To maximize the impact of your website content, choose strategies that will help push it to the top of search engine results like focusing on optimizing page length and voice, doing extra research for improved SEO rankings, or even adding videos. Meg Casebolt shares her 3-month plan to help us see impressive boosts in visibility and engagement.
Rich: My guest today is founder of Love at First Search, an agency singularly devoted to helping online businesses get found in search results like Google, YouTube, and iTunes, and turn those new readers into leads, subscribers and sales. Her clients are entrepreneurs who are too busy changing the world to worry about things like website conversion rates and search traffic, but still want their websites to get found on Google for their brilliance and turn readers into customers.
She lives in Rochester, New York with her husband, two boys, and an 80-pound pit bull. She has an insatiable appetite for s’mores, Broadway musicals, and romance novels. And as I found out, especially ones involving vampires. Today we’re going to talk about how to optimize your content to generate more leads and business online with Meg Casebolt. Meg, welcome to the podcast.
Meg: It’s not just vampires, it’s also werewolves and aliens. Like, I’m open to any sort of paranormal romance.
Rich: Any paranormal, supernatural, you’re down with that is what you’re saying.
Meg: Everyone deserves a chance at love.
Rich: Even the undead.
Meg: Exactly. And the reason we started talking about it is I had a typo in my bio where it just said, “turns readers into…” and didn’t say “customers”. So I said, it turns them into hopefully not zombies. Zombies is the one that I don’t know if they deserve a chance at love.
Rich: So you obviously haven’t seen, now I’m going to blank on the name of the movie. Well, I’ll have to look it up. But there is a movie romance about zombies and humans getting together.
Meg: There is a plot line for everything and there’s an audience for everything.
Rich: It’s like Warm Bodies. That’s what it is. I want to say. It’s Warm Bodies.
Meg: That is a great name for it.
Rich: Yeah, you got to check it out. It’s actually very cute, very romantic, and very sweet. So, all right, so let’s start with the hardest questions. What’s your favorite Broadway musical and why?
Meg: Is it trite to say Hamilton?
Rich: It’s not trite, it’s my daughter’s favorite.
Meg: Hamilton is just so, so iconic now. But I would say the musical that really blew my mind the first time that I saw it and opened my eyes to what Broadway can be was Rent. I saw it when I was like 12, and I had always thought of Broadway as being Cats, it’s my daughter’s favorite. Frank Lloyd Webber or even Pirates of Penzance, where it’s like, “I am the very model of a modern, major general”, and that felt so stilted. Whereas the rock opera style of Rent really just blew open the doors for me of what could happen.
Rich: All right. Now moving back into the world of digital marketing.
Meg: It’ll all comeback, I’m sure somehow.
Rich: Right. I know I could have worked on that segue. So you are about search over social. I find myself, and you and I are similar in that way, social’s great, but to be honest like for me, it’s all about leads and numbers. And so for me it’s always been more, a little bit more about search. And yet we can get these huge traffic spikes from social. So if we’re getting these huge traffic spikes from social media, why aren’t they way to the way to go? Why are we so attracted to these spikes we get?
Meg: We’re attracted to the spikes because it tells us that we’re doing something interesting. We’re attracted to the spikes because we like some sort of instant feedback. As humans, our brains crave that sort of very quick connection with other people. You know, the dopamine in your brain is set off by the way that social media works. And when you get even just a couple little hearts, even just some thumbs ups, those make you feel like you’re heading in the right direction.
Whereas something with a longer turnaround time to get that feedback doesn’t give us that instant hit of gratification and validation. So you and I are recording this podcast in December 2022, you’re probably not going to send it out for another month or so because it takes time to edit, and you have a backlog. So by the time people are listening to this, you’ll probably have lost that excitement around this conversation.
Rich: First of all, you don’t know our production calendar. It’s probably going to go live this afternoon. Secondly, how could I ever forget this conversation? I think you’re selling yourself short.
Meg: Who else sings the Pirates of Penzance as a way to introduce themselves?
Rich: I also think that part of it is, a lot of people who run businesses or even our marketers don’t spend enough time in their own analytics. And so we see likes, comments, and shares immediately the next time we go back to the social media platform, if we’ve even left it, where we have to go digging sometimes. Sometimes yes, we can see lead forms come in, but more often than not, we’re going to see the benefits of search when we look at our Google analytics, that’s what’s going to tell us what’s working.
