If you’re looking to get better SEO rankings, the best, quickest and most affordable place to start is to optimize your website content. To help us understand how to do this both practically and methodically, I’ve brought in me and my web design agency’s SEO Specialist Michelle Bourbonniere to shed some light on best SEO practices and how we optimize our website content for better SEO.

Best part is, you can utilize all these strategies for you AND your client sites and even turn everything you learned in this episode into recurring income services and packages for your web design business.

A quick reminder, if this all seems a little advanced, I cover the Basics of SEO for Web Designers in episode 054 to help prep you for this one.

In This Episode:

04:25 – Welcome Michelle
05:28 – You don’t have to be an expert
06:21 – Understanding Google
08:48 – Relevance and authority
11:10 – Google uses links to rank
12:33 – Google is a long game
18:07 – Links you want to get
20:08 – Organic growth is better
23:45 – Linking out to other sites
26:44 – Internal linking
30:55 – Specific keywords
35:06 – Google ranks pages not sites
41:41 – Content planning and organization
43:32 – Keyword research
46:01 – Tools for keyword research
54:33 – Things Google likes
59:58 – Resonate with people
1:02:43 – Snippet Bait
1:11:13 – Just write what you know

You can view the full episode transcription below.



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Episode transcription:

Josh Hall 0:16 Hey, hey, everybody, welcome to episode 55. In this one, we’re gonna be diving into how to optimize your website content for better SEO rankings.

Now, in the episode previous to this, I gave you some SEO fundamentals. We talked about the basics of SEO. I just kind of laid out the most important aspects of SEO to kind of prepare you for this talk. Because in this one, we go in depth and we talk in really good detail about things you can do on your website, both practically and methodically, to get better SEO rankings. These are things that you’re going to be able to apply on your website, but then also for your clients, and it’s going to make you a much more valuable web designer.

Introducing Michelle Bourbonniere, Web Editor and SEO Specialist

Now, for this talk. I wanted to bring somebody in who is a close colleague of mine, somebody who is my go-to SEO specialist—Michelle Bourbonniere. And Michelle, hopefully I got that last name pronunciation correctly because you know, I’m not the best with names that sound French. I took two years of French in high school, don’t remember much, and I was more interested in the girls … but hopefully I got that close.

But I wanted to bring Michelle in because she is awesome at this stuff. She is, again, my go-to SEO expert. And she’s done a lot for my agency and is also working with me for my site at Joshhall.co as we’re doing SEO audits and planning content moving forward. What I found out working with her is that, you know, the last episode, we talked about the fundamentals and the SEO basics, and those are really important. But the next most important thing about SEO is your content, about how you structure your content, how you plan it out. The cool thing about content as well in the SEO world, as you’ll find out in this episode, is even if you’ve already got content out there, you can always optimize it, you can always add to it and you can always change it for better SEO ranking.

So, I’m not going to give anything in the episode away, I want to get right to it because you guys are gonna love this chat it is super in depth, we get a little technical—we do get into the weeds—however, if it’s too technical for you, make sure you visit Episode 54 before this will kind of lay the SEO groundwork for you.

You’re gonna find so much value from this. Because again, you’re going to be able to implement all these strategies for your websites and your clients’ websites.

Now before we dive in, if you like this episode, and you want to learn more about SEO, and you’re really ready to take your SEO game to the next level, I would love to do that with you. And we can do that through my SEO course. This course has been a game changer for hundreds of students all over the world so far. Over the several months I’ve had it live. And it’s just been incredible seeing my students not only SEO their own sites, but a lot of them are building really good recurring revenue through different types of ongoing SEO services, because that’s a big part of the course I teach you how to do that. So if you’re interested, and you want to learn more about SEO—not only to be able to make sure your site’s are SEO optimized, but you’re interested in and taking it to the next level with recurring income—join my SEO course today we can do it together. I would love to help you up your SEO game.

Alright guys, without further ado, enjoy my really fun and … I mean, I geek out on this kind of stuff, so I hope you will too … my fun SEO talk with Michelle Bourbonniere.

Michelle, welcome to the show. Awesome to have you on.

Michelle Bourbonniere 3:27 Thank you.

Josh Hall 3:29 So we got connected a few months ago because, with the sale of my web design business, you kind of came in during the acquisition because you’ve been working with Eric, my CEO. We got to start working together because you’re our SEO specialist for InTransit Studios. And I had such a good time working with you for a couple of projects, and getting to know your area of expertise, that you’re working with me, with Joshhall.co no a lot, and you’re kind of my go-to SEO specialist.

I wanted to have you on to talk about how my audience of web designers can optimize their sites for SEO, but then also use these practices to optimize their client sites. So I know we’re gonna have some fun with this. And SEO is such a broad topic, we could talk about all kinds of things, but I figured we’ll just kind of focus in on optimization. Before we dive into that, though, why don’t you just let everybody know where you are, and then what you do.

Michelle 4:23 So, I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, it’s pretty far north up here. We’re actually all wearing sweaters, in the late August. I’m the owner of Edited by Michelle, I am a website editor, and I do SEO as well.

Josh 4:43 Awesome. And of course, your InTransit studios SEO specialist, occasionally. And like I said, it was just it was fascinating because SEO is something that again, is very broad subject, and the cool thing about SEO is I feel like you don’t need to be an expert to do really well in it. As long as you get the basics, and you just have the foundation, you can do a lot of damage in the SEO world in a good way!

I’m a perfect example of that, because I didn’t know jack about SEO a few years ago. And I’m ranking really well with my Josh Hall.co stuff, I made posts that were like not obviously not data-driven and optimized for SEO.

So I just want to start out by saying, you don’t have to be an expert to do a lot of good in SEO, just the foundations is all you need. And you are here to help us take things to the next level.

So I guess my first question for you is Michelle, where do we start? You know, let’s say we have a website? What’s some of the best things we can do to optimize it for SEO?

What is a Search Engine? How Does Google Work?

Michelle 5:46 Okay, so I would just go back slightly to say like, what is search engine optimization? What is Google trying to do? One of the things that I’m quite passionate about is explaining SEO, to everybody and anybody, in ways that don’t make it seem scary. I’ve explained SEO to my 73 year old mother, and she gets it!

Josh 6:11 Well done!

Michelle 6:14 So, she understands how it works. You know, everybody uses Google every single day, literally every single day. We’re all using Google to answer questions. Most people just don’t even think about how this machine is working. Frankly, how awesome Google is at helping you find the things you were looking for.

So, if we can understand what Google is trying to do, then it’s much easier to build sites that help Google find your content and match you up with the people who are looking for it.

And so one way to think about Google is just it’s the ultimate matchmaker. No matter how niche your website is, your website could be about the most specific thing on the planet. But as long as there is anybody looking for something like the thing that you provide, Google will find that match.

Think of Google as the ultimate matchmaker.

Now, of course, it’s not automatic. You do have to put some work in. But that’s really what Google is trying to do.

Google is just a gigantic database, a gigantic index of all of the websites, or practically all the websites in the world. And so it has this huge data set to pull from. And then as we type in a keyword, as we say, like puppy dog training near me, it’s trying to find the website that is both the most relevant for what you’re searching, and is trying to find something that’s the most authoritative for what you’re searching.

So Google really doesn’t want to be giving you spam. And actually, there is a lot of spam on the internet. And Google also wants to make sure that when you’re searching for “puppy dog training near me,” you don’t get cat training, and you don’t get you don’t get training for older dogs. You just get training for puppies.

So if you can think about the goals that Google for providing the best result—the best web page, not necessarily the best website, but the best web page— for any given query, meaning like any given keyword that somebody has just typed in.

Google indexes webpages, not websites.

In my view, if you know what you’re optimizing for, then I think SEO becomes a lot less scary. It becomes less like, “Oh, don’t want to touch it. Like I might just break something.” It becomes more a like “Oh, I’m actually just trying to make it so that robots like Google understand what each page is about. So that when somebody does look for something that I want to rank for, they find me.”

Josh 8:43 That’s great. I like what you said there about relevance and authority. I think those are two really important terms with SEO. And I’m glad that you said that because it does make it a little less daunting, because your entire website doesn’t have to be the most amazing big time SEO machine. You can start off with just one post.

Just for everyone’s reference, that’s why blogging is still king. Because Google usually finds blog posts that keen in on a certain subject, or a certain keyword. And that’s what’s generally going to pop up over a homepage or an entire site.

