Demystifying SEO with Kim Herrington (Transcript)

On today’s episode, Kim shed a LOT of light on an often mysterious subject: how to get your website to rank well on Google. Honestly, she shared a lot of things that surprised me!

So… if your website is one of the main ways your business attracts customers, this is a can’t-miss episode.

This is a transcript of Work Less, Earn More, Episode 47. Listen to the episode here.

Kim Herrington:

Those are the types of things that you want to create SEO content for and the reason why we want to think about from a problem mindset is because something like 15 to 13% of all Google searches that are done every single day have never been seen by Google before, so we can’t reasonably predict the same keywords people are going to use all the time, but the concepts behind why they’re going to search tends to stay the same.

Gillian Perkins:

We became entrepreneurs because more than anything, we want freedom. We want to be in control of our own schedule, income, and life, but unfortunately, that isn’t always the reality of being a business owner. I’m Gillian Perkins, and I’m on a mission to take back entrepreneurship for what it’s supposed to be. In every episode, I’ll share with you how to get the most out of every hour you work, so that you can work less and earn more. Let’s get to it.

Gillian Perkins:

Hi there, everyone, and welcome back to Work Less Earn More. Today, I am joined by SEO expert Kim Herrington. Kim Herrington is the founder of marketing agency Orsanna and she is also an expert at SEO, so I’m very excited to be talking to her today all about how we can use SEO to get more traffic to our websites, whether or not we can DIY our SEO or if we need expert help, and how we can use these strategies to, of course, earn more while working less, so hi there, Kim, and welcome to the show.

Kim Herrington:

Hey, thanks so much for having me. I’m really excited to share some insight about the myths and what’s behind SEO and help make SEO a little bit easier to understand because I know it’s an issue so many people have lots of questions about, but they’re not even sure where to start with it.

Gillian Perkins:

Absolutely, I know that there are a lot of myths out there about SEO, so I definitely want to get into those later on as well, but some of the first questions I have for you are just about, what can we really accomplish with SEO? Because I’ve heard really different things. I’ve heard some marketers say that, oh, if you just do X, Y, and Z then you can rank on the first page of Google or even at the top of Google for sure and then other people say, “Oh no, you can’t predictably accomplish anything at all. You can do things to try to improve your ranking, but no guarantees.” What can we actually predictably accomplish with SEO?

Kim Herrington:

I do agree that you shouldn’t look for any sort of guarantee and Google actually discourages SEO providers and SEO companies from telling people that they can guarantee first position rankings because only Google can really do that, but even people who work at Google, they don’t exactly know how Google works. It’s more that the algorithm at this point, it’s developed and worked on, but it’s also got artificial intelligence and machine learning in it. So, from an SEO standpoint of why we do SEO is to produce more traffic. That’s ultimately the goal.

Kim Herrington:

It’s not guaranteed, but doing some kind of SEO can help you increase your rankings and that’s where the strategy really comes in to making sure that you’re pursuing the right things. The first key factor that you have to consider of whether or not SEO’s going to work for you is that you’re going to benefit from that traffic, you have a reason for getting more traffic to your website. You have to have a conversion funnel or a product that people can buy from you or services someone can then benefit from.

Kim Herrington:

The second thing is that people actually do have to be searching on search engines for what you do and for solutions to their problems. It may be that someone’s not looking necessarily for the very short two-word thing of what you do. For instance, if you were a business coach, there may not be enough people looking for that or there could be a lot of people. It really depends on whether or not people are problem aware and if they’re going to be able to find those solutions. If they don’t know what the problem is first, it may not be that you should pursue ranking for what you do, but maybe about the problems that someone has.

Kim Herrington:

That’s where the SEO strategy comes in, and then the third thing is that you have to be able to rank and that’s where looking at SEO research and understanding keyword difficulty comes in to let you know, well, is this a goal I can pursue or not? Because sometimes you may be in a market that’s just too highly competitive, it’s not possible for you. So for instance, ranking for SEO consulting for me is very hard, so even though I advocate for SEO on a routine basis and that’s what I talk about all the time, it’s actually not the best strategy for me to gain new clients and to get more traffic to my website.

Gillian Perkins:

Wow, there’s so much to unpack right there already. The first thing that you said was that you’ll have to be able to benefit from the traffic and that really reminds me of something that I often say, it’s kind of the inverse, so I always say it doesn’t matter how good your funnel is, you have to have people coming into your funnel in order for you to be able to make money, make sales with your funnel and you’re saying the opposite here, that it doesn’t matter how much website traffic you get, if you don’t have a funnel, if you don’t have some way of converting people from being a traffic into being customers, then that traffic isn’t going to benefit you. Is that right?

Kim Herrington:

Absolutely right, and it has to do with what we call searcher intent when it comes to SEO terms, and I try to avoid jargon as much as possible, but this is on jargon term that you do need to learn if you’re going to pursue doing SEO. Searcher intent is really the reason why someone’s going to Google in the first place. You have to think backwards in the opposite way that you advocate with your teachings and what you help the listeners of this podcast with. They actually need to reverse engineer and think, “Okay, I have something that I’m selling. What are the pain points that I help people solve? What are the search terms and the reasons someone is going to search?” And then from there, work it forward to make sure that that traffic that they’re getting is going to benefit their ultimate goals.