So it’s not just the time difference, which is critically important, but it’s also, are you spending enough time even looking at your traffic reports to understand the impact that search has over the long run.
Meg: And if you look at those traffic reports, do you even know what the heck they say?
Rich: Yeah, I think a few people, don’t.
Meg: Sometimes people say. “Oh, I’m going to go in…” I’ve had a lot of people say this to me, “I’m going to go into my Google Analytics monthly and I’m going to take a look at these reports, and I’m going to figure out what’s working.” And then I log in and I’m like, whoa, there’s a lot of information in here and I don’t know what it means.
So the reason that social media can feel so attractive to us is because they’ve really simplified what they want us to know about their platforms, and they can point out the numbers to us that make us feel really good. “Oh look, you got more engagement this month than you did last month.” But engagement just means more people are looking at your stuff or maybe liking your stuff. It doesn’t necessarily mean that more people are buying your stuff. It doesn’t mean that they’re spending more time with you. But they have given us, people will sometimes tell me, “I have a million impressions on Pinterest”. And Pinterest is a search engine, so it’s not the most relevant to this conversation, but it’s like, well, what money did that make you? I’m so thrilled that people are finding out about your brand. I’m happy that makes you feel good. But there’s a reason that they’re called “vanity metrics”, which is they can make us feel good without necessarily impacting our bottom line in our businesses.
Rich: So if the shots of dopamine and endorphin aren’t the answer, what is the answer instead?
Meg: I would like to say that the answer is sustainably produced evergreen content. And that is probably the most boring answer that you can get in terms of marketing. It’s like if you were to talk to a financial advisor and say, “I just bought a stock and it skyrocketed. How can I get that to happen again?” And they’re like, “Well, it may or may not. You may lose a lot in the stock market. Why don’t you just buy some T bonds?” Like it’s not the sexy option. Municipal funds are not going to skyrocket, but at the end of the day, the overall month over month value of the more reputable and stable options will pay off.
Rich: Yeah. It’s the difference of carrots versus donuts. So obviously I’m sold on this, but how do you convince your clients? What arguments do you use that they should be putting more of their attention and energy behind this evergreen content, rather than just posting a selfie and wanting to get a bunch of likes on Instagram?
Meg: Well, by the time people find me and they listen to my evergreen content, I don’t necessarily have to do a lot of convincing anymore. You know, I think that five years ago if I were coming on and saying, “Don’t spend time on social. Spend your time creating evergreen content on your website or your content platform, or your YouTube channel or your podcast”, whatever that is, that would’ve been a harder sell.
But I think between the pandemic and the way that people came online very suddenly, and everything came online. And then also the fact that we’ve all been in this digital marketing space and getting burned out on it. We’ve all bought something from a Facebook ad that ends up being disappointing. I think consumers and business owners are becoming much more discerning. And social media, it’s kind of like the bloom is off the rose of social media, so by the time people find me, they’re already one foot out the door.
Rich: All right, so I know that you have this three-month content roadmap that you recommend, you use it with your clients. Tell me a little bit about that.
Meg: Sure. So when I think about what are the ways that you can get started with either decreasing the amount of time that you’re spending on social or just making your website feel like much more of a part of your marketing, it can feel really overwhelming. How do you start with this process? What are the things that you can do that can be quick wins? Because like I said, dopamine, our brains just really want these quick wins, and don’t want to feel overwhelmed by all these reports and stuff.
So my three-month roadmap starts with just starting to think about what your ideal client might search. It feels obvious to people who have been in the search space for a long time. But for those of you who are just starting to dip your toe into the idea of being found on Google, the first step is usually just going, if I wanted, what is on this website, what is being offered, what would I search for? And then you can go to Google and type that in and see if it actually would show your competitors or see what other things show up in the related searches, or in the people also ask section, or in the auto completes, which are all right there on Google. Just start to evaluate what’s happening on Google in the space that you want to be in.
Rich: All right, so you start with that. Is that the first month of activity or is that right up at the front? What do we do or how do we evolve from that? So I’ve done some research, maybe I know some more of the keywords or the types of searches that I believe my ideal customer would use. One is, is there a way for me to test my assumptions? And two is, once I feel pretty confident about that, where do I go next?
