SEO for Rookies # 6 – Meta Descriptions are a cinch.

Great news – even though it sounds complicated, you don’t need to know how to code to write a great meta description. It’s much easier than that.

The meta description summarizes a webpage’s information for searchers.

The “snippet” is the headline.

And the snippet and meta description together disclose to the searcher (and Google) what your content is about.

Write your meta description well, and a searcher might click over and read your full article.

I’ve had articles that ranked horribly because I didn’t give the meta description much thought.

And once I put more effort into writing a clear meta description, my traffic to that page increased dramatically.

Yes, you can and should fix a meta description that’s not working, even years later.

Usually, Google picks up the meta description you write verbatim. This is great news because you control the exact words searchers see before deciding if they’d like to click over to your website.

So let’s make your words count:

  • Choose about 150 words – more, and you risk them getting cut off or losing searchers’ attention.
  • Add something enticing that might encourage a click, like “includes a free PDF” or “a list of universally appealing paint colors you won’t find anywhere else.”
  • And, of course, add the keywords you’re hoping to rank for in both the meta description and snippet.

If a webpage isn’t getting as much traffic as you’d like, go back and fiddle with the meta description. Try to get into the searchers’ heads and write something that might entice them to click over to your website. You have a good chance of getting noticed if you match the “searcher’s intent” precisely with your meta description.

And that’s really all there is to it.


Read my other “SEO for Rookies” posts:
SEO for Rookies #1: “I have my head in the sand about working on SEO.”
SEO for Rookies #2: “What should I write?”
SEO for Rookies #3: But I can’t / won’t / hate to write!
SEO for Rookies #4: But I have no photos!
SEO for Rookies #5: What does it mean to “target keywords?”

SEO for Rookies # 5 – What are keywords?

This is the fifth post in my “SEO for Rookies” series – more simplified SEO here.

——————————————————————————————————

You’ve likely seen the advice, “you need to target keywords to better your ranking on Google.” Let’s dig into what this means in plain English:

Keywords are words and phrases your potential customers search on the internet.

Companies “target keywords” by writing articles (often called “blog posts”) using these search terms on their website. The hope is a paying customer will search using these keywords, and the company’s article or blog post will appear high on the first page of Google. And, of course, the delighted customer will click over to the company’s website to learn how it will solve all of their problems with a swipe of a credit card.

Some keywords are hard to rank for – these tend to be the more “general” keywords that relate to your industry. Many potential customers are searching for these terms and keywords, so they are highly coveted.

Words like “interior painting” are hard keywords in the painting industry because so many companies want to be at the top of the first page of Google for “interior painting” to capture that vast and profitable market.

Some keywords are easier to rank for – these are highly specific search terms for which a small niche of your customers might search. These niche-y keywords are called “long tail keywords.”

On my website, “painting walk-in freezers” is an example of a long-tail keyword because, well, not many people ever search for this.

Let’s stop here to remember that one of the things that gets a company a higher ranking on Google is “expertise.”

Using long-tail keywords to demonstrate expertise is a great strategy, especially when you’re just beginning to work on SEO. Once Google sees some traffic heading to your website, even for projects out of your local area, they attribute more expertise to your site and will increase your overall ranking for the harder-to-rank search terms.

In other words, to more easily rank higher for profitable terms like “interior painting,” try to rank first for long-tail terms like “painting walk-in freezers” to acquire some expertise in Google’s eyes.

Using the “painting walk-in freezer” keywords as an example, I have a case study on our website of a walk-in freezer project we painted years ago. This article likely gets very little traffic in our local area. Still, it is at the top of all Google searches nationally because, well, nobody else has written about such a specific type of project.

This nationally ranking article demonstrates painting expertise to Google. It gives us a higher overall ranking for harder-to-rank-for search terms (like “interior painting”) that reach tons of potential customers.

See?

Read my other “SEO for Rookies” posts:

SEO for Rookies #1: “I have my head in the sand about working on SEO.”

SEO for Rookies #2: “What should I write?”

SEO for Rookies #3: But I can’t / won’t / hate to write!

SEO for Rookies #4: But I have no photos!

SEO for Rookies #5: What does it mean to “target keywords?”