So that’s a great first lesson. Figuring out what Google is, and just understanding it’s just like you said, a matchmaker. It’s just when somebody types a question that’s looking for the best answer that’s nearest to them, often if it’s like a physical place or service, or that’s most relevant, so relevance and authority.

And just for everyone’s reference, as you’ll probably talk about here, Michelle, will you want to build what’s called domain authority? And how do we build that? That’s my next question, because I feel like my intuition and what I learned is that you need to build that through consistency and good quality content. Well, a couple other things, but really good content. And consistency has been the key for me for my domain authority with Joshhall.co.

What else would you recommend as far as how we build that domain authority?

What is Domain Authority? How Can I Build Up the Domain Authority of A Website?

Michelle 10:11 Okay, so to back up slightly, technically, Google would say that they do not have a score, like domain authority. So all of the SEO tools, and we’ll get into tools later, they all have this metric that basically says “this site is more important than this other site.” Now, Google, just for full disclosure, Google says they don’t a metric like that which ranks sites … but it does seem like they sort of do, or else, it looks like that in practice.

So domain authority, as measured by all the major SEO tools, is really quite a simple metric. It’s really just how many other websites on the internet link to your website as an authority.

So basically, the reason why Google is the monopoly search engine today is sometime in the 1990s, they came up with this concept of being able to sort out good content versus un-authoritative content, by links to the page.

The way that it’s often explained is that it’s a like a recommendation. If somebody else is making a website, and they say in their text “if you want to learn more about XYZ, then you should go to this XYZ training course that I took, and I really loved it.” Or if someone says “Oh, if you have a problem in your header, Josh has this fantastic blog post that really helped me.”

As other websites cite you as an authority, then you become an authority.

And so in the SEO world, those links, literal links, like the link that you put on a website to another website outside of your website to a different domain, those literal links are called backlinks. And so from the perspective of your website, you’re saying I have all these different backlinks, all these other people linked to me.

And so, truly, I mean, there are lots … I mean, Google is a very fancy math machine. And so it’s not all backlinks. But that’s actually still one of the most important ways that Google manages to sort out authoritative websites from non-authoriative websites.

Josh 12:16 And it makes sense. It makes total sense. Yeah, that it would search out sites that are popular that are like getting linked back. And that’s where SEO is a long game. It doesn’t happen overnight. You’re not going to start a website, and you’re not going to build your clients website, and then overnight, it’d be on the top of Google. Because SEO is a long game. It is something that takes again, time, consistency, and persistence.

But at the same time, it doesn’t take that long to start getting rankings depending on what you’re going for. And depending on the competition, that’s the other big thing too, right? It all depends on how competitive your industry is. How competitive are these keywords? If the client wants to—for example, in Columbus here, if I’m working with a dentist and they say “I want to be number one on Google for dentists in Columbus,” well, that’s gonna be really hard. And that’s not going to happen overnight. That’s either going to take a lot of money, or it’s going to take time and persistence, and I would much more go the second route.

Because it’s going to be it’s going to work out longer. But if we wanted to be higher on Google for “Dentists Grove City,” (which is where I’m at, outside of Columbus) that we could hit that a lot quicker.

So that is, I think one important thing to remember too, for people who are thinking about how they can get rankings, is it really depends on the competition, the area, and a lot of other factors as far what you can do.

And really, I think, when you’re working with clients, and I’m sure you experienced this, too, Michelle, you have to set those expectations. Figure out what are the goals are, then maybe sometimes you hear a client’s goals, but then you think, you know, maybe these aren’t the right goals, maybe these are something else that we should go for in order to get that domain authority and to start getting those linkbacks from from other websites—either colleagues, or even sometimes competitors … sometimes they’ll link back to similar sites. Sometimes if it’s a service they don’t do, they might link back somebody else. So yeah, that’s huge. I love that idea, though.

Free Ways To Build Your Website’s Authority 

Michelle 14:14 Most people just don’t know this, like business owners do not know how important links are, that links are something worth going for. Right? They know that they need to make brochures, they know that they need to make a nice website, but they just don’t know that their ability to rank for “dog behaviorist near me,” is highly, is highly correlated to veterinarians in their area linking to them as the best dog behaviorist locally.

And so that’s something that business owners can do themselves. If you just have that mindset that “Hey, if somebody links to me, that’s sort of a good thing.” Now, relationships you can you can kind of naturally work that

Josh 14:51 That’s what I was just gonna ask. That was a great segue, because I was gonna ask, okay, how do we get backlinks? For me, it was just doing my thing and then—I’m pretty fortunate because in the Divi realm and in the WordPress realm, well, people are so curious and they’re learning. So naturally my links, my tutorials were getting linked back from sites because they’d be like, you know, “check out Josh’s tutorial,” like you said, Michelle on this header design or something like that.

So I started getting backlinks pretty quickly, when I was doing tutorials that were, again, just posts that were just answering a quick question. It wasn’t anything major. And I didn’t … you saw, you did an SEO audit on my site, that we’ll talk about.

Most of my posts are not built out big time for SEO. It’s just a short description, then here’s the code, here’s the video. Boom, there you go.

And I’m still ranking. That’s the thing. I could do it a lot better, but it’s still ranking. So the question is for the average web designer getting started or even for their clients. What are some strategies that you recommend to get those backlinks, which again, we found out are so important because that’s what builds authority, or at least one of the things that builds authority.

Relationship-Based Approach to Getting Links

Michelle 15:56 One way is just relationships. This is what companies do anyways, they’re networking in their space. They understand that other people could refer them business, just to have that attentiveness to producing genuinely helpful content for different audiences. “Oh, I guess I could provide a useful piece of information on my website that would be useful for veterinarians. And then when I talk to veterinarians, I say, Oh, yeah, like actually wrote a thingamabob around that. And like, here’s the link, and you could put a link to it.”

So being truly helpful, and just recognizing that while being truly helpful, that might gain you some links. That’s super useful.

Another approach that probably most business owners don’t know about, but they could do themselves: There’s an organization called Help a Reporter Out, HARO. Oh, I can give you the link.

Answering Reporters’ Questions using HARO (Help a Reporter Out)

Every day, HARO sends out three gigantic lists, sorted by industry, of questions that reporters have, and then you can just pitch reporters. A reporter might say “Oh, we’re about to write a piece on the new WordPress 5.5. Can any authorities be able to answer this type of a question?” If you’re the business owner, if you really are an authority on the topic, you can respond to the HARO question that “I know everything about WordPress 5.5, I’d love to talk about it,” or “Here’s the here’s that I would like to put in.”

Quite often, if a reporter uses your quote, they will link back to your website. The reporters are often very high authority websites that are doing the asking—such as the New York Times and Forbes. So those are very important links. If you can get them, they are very valuable. Other people are not also trying to get those links, but if you stick at it, and if you really are the authority in your space, it’s very doable.

Josh 17:39 That’s awesome. I didn’t know about that, that there was something like that. Yeah. It’s not that it’s not the spammy way because the spammy way to get linked backlinks or is you comment on blog posts and you say, wonderful post, check out my website. That is not what we’re advising people to do.

Different Kinds of Links: Editorial Links and “Follow” vs. “Nofollow” Links

Michelle 17:54 It’s very important to recognize that not all links are created equal. So, the types of links that you’re looking for, that going to move the needle in terms of SEO, are the ones that are really going to matter for the authority of your website. The types of links that you’re looking for are what Google calls, “editorial links,” ones you didn’t really go out and expressly try to get the link. Editorial links just happen because you are an authority in the space. So those links are the most important ones.

From an HTML perspective, there’s different kinds of links. So there’s what’s called a “follow” link, which is your normal kind of link. And then you have a “nofollow” link. Nofollow links don’t pass authority in the same way as follow links.

Say I’m writing a blog post, which was literally about on the spam of the Internet, and I was gonna post a link to an example of spam. Well, I wouldn’t want to like give my authority to that spam website! I would mark it as a nofollow link.

Similarly, WordPress, by default now, the comments are marked as “user generated content,” or UGC. So they’re devalued because it’s not an editorial link.

Josh 19:06 Makes sense. Google knows what’s the meat in the page, the content that’s not in the comments. Yeah.

Michelle 19:14 As a rule of thumb, if it’s a link that’s really easy to get, like I could just put a comment on somebody else’s blog really easily. If it’s really easy to get it’s probably not passing a lot of authority.

