with Google, right? But Twitter, Pinterest, there’s a lot of pinning or retweeting to amplify discovery.

That’s why I really go back to this idea that it’s not just SEO anymore. It’s like when I started in technology. I use to run a bulletin board system. Anybody talk about BBS these days? No, of course not because the term no longer applies, even though the technology is very similar to what we call forums.

Pamela Wilson: Right.

Sean Jackson: What I look at is, how do I as a novice understand this stuff? SEO was too scary but maximizing the discovery of my content through discovery engines, where I know my audience is, that’s something you can control. That’s something you can do today and it doesn’t require anything more than understanding your keywords and making sure they are easy to find.

Pamela Wilson: It sounds like you’re doing some of the heavy lifting and you are letting other people who share your content do some of the heavy lifting for the search engines?

Sean Jackson: Of course, because again, I’m not saying that the number of retweets matters in the discovery system but what does matter is that the more people retweet something, the broader the ability for you to have your content discovered, right?

Pamela Wilson: Right.

Sean Jackson: That’s why the terms we use matter because I’m not worried about gaming a system or trying to get a 1000 bots on Twitter to like something, or whatever the thing you are trying to black hat or spam something. What you are really trying to say is, “You know what, if I can get someone like a Chris Garrett to retweet something that I have posted out there, his reach is going to be substantial, or Brian Clark who has a huge following.

You know, that to me probably matters more that I’m maximizing the discovery, the content discovery process by getting one person out there to use whatever engagement that channel has, and then they replicate it and they replicate it and they replicate it. That’s what matters more than a black box type of thing.

Pamela Wilson: Sean’s radical recommendation? “Stop being obsessed with SEO and spend your energy writing good, solid content instead.”

Here’s a hint, that’s not the first time you are going to hear that advice on this podcast it’s kind of a running theme.

Before we continue with my other guests, I want to let you know that will still have some tickets available for the Authority Rainmaker event in Denver, Colorado this May.

I’ll be speaking, but I’m one of just many, many speakers. You’ll hear from Dan Pink, Sally Hogshead and in what I am quite sure will be a memorable presentation punk legend Henry Rollins. This event is so cool. It’s set up so you can get a really firm foundation under your online business.

We’ll be covering design, content, traffic, and conversion in that order. You’ll hear from some of the best in the industry and we’ll have a chance to hang out during three daily meals, which are included, and also at some amazing parties. I mean, you can’t be in study mode the whole time, right?

Authority Rainmaker is held in Denver, Colorado. As I said, it’s this May and it’s going to be at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, which is a beautiful space and a great place to get inspired and think big about your business.

If you are a Hit Publish listener, I would love to see you there. Learn more at rainmaker.fm/event.

The Bare Minimum Requirements You Need to Optimize a Page or Post

Katy Barrilleaux is next. Katy is head of Quality Assurance and has been steeped in the development of our Scribe product since day one, which means of course that she’s up-to-date on what works for search.

I found myself scribbling notes as we spoke. Katy’s answer is full of pragmatic advice that you can use right now. So get your pencil ready, and listen to Katy tell us what the minimum requirements are for SEO on a page or a blog post.

Katy Barrilleaux: There are a few things you can do that will really help your content rank well and fortunately you don’t have to have a lot of technical knowledge.

The one most important thing is to write quality content. The saying is, “Write well, to rank well.”

Everyone says that. Google says that. It’s the one most important thing. If you are writing content for the readers and not the search engine bots, it has to be content that is ideally focused on a singular subject matter or topic.

You have to provide a lot of really valuable information on that topic, that when a human visitor comes to that page and finds valuable information, then the search engines are going to find that that’s a valuable page that they should want to include in their search results.

Pamela Wilson: It’s almost like search engines are behaving more like people now than they used to.

Katy Barrilleaux: Oh, absolutely. That’s what they are trying to do. Their goal is trying to pretend they are a human searching for this word and if I’m searching for “content marketing,” then what are the pages that as a human I want to see. What will give me the answer to that question?

Now they are having to look at longer search terms and some words can mean different things, in different context and so that’s what the search engines are trying to figure out. And they are doing a really good job of it.

But you know, the bottom line is, for all these people who are trying to trick search engines and trick keywords and things, if you just focus on your writing being valuable pieces of information, then it’s going to do well.

A lot of times I hear people asking, “Well, how long does it need to be?” And there really isn’t a minimum or maximum. There’s not a set limit.

Pamela Wilson: I’ve always heard like 300 words but actually that number seems to vary, so it sounds like it’s more about quality than links.

Katy Barrilleaux: Absolutely. I tend to tell...

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