Pride.

There is no functional reason to put a postage stamp on straight.

The post office will deliver a letter with an upside-down and crooked stamp.

A straight postage stamp is simply a sign of pride. I think it says a lot about someone.

A while ago, I became obsessed with hiring people with pride. As a result, our interviewing process requires seven virtual and in-person meetings. This might not sound like much if you work in consulting or finance, but seven interviews are considered a bit much for a job at a house painting company.

And even though we tell prospects in the first interview that our process is long, most are worn out by the end.

And the end is when they start to act like their true selves.

I’m not very skeptical, so prospects could really say anything to me, and I’d likely believe them. To overcome this weakness, I need time to get to know someone. I need to see how they behave.

As the hiring process continues, we’re able to notice the pride in their actions (or not):

  1. their car interior is tidy (we often walk them back to the car to have a peek inside)
  2. they quickly respond to an email.
  3. their water bottle gets tossed in the recycling bin instead of left behind.
  4. they’ve researched our company more than just “you paint houses.”

It turns out that how people behave is so much more important than what they say.

Related: I pretended to love skiing for the first year I dated my husband – thankfully for him, he uncovered the real me in month thirteen. And thankfully for me, he didn’t care that I never wanted to ski again.

Vulnerability in business.

I’m part of a group of business owners who meet monthly to share ideas.

Before we click “leave” on our Zoom meeting, we always marvel at how helpful the hour has been.

One of the most useful parts of the gathering is when we all reveal what’s worrying or upsetting us about our work.

And with decades of hindsight and experience, we all jump in with proven solutions that help the worrying member out of various pickles. We often get deep into the weeds to arm them with the tools and exact language to solve their problem.

I’ve been the recipient of this guidance and have slept better because of it.

BUT none of this magic would happen if we didn’t start by being vulnerable with each other.

Collaboration.

Working alone doesn’t produce my best work.

The problem is I tend to forget this.

I’ve been working on this book and this book with hundreds of people worldwide, and I was terrified the first time I submitted my writing for feedback.

But nobody laughed at what I handed in.

Instead, my submissions were cajoled and tweaked by our editors, illustrators, and graphic designers, who made the books sing.

A great lesson the next time I assume, “it’s better that I do this alone.”

Switching gears.

Did you know that most managers switch gears every 20 minutes?

Before I heard this, I thought there might be something wrong with how I was setting up my day.

Now I feel much better even when my time feels scrambled.

It turns out switching gears IS the job.

It’s amazing how much better I feel when something outlandish I’m experiencing turns out to be perfectly normal.

The weeds.

I delight in the weeds of a project for far longer than necessary.

But there’s a silver lining to my excessive persnickety-ness:

Once I move on and delegate the project, I’m better skilled at coaching someone through the learning curve.

For me, performing a task myself for a few months before I delegate it, makes me a better manager.

Gaslighting in business.  

This is the second post in my series, “Is my small business normal?”

Merriam-Webster chose the word “Gaslight” as their word of 2022 with this definition:

psychological manipulation of a person, usually over an extended period of time, that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator.”

In my work with other business owners, I can see the relief on their faces when I call out the gaslit bullsh** they’ve experienced from their staff, mentors, and coaches.

“When I ran the department, I didn’t have the problems you’re having .”  

Implication:  You’re doing something wrong.

Reality: What you’re experiencing is the (messy) truth.

——————–

“I’m confused; you never told me to do it that way.”

Implication: Your memory isn’t trustworthy.

Reality: Your memory is just fine.

——————–

“We’re having overwhelming success with no bumps in the road.”

Implication:  You obviously don’t know what you’re doing (and I do).  

Reality: Nothing is without obstacles.

——————–

Gaslighting others is destructive. 

Check-in on yourself if you find yourself losing confidence in your skills, instincts, or abilities.

If something looks like a mess to you, trust what you’re experiencing.

You’ve got this.

Learning is hard.

Often I don’t have as much empathy as I should when teaching someone.

“Just click here.”

“We went over that yesterday.”

Audible sigh.

But now, I’m learning Pickleball and everything about it seems unnecessarily complicated to me.