Josh 19:23 Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense, though.

Michelle 19:27 Social media can absolutely get you visitors. Other great reasons that have nothing to do with SEO, that can absolutely help grow your online traffic. But you really have to go viral in order to have social media signals really raise the authority of your post. The exception though, is Twitter. Twitter is kind of an interesting piece. If you search in Google, you know, any sort of newsy thing that’s happening. You get like Twitter results right there in the Google search engine results. That’s because there’s actually a direct relationship between Google and Twitter. Google has access to Twitter’s live database, and they don’t have access to other social media database, so Twitter can move the needle more than other social media platforms.

SEO Tip: Twitter is the most important social media platform for SEO, because Google has direct access to the live Twitter database.

Josh 20:13 I did not know that. I’m not a Twitter user. So, I did not know that it was directly related like that. Would it makes sense! I never thought about that. But yeah, when I think about searching something, often particularly like as an NHL fan, which I don’t know if you are being an Edmonton, but yeah. So anytime I search for something NHL related, Twitter’s always what comes up first, because that’s like huge for professional sports.

So yeah, that’s fascinating.

But I love that you started out with the relationship aspect because, when you think about SEO, you probably think about some shady, spammy strategies or you think about, you know, doing certain things on Google or optimizing your site which we are talking about and there are practical things we’ll get into.

But above all, it is a more organic approach which wins in the long run. I’m a prime example of that; what you’re doing is a prime example of that.

And one practical example that you could do to, for relationship-based SEO, is something that I did, was to interview people. If you think about, like, if you’re a new web designer, not only is this great for getting new clients, but it’s a great way to get an SEO boost. Interview, maybe 10 business owners in your area, talk to them about their business, connect them, you know, just connect them. Then build a blog post on your site about their business, just have them share it out. And then maybe have them link to your site on their website, on a blog post. You may have 100 links out of the gate, just by talking with 10 business owners, it’s really easy to to get a lot of different links.

And to your point, Michelle with social media. Yeah, maybe if you share your stuff on Facebook. Maybe you get a few responses. But the thing is, if somebody shares that and somebody else sees it, and it’s really beneficial. They may link that to your website. So there’s a lot of ways that are a little more—I think, kind of hidden ways—that aren’t talked about as much, that are super beneficial with the relationship aspect of SEO.

Michelle 22:13 So in the SEO world, “building your links,” getting more links to your website. That’s called link building. And it’s something that you could outsource, but you never really know what they’re doing, and where are they putting your links. And it’s just, you know, it’s a little shady. If you’re doing it yourself, and it’s really relationship-based, that is absolutely what SEOs call “white hat.” It’s the cleanest, most risk-free way to build website authority because you would have done it anyways. Even if you didn’t know about how Google works, getting recommendation links from veterinarians is a very good idea if you are a puppy trainer.

One way to measure if a link building tactic is a safe way to build authority is to ask yourself if you would have done it anyways, even if search engines didn’t exist. You don’t have to worry about getting in trouble later. Building those types of links, those are just business links.

Should I Link Out to Other Websites?

Josh 23:03 So what about linking out to other businesses? How does that help? Because that’s what I’m big on. I’ve been doing that ever since I started doing tutorials. And what’s interesting is even when I started doing tutorials, if I had a tutorial on like customizing a part of a Divi module or Divi site, what I would do is just Google that search term, and then I would find like the top three, and a lot of those were my friends and competitors in co-opetition, but I would still link them. I would say, you know, so you can see similar tutorials here, and I would still link them. Is that a good strategy for people as well? To link to similar articles, or even your competition? What are your thoughts on that?

Michelle 23:44 The best way to think about it is that you’re trying to actually help people, right? And so maybe your blog post, which is ranking well, doesn’t actually fit their use case, and it didn’t solve their problem, but you still want to help them, right? So then you give them other options of other other websites that you deem authoritative because you know your space, you know which people make the best tutorials. When you’re looking at those Google results, you sort them in your head thinking “Oh, I know, he always does good work.” And so because you’re helping your users, that is just a very good thing.

Not to mention, you’re creating a lot of goodwill amongst your competitors! If you generously link out to other people’s websites, they will likely generously link back to you. So that is very possible.

And then the other piece is difficult to measure. But a lot of SEOs do believe that linking out to authoritative sources, particularly when your website is rather new and Google doesn’t really know whether you’re an authoritative site yet, can be beneficial. For new sites, Google is trying to determine if your website is on its way to becoming an authoritative site, or if your website is just spam.

So linking out to authoritative sources can kind of stick you in the neighborhood of other websites that are authoritative. Also I should say that, before becoming an editor and an SEO, I was an academic. I have a PhD in history. So I’m just like like—Don’t plagiarize on the internet. Don’t steal stuff. Make beautiful, useful content and give credit where credit’s due. And so that’s where I always stand, and your users will appreciate that.

Josh 25:21 Yeah, and it makes a lot of sense too, because, first of all, Google is smart enough to know where the original content is. You’re not gonna trick Google like that. So the people who keyword stuff and the people who are plagiarizing articles, it just is not going to go well, Google knows.

And then it’s going to start dinging you. It’s going to start giving you worse rankings and, your authority is going to go down if you are very clearly plagiarizing. You don’t want to do that. A lot of times, what I’ll do is, if I find some similar coding, or a similar method, I’ll always link it and always say, you know, “This is where I took the code, but then I made it my own, here’s my code, but here’s the original code” and link back to it. And that Google seems to appreciate that with my stuff.

Michelle 26:02 It puts you in the neighborhood of that sub topic, right? So then Google starts to say, “Oh, these things are related.” These people are linking to each other. So these must be the authoritative answers to this question.

The Importance of Having a Good Internal Linking Structure and Strategy

Josh 26:12 Yeah, I’d love to talk about internal linking—linking within your site—because this is one of the things I’m most passionate about right now. After working with you—you and I did a big SEO audit on my site—it just got my gears turning about how I want to go about linking all of my articles and my tutorials and my podcasts, but then also really thinking about my navigation structure, which is a big deal in SEO.

Let’s talk about internal linking, because one of the best ways to get a brand new website understood by Google is just to link your stuff well, and I’ll just share a couple, you know, pieces of advice that I’ve learned and maybe you can add to it, Michelle.

Setting Up SEO-Friendly Navigation Menus

What I’ve learned is that really good navigation that has maybe six, seven, maybe up to eight main items, as your main pages. That might be services, blog … you know, your main stuff. And then having those main pages echoed on your front page in a section that’s shows “here are the main areas of the website.” Then you’ll have all those links on your header and in your navigation, but then also on your front page of your website, and then link out from there.

And then put all your services and all your secondary pages under that hierarchy. I found that to be a really great way for new sites, for Google to be like, “Okay, I understand which pages are the most important because it kind of gives that hierarchy.” Now that’s a little bit separate than just internal linking. But what would you say there, what what advice would you give to people when they’re setting up their websites when they’re planning it out, to make sure it’s set for best SEO practices?

Michelle 27:55 So you’re absolutely right to think about the site structure. So the general rule of thumb, you want to have a navigation which—this is really user experience as well as SEO—but you want navigation that highlights the most important pages. So you don’t want people not being able to find the thing that you sell.

If you’ve ever looked into anybody’s Google Analytics backend, people click on the things that you tell them to click on. If there’s a button people click on it. If there’s no button, nobody clicks on it. And you know, you do it yourself. So, I’m not making fun of other people. I just mean that we just do what the web designer kind of told us to do.

What is Anchor Text and Why Does it Matter for SEO?

And so it’s very important, and then also, just to pay attention. I mean, what is the navigation structure? It’s just links, right? It’s just HTML that is, in fact, a link. And so one thing that’s very important to think about with the links that are in your navigation structure, as well as any other links in between the pages within the body context, is what’s called the anchor text.

And so, if you’re saying you’re writing a blog post on “best ways to train puppies,” this is my example today. And then you say I’m a dog trainer, and then you highlight the word “dog trainer.” And you then link that to your service page where you could buy dog training, right?

So that is a very, very important signal to Google, that this word “dog trainer” that you just highlighted and turned into a link—that’s the anchor text—refers to what you’re going to find when you click on it, the page on the other side. So if you can think of all the different ways that you’ve linked to your service pages, for example, sometimes you use the word “dog trainers,” sometimes you use “dog obedience trainer,” sometimes it’s “dog behavior” as well.

