If you’re a small to medium sized business, you’re probably short on both time and money, so you’ve taken a DIY approach to many aspects of your business. But when it comes to SEO, this can seem like an impossibly daunting task that only an expensive professional should tackle. Well, take it from Matthew Woodward, who’s been taking the DIY approach to SEO long before there was even a name for it, who guarantees you can see immediate success on your own by following a few specific strategies and utilizing the help of some great plugins.
Rich: My guest today runs an award winning SEO blog that publishes detailed case studies and tutorials that focus on helping people build and run a successful online business. He may also have set an award for the shortest bio in our history, so I’m looking forward to pummeling him with more questions. Please welcome Matthew Woodward. Matthew or Matt, glad to have you on the show.
Matt: Thank you very much for the intro. Sorry about the short bio. I didn’t even know it was a short bio until right now
Rich: I did ask for a short bio and you really, you really ran with that, so maybe you can fill in some of the blanks for us. How did you get started in SEO?
Matt: Okay, well, just before we jump in, to anyone that’s listening, if you’re running a small to medium business and you’re looking for some quick win hacks to increase your search visibility that anyone can integrate in just a few hours, then you’re in the right place today.
Before I speak about me, I want to just clarify what’s in it for you guys. And trust me, pick up a pen and paper, you are going to be taking a lot of notes. We’re going to talk our way through a specific process that I’ve applied to many, many small to medium businesses that have seen great success. It doesn’t cost any money, just a little bit of your time. It can be a great weekend hack. So make sure you’re paying attention and make sure you got a pen and paper and let’s delve into a little bit about me.
Rich: Yes, let’s. Tell people at home how did you get into this in the first place?
Matt: Okay, so I’ve been building websites since as long as I can remember, I had a paper route when I was 13 years old to pay for a server to build websites and that was like 24 years ago. So I’ve been doing SEO since really before it had a name, before link-building existed, before affiliate marketing, you know, before even people trusted putting credit cards into a website. You know, that was like a scary thing to do way back when.
So I’ve been involved with the web and the business side of the web in one way or another. I built my first community site when I was 13. I built my first affiliate sites at 15. I’ve done the whole corporate ladder, had great success there for major, major global brands. And since then the last 10 to 15 years I’ve been focused on building my own digital assets businesses and helping other people grow as well.
I’ve had a lot of experience in a lot of areas over that time. I come from a traditional sales and marketing background, a high level of business acumen at that level, and that’s transitioned all the way through to the SEO marketing that I do today.
Rich: Awesome. Now, you talked a little bit about how you love giving advice, tactical advice to small to medium size businesses. So I feel that a lot of times these small to medium sized business owners feel like SEO is beyond their grasp. And as SEO providers may be, we’re partly to blame, to make it sound so confusing. But today we’re going to put all that behind us. We’re going to focus on things that these owners can do to improve their search rankings. You mentioned maybe doing it over a weekend. Where should people start? What are some of the most important things they should focus on?
Matt: Okay, well, you know, SEO can be a scary subject for a lot of people, but for the most part, all you need to do is apply the power of observation and a bit of common sense and that can win a lot of the SEO battles for you once you know which steps to follow.
Now what we’re about to go through today anyone can do, and it’s in no way a replacement for a real skilled SEO. But these steps won’t cost you anything to integrate but a little bit of your time. And you will see increased search visibility for that.
The very first step really is to listen to what your visitors are telling you. A lot of your customers, a lot of your clients, e of the things we kind of miss as SEOs because we’re so obsessed with data and numbers and analytics and, and links and this, that and the other, we often forget about the human element.
So the first step for me in increasing anyone’s SEO visibility is to understand the human element. And as a business owner, you will know that more than anyone else. So you want to really ask what is it that you do that makes your customers love you? Why are your customers, your customers? And that a different answer for different businesses depending if you’re a service or product or whatever it is you do.
First of all, you need to know why humans love you, why your clients love you and what you’re doing right there. Because that then allows you to kind of see if there’s any opportunities to double down on SEO. You might find that 60% of your client base comes from the fact that you’ve got a great reputation for doing really good roofs, you’re a great roofing company and you’ve got a great reputation for that and it’s a specific type of roof. So then you doubled down your SEO efforts in that area in winning that kind of client that’s looking for that specialist type of roofing.
But you’ve got to really know who your customers are and why your customers are first to allow that to build out your SEO strategy moving forward. It’s things that a lot of SEOs miss out on. But it really does guide your strategy. So that’s the very first thing that you should start with.
Rich: Just understanding what your customers are looking for and why the customers that you have have turned to you in the first place.