I’m sure later on, when I’ve got the hang of it, the elaborate regulations about where to stand, how to score, and when the ball has to bounce will make more sense.

But right now, I keep breaking the rules. Even after being corrected by the coach. A dozen times.

I simply have no muscle memory at all.

I come home exhausted, feeling overly supervised and micromanaged.

I’m doing my best to remember these feelings when I’m the instructor.

The case against delegating.

I witnessed a colleague take about 2 hours to backcheck the math on a task he had delegated to his assistant.


To be sure, the task was high stakes and involved writing checks in the correct amounts, so it was 100% appropriate for him to double-check the math.


But, this was the exact same task I do myself in about 30 minutes a week, with the help of a bit of software automation.


All to say, try to automate before you delegate.


(Full disclosure, I’m the world’s worst delegator, so automating started as my coping mechanism. But time and time again, I’ve noticed automation often saves more time over delegating.)

It’s not a phone.

It looks like you’re negotiating a merger. But you’re really playing Candy Crush.

And nobody even uses the phone function much.

I propose we call it what it is:

a TV,

a gaming system,

an entertainment device in your pocket.

“Where’s my phone?” sounds so legit that calling it a phone likely reinforces its use. Nobody will argue that a nurse, businessperson, or mom needs their phone.

But try calling it something else. Something more honest.

“Where’s my pacifier?” sounds just crazy enough that it might just nudge us to put it down.

The sorcerer.

I love to bush-whack a path at work.

This way, when it’s time to delegate a task, I’m clear about how long it will take and the obstacles someone will likely face when completing it. 

Last week I delegated a task and got the following pushback:

“I can’t possibly help on such a huge task right now.” 

Because I had done this same task in the past, I knew it was a quick tweak, not anything that needed coding or technical expertise. 

What I was asking to be done would’ve taken five minutes.

I lost lots of trust during this interaction.

Yes, sometimes things will be demanding and require time, skill, and even sorcery.

But since it’s a cinch to watch a YouTube video or Google some instructions, you can quickly lose credibility by pretending to be the Wizard of Oz.

Pretending to care.

Lots of companies have the word “care” in their mission statements.

But in my experience, the care I get as a customer often feels fake. 

It’s as if companies have a “caring template” and are following an outlined script.

“Welcome to, ABC Company. 

I’m (insert first name). 

How may I provide an exceptional experience for you on this (insert weather) day?”

Contrast this with my experience at Brookline Booksmith:

I entered the humming bookstore, lugging a bin of heavy stuff for an event I was hosting.

“Will anyone here even remember that my event is today?” 

Seeing me struggle with my large bin, a young cashier jumped over the counter to grab it from my arms.

He then walked me to the table Riley had prepared for my arrival – Sharpies, stacks of books to sign, and a table-clothed covered table. There was even water in case I was thirsty (I was!).

Riley greeted me by name and welcomed me to the event – I felt like Julia Roberts!

Because none of this was scripted, it felt so good.  

Riley and the guy who jumped over the counter weren’t pretending to care – they did care.

If the word “care” is in your mission statement, start by hiring people who genuinely take pride in their work.

Out of thin air.

A few months ago, I started doing grocery delivery. Today I got a message saying that I had saved 30 hours this year – a considerable chunk of time.


Add the extra time I’m saving by working out at home instead of the 20 minutes drive each way to the gym.


And then there are the 12 hours I save each month by using TextExpander – a magical piece of software.


With all this extra time, I’ve been working on two books on climate change – one for adults and one for kids.


It’s always satisfying to create something “out of thin air.” But these books were created using the crumbs of newfound time I might’ve Netflixed away if I hadn’t been careful.

Drafts

Want to make sharing your work feel safer?

Add the word “DRAFT” to the top of the page.

Instantly, you’ll feel more secure hurdling your work into the world, where it belongs.

The new “dinner party”

In the 1970s, my parents’ friends gathered each weekend to catch up about life, their kids, and what plumber they were using. 

Today, that same “dinner party” occurs on Google reviews, Facebook, and other online review sites. And while the people aren’t friends in real life, the collective wisdom gives people enough confidence to call the plumber that’s getting lots of thumbs up.

It’s super-important that someone in your business is in charge of managing the online review process.