And then that’s when Google starts to understand, “Oh, the website owner wants this page (the service page) to rank for things like “dog trainer,” but there’s other page to rank for things like “puppy training.” So it’s basically like—not to get too technical about it—It’s not that you have to use exactly the same words every single time. It’s just that you don’t want to confuse those signals, you don’t sometimes want to link to one service page with the words dog training. And then another time you link to a different service page with words “dog training.”

So you want to decide when you’re making your website that this is my target page for this set of keywords. And it might be dog training, dog training … dog grooming .. you have different services. Of course, there are different ways to say dog grooming, I mean, “dog grooming” might also be the same page as “dog haircuts.” So it’s not that you have to have a page for “dog haircuts” a page for “dog grooming.” Really, just go by the actual services that the business owner has. And make sure that the internal linking and the navigational linking reflects what you want those things to show up for.

Josh 30:53 It’s also a good lesson on being very specific with that keyword. We could talk a little more about keywords, but just to recap—I’m doing an episode before this just kind of with a basic overview—but there’s essentially three types of keywords: there’s short-tail keywords, mid-tail keywords, and long-tail keywords.

In this case, short tail might be “grooming.” Well, if you have if you have a dog site, and you just put “grooming” in the menu and your page is just grooming, Google isn’t quite sure what grooming means, like grooming for humans, is that grooming for cats? Is it gerbals? Like who? I don’t know if gerbals get groomed, I don’t know maybe they don’t.

But you know what I mean? Like that’s where being specific “dog grooming” or “dog training” is key. And it’s crucial when you’re thinking about planning out your page titles and then all the SEO content.

So short tail would be grooming. Mid-tail would be “dog grooming,” and then long tail, which is even more specific, would be like “dog grooming Columbus” or something like that. That’s maybe location specific, or maybe even more specific. Maybe the long tail keyword is “golden retriever dog grooming.” You know, that’s where those longtail keywords really get some of the best juice. But yeah, do you have anything else to add on that as far as like how to plan out your internal links in your structure and navigation?

Michelle 32:08 So one thing that SEOs do, and certainly one thing that your web designers can learn how to do, is to make sure that as they’re planning out your site structure, just really pay attention and make sure that you have a target keyword that’s associated with each page. So that you know. Really, it’s both when you’re doing all the setup, but then it’s also very good for you to know which is the page for “dog grooming” and you don’t sort of get confused.

So it’s good to write it out. Either to put it into the Yoast target key phrase box but also even just have an Excel spreadsheet that has all the URLs on the site and all their target keywords. So that as you build out new content pages, say you’re building a blog post, and you know that the blog post is related to dog grooming, you don’t forget which page you should be linking to within the text.

You write the blog post just like you always would. And then you look for the text, you know—I’m an editor, so my view is that it needs to be natural—but find the text that’s most appropriate. But you know, you would think, okay, I am a dog groomer. So let’s make sure that we’re linking to my dog grooming page, should people want to buy my services, and then make sure that you’re always linking to that same page.

And then if you ever bring on a new service, that’s related to dog grooming, go clean things up to make sure that if you are targeting a new service, that you have links that are pointing to the new service and the old service appropriately that kind of don’t get your wires crossed.

Josh 33:41 I think, the idea of doing SEO in phases is powerful. First of all, you just have to. You’re never going to be able to just do a one-time build and have 100 blog posts ready to go. It is a one step at a time process.

But what I do recommend all web designers do for their clients, and their sites as well, in the first phase is to at least have your main services set up and SEOed.

So, for example, you get an auto mechanic site, and you’re building that out for them, I would highly recommend not just doing one services page that just has all their services on one page, but do each one of those pages as its own service like: brake repair, maintenance, cooling system, or AC repair or tires. Whatever it is, even if it’s just like six services pages. Isn’t that one of the best ways for Google to appreciate and give some authority to a new site of each like targeted service has its own page?

SEO Tip: For best SEO results, create a separate webpage for each service a business offers.

Michelle 34:34 Absolutely. And absolutely don’t put all of your services on the same page. So you’ll often see it with nail salons, they’ll put all of their different types of manicures and pedicures and—I don’t know, all that stuff—all on one page. It’s like a big price list. And Google just doesn’t know what to do with that because people search “pedicure near me” not just “where is a salon?”

And so if you want to rank for it, this is an example of what I was saying at the beginning—Google ranks pages, not websites. Think about it when you’re doing a Google search … It’s not like it’s a whole bunch of home pages! You get internal pages.

Josh 35:14 That a great point.

Michelle 35:15 So it’s really important that those specific, internal pages, are well targeted. And then also from a design perspective, as I’m sure you know, is that you have to expect your users to land on any page at any given moment. Some people will type in domain name, but really, very few people enter through your homepage. Most people are entering through your blog or entering through your service pages. And so you need to make sure that your website makes sense for the people that are landing on an internal page.

Josh 35:45 Yeah, that makes sense. Now, what about having a service page that just links to those those services? What are your thoughts on that? Because I mean, like—if somebody does go to the homepage and it’s like, you know, check out my client automotive place, they go to the homepage.

Here’s, you know, a services page that has although you could link those six services in the homepage too. You could have a services section in your home page which links out to that. But do you recommend having a services page that just has links out to all the services or some sort of hierarchy?

Michelle 36:14 A good rule of thumb is to just to think about your users. So there will be complicated companies that just have a lot of categories and then subcategories you need to tell users where to find the stuff on their website. So yes, if there are categories of sub services that would make sense.

Josh 36:32 Yea, if I think about like my site. I’ve got like 200 posts now between my podcasts and tutorials, I can’t put all those in the menu. So I need to create the hierarchy. So for me, it’s courses with my courses, there is tutorials, with three segments of tutorials— WordPress tutorials, Divi tutorials, and generic web design tutorials, which are topics around the tools of web design. But then I also have podcasts and then eventually I’m going to start probably adding different categories of the podcast as episodes grow that way, if they, you know, people are searching for my business podcast versus SEO podcast verus motivational podcasts … like they can kind of, you know, search in between those. Is that kind of what you mean, like with a with a site like mine or with a site that’s going to have a lot of posts, you really have to plan that out, right?

Organizing your Blog Content into Content Hubs to Boost Topical Authority

Michelle 37:29 So one downside of WordPress and just blogs in general, is that by default, everything is just done chronologically. And so what how I like to explain that, just from an information architecture perspective, it’s as if you went to the library, and they said, “Here’s all the books we have … in the order in which we bought them.” And like,”Thanks, but no thanks!” I need a specific book. I need stuff on a specific topic!

And so if you only ever have this gigantic list of “stuff that you made on the Internet.” That, it’s not very helpful to your users. And it’s not very helpful to Google for understanding how the things are related.

Now, you can do some of it through WordPress Tags and Categories. But what I absolutely love—what I like, what just gets me all fired up about reorganizing other people’s blogs—is content hubs. So you’ve been doing this for a long time, you have a lot of content on different categories that you naturally produced. And then reorganizing that so that you have a place for all of your stuff related to Divi, you have a place for all of your stuff related to another subtopic that you talked about.

That’s quite a powerful, powerful way to supercharge your SEO, especially on the established site that has a lot of content already. Because then you have the hub that you know to link to for a bigger topic. And then it’s useful for your users because it’s like, “if you want more of my stuff on WordPress, I have a place for tht.” And it works for any industry. It’s not just yours. I can actually send you a link. And there’s there was a real “aha” moment for me when I read a blog post about all the different kinds of content hubs. And I was like, “Yes, that is how the internet needs to be organized.” And Google loves it. You can start ranking for things that you wouldn’t be able to rank for otherwise, because you can rank for more of those mid and short-tail terms, because you have a lot of supporting content.

Organizing Blog Content into User-Centric Content Hubs and Funnels

Josh 39:28 This is exactly what you and I discovered with my site, when we started working together for my SEO audit. You know, I have almost 200 posts, I’ve been doing posts consistently, whether it’s podcasts or tutorial or videos, for three years now.

August 2017, is when I started. So wow, that’s crazy. Three years. Actually, what is it today? We’re recording this on August 27. I think August 22nd, 2017 was the first tutorial I did. So it’s been just over three years. But I say that I’ve got all this content, but you and I talked about really thinking about the user, which again, I’m just using this as an example. But you can apply this to your site or your clients sites, no matter how simple or complicated.

