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Supporting image for Your SEO Mailbag Questions Answered by @therichbrooks
Your SEO Mailbag Questions Answered by @therichbrooks
The Agents of Change

AOCP-Pinterest-Rich-Brooks-MailbagYou’ve got yourself a website and a blog, but how do you get people to notice you? You can’t just post a few blog entries, sit back, and wait for the traffic to come. So how do you get noticed, find an audience and keep them?

There’s more to content creation than just writing a few articles. Learning how to write effectively to reach the people searching for your topics will be your key to success. And there are a lot of tools out there to help you, you just need to invest the time and take advantage them. Things like guest blogging, backlinks, utilizing and reading your Google Analytics reports and learning how to find the most effective keywords, not only in your posts but in the titles, can mean all the difference when it comes to beating your competition in the search rankings.

Rich Brooks – SEO consultant and owner of flyte new media – answers your questions on how to do all of this and more in this latest “Mailbag” episode of The Agents of Change Podcast.

1. “Rich, what’s the fastest way of producing organic traffic?”

Great question, I appreciate that. I’m going to make a couple of assumptions here. First is, when you say “organic traffic” you mean unpaid traffic as opposed to buying traffic through ads or some other fashion. I’m also going to make the assumption that maybe you don’t have a lot of organic traffic so we’re kind of going to assume that you’re starting from scratch.

So going with that, I would say the fastest way of producing organic traffic would be through guest blogging. Guest blogging, as you probably know, is when you blog not at your own website but at another website. You may be wondering, “Rich, why wouldn’t I just blog at my own website where that’s the hub and I’m trying to drive traffic to it, why am I off somewhere else?”

That’s a great question. First of all I might refer you back to the previous episode where Mitch Joel and I were talking about, and Mitch was sharing the idea that the center of the universe when it comes to content creation may have shifted and it may no longer be at your blog or website and it is where your audience is. So that’s one thing to keep in mind.

The other thing is, if you are just starting off you don’t have a lot of traffic so it’s going to be difficult to drive traffic to your website to see them. If you instead are able to piggyback on another blog’s popularity and readership – especially when it aligns with your own audience – then that’s a big win and a quick way of driving traffic from their website to yours.

So that obviously leads to the question, how do I get these guest blogging gigs? There’s a number of ways that you can get guest blogging gigs. Probably the most sought after and the most valuable guest blogging gigs would come from a really well known resource in your industry. One that maybe does promote the fact that they even have guest blogs. And this is kind of the most difficult to get into, but of course if you get in front of this audience, then that’s going to have the biggest impact on your business. Like I said, if you’re just starting out it may be difficult to get in front of whatever the equivalent of the Social Media Examiner is for your industry, but it’s certainly possible.

One of the things that you might think about doing is start to actively read that blog, really devour it, and start commenting on a lot of the blog posts so that the people who are running the blog start to see your name and there’s a little bit of name recognition that goes on. It might make sense to make sure that all the blog posts aren’t coming from just one person. You want to make sure that this blog has at least in the past accepted some guest bloggers. So you might want to go along and find those blogs and comment on them, build awareness and then ultimately reach out to the editor or one of the other bloggers and talk to them about what you’ve gotten out of the blog and what you like and say, “I write on a lot of the same topics and I’m wondering if you’re interested in one of my blog posts?” And obviously if you get that opportunity, that’s fantastic. 

Now like I said, that can be one of the more challenging ways of getting those inbound links, even though they’re really valuable. So the next tier down might be something like go to Google and figure out what your keyword is. For example if you’re a dog trainer you would search for “dog trainer + guest blog” or guest post, something along those lines. What will generally happen is Google will feed back the results of blogs around the theme of dog training that are actively searching for guest bloggers. Now these may not be the most popular or valuable resources, but it does give you an opportunity to publish your content. They are actively looking for people to contribute blog posts and this is a great way of getting out there and reaching a new audience that you didn’t have to build yourself.

Now you may be wondering how do I get the people from my guest blogging opportunity to my website. What you probably want to do is make sure that you’re allowed to create outbound links. Usually that’s your payoff for guest blogging since you don’t get paid in cash, you get to be able to direct links back to your website. Sometimes it’s in your bio, sometimes you can create links within the content itself – which is usually a better place to put it if you do have the opportunity – you can create a keyword rich link within the blog post that send them over to something on your website.