First things first:

Most importantly, spend time making sure your business is consistently creating happy customers.

If customers aren’t consistently happy, spend your time fixing your business. Full stop. 

Good service = the best marketing because it will generate repeat and word-of-mouth business. And you also won’t have to find new customers to constantly replace your unhappy ones.

Once you’ve got happy customers, put someone in charge of online reviews:

I use 5 Star Business because it makes it easier for my customers to leave a review. Since the software on 5 Star Business “senses” what platform a customer is already signed into, there’s less chance of a customer abandoning the process because they forgot their Facebook password.

Any way you do it, reach out to all of your customers and ask them if they’ll do you a favor and post an online review.

Once you get a review, respond to it

If you go here you can see my exact responses to Google reviews, but here’s my response “structure:”

  1. Express “joy and appreciation” for good reviews, “This review made my day!”
  2. Express “concern and appreciation” for the feedback on bad reviews, “This is so helpful for me so I will address it with my whole company at the next Team Meeting…”
  3. Point out something specific about their experience with your company: “I saw photos of the mahogany deck that Jay stained, it looks fabulous.”
  4. Mention the person at the company that made them happy – this shows that I’m not an absentee owner.

Why generate online reviews?

  • Your competition is already generating reviews, and it’ll be hard to “catch up” to a competitor with tons in a few years.
  • At some point, someone is going to leave a bad review online. This is normal and expected. Having lots of good online reviews and great responses to reviews helps to “water down” the occasional bad review. 

Be patient!

I aim to generate just two online reviews a month.  Please re-read that sentence and set your expectations low. This is not a sprint, but a marathon.

Understand, it’s much better to consistently get reviews than to get them in fits and starts.

Don’t:

Gather at the holidays and get your relatives to post tons of reviews in one week. Not only are fake reviews against the rules, putting tons of reviews up at one time is a signal that they’re fake. 

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, leave them in the comments.

You also might like:

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Popular posts:

SEO for Rookies

Can invoicing your customers be a marketing opportunity? I think so!

How does your small business serve your life?

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“I’m not getting social media leads.”

This is the first post in my series, “Is my small business normal?”

As you may know, I own a house painting company in the Boston area, and I post to 4 social media accounts daily.


A friend of mine saw me post so often on Social Media for my painting company that she assumed I was getting tons of direct, measurable painting leads from the posts. She said she was even considering hiring a marketing associate whose sole responsibility would be posting on Social Media for her business.


I assured her this would not be a good use of her finite marketing dollars.


You see, I get almost NO direct business from social media posts. For me, posting on social is 99% for “awareness” and not as a natural lead source.


This is worth repeating – in my case, posting 4x a day on Social Media does not bring in any measurable amount of painting business. I consider Social Media as a way for prospects to become aware of my painting company’s brand, in case they need a painter in the future.


This way, if someone gets my direct mail, sees a Google Pay-Per-Click ad, or sees one of my lawn signs, they might think, “That logo is familiar to me,” in a way that your neighbor’s face might be familiar.


If the internet is a highway, my Facebook and LinkedIn posts are billboards.


Like driving down a regular highway, there is customer awareness a brand can capture by having an outdoor billboard. And while you probably wouldn’t pull your car over to buy an iPhone or life insurance from the billboard right then and there, the advertiser is hoping the billboard makes enough of an impression on you that you remember their brand when it is time to buy.


Since I’ve already maximized my marketing budget in other lead-generating ways like direct mail, pay-per-click, and SEO, using social media to give another brand impression of my company works for me as part of a larger strategy. Remember, it takes a person seven times to see your message before they take action – Social Media, for me, is just one of those times.


A tenet of my blog is to explain what’s “normal” so you’re not comparing yourself to some unrealistic metric.


So, if you’re posting on Social and not getting quantifiable leads, you’re not doing anything wrong.


I publish small business ideas weekly. To receive future posts by email, subscribe here.

Popular posts:

SEO for Rookies

Can invoicing your customers be a marketing opportunity? I think so!

How does your small business serve your life?

Invoicing with love.

Invoices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ina Garten (aka “Barefoot Contessa” on Food Network) cooks with love.