You build your content, but you also think about your user because … I realized that my site, I’ve got my courses, tutorials, blogs, whatever. The problem is, though, if somebody goes to my site, they may be brand new to web design. And then there they might see Divi tutorials and WordPress tutorials and courses and some of this other stuff. But they’re not sure what they should look at, at their level, if they’re just starting out.

Whereas somebody who’s a little more advanced and is wanting to build their business, —same thing—they may need to like filter through the content that they don’t need anymore. They’re already past that level. They’re looking to take their business to the next level.

So what you and I talked about doing was almost set up like a funnel, which I’m going to implement on my site soon. Provide a very clear path to follow, like, “okay, you’re going to start right here. If you’re brand new to web design, you want to learn the technical stuff. Start here.” And then on that page, I’ll have the recommended resources that I’ve put out. And I’ll continue to add to that, the resources that would help you get started here. Here’s a bunch of freebies, here’s a blog post. Here’s what I recommend.

And then when you’re ready to get to that next level here is a recommended course. And then same thing for people who are starting their business. Here’s some recommended resources. Here’s the next level. And then here’s, you know, the next option.

And then for people want to scale their business, and take it to the next level, here’s your path to follow.

So when you and I talked about that, it really got the gears turning in my head. That made so much sense, because I was like, “Wow, yeah, I do have a site that is a content hub.” But my job now is to make it as easy as possible for people to find what they’re looking for. When you have a site that has a lot of content, that’s the goal, isn’t it? You’ve got to really think about the user, the UX or user experience.

Two Effective Approaches to Keyword Research and Content Planning: The Organic Approach and the Data-Driven Approach

Michelle 41:54 So I think there’s really two ways to go about content planning. And what you’ve done is always going to be a fantastic approach for any business owner. There are people like me that can do all the data that can show you how many people are searching this keyword and that keyword. And that’s valuable at a certain point. It can be valuable at the beginning.

But if you know your audience, if you know your people, and you’re just trying to be genuinely helpful, will always win with that because Google is trying to be that matchmaker. Google is trying to help you find your people and your people to find you. So business owners—and this is why I’m an editor, and not a writer—is that I truly believe that business owners know their audience best. That they are in the trenches and their business. They’re the ones that are getting questions from people calling on the phone, and they know the answers to those questions. They are an expert in their field.

And so as an editor, I can help people take whatever content that they already have, or that they’ve produced and I can make it absolutely publishable. I can make it convincing and I can make it clear and concise and I can make it SEO optimized. But I can’t do the writing. I don’t know their audience as deeply as they do.

Josh 43:09 Yes, I think that’s where a lot of clients get into trouble when they hire these third-party SEO companies, because these companies don’t know their industry. I mean, there’s some basic things you can write it up, but they don’t really know the ins and the outs and they don’t have your experience in that industry.

And that’s, I’m glad we’re talking about keyword research because I’ve always felt—and I talked about this in my SEO course—but there’s really two ways to go about keyword research. There’s the organic approach, which is what I’ve done over the past three years which, as you know, Michelle, after we went through my analytics and everything, it’s amazing how much domain authority I’ve got over the years.

Being that I just kind of went for it. I didn’t I didn’t know keyword research whatsoever. All I did was create posts and tutorials that answered questions that I had or that I learned in my experience. So it was like, “here’s how to create this custom section with Divi,” or “Here’s how to customize the back to top button with Divi.” I didn’t research anything and look, “okay, how many people are searching this?” I just answered questions that, you know, I had.

And the organic approach really is, I think, one of the best ways to go. And it’s free. I mean, it takes time, but it’s free.

Now, the other approach is the data-driven approach, which is where we get into using keyword research tools. And this way is equally valuable. Now, there is more to it. It’s more data-driven. It’s more researched and analytical. There’s something is a lot of power in seeing, like, what is actually happening online, like what’s the most popular things that you should target?

And I’ll just be transparent. I’m not going to say everything because you and I have gone through a whole nother level of SEO research for my site. But now, what you and I are doing, is we’re looking at—data-wise—what are the most popular terms around things that will help with my courses? So when it comes to maintenance plans, SEO, learning Divi … we’re actually doing research, one-by-one, and I’m kind of planning out my content moving forward around … still doing the organic approach, because I’m going to always do that … However, it is nice to have the analytics to back that up.

So that way, if we see that, you know, this term that I’m thinking is, is getting like 100 views a month or 100 searches, whereas this term is getting 1000? I’m probably gonna want to do the 1000. I mean, I could capitalize on the 100.

And you’ve been through my SEO course, you saw kind of what I teach as far as how I do organic SEO, which basically, you can just type something into Google and see what comes up. You can look at your competition that way. There’s also related content like that.

But there’s the there there is the data-driven approach, which is where we’re using tools and I’d love to hear your take on keyword research with some of the tools available to us. What do you use? And what are some price points and entry points for keyword research tools? Because this is one of the biggest questions people are like, “Well, this all sounds great. I’d love Putting up my keywords but how do I do that? What do I do?

Best Paid Keyword Research Tools

Michelle 46:06 So there are free options, there are paid options, and then there’s a lot of different price points in the paid options. I personally am a huge fan of a company called Ahrefs. They’re pretty well known as the most expensive of the tools. But I don’t chintz on … I don’t know, I just don’t chintz on tools.

Josh 46:29 It’s freakin’ awesome! I mean, I’m so that’s why I hire you out because I don’t have to pay for it. I can just hire Michelle to do that.

Michelle 46:35 I worked it out for this podcast. I actually spend $3,000 a year on tools. But that’s because I’m helping companies make decisions about where to produce content and what they should go for and what they shouldn’t. And like, you just need the best possible data. It’s like “garbage in, garbage out.” Like if you’re making business decisions on not the best data that’s available then like I don’t think I’m doing my job. So that’s why I do it also, um, I just love it. Sorry.

Josh 47:05 No, it’s awesome.

Michelle 47:06 And all day, like once you’ve had access to these tools, so I can just explain kind of how the tools work. Just very briefly, I promise I won’t bore people.

But basically what these tools do is that they have 3.6 billion keywords. This is this Ahrefs, that they track on a monthly basis. And then they figure out who’s showing up for all 3.6 billion keywords. And then you can search it by an actual domain. And you can find out all of the keywords in that set that a particular website is showing up for.

And so like it’s just so fun to figure out kind of like how Google works! It’s as close as you can get to sort of like looking at what like to think of as the back end of Google. That’s like an overstatment. But it’s just almost like, “Oh, this is makes what makes it tick.”

So that’s why I really enjoy it. And it gives you this really important information that unfortunately, is not available to most site owners. So like Google gives up some of this and Google Search Console and Google Analytics. It’s not that they don’t give webmasters any information for free. But it’s kind of not in their interest to give you too much information, because then you might game the system.

So that’s why these third-party tools can be so valuable is that they give you more information than Google gives up for free. They’re not cheap. But that’s the kind of the best data there that you can you can work on. And so I can pull reports of those kinds for anybody, any web designers, any business owners to give you the kind of information—basically, this is what I do for an SEO audit—is I just, I show you how your website is doing in search. It’s kind of like a “state of the union” like a “state of the website.”

And I can show you which keywords you’re coming up for, in what positions and then how difficult it was to rank for that keyword. How many people are searching that keyword per month? What’s your competition like? Like who else is coming up for that? Those are the types of questions that I can answer. So, I do love these tools. It gives you information about who is searching what. And so if you just think about it at its base level, it’s just market research right? As market research goes it’s pretty inexpensive, actually. But to know that X number people are searching topics like this is really important if you’re starting a business and you want to know whether there’s gonna be a market for your product well, like keyword research can tell you that.

If you are starting a business and you don’t know which keywords to target, which ones are sort of “gettable” in the near future I didn’t like the keyword research can tell you that. and so that’s why the that’s why I personally subscribe to the tools is because they just give me better data.

Josh 49:51 Yeah, I mean, that’s what you do. Like, to your point like it’s, that’s your and that probably every day, so of course, that’s the investment you’re going to make in your business. Now, that’s a a premium tool. Are there some other ones … what are some of the free options for keyword research?

Best Free Keyword Research Tools and Strategies

Michelle 50:05 OK, so free options. One is Google Keyword Planner. That’s the tool Google puts out for people who are planning out Pay Per Click advertising. So they do get more information for people who are planning our pay per click. But of course, it’s the same keywords. So the getting into Google Keyword planner is one free option.