You also in your bio might have some sort of call to action. So if you were writing about yachting in your blog, you might have, “Hey, visit my website and learn the 10 things to always ask when you’re buying a used yacht.” And that would lead up to some sort of download page where they would opt-in to your email newsletter, and once they’re on your email newsletter it’s very easy to drive traffic back to your website or blog.

There’s one other tactic that you might want to try as well, and that is using the blog post feature on LinkedIn.You can post a blog directly to LinkedIn which suddenly puts you in front of your connections as well as – depending on the kind of content it is and how well connected you are – in front of a lot of other people on LinkedIn, too. So you might consider writing a blog post that attracts attention within the LinkedIn community, but then have links back to your own website where people can follow your blog post to your website to get more information, to get more advice, to download something.

But hopefully those are some really quick ways that you can produce more organic traffic to your website.

2. “Rich, I’ve got a blog but I’m not getting search engine traffic. How can I improve my blog’s SEO?”

Awesome. I’m a big fan of blogging for SEO, so I love this question. Let’s jump right in.

The first thing that you’re going to need to do – and this may be obvious – is create valuable content that your audience is already searching for. In other words you’ve got great valuable content in your head, you need to get that out onto the blog page because your ideal customers are out there right now on Google and other search engines looking for answers and they’re getting those answers from your competitors. So you need to get your content out there and get it in front of them so that they can come to your website and marvel in your expertise.

Now let’s assume for the minute that you have already picked out your topic, you know what your audience is searching on. So one of the first things that I might do is head on over to Google Trends. Google Trends is a great way to quickly determine whether the phrase that you’re going to be targeting is the right phrase, or if there is a different or better phrase that you need to work in.

Years ago I wanted to write about Content Management Systems (CMS’s) and I wrote the entire blog post, and after I had written the blog post I happen to ask my SEO marketer at the time to do a little quick research for me and find out if there’s a better term than “CMS”. She got back to me and she said CMS is definitely the term that everybody is using, but, everybody seems to be searching for “best CMS”. So I ended up tweaking the title of my blog post to “Best CMS For Small Business” and when I started looking at my traffic reports after that, a lot of out traffic was coming because of the phrase, “ best CMS”.

So I use Google Trends, which can be found at Google.com/trends, and I was able to determine that. And that’s usually what I do before almost every blog post. I’ll go in there with a keyword that I’m targeting and see if I can’t just find a slightly better more popular search term that I should be using. Because again, we always want to be using the language that our customers are using at the search engines. 

Now once we know what that ideal keyword is that we’re going to be targeting – and for the sake of argument let’s say it’s “propane delivery” – so once we know that propane delivery is what our customers are searching for, then we’re going to want to put it into our blog post. So we start by putting it into the page title. So we might come up with a page title that is something like “Propane Delivery: What You Need To Know”. And because propane delivery is most likely a very narrowly geographically targeted phrase, I might narrow that down to something like, “Southern Maine Propane Delivery: [something else]”. So I’m going to try to use my keywords and I’m going to put them right up front.

Now if you’re using WordPress or other blogging platforms, by default your page title comes directly from your post title. Usually they’re the same things. I personally like to tweak my page title to be slightly different than my post title. The reason I do this is because I want to cast a slightly wider net, because different people are going to search on different things. So if I find out that “propane delivery” is my #1 tool but then “propane fuel delivery” is my #2 most popular choice of phrases, then I might use one in the title and one in the header.

The other thing that I do is sometimes when we’re crafting a blog post title, that’s what gets shared when somebody clicks on the sharing buttons. So for page titles – which end up being the big blue links on Google – I’ve got more of my SEO hat on so I really want to make sure that my keywords are right there in the beginning, When it comes to my post title – which is the H1 tag/header 1 tag above my blog post that gets shared through social media when somebody clicks on one of those sharing buttons – I’m putting on my social media hat and trying to think if there’s a clever phrase that people are going to be more likely to share on social media and that’s where I’m going to be clever, in my post title rather than my page title.

