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#30 – The Three Basic Principles of SEO for Social Enterprises

Cory Ames - Grow Ensemble

We at Grow Ensemble are focused on getting more eyes on better businesses and better business people. How do we do that? In addition to walking clients through the Grow Ensemble Framework and providing courses like our accelerator, we like to share tips with people looking to introduce themselves to the SEO space and get them started improving their search engine performance on their own.

Search engine optimization is the practice of making your company’s website the most easily discoverable for Google.  Why is this important?

Well, of course we want our company to come up as the top search result when someone searches our company name—if they’re looking for us explicitly, we don’t want to miss that opportunity for them to engage with us. But we also want our company to come up as a top search result when someone searches keywords relevant to our services and products, or the issues our company solves. If our company may be able to provide what a searcher is looking for, we want to make it to the top of that list. 

In this episode I go through the three principles of SEO that we at Grow Ensemble focus on with our clients. These are the most basic principles of SEO that you can start looking into for your own website to get an idea of how your company is doing in terms of search engine performance, and even start to take some next steps for improving your current Google results.

I am more than happy to answer questions and give deeper explanation to anything I talk about in this episode: just shoot me an email at cory {at} growensemble.com or book a time to talk with me.

A few takeaways from our conversation:

The Three Principles of SEO:

  1. Technical optimization
  2. Producing content audiences are interested in
  3. Building your authority and credibility in the relevant space

 Technical SEO tips:

  1. SSL certificate: make sure Google can see that you have a secure site, so users know their search is safe.
  2. Load speed: if your site takes a long time to load, the person searching will just head to the next result option

Content tips:

  1. Once you’ve identified a term that you want your company to show up for in Google results, make sure that term is listed on your site.
  2. Make sure that all the content you create for your site is SEO-informed. Make sure you are creating content around topics that people are actually searching for. You can use free or paid tools, or engage in search engine results page research.

Authority in the relevant space:

  1. backlinks: Make sure your site or company is referenced by other industry-relevant sources to tell Google that you are an authentic authority in the space.

Show Transcription:

00:07 (Cory) — Hey y’all. It’s Cory here with the social entrepreneurship and Innovation podcast hosted by Grow Ensemble, a digital marketing, training, and consulting company that helps better businesses and better business people expand their impact through expanding their presence online. I’m going to be running today’s episode solo and we’re going to be talking about the three basic principles of SEO—search engine optimization—for social businesses. I’m excited to share this content with y’all. This is actually a workshop that I’ve routinely given around the San Antonio area as well as a up in Austin, Texas, but SEO, our search engine optimization is one of the three core digital marketing channels that makes up our four-step Grow Ensemble framework. The other channels being email, list building, and email marketing as well as leveraging online and offline strategic partnerships. So this content is actually an exceptional lead-in for what is our upcoming Grow Ensemble accelerator.

01:16    This will be a multi-week (four week) intensive where we will work with the cohorts of businesses over roughly a month to set up, launch, and begin executing on a sustainable and effective digital marketing strategy all based upon our Grow Ensemble framework. Very excited about this. This is going to be local in San Antonio as well online. Locally here in San Antonio, we are co-hosting the accelerator with a partner of ours, the Impact Guild. And online we will have an additional cohort so don’t worry if you aren’t in the San Antonio area, but if this sounds like something you’d be interested in already or if after hearing the content from today’s episode, you can go to GrowEnsemble.com/accelerator to get some early information about the program. And there you can be up to speed for when we will be opening things up. And so I believe we are opening up registration next Monday, which is very exciting, really looking forward to opening the doors to the program. And so without further ado, let’s go ahead and dive into today’s episode where we talk about the three basic principles of SEO for social businesses.

02:44    Alright y’all. So here we are about to dive into the three basic principles of SEO, search engine optimization, for social businesses. But before we do, I would like to point out what my objectives are with this brief, but hopefully very informative episode. There’s two objectives. The first is to introduce you to these concepts, introduce you to SEO, search engine optimization, to help you to develop some language around it, so that you can make some better, more informed decisions with your digital marketing strategy. , it’s a lot of pressure on folks to kind of feel like they have to be the expert, running your own business, the expert on everything, on every digital marketing channel, not to mention running your business, serving clients, , whatever it is that you may do, particularly to your business.

