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Hi, this is Alex and Mike with Sage Digital Agency here today to talk to you about actionable steps that you can take to improve your website’s SEO from home. We’re in a crazy time right now. Everybody’s locked in and thought, let’s create some content that speaks specifically to the small business owner that is at home, has more time than usual and is looking to improve their website.

That’s right. SEO is a service that it’s certainly been around for a while. It’s arguably the foundation to search rankings on the internet. It’s something that’s often overlooked because of the amount of time and commitment and cost that it has on trying to outsource it. It’s a little technical, little black box ish. I think a lot of people just don’t know where to start.

Unlike Google ads or Facebook ads where it’s paid placement, you’re paying for a specific spot. You’re paying to be shown. SEO and content doesn’t really work that way. It’s an organic position. Ultimately it’ll help bring down your cost if you’re doing any other sort of paid advertising, because you’ll start getting organic traffic, which will bring you more traffic at no cost. It’s not guaranteed, but what is guaranteed, you’re going to rank somewhere. You could be on page one, you could be on page 200. Realistically, if you’re not on page one, maybe two, you might as well not be-

Might as well not be there at all.

Exactly. Building your SEO and your content strategy is really like building a foundation to a house. You’re not just going to put random bricks and concrete and just build it. You’re going to start with a solid foundation. You’re going to have a blueprint. You’re going to have a plan. You’re going to know exactly what’s going where, and you’re going to be accounting for the things that need to go in the foundation. before you start laying flooring, you’re going to have your plumbing and your electrical done and whatnot. But the important thing is to sort of take that scenario and transition that into your seen content and your SEO strategy.

Mike, you want to talk about some technical aspects first. What are some basic technical things that again, a small business owner maybe without a wide variety of web experience, can actually get done in the near future?

Sure. We’ll try to keep this as very focused on what can you do yourself. Some of this will need your web developer or if you build your website yourself, you can go through and look at it. The technical issues and your loading speed, that’s your foundation. If you have technical issues on your website, if things aren’t coded correctly, if you don’t have the correct headings and the images aren’t tagged, you’re going to be doing a lot of work and you’re going to be putting yourself at a disadvantage, because it’s going to take a lot more of that work to get the same results if you have a good foundation.

You should think of these technical issues as almost like a health check. You go in, you take a look at your site, you make sure you don’t have pages on there that you don’t need any more. You make sure that the site’s able to load fast. You make sure it’s mobile friendly. Often businesses are only looking at their website from their desktop, because it’s during business hours, but what about mobile?

If your customers are possibly looking at your site from their mobile device, you need to be looking at it from that side as well. It’s certainly crucial and again, even if you’re not tech savvy and SEO savvy, you can try to find some time to dig through some of these issues on your website. Fix the critical ones, that’s probably the most important. Even if you can get down the content and you have the right blog posts, if you have technical issues, the rest of the stuff isn’t going to really matter.

I’d certainly recommend starting with doing a basic audit, looking at some things just to see if your site’s loading correctly. You can start with Google search console, it’s a free service through Google. You can check to make sure that your site is being indexed by Google. Make sure that it’s found, because if your site is not indexed, it’s not going to show up anywhere. So if you can’t figure out why you’re not getting any traffic, oftentimes, if you built your site yourself, there’s a development setting that’s on most websites by default that does not allow a site that’s in development to be indexed. And oftentimes I see people who say, “Oh, well I can’t get any organic traffic.” I go in, it takes me two seconds to look, they never took it off of development mode.

I mean, making sure that the site is able to be index is important. Fixing any broken links or redirects is very important. Oftentimes people will move pages and maybe there’s a link that they shared with someone, whether they shared it in an email or it’s on maybe a chamber of commerce website or something. Or you get a guest post on a specific subject and you linked out to your website. If you’re an attorney and maybe you were doing DUI cases and you had a content piece on DUI and then all of a sudden for whatever reason the page got renamed or you switched it or you combined it. People often forget, they think they just change the links. The problem is Google might have that link. You might be ranking on page two and then someone clicks on that link and it goes to a 404 or an error page. Certainly making sure you don’t have any broken links or redirects that don’t work is certainly important.

At the end of the day, it really brings up valuable things for the customer, even if they don’t know where to start, at least they can look into it. At least it can begin to see, maybe I do have issues. We’ll start with optimizing. Optimizing your blog or the website for the loading time is one of the easiest fixes that people often don’t look at. Sometimes they’ll load, and you know Alex better than anyone, they will send you these massive images and 10 meg images, 15 meg images. Meanwhile, most sites compress them anyways, but if your website is trying to load a massive image, think about it. If you’re on mobile and someone that has a slower internet connection, it’s going to take that much longer for that image to load. They don’t use the plugins to minimize the CSS or the HTML or anything technical on the back side.