Meg: So I would say the way that you want to know if you can test your assumptions is that there’s a free tool that Google gives us that’s called, Google Search Console. Many people have heard of Google Analytics, which is telling you what happens after people land on your website. Google Search Console is like a stepchild of Google Analytics. You don’t have to be on Google Analytics to use Google Search Console. That tells you what happens before people get to your website.
So if you are getting any sort of search traffic, Google Search Console will tell you for free every single keyword that people are searching for in order to click through to your website, and even the ones that you’re showing up in the search results and people aren’t clicking on. So it can give you an idea of what Google already thinks about when it comes to your website. And that can be that sort of, not instant feedback, but that feedback that we want to get in a faster way, we can get that information from Google Search Console about, “Oh, people are actually looking for this and I haven’t mentioned those words anywhere”. Or, “Oh, people are finding me for this phrase, and that’s not what I do at all. So I may need to go in and change the words on my website.” So often that’s what I’ll tell people to do first and foremost in that first month is at least install and verify Google Search Console so you can start to get that information about what’s working or what isn’t working in use search traffic.
Rich: And since Google years ago took away a lot of the information that they share with site owners about what the words are that people use to find them, you now can – for a while now – been able to connect Google Search Console to your analytics.
So if you’re listening at home, it may be that if your web developer knows what they’re doing, they may have already connected Search Console to your Google Analytics, so you don’t even have to go anywhere else. So just something to keep in mind. It’s one of the sections on your Google Analytics, and it’s how attraction and how people Acquisition.
Meg: But now by July of this year, everything will be changing. So don’t quote us on the report yet.
Rich: Right, because then it’s going to be GA4 and it’ll all be different. So, alright, so we’ve figured out, we feel pretty confident about what the words are, the low-hanging fruit, the keywords that we should start targeting first. What do we do with that information?
Meg: Well, I think another piece before we start doing anything with the information, is if you go in and you take a look at the keywords that you might be ranking for, or you look at the Google search results and get an idea of the lay of the land, you might realize that you’re not specific enough.
And when we’re talking on social media, we’re developing a community of people who are already familiar with us in some way. So it’s easy to say things like, “I build websites for creative entrepreneurs.” But once you start to actually look at the data, or when you start to think about the way that people might search for you, you realize nobody really self identifies as “I’m a creator entrepreneur”. That’s not on anyone’s business card. It would probably say, “I’m a designer,” or “I’m a calligrapher”, or “I’m a baker”.
So maybe getting more specific in the language that you’re using, maybe the audience that you’re targeting, the offer that you’re creating, finding some ways to make sure that the people who are searching for whatever it is that you’re selling will actually be able to find it, will be able to identify what it is that they’re looking for. And that’s when we start to make some updates to the website and changing the words on the website so that it reflects those terms that people might be searching for.
Rich: And as we’re updating our website, should we first focus on our web pages or service pages, or should we start thinking about building out blog posts, or does it not matter?
Meg: That’s where we get on month two in my plans.
Rich: Okay. Is there still stuff to do in month one?
Meg: Yes. There’s one more thing to do in month one. And that you don’t have to, we don’t even have to touch the website in month one. We just need to plan and prep. So installing the Google Search Console, figuring out who you’re talking to and what their words are.
And then the last piece is, decide what you want people to do when they actually get to you website. A lot of us have websites where we’re just like, “Hi, I’m Meg. And I help people get found in search.” What? When people do actually find you, you want to say, “Hey, come book a call with me. Go buy this product. Join my email list. Download my free guide.” You can get a ton of traffic to your website if you want to, but if those people aren’t actually being captured, if we don’t gather their information, then what’s the point of getting all the traffic?
So making sure that you have some sort of conversion mechanism. Again, it can be, “listen to my podcast” or “follow me on social”. Those are ones that I would consider to be less desirable. What I really want is I want your email address. I want your money. But maybe that’s a little crass. But what is the fastest way to get somebody to work with you or buy from you? You want to tell them how to buy from you. Tell them how to keep in touch with you. Gather those people who are finding you into some sort of mechanism that you can use to reach out to them.
Rich: All right. Sounds good. All right, let’s move to month two.
Meg: Month two, we start to update your homepage, your “about page”. That’s for most of us, especially many of us who have not done a lot of work on the specifics of search and keyword in our websites, your homepage is going to be the place where Google’s going to be sending the most traffic, unless you have a blog post or something like that went viral. And the homepage is typically the page where people are going to be traveling through when they’re trying to figure out what you do. So this is a really good time to take some of those ideas that you learned when you were looking at Google, when you were looking at your keywords, and say, how can I use these words on this page to explain what I’m doing?
