Episode 43 - How to Simplify SEO

How to Simplify SEO

Does SEO feel like a puzzle you can't figure out? If so, you're not alone. That’s why we’re going to attempt to demystify SEO today and show you how to simplify it with our special guest, Lorraine Ball from The Digital Toolbox.

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How to Simplify SEO



Tim Fitzpatrick
Does SEO feel like a puzzle that you just can't figure out, if so, you are not alone and that is why today we're going to attempt to demystify SEO and show you how to simplify it. I am Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing, where we believe marketing shouldn't be difficult. All you need is the right plan. I want to thank you so much for taking the time to tune in today. I am super excited to have with me Lorraine Ball from Digital Toolbox. Lorraine, welcome and thank you for taking the time to be here.

Lorraine Ball
I am so excited to be here. Thanks for the invite.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes, absolutely. And I know we, uh, before we jumped on, we were talking about kind of our marketing philosophies. And I love the fact that we share very similar philosophies about marketing. You got to focus on those fundamentals first and then you can start to get tactical. So I'm really looking forward to digging into how we can simplify SEO. But before we do that, I want to learn more about you. But I want to also just always like to start things off with a kind of a fun fact. What's you looking forward to in 2021? 2020 was a strange one. What are you looking forward to this year.

Lorraine Ball
I'm really looking forward to getting back out and traveling. That's my happy place in between work. I really like to get on the road. I love to travel internationally. I have a feeling that's going to wait for 2022. But we've got some road trips for the second half of the year. My husband's never been up to New England. I want to do the Pacific Northwest. That's my happy place for 2021.

Tim Fitzpatrick
OK, that sounds fun. I so for me, I'm an outdoors person. I love getting out, being active. One of the things in my family and I did last summer for the first time was stand up paddleboarding and it was so much fun. So as we came and we both stand up paddleboards on a Thanksgiving Black Friday special. So we are really looking forward to getting out and doing that over the summer. Obviously, I'm in Colorado, so I'm not staying up paddleboarding right now. But come come May and June, we will be and we're looking forward to that. So

Lorraine Ball
Sounds great.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, I think no matter what's going on, we got to find things to look forward to, that's for sure. So tell us a little bit more about you, your background, what you're doing at Digital Toolbox? I know you also have marketing agencies, so just tell us a little bit more about that.

Lorraine Ball
So the short answer, because I could talk about myself forever and we don't have that much time. I'm a former corporate marketing girl. I started RoundPeg, which is a digital agency today, is a traditional marketing agency 19 years ago, and we morphed into digital as digital became kind of the thing. And one of the things that I found along the way was a lot of the companies we were working with really weren't quite ready to hire a company. They just needed to learn more. And so the Digital Toolbox really grew out of that need in the marketplace for small business owners to get basic questions answered, to learn more.

Lorraine Ball
And so the Digital Toolbox is a community. There's a Facebook group. We have an online learning portal. A lot of the resources are free. And it's just a great place for me to share a little bit about what I've learned about marketing over the years.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, I know. One of the things I find is so many people are just battling information overload when it comes to marketing. They're feeling overwhelmed and that's not a good place to be. You just can't create solid plans from there. And so, yeah, making it simple, making demystifying marketing is a great thing, Well, awesome. I appreciate you sharing that. So let's dig into what we're going to talk about with SEO today.

Tim Fitzpatrick
And I know SEO, God, it is a rabbit hole that you can go down. There are so many moving pieces, you know, people talk about on page SEO and backlinks and directory and citations and reviews is like, oh my God, what the heck do I do? One of the aspects that we're going to focus on today, which I love, especially for the types of clients that we serve, is content. Content is so, so important. So let's start by just talking about what is content based SEO?

Lorraine Ball
So everybody thinks about when they think about SEO, they think about keywords. I got to rank for this keyword. I got to rank for that keyword. And that makes search engines happy, but it doesn't make people happy. And at the end of the day, if you're not making people happy, the search engines will start to ignore you. And so what content based SEO really does is it steps back and says, OK, what is it that people need from my website?