I’ll go as far as to compress as much as possible via tool that I use personally on my desktop before ever uploading anything to the site and then there’s tools on the site will further compress them from there.

Sure. I mean, look, Google flat out says that faster pages rank higher. There’s a lot of things regarding SEO and paid search that Google will give guidelines, but they don’t actually give definitive answers. This is one thing that Google flat out says, faster websites, higher rankings. The first thing you want to do is make sure that your website is as fast as possible. There’s all sorts of webpage speed test and Google has one and it shows different errors. In order to get the website to reach the 100 mark, you pretty much have to have a one page site, no images, one-line attacks. You can see these case studies about these super technical builds where someone tries to get a 100 on it, it’s almost impossible. And that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be. But you also want to make sure that you’re not ranking 50 percentile or lower or you have a C,D, F. I mean anywhere in the A, B ranges is pretty good.

I think to start off by making sure that URLs are still valid. Maybe you’re a restaurant, maybe you made a spring menu and you uploaded it as a spring menu and then you took it down when you uploaded your summer menu. Sometimes it’s not known about redirects or someone forgot to do anything. That spring menu might have ranked, and then someone clicks on it. You don’t have that spring menu, it needs to go somewhere. Like you said, image compression, very important. It’ll make the images smaller. It does not decrease the quality of it, but it’ll make the physical file size smaller. There’s a lot of metadata that’s stored in images, like the type of camera that it was used or the shutter speed or the geolocation, in some cases. It’s all this data that’s on the back of a camera but no one needs it.

Certainly a website doesn’t need to have it, so by compressing the data, removes it and will certainly help with the loading. Server response time, very important and it’ll help make sure if you have a server or if you use some sort of shared server, there’s certainly nothing wrong with some of these big box if you will, providers. However, when you’re on a shared space, Alex you can certainly vouch to do the issues that people have with shared hosting.

I’ll give you one story. I like to tell stories, here’s a story. I spent a couple of months developing a site with probably 150, 180 different products that were military grade and the clients selling to the military. And we put in, I can’t even quantify a couple hundred hours of development time into this site, and I said to the client, “Hey, GoDaddy is not the place to have this website. I’m telling you, do not do it. It is very foolish to spend all of this effort to develop something and then go throw it on a GoDaddy shared hosting environment.”

They didn’t agree with me. Whatever the case was, we did the transfer to GoDaddy, and I mean the loading times, Mike, it’s horrific. It’s horrific. You’re literally like seeing the image show up in like five segments. You know what I’m talking about, the loading?

right? There’s a reason why it’s so cheap. There’s a reason that they’re charging $10 a month to host. They’re taking your site and they’re adding 20 other people’s sites and it’s all on one shared space. And what happens, someone doesn’t maintain their WordPress site, they let plugins get hacked or intentionally or not unintentionally. They don’t update their backend. And now you have 15 other sites that are running very slowly that’s bringing your loading time higher.

I cannot figure it out. Again, we’ve spent all of this time, this money, this effort to develop a premier product, which is the website. Why would you then go and throw it on a shared hosting environment somewhere with the GoDaddy or some like service? By the way, the hosting is only a part of it. What about maintenance of the plugins and just basic stuff that you should be doing on an ongoing basis to ensure that the site is optimally running? None of that happens with GoDaddy unless you want to go down the managed WordPress route, which is a complete disaster.

Right. We’ll try to transition into some of the actual aspects that as a business owner you could do yourself, but a couple of things just to note before we move into there. Things that you can either do yourself if you have the technical background or bring up to your developer. Again, we’ve touched on the redirects, we’ve touched on the image compression server response time. You want to make sure that you’re leveraging browser caching, you’ve minified any sort of server resources or file resources. Images are optimized. You’re using a firewall to prevent bots from taking up your bandwidth. Your CSS is written clean and it’s used over some sort of content delivery system. You want to make sure that you’re prioritizing the visible content to load first. For example, you want your images to show up before some sort of calculator that you might have or LinkedIn page and you want to make sure you’re not really blocking any sort of JavaScript. And if you’re not familiar with that, feel free to reach out to us or speak to your developer and they can certainly help.

There are tools that are available that either the agency has or that you can buy yourself that can handle a lot of this type of thing of what we’re talking about here. These aren’t extremely costly solutions, but that you have to know the right ones to utilize and how to integrate them into the site, and so that they play well with the other things that are working in the background to ensure that everything is in a healthy status.