03:39    So what I want to do is help perhaps alleviate some of that stress and give you the information that you need to progressively make some better decisions, around your marketing strategy. And the second objective is to ultimately help you to build your own SEO to-do list. And so as I’ll explain a bit more in detail as to why I’m a big fan of SEO and the pursuit of the organic traffic that comes with it—all to be defined a bit more later on. But I hope that this episode provides for some tangible next actions. Si you can start to poke around with your own website, see how you might be stacking up, in your SEO performance and in your SEO strategy. Of course, if you do have questions, I’m highly encouraging of folks reaching out to me [email protected] I’d would love for you to, to follow up and let me know what you thought about this episode.

04:34    And if you have any follow-up questions about SEO, SEO of your website and how you’re doing. But we’re going to go through and define SEO in its most basic terms. We’re going to talk about why it’s important, and then we will dive into these three basic principles that make up a comprehensive understanding and comprehensive strategy in search engine optimization. Let’s dive into a basic definition.

04:58    So what is SEO? SEO stands for search engine optimization, which you’ve probably heard me mention a few times now. But really what this is, is this strategic process of maintaining your website and building onto your website in pages and posts,  —blog posts that you create, the content that you write onto the site, and the strategic process of building authority to your website (these are all things we’ll dive into a little bit more) so that you can drive organic traffic back to your website.

05:40    Organic traffic that comes from search engines like Google. And so this is usually a little bit easier to explain with some visuals, but , when people for example, are searching for variations of my brand, perhaps Grow Ensemble or searching for the Grow Ensemble podcast, I would hope at the most basic level, this is a very kind of basic level of SEO is that people are able to find my website. And so this isn’t necessarily someone discovering my company for the first time, they probably heard about my name somewhere else. But they then went into Google and they input Grow Ensemble, and ideally I’m coming up first. This is a good thing to check and see if your company is, otherwise it could mean some technical issues might be going on.

06:37    But, there’s that—at one level of getting that organic traffic that’s almost kind of a direct find though—this person already heard about me from somewhere else. The next evolution of that is someone finding me perhaps for terms that don’t explicitly name my company, but describe what are the pain points, the challenges, or the problems that my products and services solve or, explicitly, the, the products and services that I provide a folks finding my company that way. And this is not from buying an ad space in a Google search. This is someone searching for say digital marketing training and consulting for social businesses folks inputting that in ideally if my SEO strategy is evolved, I’d be showing up in the top spots for that right below the ad space.

07:38    And so that’s is perhaps the most evolved standpoints of an SEO strategy is when you, your company, your content that you’ve created on your company site is showing up for these terms that don’t explicitly name you or your company, but rather describe the problems, pain points, or challenges that your products or services solve. So people discovering you from this organic search and you don’t have to pay for those clicks, right? Unlike paid search, SEO has that particular, or organic traffic has that particular quality to it.

08:12    And so why SEO? And so why this organic traffic from Google, why does it appeal to me? Well, first off, this is kind of where it began for me in digital marketing. I was in college at the time when I took up learning SEO, I had two part-time, minimum wage jobs, and I had the appetite to build something of a side hustle kind of internet business, something that I could run from anywhere on my laptop, anywhere I could connect to WIFI. And, SEO and looking to build this website that I had, to get exposure for it, through accumulating traffic from Google appealed to me.

08:54    Primarily because all you needed was time and effort, not necessarily an upfront investment of cash on like paid advertising. Right? And so this is a little bit different.  That someone has a business owner now you do kind of have to consider what it is that your time is worth because just applying time and effort on SEO that still essentially costs you money as a business owner. If you’re spending time there, you’re not spending it elsewhere. But for a college student who couldn’t really say that their time is worth a particular hourly wage or at the moment it was minimum wage, it seemed as if it my efforts were best spent learning SEO.