Lorraine Ball
When they go to Google, they're not looking for a word anymore. They're typing in phrases, they have questions, they have needs, and so building your website and building your plan around, creating content that meets the needs of your customers and your visitors, ultimately search engines will pay attention. And I'm going to be a little short, really quick story there. Probably 10 years ago, I had a lot of friends who were in the business. They were all doing these white hat and some black hat.

Lorraine Ball
And I looked at that and said, no, we're just going to put out content. And there was this day that Google came out and said, we are going to be prioritizing content over keywords. Two of my friends' businesses ended overnight. And my clients websites continued to place well in search and even go up and rankings. And so I was vindicated and I have always believed that that was the right approach.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So you were able to say I was right? Yeah, I love the fact that you're talking about how we need to create our content around our ideal clients and the things that they're looking for. One of the things like we were heavily involved in content, just like you are. And when I first started Rialto, we were actually focused specifically in the mobile application space. And so one of the blog posts that we have out there stood still on our site.

Tim Fitzpatrick
We haven't done anything with it. It is about how to use push messaging. Well, it's I mean, it ranks on Google on page one and it has for a long time. It drives a bunch of traffic to our site. But that's not really our main focus anymore. And so we have a certain amount of traffic coming to our site that just doesn't really do anything for us. And so when we create that content, we've got to think about who we're trying to attract and create content that is relevant for them.

Lorraine Ball
So I'm going to and I know this is kind of a preview of where we're going to go later in the conversation. I have two or three of those as well. I have one on how to set up a Dropbox folder. It was a courtesy for the client. The trick is, if you've got a post that is driving a lot of traffic, you need to create paths from that content to other places on your website where you want people to be. Will everybody follow those links? No. Will the handful of really qualified people follow? Yes, they will, yeah.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So even if you have posts like that, there are still ways that you can use it to benefit your business.

Lorraine Ball
Absolutely.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. You just got to get creative and take advantage of it. So one of the big things that comes up when we talk about content is this roadblock that people have or they're just like, oh my God. One, it's a lot of work, how am I going to do it? But two, I don't even know what I'm going to come up with. What am I going to write about or talk about? So how do we come up with relevant topics?

Lorraine Ball
I think the easiest way to answer that question is with questions. When you think about your customer and your customer interactions, start making a list of all the questions that they ask. Because the truth is, not only are people asking those questions when you're face to face with them, they're asking those questions to search engines and they fall into a couple of different categories. The first are the informational questions, questions about how do I have this problem?

Lorraine Ball
How do I fix this problem? When should I do this? So think about how the journalist questions the how, what, when, where, why questions that people have when they don't even know where to start. Write them all down and start answering them. You can do it on an FAQ page. You can do it in a blog post. You can do it on your home page. You figure out where you need to have that answer.

Lorraine Ball
The second kind of question is what's called the commercialization and these kind of questions. This search intent is really focused when people kind of know, you know, I've done some reading, I know I want a high efficiency furnace, but do I want a carrier furnace or a ream furnace?

Lorraine Ball
And these questions tend to be comparing X to Y. One of my favorite examples is we do work for Randal Beans. They sell beans in glass jars. And we have a blog post that talks about the difference between a Navy bean and a great northern white B, what's the difference between that blog post is ten years old and gets traffic, as you were saying. Yeah, every week, and that's a great place for them because they sell great northern beans.

Lorraine Ball
Yes, that's an example of and the thing about the versus posts, that's evergreen content. It's always going to be interesting to somebody. The third kind of content is what I call the transactional. People are ready to buy. And now their phrases may involve questions like best price for. And it may also include geographic markers, best price for accounting near me, best price for accounting in Carmel, in Minneapolis and Minnesota. And so if you think about those three categories, information, commercialisation and transaction, and you write the questions down, and then there are all sorts of other techniques where you can go to Google and you start typing in a question, Google will show you all the related questions. And now you've got 10 more topics you can write about.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. Yeah. There's so many different tools out there. And I love what you're talking about here, because what you're telling, what you're recommending to people is we have to think about the journey that our customers are going through when they initially start thinking about whether I need a new furnace. What kind of questions are they asking as they get more information and they get closer to making that buying decision? They're asking different questions. And so we need to think about that.

Tim Fitzpatrick
And then when they're deciding on, OK, I know what I want, who am I going to work with? They're asking other questions. And so we need to create our content based on the customer journey, because when we can do that, we're going to help people move through that journey much faster.