For those who are small business owners who do not have a technical background, just remember you need the big items fixed. Do not overthink the small ones. Don’t ignore them, but everything doesn’t have to be, some things are more important than others. What’s more important? Once you have your foundation structured and you’re good with the technical aspects, now you need to figure out what type of content you actually want to put together to make this whole thing sort of pay off, to get people to your site organically, to make sure your site’s ranking on page one, on page two in Google.

So what do you do? As a business owner, I figure we need to be looking six to nine months out, what’s important? If you’re a seasonal business, I would focus on a season on the opposite side of the year, because it’s going to take some time, this is not an ATM. This is not an automatic thing. It’s not guaranteed. It will take time. It will take work. It does work well though when it’s done correctly.

As a business owner, if I was a closet company and if I was starting to put together a content strategy, I would first think at what point would people most likely be looking to redo their closets? Again, my guess is not going to happen during the fall, but I would think that in the new year people are going to be looking for home renovations. Maybe in the summer when they have a little more time. New home buyers, I would certainly look at some of those sort of segments and I would craft content specifically… That’s a great example. I would take a couple segments, so let’s say we want to take people who are motivated right after the new year to redo their closet, and then I would also take new home buyers.

I would take those two items and break them into separate segments. And you’re going to create a long form piece of content. Think anywhere from no less than 1200 words, but as much as 2000 words to get started. You do not want to use repetitive text or just wasteful or useless content, but you would start writing to a new home buyer on, here’s what to look for when building out your perfect closet. Here’s what you need to consider. You can give other value points of, here’s things that people often forget about in their closet. Whether it’s drawers or space, or how doors open or how much shelves you need or ventilation. And for someone who has a big closet, if there’s no ventilation in there, they’re not going to want to spend a lot of time there. So you imagine building out a closet and then there’s always hot or mold issues or something like that.

So I would certainly start writing content about that and you can transition it. Once you have your ideas and you have your goals, if you’re going to write it for a new home buyers, you’re going to want to be able to start figuring out what’s going to be important to a new home buyer. They’re either going to be building out a closet themselves if it’s a custom house, or maybe they’re going to want to redo a master closet. And you can really touch on those two things, but you want to make sure that they’re very distinctly separated in the actual content. And if they’re not able to be connected, probably be best to put that content into a separate article.

Mike, just as you’re talking, I’m getting all these ideas. Look, this same person could write content to real estate agents that could then maybe refer new home buyers to them and it can be so many topics of which one could intelligently write about. And again, I think it’s really great to speak directly to the person you wish that would contact you, right?

100%. That article, that content piece that you write needs to be written for a specific segment needs to be written for a person. It’s not a general, here’s why we’re a great come buy from us. But here’s why we would be a good fit or this persona. You 100% want to write to a specific person. You also need to have a goal in mind. What’s the goal of this piece of content? It could be to be in the top 10 of Google on the first page. It could be to have your piece included in some sort of industry publication. It could be to get 50 signups for a mailing list off at the bottom of your form. It could be to get X amount of page visitors. There’s not a right or wrong answer, but you do want to make sure it’s reasonable, that you have end goals of you’re spending the time to put together the content.

You want to make sure you have some sort of goal so you know at what point do you evaluate the success of it. Now that the post is written and the goals are set, I assume your site has no technical issues and the new post or article or page is able to get indexed by Google. The next thing is to start to optimize that post. It’s not a one and done type of deal. There’s optimizations. For something like closets, it might not change a whole lot month to month. Certainly over a period of years you could optimize it, new styles, new trends, new technologies that come in that you could address and you can build on it. You want to make sure that whatever you’re writing about or initially wrote about, if you’re a lawyer for instance, laws can change. You want to make sure that your post is relevant and you don’t want to delete it.

You would want to update it. In updating it, maybe you add another trend that you find that people are asking about. You can add to each item doesn’t have to be on its own. You do want quality. You don’t want what’s called thin content as in a blog post that’s two paragraphs, that’s not going to be good. But longer form content ranks better. You have more keywords, you’re able to get your organic rankings to be higher. Those elements are certainly important. Now as you’re trying to optimize, you can always answer a question. You can add in like a checklist somewhere in the middle, maybe 15 things that people tend to forget about in their closets. Or if you’re a lawyer, you could do five things you need to know about your rights at a DUI checkpoint. If you’re a contract attorney, you could make an article that says, “Don’t forget these 10 items and need to be in every single contract.”