There’s also another tool that’s just recently come out called Ubersuggest and it’s a owned by Neil Patel, who’s an SEO guy. I haven’t used it a lot myself, but I have heard that it’s, it’s a real competitor to Ahrefs. So as free tools go, it’s probably your best bet. You can get a lot done with that tool.

And then really, as you say, in your course, the other really best stuff is just Google. Google itself does give up some of its secrets, if you know where to look. And so autocomplete you start writing in “dentist” and then it says “pediatric dentist” and Those words have search volume behind them.

Similarly, if you go down to the bottom of the page, and it says people also search well, yep, that has some search volume on it. You don’t know how much. But you know that it’s probably not a bad thing to target.

And so those are some of the ways that you can start doing keyword research. And then also just paying attention to your audience. If you’re in Facebook groups, where your audience is at, and they’re asking questions, well, then somebody searched that, you know, that they’re only asking on Facebook, because I couldn’t find the answer on the internet.

And so you know that if you produce content that answers that question, you’re probably going to get search traffic from it. And so those are some more organic approaches to keyword research that are, are really tailored to things that anyone can do, including business owners, including web designers. And one thing that’s nice about keyword research is that it’s something that a web designer can do without necessarily knowing all of the ins and outs of a business. You can do it using Google and you can kind of get quite far doing that.

Josh 51:55 And I always go back, when it comes to organic stuff, is like “how would you search it?” What would you search for if you wanted to learn this? There’s value in that too. And actually, sometimes clients can get in their own way. If they know their industry too well, because they may overcomplicate it.

I’ve asked clients before in the past, like, well, “when we talk about, like writing blog posts or doing your content or you know, even just your services pages, you know, this, you know, this, but here’s how I would say it, like I will, you know, I might say, like, you know, “affordable dog training” or something like that, you know, there’s other words like that, that could be intermingled in there as well. So yeah, it all makes sense. And then as far so there’s a free tools we talked about the premium what’s like the next level up is like SEMRush?.

Screaming Frog?

Michelle 52:39 Screaming Frog? Yeah,

Josh 52:41 Yes, there it is.

Michelle 52:41 Yeah, you’re just these are tools that do different things. So Ahref and SEMrush. Those are both keyword research tools and backlink checkers … they’re kind of your main SEO toolkit type tools.

And then I have specific tools that do specific things. Screaming Frog is actually free. And it’s free for up to quite a bit of usage. And it’s a crawler. So it walks through a site, it crawls the site, and it pulls all the important information. And so it’s really useful for finding out which pages you forgot to put a meta description on, or which pages don’t have an h1 header. It’s very useful for that. So that’s a it’s like a technical SEO tool, but it’s, it’s quite useful and it is free.

And then I also have a rank checker that I use. So I I’m able to sort of check ranks in different locations and … if I’m SEO optimizing something I need to make sure that it worked. I need to be able to measure and so a rank checker is really like measurement tool for SEO, but most, most web designers won’t have to deal with that.

Josh 53:44 So yeah, I was just gonna say this is why I encourage all my students on my SEO course to know the basics, the fundamental stuff and then really capitalize on the organic keyword research. But when it comes to the data driven stuff, unless you want to be an SEO agency, just partner with somebody like yourself, who does it, because it is it a whole nother world.

Michelle 54:02 They’re expensive. And really it’s the time commitment to learning them is actually part of the problem too.

Josh 54:08 It took a lot of time for me just to go through your reports. And I didn’t even do the report. So I can only imagine, you know, so yeah, that’s, that’s a huge thing.

So I’d love to transition to some on site stuff, because we talked about what Google is, you know how it searches, we’ve talked about the strategies of different types of linking, we’ve talked about keyword research and building that domain authority.

I’d love to talk about just some practical things that you’ve seen that Google likes about sites. I think everyone probably knows, particularly web designers, that if you have a very slow loading website, and ain’t gonna go well. You need to make sure it’s optimized, like that bad hosting is also a killer on SEO.

Google knows, Google knows if your servers are terrible. If you’re using GoDaddy or one of these cheap hosts, that is a big deal. There’s also on-site like structure stuff, as far as having an H1 (header) … just one H1. Because you don’t want to confuse Google with a bunch of titles, so having a good structure like that is important.

What are some things like that, that you would say just the average web designer and even just for their clients can focus on just like the basics, to help with their SEO.

Quick Tips for Optimizing Website Content Yourself

Write Keyword-Rich Page Titles and Headers

Michelle 55:11 So the one, the one thing that I would say is just be so careful with your titles, that if you have a clickbait title that says “Things that you should really know,” Google doesn’t know what to do with that.

So really, it’s like “Things you should really know about the thing that you’re actually talking about.” So a better title is “Things you Should Really know about Dog Grooming” is far better than a title like “Things you should really know.”

Because that title, which is the page title, and then it is often reflected in the h1 header as well, is the most important signal to Google saying “What is this page about?”

And so if you don’t put your keyword in the title, or if you’re not specific—maybe you’re being sort of being cute—you can start ranking for some really random stuff that you don’t actually want to rank for. And so you just to … it’s kind of sad … but being too artful sometimes in your titles can kind of ding you.

But it’s also a quick fix. So once you know that that’s the problem, no big deal, you just go change your titles, and then everything starts working nicely.

Josh 56:10 Great, cool.

Michelle 56:12 And then because of course there is a place for clickbait, you can always use the Open Graph tags. So in Yoast, for example, to go to the social tab, and then you can put a specific title that you only use on social because on social, you don’t need keywords, right? It’s not a search engine. And so you can set a different title for Facebook versus Google. And then that can help a lot if you want to do that kinds of stuff.

Josh 56:35 I’ve never done that before. That’s interesting.

Michelle 56:37 Oh, it’s fun. Go into that social tab. It’s hidden. That’s why I mentioned it. I didn’t notice it for a while either, but you can have quite a lot of control over how your stuff shows up in Facebook, which is great.

Um, other things is to really stay on topic. So if you’re writing a blog post, some of what Google is doing it parses your content is trying to find kind of recognizable bits. And so one example that I’ve seen, is where you’re talking about something. And then you, you move off to talking about like Settlers of Catan. And Settlers of Catan has nothing to do with dog grooming, and Google looks “Ooo … Settlers of Catan!” And then, as an SEO, you see the pages are starting to rank for things that you’re like, “Oh, that is a misfire,” so you want to kind of stay on topic. Just make sure that you’re not um, sometimes people do it with metaphors and stuff like it comes up because you’re trying to give an example. But then your example is off in left field. So like, don’t use like, like specific names like Settlers of Catan in your blog posts. Google notices those and recognizes them a “thing” and kind of zeroes in on a little bit more than you might think.

And then another one is with all of your content to stay on topic. So don’t like when people say, “Oh, I’m a blogger!” People don’t really understand that blogging for business is quite different than like blogging for you family. So making, sure as you do, making sure that all of the topics that you talk about in your blog are aimed at your audience that they would appeal to that specific audience you’re trying to draw into your website.

Josh 58:09 Well, you just reaffirmed me, Because I titled my blog page “web design blog,” so you just made me feel so much better. It wasn’t just blog.

Staying on Topic Helps Build Your Website’s Industry and Niche-Specific Authority and Expertise

Michelle 58:18 Yeah. Yeah, that doesn’t look like that. That’s probably doesn’t give any information. There’s nothing specific there. But you had an opportunity to put something specific there. So you should.

Josh 58:26 Yeah. And I know you’re focused on the content side of things versus design, because you know, you’re not a web designer per se, so that that makes total sense. Because I mean, the content is, its King. There’s a reason they say content is kind.

And the cool thing is, I will say this, you can rank still without, like having this perfect full fledged 2500-word blog post.

My Google Analytics video is a perfect example. We were laughing about that because the most popular video on my YouTube channel is a beginner’s guide on Google Analytics, which, I’m going to do every revised version, because right when I released that, I think two weeks later, they came out with a new UI for Google Analytics. And it’s still applicable, it’s still the same, it just looks a little different. I was like, dang it.

But that video is still the most popular video on my YouTube channel like Google really loves that video. It’s a 10-minute, quick video. It explains “Here’s the three things you need to know about Google Analytics.” The post for that however, as you saw, there’s nothing to it. It’s like one little sentence, one little paragraph, and then that’s it.