Lorraine Ball
Absolutely.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So I love that. Are there and I love your recommendation. And when you go into Google and you start typing whatever, I need a furnace, it gives you some suggestions, as in the dropdown at the bottom of the page, in the search results, it gives you more recommendations there. Are there other tools that you like to get more ideas for this kind of stuff?

Lorraine Ball
There's and I wish I had looked for it before we got on it. I came up with it's ask me anything or ask the Internet.

Tim Fitzpatrick
There's Answer The Public.

Lorraine Ball
Answer The Public. That's it. Thank you. Yes. That is fascinating because again you type in a question, it's free and it just generates all sorts of stuff. One other thing that I always recommend to customers is go to your inbox. Yes. Because my guess is you're answering these questions every single day or every single week. Scroll through emails that you have already sent to people explaining how something works. And that gives you a great starting point for a blog post.

Lorraine Ball
If you have a customer service team, ask them to write down every question that they get asked. And when you go into a sales conversation, don't just answer the questions that people are asking. You write down what they asked you and make a little note, just two or three words to remind you of what your answer was.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, customer service is a great place to go. I also think there's so much information online. You read it. There's Facebook groups, go into these forums, go into there and see what questions people are asking and see where the popular posts are, because that's where the attention is. And from there, you can start to get ideas there. When I initially started creating content, I had that same roadblock at this monkey on my back. How am I going to figure it out? I'm telling you, once you get into it, it's not that difficult. It's really not.

Lorraine Ball
You know, it's and of course, it's changed a lot since I started. But my first blog posts go back to 2008 and in 2008 I was blogging seven days a week. And they weren't long. They might be one hundred, two hundred words. They were just kind of random thoughts. And blogging has gotten a lot more sophisticated. But I don't blog anywhere near that anymore because now my posts are eight hundred to a thousand words and it's really more about depth than just very superficial.

Lorraine Ball
But, you know, pay attention to life when you wander through your day. Look at the things that you know, that your customers don't look at the opportunities and the experiences that you're having throughout the day. And my running list of blog posts is never ending. I don't have time to write everything that kind of randomly OK, this is the way my brain works randomly pops into my head. Thank God for my podcast because I can dictate a lot of it.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes. So what are the common questions that come up with content? You know, a lot of people want to see immediate marketing results. They can be a little impatient. But I always look at marketing as a flywheel you got. It's time to feed that we are once the wheels go in and you continue to feed it. You're in good shape, but you can't start and stop. It's not a light switch. Now, what in your opinion, how much know if I'm going to start getting invested in content, realistically, what do I need to be prepared to do? How long do I need to create content before I can start to see some results, in your opinion?

Lorraine Ball
I have told clients that a good content marketing program that includes several blog posts a month, email, social media, you're typically going to start breaking through in about three months. You're going to really start seeing it paying off regularly in six months. And then as long as you keep it going, you're really going to start to see that return. Every now and then. I had a client the very first blog post we wrote for him just blew up and went viral and really opened up the door. That's the exception. That is not the rule.

Lorraine Ball
The other thing is, advertising is kind of on or off. You pay for advertising and you get to this level of exposure because you're paying for it. The minute you take it away, it disappears. In contrast, you have content and it slowly creeps up. And then there's that moment that it passes and now you're getting more exposure for your content. You know, you're organic, then you're paid. One of the metrics that I look at for a healthy website is how much traffic is organic, how much traffic is direct and how much traffic is paid.

Lorraine Ball
And in my mind, your organic traffic should be twice as much as your direct traffic. That means there are twice as many people who don't know you who are looking for you, then people who know you, and that it's not a specific number, but it's a percentage because that's based on how much exposure your brand already has. Not everybody starts to zero when they start a content program.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Right. Yeah. So the question I ask you is a bit of a loaded question and everybody's in a little bit of a different situation. My point in asking the question was it takes time. You have to be committed to it.