Kim Herrington:

And, the reason why it’s backwards is because if you start the other way, sometimes you may create content or pursue rankings that don’t actually have an impact on your bottom line. That’s why SEO is usually recommended you don’t start with it straight away in your business and that that’s something that after you’ve worked in your business for a couple of months at least that then you figure out what are the pain points that people have, what are the reasons why someone’s actually going to buy your product or work with you for a service, and then create the SEO content to help you rank better in search engines and gain that traffic.

Gillian Perkins:

So, said another way, we need to think about what type of search terms people might be typing in if they were looking for our service rather than just thinking about topic related keywords and then trying to make content for those topics that relate our industry. I remember doing this a lot when I was running a local music school and I thought, well, what would people do if they were trying to find a music teacher? Where would they go, what would they be searching? They would be searching music teacher in my city and my state for example, and so then I tried to rank for those keywords. Is that basically what you’re saying here?

Kim Herrington:

Yeah, and it could also be a little bit more complex than that, that if they’re looking say for a music teacher near them and this is local SEO, so that tactics are a little bit different. So, say they were looking for an online music teacher instead, but it was a national company that could service anyone across the country, or even across the globe, what they may be looking for instead is someone to work with for a specific problem inside of learning music.

Kim Herrington:

Maybe they’ve tried on their own and they’re struggling with that, and as far as a music teacher that you gain an experience of what are the things that people always struggle with, regardless of how long they’ve been doing it, or how long they’ve been spending learning music. Those are the types of things that you want to create SEO content for and the reason why we want to think about it from a problem mindset is because something like 15 to 13% of all Google searches that are done every single day have never been seen by Google before, so we can’t reasonably predict the same keywords people are going to use all the time, but the concepts behind why they’re going to search tends to stay the same.

Gillian Perkins:

Would an example of this maybe be a keyword like, how to keep a steady beat?

Kim Herrington:

Yeah, that would be a great example and that makes really great content of you can create a YouTube video, a blog post about that and you can educate a little bit, but then make it so that way you’re still keeping something for yourself that’s a reason why someone’s going to work with you or that they’re going to buy your product. I always like to say, when creating SEO content you don’t want to cover the what and the why, but for the how, that’s why someone’s going to hire you.

Kim Herrington:

Lots of people think the more content that you create, the better off you’re going to be, but that’s not necessarily the case when it comes to ranking because you don’t want to give away the whole baby with the bathwater concept. You want to make sure that you retain some of that, so that way not only are you getting to the top of search results and building your authority, but it’s also working for conversions and it’s producing clients. In addition to traffic, what we do really want out of SEO is that it’s actually productive for our businesses more than just making sure we get more visits and that’s where we really have to think through the problem all the way to the solution instead of just focusing on keywords, which is usually the number one fault that people have with the SEO is that they really just think about it in terms of keywords and that sets them up for either having lackluster results or just failing straight out the gate.

Targeting Wrong Keywords

Gillian Perkins:

Absolutely, and that relates to something you said a couple of minutes ago where you were talking about people targeting the wrong keywords and they were targeting the keywords that related to their industry or the service that they offer rather than the problem or the pain point. I see this so often, especially with online coaches, different types of online coaches where they’ve maybe developed a unique methodology or some unique service and then they want to target that keyword or target the keyword that relates to the name of their program, but in reality they need to target the keyword that people would be searching for related to their pain point. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Kim Herrington:

Sure, and I actually have a really great client example over on the agency side that we worked with, an industrial manufacturer. Now, this market is absolutely known for coming up with really crazy names for stuff that don’t make sense to people outside of their industry and they had come up with a name for a product that the people even buying the product didn’t recognize the name. They wouldn’t call the product by this name and it was really essentially a branded term is what we call it in SEO talk of either the name of your business, they name of your product, the name of your method. That’s a branded search and that’s what you should turn up for.

Kim Herrington:

That you absolutely should when you search your name, if your website doesn’t turn up, you have an SEO problem that you need to fix pretty much immediately because people can’t find you by name, but when it comes to the keywords that you’re pursuing, this client before we started had been pursuing this branded keyword for what the name of their product was, but the problem was no one was searching for it unless they already had met them at a trade show or something along those lines, that they were already familiar with them.

Kim Herrington:

It wasn’t helping them get new people to their website, so by changing the keyword that we pursued towards what people in the industry called it, but didn’t know their brand and didn’t know what the product was, they increased their search traffic, got to the number two spot in search results, and now that taking it from the pandemic era right now that we’re in, that helped their business survive through the pandemic and has been the thing that really saved them and helped them produce this particular product was their saving grace basically because at the same time, they had changed that keyword just at the right time to take full advantage of that.

Gillian Perkins:

I guess a little taste of what SEO can help us accomplish. So early on, you mentioned that there are no guarantees with SEO tactics and that you can’t necessarily predictably accomplish anything specific, but could you give me some examples of the typical results that you’re able to create when you start working on a client’s SEO?