So my one of my things on my to-do list is to do a revised version of that, but then really build out that post, I’ll use the exact same post, I’m not going to delete that one, because it’s got a lot of ranking, the ranking value, but I’m just going to revise it, update it. Which is that’s another great aspect about SEO is you can do that.

But I say that to say you’ll be surprised how like, you don’t have to be an SEO expert to get something to rank if it resonates with people reading. Because like you said, you kind of have to please Google, when you’re playing your site structure and your content, you have to please the robots, but you also have to make sure humans want to read it. Humans are gonna tell “this is manufactured.” This sounds robotic, you know, it’s got to be a mix of both.

Michelle 1:00:12 This is kind of the problem that I have with content agencies that are just like only writing content just to rank for it, just to rank for that particular keyword it.

To be honest, sometimes it works. Like To be honest, you can rank for things, particularly if you have a relatively high domain authority, you can rank for things kind of whatever you want, but like, will it convert? Will the people who come to your website reading that blog post go, “Wow, I want to work with this person. They’re clearly an authority in their field,” or will they be more like “Ehh, it didn’t really answer my question. Just had a nice title.”

And so that’s why I really just, again, sorry to bring it back, but that’s why I work as an editor and not as a writer because I do believe in the authority of the person who’s writing the content and they know their audience best. So if you always focus on your audience, you can’t go wrong. And then really it’s just a matter of… when I, when I’m looking for a keyword that I’m gonna be targeting, or helping a business target. I look to what’s ranking right now. And if I see that type of stuff, like if I see stuff that’s like, I don’t know, I think that the business owner could probably do significantly better. Like, I don’t think the person who was writing that blog post really cared all that much. To me, that’s like gold. I’m like, “Oh, bring it on.”

That’s been my experience that when you match expertise, up with a bit of knowledge of what you could target, it’s like, it’s gold, like you can punch above your weight in terms of in terms of, even if you don’t necessarily have a high domain authority site, if you answer the question behind the keyword, if you know your audience, and you know the type of people that are searching that keyword, and then you just nail it. Um, Google does figure it out.

Getting Featured Snippets with “Featured Snippet Bait”

Josh 1:01:55 I just keep on thinking about the gold quote that you said earlier, Google doesn’t rank websites, it ranks pages. It ranks a piece of content, which is so valuable. I’d actually can you expand on? Well, real quick because I want to ask you about your post that’s ranking, which is kind of a case study.

But before that, is there a is there an ideal type of structure for a blog posts, like we’ve got the h1 title, we’ve got, you know, the keyword that’s very specific. But when I know by talking to a lot of different SEO experts over the past few years, they all say one of the most important things is to have a little description paragraph right under the title that explains what you’re going to read, because often Google will feature that as a featured snippet.

Michelle 1:02:40 Yes, “Snippet Bait.” I Love it. It’s one of the quickest wins in the SEO world. In fact, you can actually get this in half an hour. Like you can if you do the rank tracking, you can see that these types of effects actually take almost instant effect.

And I call it snippet bait. So if you know that a featured snippet is coming up, so if you just snippet is when you Google something and t hey give you a short little answer, often with a picture, and then a link to a website. So if you write a very short answer to the question, Google chooses one of the pages in the top, basically five ranked pages, to feature as a featured snippet. You can actually jump from position four right up to position one if you have the best snippet bait.

Josh 1:03:22 That’s what happened to me! I’m looking at it right now, as a practical case study. I think you and I went over this when we did our SEO audit, but one of my blog posts and videos is the Divi Theme versus the Divi Builder. So I just answered the question. I’m going to read it right now.

For everyone listening, Google “Divi Theme vs Divi Builder” and let’s make sure I’m either one of the top or am the top featured snippet. But you would think Elegant Themes would come up for this. You would be wrong, baby! Joshhall.co gettin’ some DA, Domain Authority.

And the post is not that extensive. All I did was I asked and answered the question “What is the difference between the Divi theme and Divi Builder?” I said the difference between the two is that the Divi Theme includes the Divi Builder, and has everything you need all wrapped up into one theme, so when you download the Divi theme, you don’t need to download the Divi Builder—it’s already included. And then I said the Divi Builder—the plugin itself—you can use on different themes.

So that is the featured snippet that comes up on Google when you search “divi theme vs divi builder” and that’s how I get a lot of traffic now, is just through that example, that case study. So it was just answering a question, going back to what you talked about.

Michelle 1:04:31 And the way to do it is you put an H2 HTML header right on top. So, you probably have a header on yours that says something like, you know, “What is the difference between the Divi theme and the Divi Builder” Response “The difference between …”

In that sense you are sort of talking to a robot, right? You can see how a computer program would be like “This is probably the answer” .. because you’ve made it so obvious in the question/answer format.

Writing Conversationally, As if Teaching to a Small Group

Josh 1:04:50 Yeah. However, from a teaching perspective—a lot of times I write content like I’m teaching a group of people. This is always how I’ve done all my tutorials and all my course videos and everything. I kind of pretend like okay, if there is like 20 people around me, here’s how I would talk? Because I talk a little bit differently one-on-one versus a group. But I would also talk very differently in front of 100 people than I would with 20.

So I often, like to talk like I’m talking with a small group. And this is exactly how I would say I it, I would say “So you guys are probably curious, what’s the difference from the Divi theme and Divi Builder? … Well, here it is. The difference is that the Divi theme …” You know, that’s when I would go into that. And it seems to work well with Google. Like there are different ways to talk to Google. However, I would say you probably don’t want to write your content, like you’re talking to 100 people. You want to write it like you’re talking to one, or a few that right? Because that’s what people are searching and they want to get a direct answer, you want to have that more relational type of verbage.

Writing for Online Readability: Bulleted and Numbered Lists, Tables of Contents

Michelle 1:05:50 People are on the internet are very grab-and-go, right? Some people are getting to your answer and that’s all they wanted. And they’re very satisfied with that answer. And some people want to keep on reading.

And so it is really important to not hide the answers down at the bottom of the blog post, to force people to read the whole thing. No, we don’t have that kind of control. You brought somebody to a website. If you answered their question in one paragraph, then they’re happy. And, that’s what you’re trying to finally make your users happy. And that’s, you know, there’s no reason to be overly fluffy. Like where the question of “how long should a blog post can be” comes up. Well, just make it as long as it needs to be and no longer.

Josh 1:06:31 But a great point, that I do kind of try to do the best of both worlds. Like, if somebody wants to grab and go—cool. But if you do want more detail, here it is.

That’s what a great point, Michelle, because yeah, if you can answer a question quickly, but then expand on it for those who do want to keep on reading, which—here’s another SEO benefit for everybody—if you get people to stay on your site longer, Google knows that. Google knows if people are staying on your site longer, and that’s going to help all sorts of analytics. So that’s really big.

I’m also big on doing bulleted lists and numbered lists, because those will show up as featured snippets. Do you recommend that for anytime you can do it?

Michelle 1:07:01 It’s really just for readability, too. So absolutely. So the benefit of doing like a “how-to list,” like a numbered list, and a bulleted list is that quite often, Google will only take the first five words have each item on your list, and then use that as the featured snippet. So if people want to actually read the rest of it, they have to click through your website. So that can be very beneficial to you. So that kind of featured snippet is quite valuable.

But then on the flip side, when the people come to your website, there’s nothing worse than a wall of text. I think if there was anybody that needed to learn how to write for the web, coming from a very different background as a historian, so like, Oh, I would not used bulleted lists! That is not how I started my writing career. But I have absolutely learned that writing for the web is just a different kind of writing and once you get it, then it’s a beautiful kind of writing. It’s just different genre. And you’ll lose your audience very fast if it just looks exhausting.

And you can also do a bulleted list as like an outline of what you’re about to read.

That’s a very good on-page tip. It’s very easy to implement for WordPress designers is using tables of contents. So if you ever have a post that’s longer than, you know, your sort of average blog post, but it has a good header structure, make a table of contents at the top. I think Elegant Themes does this all the time, where they have like, you can click down so that it helps your users because they can …

Josh 1:08:40 It kind of zips them to that section.

Michelle 1:08:42 But if you set up a Table of Contents, you also, quite often, get extra like little links underneath your post in Google. And so Google picks up that information, and then presents it on the search engine results, so that people even right from Google can go to the appropriate spot on your page. And so that can certainly help your click-through rates.