Lorraine Ball
Absolutely.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I would never tell somebody to start investing in content marketing and expect wild results in three months because it just doesn't it doesn't happen. But it builds upon itself. And over the long haul, like you said, it's going to start giving you really good returns. A lot of marketers will use paid ads while they're investing in content, which I think is a great strategy. Makes a ton of sense because I don't think it's a good long term strategy to get hooked on paid ads because things change, you know, algorithms change and you can have something that's working great. And overnight, it's not working anymore. And if that's where all your leads are coming from, you're in a very vulnerable position.

Lorraine Ball
But I think paid advertising does help you get noticed. We use it a lot on Facebook for a lot of our customers. We use paid advertising specifically to build their community. And then we can start weaning off the ads and only use it occasionally because the community is talking and is taking care of itself.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. Yeah. Paid ads can be a great way to to test things as well. Yeah. Yeah. And then make course corrections along the way so. I love what you're saying. I'm committed, I'm going to start doing content once I start getting content out there, how do I reuse it? How can I use old content to continue to reap the benefits?

Lorraine Ball
So the first thing is, any time you're creating content, you should create a schedule where you are routinely resharing. Unless it's dated, you should always be sharing your new stuff. But you should also have that old content that keeps going back in your rotation because maybe your blog post had a hundred or two hundred views, right? It was a great blog post. Two hundred people saw it. But you have two thousand followers on LinkedIn. Introduce another 500 to it by reintroducing.

Lorraine Ball
So using a scheduling tool. I'm a big fan of Publer right now, but Buffer, HootSuite, whatever you like, set it up so those old posts get new visibility. But then the other thing is what I call re-optimization. And I've got a spreadsheet with go ahead and pull this up. Yeah, I am a fan of Neil Patel. I think he's brilliant. And he argues that the days of writing five blog posts a week are over. Write one new one and go back and re-optimize the old one.

Lorraine Ball
So what we do is we will pick the original blog post. We put the URL so we can figure out where we are on it. Maybe we change the title and then there's a list of all of these things we can do to beef it up. We can add new text at a minimum. If you have a blog post that was a good blog post, maybe it used to get a lot of traffic and it doesn't do any more, or maybe it just fell off the radar screen for some other reason.

Lorraine Ball
You want to add one hundred words at a minimum, a hundred words of new and new content. And that sounds a little daunting. But, you know, quite honestly, simply the phrase this post was written in two thousand eighteen. And although some things have changed, the core information is still valid. As you read through, we've highlighted where we've made changes. Boom, your 50 words in already. One hundred words. You want to add a photo and it can't just be a stock image.

Lorraine Ball
Don't waste any time on that. But if there is a relevant image or a graphic, we've actually started adding at the bottom of a lot of our blog posts, a pin shaped graphic that looks like our featured image. But it's just there and it serves two purposes. We title that image with the title of the blog post or the key word. So it gets indexed in the description. And then because we're sharing on Pinterest, it's easy to grab the images and pin as well.

Lorraine Ball
Want to make sure that if you have images on your site, you add alternate text, you want to have an internal link. And this is where I was talking about bleeding from one site page to another. You want to link from one page interested in this? Here's more on this topic. We use the more on this topic feature at the bottom of every post. Then we want to think about an outbound link. Not every page needs an outbound link, but the search engines respect that.

Lorraine Ball
If you link to a quality site, you want to be careful that you link to content that can continue to be there. A lot of my old posts are linked to blog articles that were written ten years ago. And you know what? That blog doesn't exist anymore. So you periodically want to check for broken links. If you have a video, maybe you have a podcast call to action. A lot of our early posted names, specific call to action, we now add that at the bottom of every post.

Lorraine Ball
So this is our checklist, the rich snippet. We were using Yoast, along with a Rich Snippet plugin. Now we use Rank Math and there is a place where you can add that rich snippet right in and then we create a new social share. We're going to promote this blog post on social media again. We want it to have a new look and feel so people don't think I've seen that before. And then that re-indexing tab we use Google Search Console.

Lorraine Ball
You resubmit the page. Now, do I do all of these things for every post? No. Yeah. Do I use this as a checklist so I can go out? I did these three things, and then by keeping this record, I can go back and go, you know, the last time I updated this post, I added text, but I didn't have a picture. I have a picture now and so I can continue to nurture those.