Matt: Yeah. For example, you want to know exactly which type of person you want to attract to your website. And the way to find out what type of person that is, is by looking at your existing client base.
Rich: All right. So once we have a grasp on that – and I’m not trying to give it a short service – but that is a very complex thing. But if we have been in business for awhile and we have a pretty good sense of who our ideal customers are, what are some of the next things that we can do so that we get found in the search engines, or are there even steps before we get to that?
Matt: Yeah, so the next thing is then to actually just look at your website. Knowing who your exact target client and customer is. Look at your website and say, “Does my current website cater or appeal to that person?” It might be that you figured out from looking at your claim base and you do a lot of industrial electrics rather than home electrics.
So if you look at your webpage, does it communicate that, are you appealing to the right people? Are you appealing to that perfect client? And as you click through your website, you’re probably going to find that you’re appealing to a more general audience rather than the specific type of client that you’re winning. So you just have to click through. You don’t have to do anything about SEO. You just need to click through with that in mind and just make notes of what you feel should be changed with that in mind.
Rich: Makes sense. All right, so we’ve gone through our website and we’re seeing that we’re probably a little too general. Maybe we’re thinking that we catch a wider swath of the population if we went general rather than specific. But now we’re realizing our ideal customers are only residential or they’re only commercial or they’re all building managers. Or whatever the case may be. What do we do with that information?
Matt: What about if you’re a dentist and 80% of your client base is teeth whitening and you go on your website and we’re talking about a crown or something. We know that we’re not aligned there, right? So we have to make sure that we have that alignment there. And you might not have that problem, some businesses don’t. It’s amazing how many do and you just need to go through critically with the power of observation, “Does my current website align with my current client base? And if it doesn’t, what changes do I need to make for that to happen? “
With those notes in place, you can put those to one side for a little minute. Now, one of the quickest ways to really not just increase search visibility but increase conversion, increase revenue, and really affect the customer experience is to increase your sites load speed.
Now this is often a scary avenue for many non technical people, but it’s actually really easy to do. And for those that don’t know, essentially if your website’s loading in more than three seconds, you are losing money every single day because the longer your website takes to load, the lower your conversion rates are going to be.
Alongside that, Google doesn’t confirm many ranking factors, but they have confirmed that site speed is a ranking factor. On top of that, the vast majority of sites now are in mobile first indexing. So what that means is the performance of your desktop site in Google search results is judged by the performance of your mobile site. So if your site doesn’t function or looks bad or loads really slowly on a mobile device, that is having a direct impact on your desktop rankings. It’s a major problem, not just from the search rankings perspective, but also from the customer journey, the lower conversion rate. And ultimately all of that adds up to lower revenues. It’s often a hidden problem that most people don’t even know they have because they’re so used to visiting their site on their computer or their phone or whatever, where it’s cached, it feels really quick. But in the real world, that’s not true.
Rich: That makes a lot of sense. So are you saying that it’s almost more important for our website to load faster on a mobile device than it is on a desktop, from a strictly a search engine standpoint, at least?
Matt: From strictly from a search engine standpoint, it must load quickly on both.
Matt: Well also from a business standpoint. I mean you guys will know your breakdown of mobile to desktop traffic. From a business standpoint, it’s absolutely critical. And if you’re in the kind of niche, like a locksmith niche or something like that or a service where people need things quick, low time is everything. People aren’t going to wait around.
So Amazon actually did an experiment where they added a hundred milliseconds to their load time. And I’m going to get the exact number because I remember it custom 1% in sales. And their study found every artificial hundred millisecond delay that they introduced hurt their sales by 1%. So if you’re loading at seven seconds when you should be loading in three, you leave in a lot of money on the table. Not just from a conversion standpoint, but from a Google search visibility standpoint as well.
Rich: Okay. So what can, I mean it’s easy to say make your site faster, but for the do it yourself what are some simple things that they could do themselves before turning to a web developer or an agency that would speed up the load time of their pages?
Matt: Okay, so the vast majority of people are going to be running on WordPress or a similar CMS. Most CMS have caching plugins available, and if you don’t already have one installed, if you’re running on WordPress, you really should be running something like W 3 Total Cache at a bare minimum. That’s a free plugin and it will really help you out.
If you are running a caching plugin, which I assume most people would be, any responsible web developer would have installed one for you. Then you need to look at optimizing images. This is one of the most common problems I see and often I’m loading a four megabyte image when it could really just be like not 0.1 megabytes, and that’s really killer on mobile.
So optimizing images, if you don’t want to spend any money, there’s, there’s a free plugin called WP Smush, install it and it will trim around 30% to 50% of your file sizes.