Kim Herrington:

Yes, so the concept behind an SEO is that it creates sustainable, stable, predictable traffic. That’s what we’re shooting for because if you think about social media traffic, referral traffic from when you do partnerships or when you send an email, it’s a big spike in your analytics. You can actually go and check your analytics and look at your acquisition by source reports and see if you have these spikes. So if you have these spikes, basically you’re only getting traffic if you’re doing these active marketing actions. You’re posting on social media, you’re producing new partnerships, you’re sending out an email, you see a spike that very quickly drops off suddenly and within a couple of days your traffic is basically dried up if you’re not getting any other sort of residual traffic.

Kim Herrington:

SEO seeks to create residual traffic that comes in on a consistent basis. An example of someone that employed the techniques of using SEO is Paul Jarvis. He has a Mailchimp course and he’s a former client of mine. We create 10 blog posts, just 10, that was it, on his website about Mailchimp’s specific issues. One of the examples that I like to share of content we created was segments versus tags. That’s a post that people searching for that, they’re Mailchimp users because that’s Mailchimp’s specific topic.

Kim Herrington:

We knew that they were qualified people to buy his Mailchimp course. We created these 10 blog posts and he had basically almost no organic search traffic before. He was only creating traffic when he had an email list that he was emailing to and he’s very fortunate he has a giant email list. It wasn’t really as bad an effect for him versus if you have a very small audience in your relatively new online business, you don’t have a giant email list.

Kim Herrington:

He actually increased his search traffic on a consistent basis and increased it by 982%. Now, I know that’s a big number, but when you think he had only 10 to 15 visits, that’s how much traffic he gets on a consistent basis now that he gets daily traffic all the time of people who are qualified to buy his Mailchimp course. Two years down the road from when we were working together, he still gets that consistent traffic because his posts still rank very highly in Google search and it still produces sales for him today. Meanwhile, he’s focused on other projects and he’s not even working on that site and he just goes through it once a year and updates that Mailchimp course just content itself.

Gillian Perkins:

I see, so it sounds like by doing that one time work he’s essentially created a passive income stream for himself, or at least a semi-passive income stream.

Kim Herrington:

Yeah, and it really depends on whether or not the passive aspect of SEO will work for you. It comes down to how competitive your market is and your backing people profile is like. Paul gets the benefit that he’s very well-known in his industry, he actually has a podcast that he did with Mailchimp, so he’s already very well-connected with them and has a very high brand authority and high backing profile. That’s why he gets the benefit of not really having to work on it because Google already knows, hey, this guy’s big authority in Mailchimp, so his content should turn up very high in search results.

Kim Herrington:

On the other side of it, that if you’re in a more competitive industry or you’re lesser known, then that’s where it comes into you have to work on the links factor website from other websites to make sure that Google understands your website’s the best place to send someone for the information that they’re looking for.

Gillian Perkins:

Now that we’re getting into more of the tactical, the how-to, my question for you is, how much of this work that needs to be done can be done by anybody, they can just DIY it, versus we need to hire an expert, we need to hire an SEO professional? Where’s the balance there and when might you need to actually reach out and hire someone?

DIY Your SEO vs. Hiring an Expert

Kim Herrington:

You have two options and at the very start of pursuing SEO and deciding whether or not it’s for you, getting a professional opinion is a good idea. You don’t necessarily have to pay for that often. SEO professionals like I do, offer free consultation to say, okay, this is what you can do. It’s possible for you or it’s not. An honest SEO professional will tell you when it’s not possible for you. They’ll take a look at what keywords they think that you should pursue, do some keyword research, take a look at the volume and the keyword difficulty and make a judgment and help you make a determination whether or not SEO’s going to work.

Kim Herrington:

Paying for a consultant if you really want to pursue SEO, you think it’s a good opportunity to help you develop an initial strategy that you can either use yourself or have somebody else execute is a good idea because SEO keyword research, there’s a little bit of an art to it. That being said, if you really want to pursue SEO and you think that it’s going to be a good bet for you and you’re more of a DIY person, you can learn to do SEO. I’m self-taught, I did it just by doing it myself over the last seven years, and learned how to do SEO.

Kim Herrington:

It’s not an impossible thing, but you just need to make sure that you really think clearly of, SEO takes a lot of time to learn. Do I want to learn this or do I want to get somebody else to help me with it? Is it worth that investment?

Gillian Perkins:

It sounds like there’s some things we can do on our own versus other things that we might need to hire a professional for help for. What are some of the things that we can do on our own and how far could that really get us before we maybe need some professional help?

Kim Herrington:

The initial thing of doing SEO, the things that you can do on your own is really listening to your audience, figuring out what their pain points are and then starting to discover what words they use to describe it. That may not help you discover the best keywords to use, but it’s a start and then from there, you can establish some of your authority by marketing that content that you create and marketing yourself from an SEO standpoint, which is a little bit different, but dovetails nicely into PR.