Josh 1:09:00 That’s genius. Yeah, so we covered like, we just covered a lot of the on site contents type of stuff. I’d love to—just really briefly, before we wrap up here Michelle—talk about the case study of your blog post, which is ranking very well. I forget what your domain authority is, but your site doesn’t have a whole lot to it.

Michelle 1:09:17 No, my website is pretty green. So like, my main authority is low, but … boy.

So I wrote a blog post on how to proofread a website. So I mean, you couldn’t think more niche, right? Like how many people really want to learn how to proofread website? But I give an answer which is very popular amongst editors.

In the post, I wrote my process for proofreading websites, which is something that I think is really important.

And I was amazed that I was able to rank for. I did all the keyword research, I found a keyword that I knew that I could probably rank for, but it has grown and I’m now ranking for much more competitive keywords that—to be honest, that I thought I would be able to target. I’m right up there with Grammarly and all these huge companies. And and it’s getting me business. I now get inquiries now through that blog post on a weekly basis.

And, and what it is, is that people who are searching for a website editor, look at my blog post, they say, “Oh I guess, she really knows what she’s doing. That sounds really complicated. Maybe I’ll just hire her to do it.” And then I get inquiries that way. So that’s, that’s content marketing at its finest. And if you really put the time and effort … I mean, absolutely be consistent and publish content on a regular basis. Google absolutely loves that too. But taking the time to do your posts well in to really answer the question and kind of be the best, be the 10X content on the internet for that question can really pay off gigantic benefits.

Josh 1:10:46 And it’s a great case study. Like it’s a great example of you didn’t need to do a whole lot to get that to rank you just wrote a really good article and that was good.

Michelle 1:10:53 Yeah, I didn’t do any link building. I shared it in some editing groups.

Josh 1:10:57 But you’re not marketing it consistently.

Michelle 1:11:00 No I didn’t do anything funny, or like … there’s no tricks. I just wrote what I knew. And I think that’s the thing is that like, everybody’s an expert in what they do. And so like, just write what you know, answer the question. And like you’re answering those questions. You’re answering those questions every day in your business, whether you’re a web designer, whether you’re a specialist in whatever it is that you do, you are are having one-on-one conversations. So anytime that somebody’s asking you a question, well, then like, you know the answer, you should put it on the internet.

Answering FAQ in Your Business? Write it up as a Blog Post to Boost Rankings and Save Time 

Josh 1:11:29 Yes, I’m so big on this one. Like, people ask me how I get so much done now. And, well, partly, anytime I repeat something, I always make it something that’s a template or a blog post or something I can refer people back to. And I recommend all my students do that when they’re working with clients, you’re gonna get the same questions over and over, you might get the question about hosting, you might get your process you might get the design, how much does it cost, you can write these as blog posts that will be lead generators for you and you don’t have to repeat yourself 100 times every month.

You can just say, “Yeah, here’s, you know, here’s a little bit of difference with hosting. Here’s, you know, my full explanation that will help people understand it.” And you just increase your SEO value because you got more eyes on your site, and then they might like it and then they might share it with somebody else. You never know where that stuff’s gonna go.

So yeah, do it man. It’s just so funny cuz I see newer entrepreneurs, but I just feel like a lot of people dog blogging when I just kind of have to laugh at it because I’m like, you can say what you want. I’m gonna keep on blogging. You know, I mean, technically, like, my podcast posts are blogs. Now what especially now because we’re transcribing them, and we’re doing is we’re kind of beefing them up, but it’s still content is king. When I say blog, I’m talking about any type of post type …

What Type of Content Should I Create? Is it Necessary to Write Blog Posts, or are Videos Better?

Michelle 1:12:48 I’m a writer, but you don’t have to write. You need to produce content that resonates with your audience and matches your skill set. So like if you’re a great video maker if you’re a great audio maker, then do that! As long as the people that you’re trying to draw into your business like that format, do it.

There is a little bit of a benefit to written content … Google is just better at parsing written content more than they are at parsing audio and video. But they’re getting better and better at searching and being able to index podcasts and index video. And of course they own YouTube, so they’re getting pretty good at it.

Josh 1:13:24 And I’m a prime example, too of how the video and the post really link together nicely because a lot of times if you search for a Divi tutorial, you’ll see my video. And then right under it, you see you don’t see the YouTube link, you see my post that accompanies it, where it’s embedded there.

Michelle 1:13:38 In your space, it’s so important to have videos, right? Like I’m a writer, but like, of course, you need a video … you’re you’re showing visual things. And so that’s just the format that makes the most sense for your users. And so, when you think about content that’s literally “content” across the board, whatever it is, you have search keywords that link up to any kind of genre, any kind of format. And then I really I just encourage people to do what it is that they can be consistent with, and what it is that their audience wants. So if you already have a skill set in a particular format of making content, then like go with it.

Josh 1:14:15 Absolutely. Yeah. No, that’s great. Well, Michelle, this has been awesome, we’ve covered a lot of really good stuff.

I feel like we went in depth enough, as far as you know, how to really optimize content for your website for SEO. I’m gonna preface this with an episode that just kind of gives an introduction to all this stuff … so some of this doesn’t sound like a foreign language.

But yeah, this has been really great. And, you know, I just want to thank you for the work you’ve done, for not only my agency, but for me with it with the SEO audit stuff, because like I said, I don’t want to buy Ahrefs, and I don’t want to have to take the time to learn, that I’m just gonna work with you.

And I encourage everybody else to you know, utilize your services because now you’re you’re already working with some of my students, and you’re a great resource for that. And the cool thing is—you can do whatever you want. With web design and SEO, there’s, there’s so many different ways to go about it … when it comes to keyword research and SEO, as you and I talked about. You were like, “you know, you could do this as simple or as complex as you want. If you want to start off with, you know, a basic package, we could do that and then scale up from there.”

So there’s really, there’s endless options. It’s so valuable for clients too. For us web designers who are working with clients, they want to focus on their business, they don’t want to have to be thinking too hard about this. So it’s good to get the information from them, but then shine through with your expertise.

And then once they start seeing results—that’s when it’s really, really cool. But as SEO goes, you really have to set that expectation. But I think this talk was a really good idea of really what goes into the expectation of doing SEO, and not only for our clients, but for us, like you start a website, you want to be the top page on Google. Well, for what term or for what industry or what’s your competition look like? There’s all these things that come into play. So hopefully this really makes people more confident talking to clients too when, when their client says I want to be on the first page of Google.

Michelle 1:15:59 One thing that I I always try to emphasize is that, there is no magic course you can take that’s gonna teach you all of these things. It’s such a fast changing industry that it’s learned in the doing. You actually just have to do SEO, and you’re not going to break anything! You can fix I it. Your website is a living document. If you ever thought that something was broken, you can fix it.

“SEO is learned in the doing.” – Michelle Bourbonniere

And Google’s trying quite hard to be that matchmaker and they’re not trying to, to mess up your site, right, like Google is trying to do their very best to understand what you’re writing about matching up with the people that would find your stuff relevant. And so really, it’s not scary.

And so then when I’m doing SEO audits, I am really focused—because I’m a little bit different than most SEO agencies—because I’m an editor, and that I don’t have packages. There’s no upsell, there’s no like $2,000 a month package that’s behind this.

I really am just quite passionate about showing people how their website is doing in search, educating them on what it means, and maybe where they would go from there. So I can help web designers understand how their websites are doing. And quite often I can explain it in plain language. I always do an explainer video that if I spend send you a spreadsheet, I go through each column, and I show you what it means. I do my very best to make it make sense.

But also that often reveals business opportunities for the business. And so if I’m talking to a web designer, and I’m like, you know, you’re coming up for this term, and you’re not even trying, then like, there’s a page that you can pitch to your business owner. You look really smart when you’re like “hey, like, I know SEO a little bit here. And it seems like you’re ranking for this. You should you should try on that one.” And then that can be a real a real benefit to everybody. Yeah, add those little pieces of really specific information about the website sometimes be just game changing.

Josh 1:17:56 Yep. couldn’t have said it better myself. Well, Michelle, thanks so much for your time and For your expertise, I have a feeling this is not going to be the last one we do, because we could, we could have a whole podcast just about these different SEO practices. Honey, I really appreciate it.

Michelle 1:18:11 had so much fun working with you and your company. And I just really appreciate being able to talk about these things to your website audience. Thank you.

Josh 1:18:18 Awesome, Michelle. Well, thanks so much for coming on and have you on again soon.

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