Rich: Yeah. And that’s easy to install that particular one. Yeah. And then you never have to think about it again. You can upload the most, I mean you should still in a perfect world be optimizing your images before uploading it. But the bottom line is if you have no technical expertise getting this installed, either yourself or by somebody else kind of takes care of every image you’re going to upload after that point in time.
Matt: Yeah. And it’ll go through your entire, every image you ever uploaded and optimize them and every image in the future that you upload and optimize them. Now that is the tfreeway of doing it. I use a plugin called ShortPixel. I think it cost me like five bucks a month. And you buy credits that don’t expire. And that took the images that had been compressed with WP Smush and then compress them an additional 46%. So if you don’t mind spending a few dollars, I would recommend using Short Pixel to optimize your images rather than the free WP Smush plugin.
But either way, you know trimming those file sizes will have a direct impact on your low time and the customer experience instantly. So the freeway with the WP Smush plugin, or if you want to spend a few dollars which I recommend you do, the Short Pixel plugin.
Rich: Awesome. So we talked about mobile, we talked about page speed. Is there anything else that the average business owners/do it yourselfer can do to improve their SEO?
Matt: Well just continuing on from page speed, there’s two quick wins that you can integrate with. Not much effort. First is lazy loading your images and videos. What that means is that rather than loading all the images as soon as you hit a webpage, it only loads the images as you scroll down and you need to see them. This has a huge impact on low time. And once you’ve optimized your images, you can use a lazy load in plugin without worrying about seeing big gaps and weird things jumping around. Now there’s another free plugin to install. It’s called Lazy Loader. You just install it, you activate it and it’s done. Instant win.
If you want to spend a bit of money, which I recommend you do, get the WP Rocket plugin that will take care of lazy load in and a ton of other things. Like if you just want to not waste any time and just get your sites to be dialed in, literally install a short pixel plugin and install WP Rocket. They cost a bit of money, but it’s instant activation and instant wins across your entire site.
From the search perspective and the conversion perspective it’s a no brainer, so to speak.
Matt: So once you’ve taken care of the site speed, and honestly with Short Pixel and WP rocket, you can take care of that in under 10 minutes and tick that off. Next is to just take a little look at structured data. Now sounds scary but it doesn’t, it doesn’t need to be scary. What structured data is, is it specifically tells Google this is our business name, this is our address, this is our phone number, this is who we are. You can also use structured data when you’ve got content that’s depending on the business, if you’ve got review content. If you offer a specific service, you can use structured data. If you offer a product, you can use structured data.
Now how will you integrate structured data really depends on your individual setup. If you’re running WordPress, it’s very easy. A plugin like rank math or Yoast integrates a lot of the basic structured data for you. But if you want to go a little bit further, you can use a plugin that’s dedicated to adding different types of structured data called WP Rich Snippets. Now an easy way to check if you’re using structured data or not is you can open the Google Search Console Structured Data testing tool. I assume you’ll provide a link in the show show notes.
Now if you drop your homepage through there and it comes back blank, that’s not good. You want that to come back and say that it’s at least detecting some structured data for your business information. The same with your about page, your contact page and any product or service pages. If it’s coming back and saying you don’t have structured data on any of those pages, install Rank Math, Yoast, or any of the popular rich snippet logins. And then literally all you have to do is fill out forms is literally business name, phone number, address, product name, product price, product description, a review rating depending on which structured data you are integrating.
Well that offers huge quick wins because it provides instant increases in visibility in the search results. I don’t know if you’ve ever Googled for something and you’ve seen additional information from reviews or this is a product, it’s in stock, the price is this much, there was reviews from 20 customers or anything like that.
But it really makes your result pop in the search results. And once you add this structured data, it starts appearing instantly. It’s an instant quick win.
Matt: If you guys need any help with that once you set up it’s easy. But if you want a step by step tutorial of how to do that, you can hit my homepage. MatthewWoodward.co.uk. Click into the SEO section. And in the on page SEO section, you will see on the right there a section called ‘rich snippets’. If you just integrate that advice, you will have instant increases in your visibility.
Rich: Awesome. And we’ll make sure that we link to that. I don’t know if you have finished with that, but I’m wondering what other types of tools do you recommend to the do-it-yourselfer?
Matt: Yeah. I mean I’m just talking about simple quick wins that anyone can integrate regardless of their experience or know how. Moving on from that, if you want it to delve down into things a little deeper, right now I’m seeing great success with Surfer SEO.
Rich: So what’s that, Surfer SEO?