Kim Herrington:

If you do a guest post with someone, if you do a partnership on a podcast, you’re accessing somebody else’s audience through what we call a shoulder partnership. That is someone who is a complementary audience, but you’re not competing against each other. That’s a really good opportunity to build a link. So for instance, right now I’ll get a link from you to my website as being I’m part of your podcast. That’s a pretty natural thing. Most podcast hosts do that and that will help my website’s SEO improve and help Google really understand a little bit better I talk about SEO, that’s what I should rank for.

Kim Herrington:

That’s the sorts of things that you can do on your own is getting those backlinks, listening to your audience, and starting to produce that content. If you decide eventually that you do want to pursue SEO a little bit more heavily, that’s when it’s a good time to then talk to a strategist for SEO, figure out what those keywords should be, change some of that content, really keyword optimize it and then create what we call an internal structure to help Google better understand your content and internal links and make sure that you clean up the technical aspects of your website, such as your page load speed, SSL certificate, the robots.txt file, your site map, the more technical things that unless you want to become an SEO professional, don’t spend time trying to learn them.

Kim Herrington:

And, that’s really something that’s worth hiring out because there’s lots of little nitpicky things that Google’s the most nitpicky user, I like to think of it that way, about your website that it holds your website to a much higher standard typically than an average person actually looking at it does. That’s when hiring someone is a good idea versus just making sure that you really understand your audience and that you’re marketing yourself actively getting backlinks. That’s things that you can definitely do on your own.

Gillian Perkins:

I remember last week when we were talking, you shared with me that a lot of those things that an SEO professional would do for you are more of the one and done type things, the things that need to get done maybe across your entire site versus the things that you could do on your own like creating the content and marketing content. That’s more of the ongoing work. Is that basically how that works or is there any sort of maybe ongoing services that an SEO professional might help someone with?

The SEO Journey

Kim Herrington:

I will say SEO is not a one and done sort of thing unfortunately and that’s because just like any other algorithm, Google does change all the time. Your competitors are taking actions that could knock you out of positions and as well as the market changes how people are going to respond to your content and engage with your content will also change, which also impacts your rankings. While I would love to say you only have to do it once, SEO is an ongoing thing, so you have two choices when it comes to how to do SEO.

Kim Herrington:

You can work on a strategy a bit, get the technical aspects taken care of, which only have to be done once. The technical stuff is a one and done sort of thing, but the ongoing aspect of creating new content, doing the keyword optimization, it depends on how competitive the industry you’re in, how much content your competitors have, how active they are, and just the depth and breadth of how many different topical searches people are doing.

Kim Herrington:

What are the number and quantity of topics that have to do with what you do? That can indicate how much content you have to create on a routine basis. If you’re not very adept at creating content or it takes a really long time, that’s when working with an SEO strategist or a content marketer who can produce that is a good thing to do because content shouldn’t be the thing that you do all the time unless you are a content creator and that’s how you make money is through affiliate advertising and monetizing your content.

Kim Herrington:

If you’re more on a product or service side, you want to focus on the products and services, in serving your customers more so than being a slave to creating new content in a routine basis. There’s that aspect of it of you have to think about where I need to spend my time the most, what is going to be the most beneficial for my business. If you are the kind of person that you have a lot of joy in creating content and you love that and you want to preserve your voice, then that’s what you should be doing. Working with an SEO professional on that end should be the one and done technical stuff and then also helping you create a keyword strategy which only has to be done every so often. That’s not a thing that has to be done every single day, every single week, every single month. That can be done on a quarterly or even yearly basis.

Gillian Perkins:

Later on we’re going to get into talking about some SEO myths and I definitely want to talk at that point about whether we do actually need to constantly create content or if maybe that’s a bit of a myth, but before we get into that, let’s just talk a little bit more about how someone can DIY their SEO or at least get started with it if they’re interested in doing that.

Gillian Perkins:

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Gillian Perkins:

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Gillian Perkins:

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Gillian Perkins:

If you’re interested in becoming a member of Startup Society, then there’s no time like the present to make that happen. To sign up, just head to gillianperkins.com/startupsociety. Again, that’s gillianperkins.com/startupsociety, and as a listener of this podcast, I have a special offer for you. You can become a member of Startup Society for $10 off every single month. Just use code earnmore when you’re signing up. Again that code is earnmore, all one word, and it will give you $10 off your monthly membership cost.If you want to turn your online business into a success as quickly and as strategically as possible, then I would love to work with you to make that happen, and now, let’s get back to the episode.

Gillian Perkins:

You mentioned the first thing was someone getting to know their audience and figuring out those keywords. Do you have any tips around doing that first step of the process?

The Depth of SEO

Kim Herrington:

You really do have to use an SEO tool most of the time. You can go to Google and use Google autocomplete and type in what someone might be searching to get an idea, but that’s not going to give you the information about how many people are searching or how difficult that keyword is going to be and that’s really where SEO success comes from, but if you miss those two elements and you write content, it could be really great, but if no one every finds it because the keyword’s too difficult and your site can’t rank for it, or no one’s searching for it, then you just spent time writing content that will never be found.