I have cooked her recipes dozens of times, making sure to follow them perfectly, and mine never taste nearly as good as when my mother makes them.  

My mother cooks with love too.

But the love I don’t bring to cooking, I do bring to other things.

I love untangling a problem. I love SEO and Google Analytics.

Heck, I’d even say I love preparing invoices. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that I “send customer invoices with love.”

I love when I see people take pride in life’s little tasks.

 After I email a customer their invoice, I also send them one by snail-mail.

I make sure a (pretty) postage sits nice and straight in the corner of the envelope.

In fact, since the post office will deliver an envelope with a crooked stamp, the only reason I put a postage stamp on straight is, well, pride.

When I “invoice with love” I write a handwritten note thanking each customer, and include a postage-paid envelope, so customers don’t have to find a stamp.

I also enclose a little treat:  a magnet that’s personalized with important phone numbers from the customer’s town.

Including the personalized magnet also provides some weight to the envelope.  Customers open my invoice more quickly because they’re curious about why it’s so heavy.  I guess it’s not a stretch to say that “invoicing with love” actually improves my cash flow.

A treat inside an invoice!  I’ve never got one, have you?

If you have no idea how your invoices look to your customers because someone else prepares them, then take a peek this week.  

How do your invoices make you feel about your company?  These tiny customer touch points add up to what the big-wigs call “branding.”  

They say, “how you do anything is how you do everything.”

What tiny thing do you do with love?

 ***

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Mrs. Tyler

I love to talk shop so much that I can’t help but peek behind the scenes when I travel.  

 

Every summer when my kids were young, we went to Tyler Place – a magical spot that feels more “camp” than “resort.”  

 

But make no mistake, there is nothing campy about the food at Tyler Place. This vacation consistently draws persnickety palettes back year after year for its gourmet, farm-to-table menu.   

 

And there’s a 3-year wait for a reservation at Tyler Place because a family has to “drop out” before a new family can take their place. And, well, families rarely drop out. They come back year after year and even return with their grandkids.

 

By the time I got the call that we’d been “accepted,” it felt more like being admitted to Harvard than just handing over a credit card to pay for a week-long vacation. 

 

The Tylers are certainly doing something right!

 

What’s also distinctive about Tyler Place is that the Tylers themselves mingle, run activities, and eat with the guests. 

 

Everywhere guests look, there’s a Tyler.

 

“What percentage of the hash browns do you think should be crunchy?” One of the Tylers asked me one morning in the line for breakfast. 

 

I had never thought about the ideal ratio of crunchy-to-mushy hashbrowns, but he sure had.   

 

And it turned Mr. Tyler was there in line with me to inspect the breakfast potatoes, which he felt should be “65%-brown-and-crisp to 35% white and mushy.” 

 

As a business owner, I understood that having the Tylers roaming amongst paying guests was a way to quality-control the operation.   And I appreciated that they cared enough to stay engaged.

 

It certainly would’ve be easier for them to hire out the day to day management of the resort and “stay out of the weeds.”  But I’m not sure they’d have a 3-year waiting list if they didn’t obsess about the crunchy-to-mushy ratio of the hashbrowns.

 

In my business, I’m Mrs. Tyler.

I have all kinds of standards that need enforcing – all of which are as fastidious as Mr. Tyler’s hash brown ratios – but I can only do this if I’m connected, engaged, and there.

 

Mrs. Tyler wants her presence known. She’s watching, overhearing, and connected.

 

The mice don’t play when Mrs. Tyler’s around!

 

 

Dozens of colorful bikes on bike racks at Tyler Place

Bikes are the only way to get around at Tyler Place!

SEO for Rookies #4 – “But I have no photos!”

Large corporations with huge budgets have the same problem as you – a lack of original photos for their websites.  

Luckily there’s an effortless way to find photos for your website that you don’t have to take yourself.

If you’re writing needs a photo for embellishment or to make what you’re writing stronger, simply ask your SEO agency to use stock photos for you.  

Most agencies subscribe to Canva or Shutterstock. Both offer weirdly specific images. In fact, you can often find a photo that looks like you hired someone to take the picture just for you.