Lorraine Ball
The other thing that I like about this is this URL list. When it comes time to schedule social media, I give this spreadsheet to the person who does all of our scheduling and she just copy paste, copy paste, copy paste and we've re optimized it. We've written some new verbiage. It makes it really easy to reintroduce this old content that's now new and fresh.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So let me ask you a quick question here. And this is going to get a little bit technical for some people. But in WordPress, the tools that you mentioned earlier are on WordPress plugins. If when you're updating those posts, do you also update the publish date in WordPress?

Lorraine Ball
So typically no. And the well, and it varies, but typically no. My blog and this is the one where we do this the most and some of our long term clients where there's that depth of content. When WordPress first came out, the permalink structure, the popular permalink structure included the date. If you change the published date, sometimes it screws up with the URL. So now you're creating unless you have an automatic 301 redirect, you're creating these broken links. Instead what I do is at the top editor's note, this post was updated in January 2021. So when somebody comes to it and they're like, oh that's an old post.

Lorraine Ball
Oh but it isn't. That's why I use that language very often. Going this post was written in 2020 or 2018 but it's been updated in 2019, 2020, 2021. So you retain the, the history and the authority. The only time I screw with dates is I do it on the Digital Toolbox. If I do a class and I have a registration page and that was January and I'm going to rerun the class in March, I will instead of completely rebuilding the page, I'll just change the dates because the old content is irrelevant.

Tim Fitzpatrick
How do you determine which posts are going to go back to or how long do you wait?

Lorraine Ball
So several things. Number one, I will go into my Google Analytics and into my jetpack on WordPress and I will look for posts that were popular three months, six months a year ago that are not showing up in my top twenty five now. Those are great. Sometimes I will write a new article on a topic and I will search the site for anything related to it. And then I will list all of those because I want to link to them as candidates for update also because we've always done a lot of cross-linking.

Lorraine Ball
When I update this post, there are two links in it that go to two other posts, I will add those two to my reoptimization list.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Got it.

Lorraine Ball
You know, you can work from the very back and work forward. You can, I find that going to several posts around a theme work really well because maybe I've done a new podcast. I'll update eight blog posts that are all on related topics and then drop that podcast in all eight of those episodes, all eight of those blog posts.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Gotcha. Yeah, I love it. This is awesome. Do you have a PDF of this that we might be able to pop in the show notes?

Lorraine Ball
No, this particular document is available inside the Digital Toolbox and our free members. There is I mean, full confession. There's a free version and a paid version of the Digital Toolbox. All of the PDF resources are available to all our members, even our free members. So just encourage people to hop over to Digital Toolbox.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, awesome. I love it. This has been awesome. You've dropped some serious value bombs, Lorraine, so I really do appreciate it. Where can people learn more about you? We talked a little bit about the Digital Toolbox.

Lorraine Ball
So the digitaltoolboxin.com, that's our online community. If you're specifically looking to dive into particular topics, you want to take a look at our training page. There are webinars, there are free webinars and more advanced paid webinars and there's some self-paced training. And I'm really excited about one of our self-paced training classes, which is the SEO blueprint. So if I've piqued your curiosity and you want to know more specifically about SEO, take a look at the SEO blueprint.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Cool. And we will make sure that that direct link gets popped in the show now. So you guys can pop on over there. If you are interested in learning more, please go over there and check it out. Lorraine knows what the heck she's doing. She's obviously showing you that she knows what's happening and shared a lot of great information with us today. So I really do appreciate that, Lorraine. With that, I'm going to wrap it up. I really appreciate you guys tuning in today. Again, I'm Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing.

Tim Fitzpatrick
If you want to gain clarity on where to focus your marketing efforts right now to get the best return, pop on over to our website at rialtomarketing.com. That's are a R-I-A-L-T-O marketing.com and click on and get a free consult button. Guarantee you'll get a ton of value from that call in thirty minutes and know exactly where you need to focus your marketing efforts next. Thank you for tuning in. Till next time, take care.


Connect With Lorraine Ball



About the Author Tim Fitzpatrick

Tim Fitzpatrick is the President of Rialto Marketing. At Rialto Marketing, we help service businesses simplify marketing so they can grow with less stress. We do this by creating and implementing a plan to communicate the right message to the right people. Marketing shouldn't be difficult. All you need is the RIGHT plan.

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