This might require some adjustments to your copywriting, where we’re actually changing your headline and your hero image, your H1. Or it might just be changing what’s called your SEO title, which is what shows up in Google search engine results when people are ready to click on it.
It might be you add some Alt text to your images, so nothing on your page looks like it changes, but you’re changing some things on the backend, so Google knows what’s going on. Maybe you adjust your footer on your website, so it makes it easier for people to navigate and it tells Google what the most important pages are. But we’re really focusing on the initial experience of landing on your page to get started.
Rich: Okay. All right, sounds good. And tell me a little bit more about your philosophy around the ‘about page’. Because that is so rarely a page that I go to, but I know that a lot of people feel that’s a critically important page on your website. So sell me on that idea.
Meg: Well, you know, the About page, when we actually look at the analytics, the About pages very frequently is one of the most visited pages on the site. I’m like you, Rich. I never look at About pages. And every time I tell a copywriter that they wince, because they spend so much time writing these About pages.
But the reason why I like it a SEO nerd, is that when we talk about our homepage or our services pages, we’re talking about what our business provides. So when I’m thinking about when people search for my brand name, which is Love at First Search, I want them to go to my homepage. Or when they’re looking for SEO services, I want them to go to my SEO services. But when they’re looking for my name, if somebody Googles my name Meg Casebolt, then I want to send them to the About page.
So part of the strategy here is mapping out which keywords you would want people to go to which pages, and sort of starting to plot out different keywords to different pages of your site. I don’t need the word ‘SEO services, SEO consulting, SEO coaching’. I don’t need that to land on every single page of my website. I’m picking very specific pages and saying, hey, Google, if there’s only one page on my website that you can send people to for this phrase, it should be this one. So that way we’re not confusing Google about which page is the most important for each of those keywords. So if you were to go to my website, my homepage would say, ‘SEO Training and Services for Entrepreneurs’. And then my about page, the phrase would be about Meg Casebolt, founder of Love at First Search and SEO specialist.
So it’s very repetitive kinds of things. But thinking about who you are and what are your keywords that are individual person keywords, versus the services that you provide keywords.
Rich: All right, what else are we going to tackle in month?
Meg: We are going to tackle how to write a search engine result that looks good, that people actually want to click on. Often when we’re building our websites, our homepage just has the word ‘home’ and then maybe our brand name after it. But instead, we want to start to get those search engine results to look like something that people actually want to find out more about.
So instead of having the word ‘home’ and then whatever those first 150 characters are of those pages, instead I want you to really think about what would people click in your SEO title, which is the blue part of your search engine results, and in your meta-description, which is the black part of your results.
So making sure that you are telling people what to expect when they click through to your page. Sometimes Google will replace that matter description. That’s not as important as it used to be. But making sure that you’re telling Google again, this is what this page is about. This is also a really good time to revamp your homepage. Maybe you want to include some icons of press that you’ve had, or a podcast that you’ve been on. Maybe include some client testimonials. Maybe include a picture of your face on here. So that way when people land on the page, they know how to trust you and they know that you’re actually an authority and an expert in what it is that you do.
And then the last piece of month two is, last month we decided what we want people to do and then get to your page. This month you’re actually going in and saying, I’m going to be the boss. Here’s what I want you to do, update your calls to action.
Rich: All right, sounds good. And then I guess are we moving into month three? What are we focusing on in month three?
Meg: Month three is when we start to think about content. So you asked what’s the first thing that we want to do on a website? Is it blogs? Is it podcasts? This is finally where we start to say, hey, there’s a lot of keywords that I can’t fit onto my homepage. I don’t need my homepage to do all that work. There might be really specific things that I want to be found for that aren’t the big picture things. Here’s where we can get really hyper specific and make sure that every post that you create on your website, every video, every podcast episode, is going to have a very specific question that it’s answering.
So you know, Rich, you’ve had hundreds of podcast episodes and each of them has different keywords that it can rank for. So you can have the name of your guest as a keyword, or the topic that you’re discussing as a keyword, and start to include and gather some of that information in there. So you don’t need to say on your homepage, here’s everything that we’ve ever talked about in hundreds of episodes of the podcast. Every page can do its own job. Every page has a job to.