Kim Herrington:

Keep that in mind that using Google autocomplete or people also ask are really just content discovery methods, not necessarily keyword discovery methods. When it comes to finding keywords you need to use a tool like … SEMrush is my preferred one, or SEMrush, you can say it either way, or you can use Keyword Finder. It’s a more cheaper option, but it’s also a professional SEO tool that doesn’t have quite the same dataset as SEMrush does. Both of those allow you to type in keywords and will produce similar ideas to show you the keyword volume or the keyword difficulty.

Kim Herrington:

If you don’t want to use an SEO tool, you can use Google Ads to look at some keyword volume. That’s a very common place that a lot of SEO tutorials talk about as a good place to start. If you’ve never run ads though, however you’ll be given whole ranges. It’s usually better off to spend a couple of bucks per month for an SEO tool and really start to take a deeper dive into what those keywords are. You just really start by typing in what they keyword is that you think people are searching and we’ll get other keyword ideas and really start to explore that.

Kim Herrington:

You can also do competitive research, see what your competitor’s ranked for because SEO is all relative. The difference of how we think about the rising tide lifts all boats doesn’t work the same way in SEO because only one can be in position, one. You do have to think of it from more of a competitive standpoint than maybe in other aspects of your business.

Gillian Perkins:

If someone has a little bit of money to invest into their SEO strategy and tactics, would you say that this keyword research part of the process would be a good place to invest in either a tool or in an expert consultation on what keywords someone should go after?

Where to Invest Your Money First 

Kim Herrington:

Yeah, I’d invest in that and the second thing after you get your keyword is really nail down and have your goals, the content you’re creating, have a plan to that end. The next thing to invest in is technical SEO and that’s where it comes down to those aspects that I mentioned earlier that that’s worth hiring someone for and that can be very expensive, so do be aware that you want to price around for that and shop around for an SEO professional that has experience, has worked on sites that are on the same platform as yours, that they’ve worked with sites built on the same CMS system, or that you feel comfortable with them, feel that you trust them.

Kim Herrington:

That’s a really important thing when it comes to finding an SEO provider because there are a lot of people out there that are not so savory in the SEO space, that’s not real known as being the most up-and-up industry out there. You definitely want to make sure they’re qualified and that you feel like they’re being honest with you.

Gillian Perkins:

A lot of those more technical aspects of SEO do feel a little bit … Well, or a lot bit mysterious to all of us who don’t really understand how they work. Do you have any other tips on how to tell if an SEO specialist really knows what they’re doing?

Kim Herrington:

That’s a very good question because I can tell because I’ve been doing it for so long, but I’ve talked to even some of my clients that have interviewed multiple people and they had a hard time telling. The best way to look at it is, do they practice what they preach when it comes to how they create content? When they’re even on social media, or their blog post, are they talking in a way that you can understand or are they trying to keep it mystified? Are they trying to make it so that way it’s inaccessible to you? Because that’s a really good indicator that it’s not going to be a good relationship.

Kim Herrington:

You want someone who’s going to be able to explain it in a way that you can understand and that makes sense because you do need to know what’s going on. You might not need to learn everything about how to fix technical issues, but they should be able to explain to you what they problem is, what’s required to fix it, what timeframe that’s going to take, and what the cost is going to be for that because it can run the gamut depending on how big your website is that if you have a million page website, that can be easily a $50,000 technical fix.

Kim Herrington:

I don’t think any of your listeners have a website that big, but that’s the reason why you want to talk to someone and say, “Have you worked on websites in my size, on my platform?” And, make sure that you have that trust aspect of it because you can usually tell. If they feel a little spammy, they’re probably using some SEO tactics that you might not agree with.

Kim Herrington:

Big red flags to watch for, if they guarantee you results, that’s a number one big red flag. Second big red flag is that they have a private blog network, or a private link network that they’re going to give you access to. If they charge you on a basis of getting access to anything that as soon as you stop paying you don’t have access to anymore, those are SEO techniques that I don’t agree with. They’re not really in mind with Google’s best practices. They’re icky feeling to be perfectly honest, so you do want to watch out for stuff like that of that if it’s something that feels a little off, it probably is.

Gillian Perkins:

You want someone who doesn’t keep things too mysterious it sounds like, but tells you the information, tells you what’s wrong with your site, tells you what they’re going to do and doesn’t promise magical results from a magical strategy.

Kim Herrington:

Exactly, and they should give you a timeline for how long it’s going to take too because a good SEO professional can tell you, “Okay, it’s going to take you six months trying for this. It’s going to take you a year or this is just impossible, sorry.” They’re going to be honest with you because SEO consultants are judged on how much your rankings increase because we can manipulate traffic. That’s actually very easy to do. You can send bots to a website and make the numbers be inflated.

Kim Herrington:

You want to make sure that the person that you were entrusting with can explain what is going on, how the results are coming, and how long it’s going to take because they can usually, predictably say, “We think it’ll take this sort of time range.” It’s not an exact science, but if they’ve been doing it for a while, they should be able to do that.