So once I’ve got my keyword nicely nestled at the beginning of my post in my page title as well as being used in my post title, I start creating my content and I’m going to make sure that that phrase goes in the first sentence or two in my blog post. I’m also going to try and sprinkle it liberally throughout the rest of the blog post, but never in a way that feels unnatural or like I’m just cramming in keywords. Google and the other search engines are pretty savvy about that and if you’re just trying to cram the same keyword in time and again, you’re actually going to get penalized for that. So you definitely don’t want to do that. Use the keywords so Google understands what the page is about, but not in such a way that people are going to get turned off by it. If I’m using images on this page, I’m also going to put my keyword in the alt tags behind these images.

Now once I’ve written my entire blog post and I post it live, one of the things that I want to do is get inbound links to it. One of the fastest and easiest ways to get inbound links to a new blog post is to go find related older posts that you’ve already published that may be more popular. Now if you only have a few blog posts on your blog, it’s not going to be too difficult to find related blog posts to say, “propane delivery”. But if you’ve been blogging about propane for years, you may have hundreds or even thousands of blog posts. It becomes a lot more difficult to find those blog posts.  Or if you’ve got multiple websites, that also gets a little tricky.

So what you want to do is go to Google and type in the following search. Let’s say I’m doing this for my website which is propane.com. So I might go into Google and in the search bar type in “site:propane.com_delivery”. And what that’s going to do is that’s going to return all of the pages on my website that are about “delivery”, and those are probably related to “propane delivery”. So then I’m going to find the ones that are blog posts and I’m going to create one or two natural links from some of the older blog posts that have built up trust at the search engines to the newer posts, which should give it immediate proof of concept that this is really all about propane delivery, so if people are looking for propane delivery in Southern Maine or in Texas or wherever you may be, that this will be a relevant result. And it just kind of helps Google understand that this is a page all about propane delivery for those people searching for it. And by doing this, I can greatly increase my chances of improving my blog’s SEO.

Ok, the final question that I’m pulling out of today’s mailbag is this:

3. “Rich, what are the best tools for SEO analysis?”

There’s a lot of tools out there and I’m not always the biggest gearhead when it comes to tools, so I’m just going to tell you what I use and hopefully these are going to be excellent tools for you as well.

The #1 tool that I use when working with clients and also on my own blog posts and articles that I’m writing is using Google’s Keyword Planner. This is part of their Adwords, so you do need to set up an Adwords account, but you don’t have to actually spend any money. This is a completely free thing, you just need to set up your account. Unless you start advertising you’re not going to spend any money.

Using the keyword planner I can go in there and throw in a bunch of keyword phrases that are related and then Google will come back and it will provide me with information based on its rich search history to tell me the keyword phrases that I put in as well as related terms that it knows are somehow connected to these terms. And then it’s going to tell me how much competition I have for this keyword phrase as well as how many monthly searches are on this phrase as well.

So getting that information, knowing how many people are actually searching for this term and how much competition I may have for those terms gives me a good sense of what are the best opportunities I have for ranking well for some very specific keywords that are important to my industry, important to my business and  most importantly important to my audience.

Another tool that I use regularly when it comes to improving the search engine optimization of our websites as well as our client’s is taking a look at our Google Analytics. Hopefully everybody who’s listening today – I assume you all have websites – have Google Analytics. Now there’s a lot of reports in Google Analytics, but the one I’m talking about today is once you go into your Google Analytics there’s a section called “acquisition”, underneath that there’s a section called “search engine optimization”, and underneath that is a report called “queries”.

Now when you click on the “queries” button, you are hopefully going to see a report that shows you how often you’re appearing for certain keyword phrases.  If you’re not and you’re getting some sort of alert that says, “You need to connect your Google accounts to  search console”, – which used to be called “Google Webmaster tools” – then you’re going to have to take that step first. That’s a little too technical for a podcast to go through, but if you Google that I’m sure you’ll find out how to be able to connect your Google Search Console to your Google Analytics.

Once those two things are connected, then you start to pull in some additional data and that data forms a report for the queries And in that report this is what you’re going to see; the first column is “Query”, which tells you literally what people were searching on.