And if you do your writing without an SEO agency’s help, you can get free stock photos via the free version of the app Canva. Booyah!

How precise will the photo be if it’s a stock photo?  

Let’s do a search on Canva.com and see what comes up:

You’re able to search Shutterstock without a membership. Once you find an image you like, note the photo’s number.

Your own photos DON’T have to be perfect. “Good enough” is just fine!

Most of us have professional cameras built into our smartphones.

And since most readers want authentic photos from a small or local business, readers are very forgiving if the pictures you have are less than perfect. 

If you need a photo of a person, consider using “Portrait Mode” to blur the background. 

Portrait Mode is so exceptional that some runway models are now taking their own headshots using this setting and skipping professional photographers altogether.

People read the photo’s captions:

Make sure you’re adding captions to your photos because people often won’t read any of the article, but will read the captions on the photos.

Don’t forget to add “Alt Text:”

I know this sounds like you’d need to know to code, but Alt-Text is simply a photo description for someone who has trouble seeing. When describing the photo, use as many details as possible – something like “Goldendoodle dog in a dark green sweater” would work just fine.

What if I STILL don’t have a photo I like

If you can’t find a photo you like, simply publish the article without a photo. You’ll still get Google credit, and you can always go back in and add an image later on.

If photos are holding you back from publishing to your small business website, don’t let them. Publish posts with less-than-ideal photos or with none at all.

This is the fourth post in my series, “Simplifying SEO for Small Businesses.”

Read all my other “SEO for Rookies” posts:

SEO for Rookies #1: “I have my head in the sand about working on SEO.”

SEO for Rookies #2: “What should I write?”

SEO for Rookies #3: But I can’t / won’t / hate to write!

SEO for Rookies #4: But I have no photos!

SEO for Rookies #5: What does it mean to “target keywords?”


Subscribe to Paige’s Page to get all future small business marketing posts emailed to you.

SEO for Rookies #3 – “I can’t / won’t / hate to write.”

This post is the third post in my series on SEO for Rookies.


Great news! SEO writing isn’t the same kind of writing you learned in high school. In fact, you don’t even have to write in complete sentences, bullet points are just fine.

Nothing about what you give to your SEO agency to post for you needs to be elegant.  

Instead, your SEO agency just needs a bulleted list of stuff you know that someone outside your industry might not know about a subject.  

For example, I love to do laundry, so here’s a bulleted list I could give my SEO agency for a blog post that they could write for me on the best products for laundry:

  • Only use 2 teaspoons of detergent in the washer. Anything more will leave soap on your clothes. I use any detergent on sale.
  • Use 3 tablespoons of vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser. This will soften your clothes and get any extra soap out of them.
  • Extra soap in your clothes makes them stiff.
  • Use 2/3 of a cup of sodium percarbonate inside the washer. This powder is used in home brewing and removes stains and leaves clothes smelling fresh. You can get this on Amazon for $40 for 10 lbs.
  • Use warm water, even for colors.
  • Use a short cycle (like 30 minutes), so your clothes aren’t over-mangled in the washer.

Notice how the above bullets:

  • Reflect the point of view of someone who KNOWS how to do laundry.
  • Introduces terms that a true laundry lover would know. For example, I bet you’ve never heard of Sodium Percarbonate!
  • Gives your SEO agency a lot of great information that may not already be available on other websites.

The SEO writer at your agency can now take your “insider information” and write a nice 300-400 word post for you.  

See?

“But, I REALLY can’t write/hate to write/won’t write.”

If you know you’re simply not going the write stuff for your website, here are a few options:

  • Have your salespeople who are close to your customers and know their questions write some bullet points. Answer questions that customers most often ask them with nuanced insider information that’s not widely available on the web already.
  • Ask your staff – someone you employ has to like writing. Make them in charge of “collecting bullet points” for you.
  • Hire your kids – they have heard you talk incessantly at the dinner table about the pitfalls and upsides of your business – put their knowledge to good use. Just be sure that they talk with your staff and really dive into the subtleties of the subject matter.

Remember, pleasing Google is easier than pleasing your high school English teacher. Google rewards clear, concise, and “industry insider” information.

Read all my other “SEO for Rookies” posts:

SEO for Rookies #1: “I have my head in the sand about working on SEO.”