Gillian Perkins:

So going back to what you said earlier about you can’t really produce predictable results, that was more across the board. You can’t say you’ll just do X, Y, and Z and you’ll be in Google’s number one spot, but rather once you’re looking at a specific site and you’re doing keyword research for that site and you see how competitive those keywords are and other things related to that, then you’ll be able to make a prediction at that point?

Kim Herrington:

Yes, so after you’ve dug deep into the SEO data, you can then make some educated guesses, but that person that you’re talking to should always underline it’s an educated guess because they can’t guarantee anything, so it’s more of saying, we think if you do X, Y, and Z it should work, and it should work by this timeline and these are the results that you should anticipate, maybe not expect and that’s something that I always say when I’m doing SEO consultations and take a deep dive into it.

Kim Herrington:

I say, these are the types of competitors that are out there. This is what you need to really compare yourself against and say, “Am I capable and willing to do these things that are required for success and how consistent can I be with that?” And, that’s where that aspect of not guaranteeing, but helping shed light on what is predictably accomplished for a specific keyword, for a specific site, and a specific instance. That’s where you can start to drill down into what’s more predictable because you can look at the volumes, you can look at the difficulty, you can look at the competition, whereas just SEO in general, nobody knows.

Kim Herrington:

If you ask me tomorrow, “Hey, I have this website. It’s an invisible website I haven’t made yet.” I would say, “Well, at least a minimum of 12 months.” Because that’s what any SEO professional’s going to tell you. Any brand new website for any keyword, we say 12 months just because that’s the general gist of it. That’s what we say, but honestly, it’s a fallback. It’s not an exact answer. It’s only once we do that research because SEO is extremely data heavy and that’s when we can really make those better educated guesses about what it can predictably accomplish for you.

Kim Herrington:

That’s why talking to an SEO consultant can definitely be a good move for you even if you decide to DIY it, that even just talking with somebody can give you that insight, give you the reassurance that it is the right path for you, so you’re not wasting your time.

Gillian Perkins:

Going back to that topic of how can we DIY, so the first step there was figuring out those keywords, which maybe you want to get some help with. Once you know the keywords, then the second step you mentioned was creating the content, and you mentioned you could outsource that or you could do it yourself, but I think that that part of the process most people who are listeners of the show today probably have a basic idea of what that involves, but the third part for us that you mentioned, marketing the content, that’s something that’s not talked about that much. Could you explain just a little bit more about what it means to market the content and how that helps with SEO?

Kim Herrington:

I think backlinks are probably the most mysterious aspect of SEO out there and it’s the thing I get asked about the most and it’s one of the things that there’s no really given answer for. There’s a lot of different techniques for building the backlinks. First you’ve got to understand what they are, what Google uses them to do, so that way you know what kind of backlinks you needs to build. Basically every single website is related to every other website through links.

Kim Herrington:

Every page on your website is related to everything else on the internet that you eventually can get there through a series of links and links are infinite. The quality of links is really how Google judges relationships between webpages and different domains. So for instance, if I have a website about pumpkin carving and I got linked from Good Housekeeping, that’s a really great link that Good Housekeeping has a lot of SEO value and that my pumpkin carving website is suddenly going to be deemed more of an authority at this point.

Kim Herrington:

If I got it from a blogger website that I made and put a bunch of spammy blog posts stuff at, that’s not going to help my SEO, that could actually hurt it because Google’s going to take a look at that and say, “Well, that’s a weird looking website. It’s not really an online authority, there was this person trying to play some backlink games to try to gain the system and there’s a lot of gaining the system when it comes to building backlinks, so that’s where that private blog network that I talked about previously really comes in and what you have to be careful of.

Kim Herrington:

What Google is looking for is a link from a high quality website that is also going to be an authority either in your industry, your niche or about your topic. So for instance, if you’re a business consultant, getting a link from Forbes, that’s a great link or a New York Times, that’s an amazing link, those are rare. You don’t get those that often, but those are the links you can pursue. So eventually, you want to work your way up, so you start off with people you know, then you want to work up to marketing your content towards people you don’t know.

Kim Herrington:

They’re industry leaders that have complementary audiences that don’t necessarily compete against you. You want to think about, okay, what are their gaps in their content that I can help fill because that’s the bread and butter of the internet is content and you can say, “What is something that their audience wants to know that I’m an expert in or that I know about that I can help them with?” And, that’s where we start to think about partnerships, guest blogs, or getting links through resources pages that sort of stuff. That’s the kind of links that we want to acquire over time.

Kim Herrington:

We don’t want to do it too fast, we don’t want to do it too slow. There’s this weird balance in making sure that you’re acquiring links at the right rate, that they have the right anchor text, and that’s where working with a PR professional or an SEO professional to help pitch you, especially if you’re new in your industry, and you don’t know many people can help, or you just need to make friends, and you need to network online and really to market yourself through those connections because if you look at the top online entrepreneurs out there, they all know each other. They all link to each other. That’s the secret about how the internet works and our niche a little bit is that you do need to make friends and that’s why thinking the SEO standpoint of we’re all competing for the top spot is not going to help you, but you do have to network and put yourself out there and ask for links. You do have to do the ask.