09:42    But as well I love this traffic from Google because in contrast to paid advertising, organic traffic, once you’ve executed on a successful and an effective SEO strategy, this should be traffic that you will continue to maintain month after month after month, if, provided you are maintaining good SEO hygiene (all things we’ll brief on a little bit later) and continuing with some best practices. Provided, there’s no unforeseen circumstances, if you get your site to 10,000 visits a month from Google in one month, six months from now, ideally you should have more than that, not just that baseline of where you’re at, but if you’re continuing to follow just some basic tenants of good SEO practices, you should have more than 10,000 visits a month in that six months.

10:34    So it’s kind of a compounding effect that happens with organic traffic as opposed to paid advertising, either Google ad words, Facebook, Instagram, what have you, which is kind of like a faucet. And so, if you’re running an effective ad campaign and you’re seeing the return on the investment that you’re spending there to be well worthwhile into the conversions that you’re getting, the sales and revenue that’s being driven from that, then that’s great, but once you stop investing, that traffic stops coming, right? It’s kind of like a faucet. It’s on when you’re investing the money in and it’s off when you’re not.

11:12    And so that that is what appeals to me about organic traffic is that with upfront work put in, with this upfront investment of time, effort, money, whatever the formula is for you and your business to pursue, and the organic traffic that can come from an effective SEO strategy. Ideally you have this wonderful foundation of highly-engaged traffic coming to your site month after month after month whether or not you’re directly, working towards that or not. And so ideally with all that traffic, your cost per acquisition on whatever you invested in that channel, be it from hiring a team and agency, or training your existing team or putting in the efforts yourself on an SEO strategy—Ideally your cost per acquisition of whatever it was that you spent there after you accumulate that traffic will continue to go down month after month after month.

 12:09    And so, websites that I have historically created, or are clients that I have worked with in the past, this is the trend that you see time and time again. We put a lot of upfront effort in—we clean up the site, we orchestrate a proper strategy, and they hit a particular level of traffic and we continue to see that and continue to see it compound. So really, this is why I love getting that organic traffic from Google so much and really encourage folks to pursue SEO as a channel. I encourage folks to seriously consider it.

12:45    And so if you thought about SEO, if you thought about content marketing applying search engine optimization to your business, a lot of folks aren’t too sure exactly what SEO is or perhaps if had a puzzling experience with maybe an SEO consultant that they’ve worked with in the past and I get it— SEO kind of seems like a dark art of sorts in the online marketing, the digital marketing space. It’s certainly complex. There’s a lot of terms, there’s a lot of jargon. People are worried about how often they should mention a keyword on a page; If they should be writing blog posts and how frequently should they be publishing those; Is there some sort of weird thing that they have to do to pay Google or get their site mentioned on whatever fast company or something like that, building links or whatever.

13:39    There’s a lot of stuff going on that that’s rightfully confusing. And so I really like to introduce people to SEO in this way: in these three basic principles because I think it adjusts a bit as to how we should think about SEO in more of just an intuitive way, really. If our objective really is to make a site that’s as search engine friendly as possible, we have to break down a little bit what search engine friendly means. And so what that can come from I believe is kind of taking a note from what Google is trying to do: Google, our most notable search engine, right? Like we’ve got to think about what’s the trajectory that Google is headed on; what’s their goal?

14:26    And so with every search, anytime you’re searching for anything, doing any research online, Google’s objective is that when you are searching the results that come up, you’re provided with the absolute best result possible to match whatever was the intent that you had when you entered in a particular query.

14:52    So are you learning how to use a French Press? I always use these coffee examples, I think because I’m addicted to coffee, but—how to use a French Press: Is the first result that comes up, is that going to be something that’s helpful? Is it informative? Were you satisfied when you clicked through that result in the instructions you got, maybe it was a video or , a step by step blog posts. Google wants that result that you’re given to be the most satisfying result possible. And so we have to align ourselves with Google’s goal. We have to as well provide the absolute best result to the searcher possible so that when we get the opportunity to be shown in some of those top spots when someone’s searching for a product or service in our space, or maybe that pain points that the challenges that we or our products or service solve, we have to kind of rise to the occasion and make sure that we are completely meeting the need of the searcher.