Matt: What Surfer SEO does is you enter the keyword you want to rank for, and it goes out and pulls back all of the results and then it compares 500 different on-page factors. And off the back of that, it will tell you what changes you need to make to your page in order to compete. Because as scary as SEO sometimes is, it is just an algorithm. It’s an input, a process, and an output. And the search results are the output.
So Surfer SEO allows you to reverse engineer that algorithm a little bit. It allows you to put your input of the website, compare it against the current output, and then it tells you in very clear English what you need to change and why. It will say you need to add these phrases, you need to remove this phrase, you need to add 200 words, you need to remove this much bold. And it’s very specific in its advice.
The reason I like it is I’m having great success with it. Really, really great success with it. And a lot of people are in the SEO community. In fact, you should have a look at my Surfer SEO review and, and link to it in the notes. Because within that there’s a case study that shows you over my shoulder using it to increase rankings within 24 hours. And it’s a great tool because anyone can use it. Anyone, if you can write words on a keyboard, you can use it. So I’m having great success with that. It’s highly accessible. It’s super affordable. You just can’t go wrong with it.
Rich: All right. So we’ve talked about some things that anybody can do. We’ve talked about some, maybe a couple of next steps. Let me ask you a question, Matt. When is it time to bring in the professional? Are there certain times where people are just getting to the point where you’re like, you really need to be working with an SEO expert out there?
Matt: It’s time to bring in a professional when you’re really serious about increasing business revenue. I tend to find that a lot of the businesses that approach yours just aren’t ready. And when I say ready, you’ve got to already have an established business. You’ve gotten to already have established business processes, you’ve got to be, you’ve got to have all of the business practices down. You’ve got to be ready to take on a burst of clients.
And we often find that people are trying to run before they can walk. So the first thing is having an established business that’s profitable with processes that runs smoothly. It’s amazing how many times we drive traffic to people and they can’t handle it. And then that ends up in a bad customer experience and then negative reviews online and it kills a whole thing. So you gotta be ready for SEO when you’ve got your foundation set to say the least.
Rich: Makes sense.
Matt: And also at the point when you can afford to treat it seriously. SEO when done right will deliver more sales for you than all of your salespeople combined. A lot of people don’t treat it like that. You know, if you’re hiring an SEO agency, you’ve got to treat it like you’re hiring a sales member and you’ve got to treat it seriously. If you’re just looking for a $200 a month quick fix, well you are going to get what you pay for, which is probably nothing.
Whenwe take on an SEO client, we won’t work with anyone that isn’t willing to spend $2,500 a month. And the reason for that is, to do SEO right, to really do every element of SEO, right – which includes keyword research, content creation, technical SEO, link-building, graphic design, data, data research – requires a professional design. It requires professional, technical SEO. It requires a professional developer. It requires all of these resources that are not cheap. So to do SEO right, and to really do SEO right, you have to treat it seriously and $2,500 a month is when you start to treat it seriously.
You know, we’ve got a bunch of case studies out there where we’re 14 x traffic, six x traffic, eight x traffic that isn’t happening on the $200 a month budget.
Rich: Absolutely true.
Matt: SEO takes input from so many talented people from so many different areas that effective SEO just isn’t cheap. It just isn’t. So you’re ready for SEO when you’re ready to treat it seriously, and that kind of a price point is when you start treating it seriously.
Rich: All right, that makes a lot of sense. Matt, this has been great. Let people know where they can find you online if they’re looking for a little bit of advanced help.
Matt: Yeah. You can find me on matthewwoodward.co.uk, and that is my SEO blog that houses a lot of the tutorials and knowledge. If you jump on there and jump into the SEO section, whether you are literally just starting out wondering what is SEO or your at the point where you’re like, “Okay, I’ve got my own page, I’ve got my content right now, which link building strategies do I want to use?” You’ll find content tutorials on there that are relevant to you and I’ll help you get to that next step.
In terms of contacting me, leave a comment on any of the tutorials, any questions, anything you’re stuck with, anything you’re banging your head against a wall with, please leave a comment on the tutorial. I’ll answer them and I’ll help you overcome whatever it is that’s banging your head against the wall.
Rich: Awesome. Matt, this has been great. I really appreciate you swinging by today and sharing your expertise with us.
Matt: Thanks for having me on.
Matthew Woodward was doing SEO before it even had a name. You won’t want to miss out on his blogs and tutorials chock full of tips and actionable items that can be implemented immediately.
Applications discussed in this episode:
- Surfer SEO
- Rank Math
- W P Rich Snippets
- Google Search Console Structured Data testing tool
- WP Smush
- Short Pixel
- WP Rocket
- Lazy Loader
- W3 Total Cache
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.