The second one is “Impressions”, the number of times that one of your web pages was seen. So if somebody is searching and you’re #7, they’re going to see you, that’s an impression. If you’re #17 and they go to the second page, they’re also going to see you, so that counts as an impression.

The third column is “Clicks”, the number of times somebody actually clicked on your link to visit your website. Then it tells you your average position, and then finally it tells you your click through rate.

So that report gives you a lot of information on how you’re ranking and gives you an idea of if you’re just out of the top ten – which means you’re just not on the first page – you could actually focus on those keywords to optimize them to help you move to the first page. So using the “Queries” report in Google Analytics is an excellent SEO tool. And Google Analytics – like Keyword Planner – are both free tools.

Now there are a lot of great paid tools, here are two that I use.  The first one is SpyFu, this lets me see how I’m doing versus my competition for specific keyword phrases. In fact, when you put your domain name into SpyFu you can immediately see who is ranking for similar keywords to you. Or, if you want – and this is what we ended up doing – you can actually put your business competitors in there to see how they’re doing for the same keywords as well. It’s helped me identify keywords that I may have missed in the past and words that I’m almost on page 1 for, so it identifies those, and that helps me focus specifically on those keywords.  Because moving to the first page – and really moving to the top 3, 4 maybe 5 results – is going to make a huge impact on the amount of search traffic. I’m always surprised that I get any traffic from page 2 or beyond – we do – but really if you want to get the bulk of that traffic you need to move up to one of the first results on the first page.

And the last tool I’m going to talk about today is MozPro. Actually SpyFu I think has a free trial, I’m not sure if there’s a lot of free tools outside of the paid subscription. Moz does have a lot of free tools that are definitely worth checking out, and now that we’ve moved to MozPro I can’t tell you actually what’s free and what’s not. I do remember that a lot of the free tools are limited in the results. Like, you’ll get the top results but not necessarily all the results. So again, if you’re really serious about your SEO you’re probably going to have to spend some money on these, but if you’re just looking to get your feet wet, than the free tools at Moz and some of these others are probably all you’ll need.  

Moz also has great comparison tools so I can compare myself to my competition, it’s got a lot of good, local SEO tools and they have a stand alone SEO tool that you can buy and they’ll actually kind of optimize all of your local SEO for you, that’s an annual fee. And then it also helps you find all the inbound links. So if you have a brand new website or a website without a lot of links, that’s actually hurting you at the search engines. Getting quality inbound links from real related-type sites like we talked about with guest blogging, that’s a sign that the search engines look for as whether you’re a credible resource because credible resources have a lot of inbound links. So to find out how you’re doing right now you can head on over and use the Moz tool to find out how many people are currently linking to you. You can also do that to your competition, so if you see  that your competition is beating you in the search engine rankings then you discover that they’ve got 500 inbound links and I’ve got 2, that could be the difference. So then what you could do is you could go over to find the people that are linking to them and not to you and maybe reach out to those people and see why they’re not linking to you. Maybe it’s because your competitor has been doing guest blogging on their blog or maybe they have a resource page and they’re linking to your competitor and not to you so you might ask for the link.

So there’s a lot of ways that you can take this information and then put it to good use. And I guess that hopefully should be unsaid but an important thing when it comes to any of these SEO tools is that you still need to do the work. You can get great insights from them, but then it’s up to you to actually take the action. It’s kind of like those jogging shoes that are gathering dust in your closet, they are not making you fit unless you put them on your feet and go for a run. So invest the time and perhaps some money in these SEO tools, but then you’re also going to have to get off your behind and start to run.

Show notes:

  • Rich referred to a recent podcast episode he did with Mitch Joel about content creation and finding your audience in relation to SEO tools available out there. Check it out for a more in depth discussion on the topic of where you should be posting your content.
  • Rich referred to a number of SEO tools that are helpful for ranking, keywords and search engine traffic:
  • Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a digital marketing and design company in Portland, ME. He’d love to answer your questions on a future “mailbag” episode of the Agents of Change Podcast, so don’t be shy and send them in!AOCP-FB-Rich-Brooks-Mailbag