15:56    And so how do we do that, Right? So it’s these three basic principles that I like to break down for people. First, we want to make sure that our website is technically optimized. This is what we call “technical SEO.” Second, we want to produce content, pages, posts that people are interested in. And third, we want to build our authority and trust with our audience. And so really these are the three ways that we should think about SEO: make sure that our site is technically friendly and optimized, that we should be producing content—these are pages and posts on our site that people are interested in and engage with—and lastly, we should be diligently building up our authority and trust with the audience that is coming to our site to continue to build our credibility in the space. And so really these a then turn into what are the three basic principles of SEO, the Technical SEO, which is your foundation, the content, which is what we are about. And then our authority, which is the trust and credibility that we, , build up in the realm of the Internet.

17:12    So let’s go ahead and dive into each of these in a little more detail. All right, and to dive in, let’s talk first about technical SEO. So as I’m usually giving this presentation in person, I have a full slide deck built out, and as well, I have this wonderful graphic of a house, which is what I liken my understanding and breakdown of SEO to. It’s a comprehensive, evolved understanding of SEO and practice of SEO with these three basic principles- is kind of like a house. With technical SEO, if you were to see this, it would be labeled the foundation. This is a really the basis for any effective SEO campaign and should really be the thing that is taken care of first and foremost.

18:00    But , if you don’t have technical SEO set up and establish that, you don’t have the rest of the strategy. Similarly, if you don’t have other components, if you don’t have a roof, which we’ll cover later, then you don’t really have a house either. And so, like a foundation, if your foundation’s rotten perhaps, it needs to be repaired, the house needs to be leveled and fixed. Having a crappy foundation, if you don’t take care of that at some point, the house may come down or you may get a sinkhole somewhere in the house, and all that nice furniture you have. It doesn’t so much matter if one of those chairs is fallen below the floor ultimately to the ground, right? And similarly with a solid technical SEO foundation, our objective is really to make our site as easy to read by Google and easy to use for users as possible.

18:50    And so the harder that our site is to use, the messier that it is, the less likely that that Google have an easy time of reading the pages on our site, the bots that are crawling our site, they’ll have a more difficult time to understand what our site is about, therefore what our business is about, and therefore, limit our potential for ranking, and showing up in key spots for terms that we think we should be ranking for that perhaps we’ve created pages for, services or what have you. If Google has trouble even reading our site, then that that will be a, a large limiting factor. Similarly, for the users, the user experience, if our site takes eight seconds to load, if our load speed is off, it’s going to be harder for users to use it. We can have the greatest blog post in the world, the most kick ass content possible, but if our site can’t load then in someone will—they won’t even get the chance to read it. They’ll hop right off and go to the next result in the search results.

19:53    And so technical SEO, there’s a number of factors that go into it. I guess a few to get you started: a technical SEO assessment consists of kind of a world of factors, but a few very important components to get folks started. I’ll start with one: There’s security. And so this is translated into SSL certificates. If you use the chrome browser, you can see up where the domain is listed, the search bar up there, there should be a little lock. If it’s not that way, it might be in eye or something like that, which, says the connection to the site is not secure.

20:31    You want your, your connection to be secure. I see a lot of folks and mess this up. And so this is not something that Google is penalizing people for at the moment, but as soon enough they should begin doing that. They’ve communicated quite a that this is a very important factor. They want users to know that their browsing experience is safe and secure. And so getting an SSL certificate is something critically important.

20:58    Another one which is very valuable to investigate, as I briefly mentioned, is load speed. Like I said, the slower your site loads, the more difficult it is for Google bots to read your site for users to use your site. So a favorite tool of mine is gt metrix, gtmetrix.com.

21:19    Go ahead to that tool and you can throw your site in there and see, what speed you’re loading at. And not only that, if you do have a development team in house or a developer that you work with, it does give a good kind of prescriptive list of to-do’s to address that may be of issue.