Those numbered checklists are very valuable. You could also include a sub article of a guide or a how-to tutorial. All these things make for excellent content, but you always want to make sure that whenever you’re putting into the content is providing value to the user. That’s the most important thing and I think that often gets overlooked.

Agreed. It’s all about value. It’s not about just saying something to say. It’s about, again speaking directly to your ideal customer, who you’re speaking to in that article and providing the most value that’s possible and over time and adding to it. I think that’s all really great.

And you said spot on, over time. You do want to optimize it. You want to add links to other pages on your site from that article, but you need to give it time, a few months. There’s a reason why SEO takes time.

Google needs to understand who’s visiting it, what actions do they take, what contents on there? And some of them will just take time for other people’s to their posts fall off or change positions, but it certainly takes time. And optimizing a post to make sure it’s relevant is important, but it’s not something that should be done on a weekly basis. Perhaps you could edit it if you have a handful of posts. There’s nothing wrong with editing it monthly or bimonthly or quarterly. You probably don’t want it to go a year, but to do it a couple times a year is probably a good practice for most businesses. Once this content is done, and it’s optimized and you’re in your flow. What’s next? Outreach and link building.

Mike, I think it’s outreach and link building.

Correct. So what do you do? There’s various opinions out there on how much the actual links play into it. Now, Google is very, very good at being able to understand what’s a paid link. Going on a site like Fiverr, paying someone five bucks to get your website on 20 pages of various sites is going to do you nothing good. In fact, if Google sees that you’re doing paid links, it would not be uncommon for them to remove your website altogether. Meaning you will never be found. That’s worst case scenario.

Best case scenario, they see you’re doing paid links. They just say those links are worthless. Meaning, you’re wasting your time and money trying to get someone to do paid placement. And there’s a lot of good ways to ask for a position, and there’s many good ways to ask for a potential link from someone else. Again, if I was a closet company and I had a good blog post for new homeowners, I would start reaching out to real estate agents or construction companies. Show that you have a good blog posts that adds value, that does not oversell your business, that they could then use to use free content to promote on their site.

If I was a real estate agent, at some point I’m going to get tired of writing about selling houses or a specific neighborhood. They could do a feature and use their content to promote. They would promote it to their audience, you could promote at specific a realtor or brokerage to your audience and you have the cross mix. Now you have a link. And over time Google starts to evaluate the links. Now, certainly a link from HGTV is going to carry much more weight than some random no-name blog.

But at the same time they also know that if you get X amount of links from various smaller blogs, it’ll begin to start to carry more weight. It’s not necessarily about the numbers, it’s certainly about the quality of the blogs. You wouldn’t want to post a blog on some sort of accountant’s website, but if it’s relevant and the people who would read that blog posts, potentially it could cross over to different verticals or the industry, it would prove to be a very valuable link for that specific business.

You can always cross promote on LinkedIn and social channels. There is weight, not a ton. Writing a blog post and sharing it on your Facebook isn’t going to get you on page one. But potentially you could spend time and find relevant blogs that would be of value that you think your customers might be looking at and reach out to them to get them to share it and more often than not many people if you have a quality article, they’ll often say, “Sure, no problem.”

It can be a simple email. “Hi, I’m Michael. I have this closet company. I wrote this blog post about things that new homeowners should look for when custom designing a closet. I think your audience would get a lot of value. I would appreciate you posting this if you find it of value.” That’s it. Simple, couple of lines, introduce yourself, make the connection, you can sign off on, “Love to catch up or talk about other opportunities.” And leave it at that. Nothing crazy, just something short, simple, straight forward. You certainly don’t want to write someone a book if it’s the first email. And reach out to them and that’s probably the best place to start for something like that.

I think these are all really good actionable things that can be done and you know what, look, can the average person without experience implement every single one of the things we talked about today? No. However, I think that being educated on the matter and being able to ask pointed questions to the developer or the marketing agency, whoever it is that you’re working with, I think brings a lot of value still. And I think that the more knowledgeable and the more up to date the owner of the website is, the better. Even if they themselves are not going to be doing the work, they can see the value in it, understand the value in certain things being done, and then give instructions for those things to be done on their behalf.

100%. And if all else, you’re not looking to do the SEO or the technical elements as a small business owner or manager yourself, these are the things that you certainly need to look for when looking for someone who potentially would do it for you. Or someone in house or your current marketing partner or whomever.

Agreed. You’ve gone over a lot of great points today, and I hope that our listeners will be able to implement some of these things and make them actionable and improve their search engine optimization rankings while we are all at home during these times.

Absolutely. And if you have any questions, feel free to always reach out to us.

Yes, that’s right. Have a good evening. Talk to you soon.