SEO for Rookies #2: “What should I write?”

SEO for Rookies #3: But I can’t / won’t / hate to write!

SEO for Rookies #4: But I have no photos!

SEO for Rookies #5: What does it mean to “target keywords?”

Subscribe to Paige’s Page below to receive my latest small business marketing tips by email when they’re released.

SEO for Rookies #2 – “What should I write?”

This is the second post in my series: SEO for Rookies.” Links to all posts are below.

Most small business owners glaze over when asked to “write a blog post for their website.”  

Today I’ll make it easy to understand exactly “what to write.”

Quick review:

  • A blog post is like a magazine article that sits on your website.
  • If a person is searching for answers on Google, and your blog post does an excellent job of explaining the subject, Google delivers your blog post to the searcher.  This is much like when your grandmother snail-mails an article she knows you’ll like.
  • Getting people to your blog is good because you now have a potential customer right there on your website (and not your competitor’s).
  • Google does not charge you to deliver your blog to searchers.  Google is in the business of delivering the best search results to their searchers; if your blog post is the “best answer” to a searcher’s Google query, Google happily offers up your blog post to the searcher.

Wait, what’s in it for Google if Google doesn’t charge me?

  • Google’s “world-class search experience” keeps searchers returning to Google and away from other search engines.
  • The more people who start their searches on Google, the more Google can charge for its paid ads to small businesses. But remember, paid ads aren’t what we’re talking about here.

But I pay a lot of money to my SEO agency, so why can’t they just write the blogs for me?

You should write your own website posts and have your SEO agency edit your words to optimize them for SEO because:

1. You know your business.

2. You know the jargon, the vernacular, and the subtleties of your business and local area.

3. A writer without this knowledge is much less skilled in writing anything nuanced enough to rank high on a Google search.

4. The best a freelancer or SEO agency could do is re-write information that’s already on the web. And Google does not reward this type of writing.

Google rewards skilled and nuanced perspectives that offer a peek into the mind of someone out there grinding in the day-to-day of their industry.

So while a freelance writer at your SEO agency could easily rewrite information from other sources about upholstering a sofa, a person who actually upholsters sofas could write about the intricacies of the thread they use, the stitching they prefer, and how they like to finish off the underside of the furniture with a different type of cloth.

Upholsterer working on a chair
Google wants this upholsterer to write about upholstery rather than just “any old” SEO freelancer because he can offer a nuanced and authentic perspective that only an experienced upholsterer could offer.

Deciding what to write for your small business website:

I use two rules of thumb when deciding what to write on my website.

  • Choose a subject your customers ask you about over and over. Remember, if your customers ask you questions, they also ask Google those same questions.
  • Prioritize subjects that are associated with your high-value products. For example, writing articles about painting epoxy floors in large warehouses is more lucrative than painting front doors. Eventually, you can break this rule when you’ve published a lot, but start with high-dollar-value subjects first.

My next post will center on exactly “how” to write a blog post, especially if you “can’t/won’t or hate to write.”


Read my other “SEO for Rookies” posts:
SEO for Rookies #1: “I have my head in the sand about working on SEO.”
SEO for Rookies #2: “What should I write?” (this post)
SEO for Rookies #3: But I can’t / won’t / hate to write!
SEO for Rookies #4: But I have no photos!
SEO for Rookies #5: What does it mean to “target keywords?”

SEO for Rookies #6: Meta descriptions are a cinch.

SEO for Rookies #1 – “My head’s in the sand about working on SEO”

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is a straightforward and old-fashioned concept that frequently confuses small business owners.

As a result of this confusion, lots of small business owners freeze and do nothing about optimizing their website. So let’s simplify things.

What does it mean to “work on your website’s SEO?”

By writing posts for your website that answer web searchers’ questions, Google directs them to your posts and brings free traffic to your website.  

Bonus:  If searchers want answers in your area of expertise, they’re also likely in the market for what you sell. Getting them to your website allows them to get answers and buy from you.

Let’s look at a real Google Search:

But wait Paige, you said SEO was “old-fashioned?”