21:37    And then the last component here, which, a lot of folks are taking care of these days and a lot of sites kind of come out of the box all responsive. But mobile responsiveness is a pretty big thing. And so depending on how old your site is, how long it’s been around, you want to make sure that it looks good on other devices; it’s very usable on other devices because mobile search people using their different mobile devices to search and research for things is significantly increasing.

22:04    And so this is an explicit ranking factor, but as well it’s another usability component. So there’s a Google mobile friendly test. If you just search for that “Google mobile friendly test,” you should be able to, to plug your site in and, and check that out. But that’s a good place to start. And so again, there are a number of additional components and if folks do express some interest in this episode and this content, I’ll be happy to dive into those further in another episode, but those are a good three to kind of get you started.

22:34    Alright, in our second component, the second basic principle of SEO is our content. Our content is what we are about. Carrying on from the house metaphor, this is how our house is designed; the interior design of our house: what kind of furniture we have, what we have up on our walls or what we don’t have up on our walls, it tells people a bit about who we are, and what our interests are, what our values are, what kind of art you like or if you don’t like art at all. But similarly, the content that we put up on our site is ultimately telling Google and users what it is that we are about. In content, I mean, the pages that you have built out, posts, if you or your team or blogging, the posts that you’re building out and what you’re writing. All this content adds context for Google primarily to discern what your site is about, what your business is about, and therefore, what they should start to rank you for, what terms they should pick you up and index you for.

23:42    So sometimes working with clients, I have folks say we want to rank for, this term, this term, and this term. And they’ve never created a page for that term on their site. So I don’t know how Google is supposed to know, let alone users, are supposed to know that their business provides whatever service it might be if they’ve never even had that phrase listed on their site. So in the most basic sense, make sure that you are creating content that’s comprehensive. Your site should be a very good representative of your business, right? Should really comprehensively represent what your business does, what your business is about, and therefore provide opportunities for Google to pick you up for terms that searchers are looking for.

24:29    Which then transitions me to another really critical, important point here and that’s keyword research. And so a lot of people are talking about blogging for the sake of blogging or just creating pages and putting keywords up on their site for the sake of it. But everything really starts, in any kind of content, and this is how any strategy that we build out for clients that we work with starts: It starts with keyword research. And really what we’re trying to do here is understand what kind of search landscape is going on in our industry. Where is there demand? So we’re trying to see what terms are people searching for relative to your business, your industry, product, services? And how much volume is there are people actually searching for this? And what quantity of searchers are looking for that?

25:22    What kind of number makes sense? It’s going to be relative to your business and how much traffic you’re currently getting and all that kind of stuff. If it’s a really awesome, awesome term, maybe relative to one of your key services, but only 50 people search for it a month, maybe getting a couple new clients or customers from that is totally worth it to you and your business. It all kind of depends. But, again, this goes back to before you’re creating any kind of pages or any kind of posts because creating quality, engaging posts and pages, it’s serious work. I always stress that folks have had their content informed by keyword research or have worked with someone who understands keyword research and can do that for you. You don’t want to waste time creating content that hasn’t been backed by this initial research is just critically, critically important. Otherwise you can create pages around things that, that no one searching for that there’s no demand for. And so this is a really important component.

26:24    And so there’s some kind of complex tools to use. There’s some free tools, keyword research tools to use if you just search for “free keyword research tools” a lot should come up. Google trends is one that I like. The tool that I use is paid. It’s called ahrefs, another really good tool. But of course there is a fee with that one.

26:44    But, if you want to just kind of start dabbling in to see more about, what kind of content you should create, what kind of pages or posts you should create, you should do first and foremost as you’re thinking about creating anything, do what I call search research or search engine results page research.