Rich: So as we’re starting to work through this and figuring out what our keywords are and what kind of content that we need to create for each one, how do you prioritize some of these things when you’re working with your clients? How do you decide what to go after first?
Meg: Yeah, so we prioritize by if people already have some sort of content on their website. If they already have keywords that they’re ranking for, we optimize for those first. Typically it’s easier and faster to… let’s say that you’re ranking for a term at number 30 in those search results. People aren’t going to go to the third page of search results, but maybe you want to update the page that is ranking for a term in order to emphasize that phrase or to put it into subheadings or find ways to integrate that idea a little bit. You know, basically just turning up the volume on some of these ideas, which can move that page that’s already ranking at number 30 up into the top section of search results, up to the first page fairly easily. So that’s usually where we start is figure out what’s already working, and just like as Spinal Tap would say, turn the volume up to 11.
Rich: All right. As we’re improving the content that we already have on our site, do you have any recommendations around things like the length of the page or the voice that we should be using or doing some additional SEO research or embedding videos? What are some of the things that kind of pushes us from page three to page two to page one?
Meg: Yeah, so sometimes it can be keyword placement like I was just talking about. Embedding videos absolutely helps. Remember that Google owns YouTube. YouTube is the second biggest search engine on the planet, so embedding a video. If you have the same blog post in two different places and one of them has a YouTube video, Google will be more likely to send to the page that has that embedded YouTube video.
Making updates to the page to make it seem more time sensitive and fresher content. So if there’s a blog post that you wrote back in 2016 and you can make some updates and say, oh, well here’s what’s changed in the past six or seven years, and then republish it with today’s date. You don’t have to create a whole new blog post with it, you just want to change the date on it. As long as it’s not in the permalink, then you have to be a little bit more careful.
Another thing that can be really helpful when you’re updating existing content is linking to things that you’ve created that are relevant. I you have a blog post that you wrote in 2018 and it’s just been sitting on your site for 5, 6, 7 years, then you can go in and say here’s the other things that I’ve talked about since that point. Here are other relevant podcast episodes. Here’s new services that we’ve created. And maybe we can even go in and say, oh, that thing that I pointed to five years ago, that website crashed. Now I have an external link that’s broken. I need to go through and find another external link that isn’t broken anymore. So some of those structural technical changes, this is a good time to make those updates, too.
Rich: Excellent. Once we’ve started, you have a three-month plan, we’ve worked through the three-month plan. Obviously, the work doesn’t end there. Is it rinse and repeat, or are there additional things as we start to move out of month three and into the rest of our lives? What are some of the things that you feel we should pay attention to?
Meg: I think this is a really good point to both look at what’s working and evaluate what your goals are. If part of your strategy is, I want to be a thought leader in this space, I want to produce consistent content so that way I can have something that I can be sharing with my audience not just on my website, but also in email. And maybe you want to repurpose it out to social media. If that’s part of your strategy, then you may need to continue creating for a long time, at which point you’ll need to think about coming up with some sort of a replicable content system that can be really streamlined.
I have clients who are like, I have gotten the traffic that I need from these keywords. I’m going to go through every couple months and make some light updates. But they might have what they need, and they can ease off a little bit depending on the keywords that you’re ranking for and how relevant they are for your audience. You might not need to do this forever.
I have a client who’s a nutrition consultant for women athletes, and she ranks really well for metabolic efficiency testing for specific sports. So when she has women figure skaters who are looking for this specific type of test result, she ranks for it right away, and it’s filled up her roster and she doesn’t need to create tons and tons more content because they find her, they hire her, and that’s it and she doesn’t need to create more work for herself.
So figuring out what your goals are, figuring out what your progress is for that, and then making some time to either create more, update more, if you’ve hit your max, if you know if you’re getting what you need out of it, then maybe giving yourself a break. And even if you aren’t hitting that max, give yourself a break anyway and use some of that old content, so that way you can take a breather and bring some white space into your life.
Rich: Excellent advice. Meg, this has been great and I’m sure a lot of people are interested in learning more about you. Where can we send them?
Rich: All right, sounds good. Meg, thanks so much for your time today. Really appreciate it.
Meg: Thanks so much, Rich.
Meg Casebolt practices what she teaches when it comes to proven strategies for SEO and winning the Google search game. Check out her website to learn more about how to achieve search greatness without feeling like you have to post 24/7, and start learning to love search!
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.