Gillian Perkins:

That is some great advice. Well, thank you so much for everything that you have shared with us so far. The last thing I want to touch on is those SEO myths because we feel like there are a lot of them out there. I know just in our conversation already I’ve thought of a few different things that I thought were true that you have shown to not be true. So let’s see, the first myth that I want you to bust or not is, how much does it matter that you’re constantly producing new content? Is new content predictably rank better than old content?

Kim Herrington:

No, so that’s one of the old mentalities that we carry from blogging days, when the internet first started from most people when they started making money on the internet they were bloggers, especially in the mommy blogger community is really where blogging really started from and they wanted to post content five days a week, seven days a week because how they made their money was through affiliate marketing and how you would make money through affiliate marketing and through ads primarily is making sure that you have a consistent flow of traffic from an audience that is going to come back every single time.

Kim Herrington:

That’s where that mentality comes from, but Google today doesn’t work the same way of that it looks for posting routinely and consistently. Instead, it wants to send someone to the absolute best answer and solution to why they’re going to search from the beginning. Thinking about the searcher intent again, you want to send someone in Google’s mind to the absolute best source. What’s the person out there, the website, that can answer that question and give them the most help because how Google monetizes is through ads, so if we think about that, if we stop using Google, Google’s going to stop making money through search.

Kim Herrington:

That’s why they want to keep us coming back, so if we get frustrated constantly because it’s showing us the most recent, but not the best result, we’re going to stop using Google. Google going to stop making money through Google Ads, so that’s where that comes down to. Sometimes things that are actually older can outrank things that are newer and where domain age actually comes in. Instead of thinking, I need to blog five days a week, and feeling absolutely overwhelmed by that, instead what you want to do is create one absolute authority per keyword topic, and this is where a lot of people struggle with that they have what we call keyword cannibalization, which is when two pieces of content compete for the same keyword.

Kim Herrington:

That splits your rankings, Google doesn’t know which one is the best one to send people to, you’re trying to build links now to two different posts instead of just building to one post, and so you’re just more scatter-brained in your efforts overall. I like to say, start with a goal of 10 to 12 posts, do them over a year, make them the best things that you have ever written, make them the most keyword optimized that they could possibly be, and make them deliver as much value while still holding that how, so that way you can monetize them, but that you’re not wearing yourself out just blogging on a daily basis.

Gillian Perkins:

Even if the newest content is going to rank the best and you’ve basically busted my next myth too, which is, is more content always better? And, it sounds like definitely not.

Kim Herrington:

Also no. The only times where that’s not the case is if, for instance, you make money through outfit photos. That’s when that does matter because the product that you’re selling is going to run out eventually, so you do have to bottle the time because of how you make your money. You want to think about, okay, how do I monetize my website? Does that mean that I need to be posting consistently or is it more that I want to build my authority? If you want to build your authority, then you don’t have to emphasize as much those viral traffic strategies that I talked about before.

Gillian Perkins:

If having two pieces of competing content on one website can hurt your rankings, then explain to me how a website like Forbes can rank so well because they have so much content on their site, it seems like surely they’d be competing for the same keyword with multiple pieces of content.

Kim Herrington:

They absolutely do, but Google actually has what’s called a domain diversity update that was done back in June of 2019 and as part of that, the goal was to make sure that websites don’t have multiple listings anymore and Google has been leaning that way. Keep in mind that information queries of things searches for information were less effective than say, e-commerce searches that when you’re searching for a product to buy, those were impacted by the domain diversity update significantly more, but the point is, Google wants to show diversity of where the information is coming from.

Kim Herrington:

And, you can think of this both in a policy standpoint of that they want to make sure that we’re getting the best information and also a value standpoint of that they want us to have a diversity of opinions as well. It’s a little bit more Google touchy-feely than SEO professionals probably would talk about, but that’s why Forbes can have lots and lots of content, but it really comes down to the backlinks is when you’re looking at two pieces of Forbes information that may be competing against each other, how Google’s going to typically judge one versus the other of which one’s going to rank is that one has more backlinks than the other.

Kim Herrington:

That’s not always consistent. It can also be other factors that go into SEO rankings. It could be engagement, that people spend more time on one versus the other, or one has more interactions from a social standpoint because social shares do impact very, very, very minimally, but do impact SEO. There can be … Sometimes you may find one domain rank for two spots, but that’s rare and it’s becoming more rare intentionally over time.

Gillian Perkins:

Interesting, so do you have any other myths that you hear on a really regular basis that are just not true?

Kim Herrington:

Well, there’s so many out there I could tell you about, but the one thing that I wish people would take away is you’ve heard me talk a lot about keywords and that’s the big thing when we think about SEO. Oh, I have to do keyword research, I have to put my keywords in my H1 header, and I’ve got to put the first sentence to my body, and we get stuck on these keywords and that’s a problem because as Google continues down the machine learning and artificial intelligence route, it’s going to depend on those keywords less and less over time.