When I was small, my dad owned a tiny picture framing shop in our town. When customers would ask him, “Who do you know that paints walls?” or “Who’s the best children’s photographer?” he’d pull out his Rolodex (ha – now that’s old-fashioned) and serve up answers to his customers.  

Back in the 1970s, in our small frame shop, essentially, my dad was acting as Google and directing people to the businesses that could solve their problems.

So how do I know what answers people want?

Let’s go back to my dad’s frame shop. If my dad were working on his picture framing website, he’d be wise to write a post about what his customers were asking him in person.

That’s right if your customers are asking you questions, they’re also asking those same questions to Google.

So start right there.


This post is part one of my series “SEO for Rookies.”

Read my other “SEO for Rookies” posts:
SEO for Rookies #1: “I have my head in the sand about working on SEO.” (this post)
SEO for Rookies #2: “What should I write?”
SEO for Rookies #3: But I can’t / won’t / hate to write!
SEO for Rookies #4: But I have no photos!
SEO for Rookies #5: What does it mean to “target keywords?”

SEO for Rookies #6: Meta descriptions are a cinch.

So darn hard.

In the mid-2000s, car dealers often asked, “have I done everything to make this a 5-star experience?” I always felt put on the spot, and I hardly ever answered truthfully.

Assuming we only have a handful of genuinely 5-star experiences in our lives, getting my oil changed hardly felt like one of them.
As a small business owner, I never want to game the system and get flattering ratings without merit. I consider it my only job to identify the messy truth about the goings-on in my business and fix them, and so that’s what I’m going to share here in this blog.

I’ll do my best to get quite granular and not sugar-coat the truth for you, so you’ll understand why running a small business is so darn hard most days.

Jessica’s question: “How does your business serve your life?”

I quit my corporate job to start my first small business when I was 26 years old to have more time with my kids.

Mind you, this was a full 5 years before my first child was born, but I could read the tea leaves: If I stayed in my current career in corporate America, I’d never see my future kids.

I’m a bit of a planner.

My friend, Jessica, always reminds me that our businesses were started to serve our lives. Full stop.

In the 23 years I’ve been a mom to three boys, my business has allowed me to work from home 99% of the time. This meant I could “be there.”

And when they were younger, my kids needed me to be there a whole lot. This meant that I went to library storytime, volunteered in their classrooms, and could finish my work at 10 pm when they were asleep.

As they’ve gotten older (they’re now 23, 18, and 15)- it’s now super-easy to work “regular business hours” and not remember to stop and spend time with them.

Last week, my son Joey gave a presentation at 11 am to an organization in our town. I had to remind myself not to be frustrated that the 11 am start time would cut into my “normal working hours,” and I forced myself to stop, drive across town and go to his speech.

Joey’s leaving for college in 3 weeks so my chances to “be there” for him are now vanishing before my eyes.

Jessica’s words reverberated in my head the whole way there that THIS flexibility was THE reason I started my small business in the first place.

And if I didn’t take advantage of these now very fleeting times with my older kids, well then, shame on me.

Steno pad with red ink with motto "Your business was started to serve your life"

Decide Once.

Plinko game

Do your research, take your time, word-smith the heck out of your words. And then decide.

Leverage all of the time you spent deciding by then spreading your decision out over the next decade. 

For example, in our office we:

1.  Play a game of Plinko at our weekly meeting when it’s your birthday to win cold-hard cash. This prevents us from finding out it’s your birthday, spending time online figuring out what to get you, and doing a mad dash to the store to pick up a gift. It also frees up your colleagues’ from the mental load of deciding what to write when they sign your card.

2.  Use TextExpander software to pre-think our email responses, so they’re ready for action on Tuesday when we are too busy to think clearly. We have hundreds of TextExpander templates, including one for rejecting a candidate, saying “no” to a project, and scheduling a meeting – all composed to perfection a few years ago.

3.  Use “Subscribe and Save” for office snacks – nobody has any mental load deciding if we should get Swedish Fish or Wheat Thins (Swedish Fish, of course!).

4.  Ask each employee when they start, 3 sandwiches they like.  This makes ordering lunch for the team a whole lot easier on our Office Manager.

 

What have you handed over to the “Decide Once” gods in your life?