 27:00    So basically, what this is, is just doing the search for whatever kind of term you think you should rank for. Do the search for it. Put it into Google and see what comes up. Reverse engineering, ultimately, what Google is showing us because everything that’s out there, when you put in a search, like I said how to use a French press, that is Google’s currently best understanding or their assessment of what are the best results available on the Internet for that search that you’ve just had. Like hey we’ve scoured the internet, here’s everything that we think is the most useful that will most likely, with the greatest probability, satisfy what is your search intent. So for terms that you think you should be ranking for or that you want to target, put those terms into Google and see what comes up because you can get a good understanding as to what Google thinks is high authority, what Google thinks is valuable, what Google thinks people are looking for when they enter in that search query.

28:02    You get a lot of information from that. Not to mention, you can look at searches related, you can look at the auto suggestions to also pick up this information from Google as to what people are searching for it. Because those auto suggestions are derived from what people have searched before, right? So that’s very critical information. 

28:02    Alright. And now the last component of what we’re going to talk about, the third basic principle of SEO is authority. And authority is the roof on the house. If you don’t have the roof,  you don’t have a comprehensive SEO strategy. You may have a solid technical foundation, and you might start putting out some good content, but if you haven’t built up any trust in the industry, then why are people going to take your stuff seriously, right?

28:49    No matter how fast your site loads, you need to have a credibility begin to build up. And so from an SEO standpoint, how authority is measured is primarily by links: backlinks. And so you may have heard these terms if you are familiar with SEO at all, but backlinks and link building. This is all a really mentions of your website elsewhere on the Internet. And so a lot of people think that they can buy links—this is kind of an outdated concept and I think this is going to continue to get cracked down on because Google wants this authority to be ultimately as authentic as possible. They don’t want people kind of manufacturing this authority and some people will pay for placements of their website on other websites to kind of artificially boost this authority metric that, that Google’s tracking.

 29:40    But these links should be industry-relevant and highly credible, right? So, perhaps if you were a coffee blog you should have links from other coffee blocks, other coffee-related resources. Say you were a coffee shop in San Antonio, it would be worthwhile to have mentions of your site on other San Antonio relevant sites, maybe like the Chamber of Commerce or something like that. Or maybe you sponsor local organizations and you’re mentioned on their sites. So you want to have affiliations to San Antonio to show that you’re high authority and credible there. But then also there could be the crossover of having mentions of your site anywhere in the coffee space, no matter the geographic relevance as it would be relevant to the crossover of coffee, and you have already had your San Antonio geographic basis covered.

30:32    And if you aren’t, you’re kind of an online based business or not really tied down to a particular geographic location really weighing in on where you can get authentic mentions in your industry are critically important. And so that authority is the third and final critically important piece of what is in evolved SEO Strategy.

 30:58    So, with all these three principles covered, I do hope that you have a better grasp of what SEO is, what search engine optimization is, and can kind of begin to get a sense for maybe where issues for you and your business may lie. Is that in the technical component, do you feel like your site’s a bit messy, difficult to use, or is it the content that you are on are not producing? Has it been informed by SEO Research, keyword research, or lastly, do you feel like you’ve built up online the authority that you’ve needed to have Google and users ultimately trust you and your site?

31:42    So hopefully, again, this was very helpful. I would love to get some feedback on, what you thought of the episode, if there’s anything that we could dive deeper into or if there’s any SEO specific questions that you may have following this. And any SEO assessment that we do for folks, it revolves around those three components, the technical and the content in their authority. So reach out to [email protected] and as well, just to reminder if listening to this kind of piqued your curiosity: We are hosting an accelerator here at Grow Ensemble, which we’re going to be opening the doors for a next Monday.

32:21    So if you head over to GrowEnsemble.com/accelerator, you should be able to get some more information on what that entails, what that kind of intensive program will consist of, and  what you and your business should be able to get out of it. So once again, I appreciate you all listening to this episode. We’ll talk to you soon. 

32:42    Hey y’all, that’s a wrap. I really hope you enjoyed this episode of the Grow Ensemble Podcast and as a reminder, if you are a fan of the podcast, please let us know. Hitting subscribe and leaving a review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts greatly influences other folks find in our show. As well, don’t forget we have full show notes over at growensemble.com where I’d also advise you sign up for our newsletter. There you will be able to keep up with new releases, giveaways that we launch in any events we host. Thanks again for listening in.