Kim Herrington:

If you want to future-proof yourself, you need to stop thinking from a keyword standpoint and when I work with my clients I try not to and even though we do keyword research, even though we are putting those keywords in that content, we try to de-emphasize that as much as possible to make sure that their content is going to rank two, three, four years down the road and it’s still going to work in a longterm basis for them because the whole point of SEO is that it works for a very long time.

Kim Herrington:

Unlike a social media post that lasts for maximum maybe 14 minutes I think is what the statistic is. It’s something very, very short, whereas a blog post that ranks really well can go five years sometimes before it becomes outdated and then it’s no longer going to be sending traffic to your website.

Gillian Perkins:

It sounds like if people really wanted to build a strong, lasting business, then their eggs would be better placed in the nest of SEO than in constantly posting on social media then.

Kim Herrington:

I’m not going to lie that [crosstalk 00:43:49]-

Gillian Perkins:

You’re not biased.

Kim Herrington:

I’m not biased at all, but for me SEO is the thing that has always brought in for my clients the most consistent traffic because also remember, Pinterest is also a search engine, so if you’re saying, “Well, Kim, Pinterest [crosstalk 00:44:05].” And YouTube, YouTube is also a search engine. Although it’s videos, it works in the same way, so most of the things that the blogs and entrepreneurs we look up to, where they dominate is not social media typically.

Kim Herrington:

Some of my biggest competitors in the SEO space aren’t even on social media, and I know obviously they’re SEO people, but you can build an entire business without being on social media at all and that’s where SEO comes in and I know you’re thinking, well, algorithms change all the time, but if you listen to words I’m saying, a blog post can last for five years, isn’t that a lot better than a social media post?

Kim Herrington:

Social media has its purpose, you should still do it if it works for you, if it makes sense, if you like it. I’m not saying don’t do it, but don’t forget about SEO because lots of people do, but they de-prioritize that. Most of the clients I work with, they’re at the point where they’ve been in business for four or five years before they’ve even given a thought to SEO and they could’ve been a lot further along if they just thought, I wonder, what content should I be creating so that way I can get to the top of Google search results? So that way, I can get traffic all the time, so I don’t feel completely run-down because I have to do more social medias posts and emails and all these partnerships and just feeling super overwhelmed all the time because if you’re feeling run-down, SEO could be a solution for that.

Gillian Perkins:

And, it’s such an understandable mistake to make, to think that social media is the most important. I know it’s a mistake, but I always find myself falling back into it because social media is the most visible, and so you see other people quote, killing it on social media and you think, oh, they’re doing so well, they’re being so successful because of how successful their Instagram is for example, but you don’t see that behind the scenes, the SEO working in the background and the other competitors, they may not even know you have because people are finding them on Google and buying their product over yours.

Kim Herrington:

Absolutely, we can see how many followers someone has and that feels like, whoa, they’re a big deal. You have no idea how many visits someone actually gets. There are tools we can kind of figure it out, but we never know for sure and those tools, I’ve seen them time and time again have been wrong in actually getting behind the scenes and looking at someone’s search traffic and what they actually do, how they actually make their money. Don’t forget about it, don’t emphasize keywords too much. Those are the two big takeaways I’d like people to take today.

Kim Herrington:

Make sure that you think about searcher intent versus keywords and actually think, hey, is SEO for me? Is this something I could do? Is this going to actually relieve some of my stress, allow me to work less while earning more?

Gillian Perkins:

Well, thank you so much, Kim, for joining us today. What you’ve shared has been incredibly insightful. I know I’ve learned a whole lot because SEO can be such a mystery for those of us who are not experienced at it, so thank you so much for just generously sharing your knowledge with us. If people want to learn more about SEO and about you, where can they go to do that?

Kim Herrington:

They can go to my website. It’s the best place, and that’s kimberlyherrington.com and I have a special guide for you guys that all of you listeners out there, that if you want to start building sustainable business through sustainable traffic, you can go to kimberlyherrington.com/guide and get access to just the step by step process that I use and give you a peak behind the curtain about what it takes to actually start using SEO in your business.

Gillian Perkins:

That sounds like a great resource for everyone who’s especially interested in starting to DIY their SEO on their own, so thank you so much. We’ll be sure to leave links to that in the show notes and thank you so much for being here today.

Kim Herrington:

Thanks so much for having me.

Gillian Perkins:

Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Work Less Earn More. Now here’s what I want you to do next, take a screenshot of the episode you’re listening to right now and share it on Instagram stories and when you do, make sure you tag me at gillianzperkins, so I can see that you’re listening. Sharing on stories is going to help more people find this podcast, so that they too can learn how to work less, earn more, and take back their lives.

Gillian Perkins:

And if you really love the show, then head over to Apple Podcast and leave a review to give it a boost. Not only will this help the show out, but it’s also going to give you the chance to win a 12-month membership to Startup Society. Each week I’ll be picking one winner. To enter, all you need to do is post your review on Apple Podcast and be sure to include your Instagram handle, so we can send you a DM if you win. Now, let’s wrap this up. I’m Gillian Perkins, and until next week, stay focused and take action.

    Sean McMullin

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