The one where we demystify search engine optimisation.
Martine: Hello and welcome to the Lightbulb Podcast. It's Martine here and I have a guest on the show today. I'm joined by Nanouk Van Gennip. Today, we are talking about search engine optimisation. Hello, Nanouk.
Nanouk: Hi, Martine.
Martine: It's so good to have you here. Nanouk and where are you in the world today? Where are you calling from?
Martine: From Switzerland. You know I've never been to Switzerland. I've always wanted to go though.
Nanouk: It's beautiful, you should go.
Martine: Definitely, I'll put it on the list. Today, we're talking about SEO, search engine optimisation. But before we do, Nanouk, can you tell me a bit about you and your business?
Nanouk: Yes. Well, I have a business together with my husband. He's a web developer and I am an SEO copywriter. First, we worked separately, but then we decided to combine our forces and so we turned it into a business, and we're doing fine. We're doing really great.
Martine: That's brilliant, so working in partnership with your husband. Fantastic. You're an SEO expert. Now, let's pretend for a moment I don't know anything about SEO at all, can you tell me in the simplest terms what is SEO?
Nanouk: Yes, I can. SEO is a term that contains all the techniques to optimise your websites, to rank high in Google or search engines in general but Google. If you want your customers to find your websites, you need to optimise your website for Google so they can find you on the most relevant keywords.
Martine: This is so important because when people are starting a brand new business, some people might think, "Oh, well, I'll put together a website and then people will just find it."
Nanouk: No, no.
Martine: I'm just going to build it and people will find it. It's not quite as simple as that, is it?
Nanouk: No, not anymore. Maybe in the beginning of the internet, but not anymore. There are billions, trillions of websites online that you really need to work for it.
Martine: Yeah, so by using keywords and other strategies and things like that, you can make yourself more visible and that's what we're talking about when we talk about SEO. Excellent. Can you recommend some quick actions or quick tips that bloggers and business owners can do to optimise their websites?
Nanouk: Yes, but before we dive into SEO, there is one thing I always recommend to customers and clients if they want to do a little bit of SEO on their own, is to write for your customers. Those are your people and not Google, so first, start writing for your audience and then for Google, not the other way around.
Martine: That's such a good tip. Actually, I've done a blog post called ... It relates to finding your ideal customer avatar. If you're going to be writing for your customer rather than writing for Google, you need to know exactly who your customer is. I'll make sure I'll link to that post in the show notes because I think it's a really important process to go through with anyone starting a business.
Martine: Who precisely is your ideal customer and like give them a name and occupation and whether they've got children.
Nanouk: Yeah, make up a story.
Martine: Yeah, exactly. That's such a good advice. Make up a story about your ideal customer and then you can be writing for them before you start thinking about Google. I think that's a really good tip.
Nanouk: When I was preparing this podcast, I was thinking about a person I know from my surroundings who was starting a new business and making a new website. And I was thinking, "Okay, what kind of advice would I give her?" I had my avatar, it was a real person and it's helped me with focusing, and it's the same with Google because you want to know which key terms, keywords your audience uses when they enter Google when they have a problem or a question. You want to know which keywords do they enter into Google to find their answer, and then your website will provide that answer and pop up in the top three of Google in theory.
Martine: In theory. I love it. You used the term keywords there and I think that's something that can confuse people sometimes but just to clarify them from what you're saying, keywords are words that people ... If they were looking for some information, they'd go to Google and they would type something. And what they type into the search engine, those are the keywords that we're talking about.
Nanouk: Exactly, yes.
Martine: That makes complete sense.
Nanouk: It's going to be one word like Switzerland, but it can also be a whole sentence, "What to do in Switzerland this summer" for example.
Martine: Your keywords there are going to be things like summer, Switzerland, to do, those sorts of things. Is that right?
Nanouk: Yes. That's exactly right.
Martine: Brilliant. From what you're saying then, if you know who your ideal customer is and you're writing for them, would it not be okay just to put loads of keywords in your text and then hope for the best? Is that the right thing to do?
Nanouk: That could be a strategy but that will take maybe years before you rank high in Google.
Martine: Okay. So, it sounds like there are some other strategies that we can do in order to rank as high as possible in Google. What sort of other things would you recommend?
Nanouk: Well, first, I advise you to target long tail keywords. You might have heard the phrase, long tail, and those are keywords with relatively less search volume. Most often, they have only a little competition and it's therefore easy to rank high.
Martine: That's interesting. These are words that aren't necessarily searched for regularly, but when they are searched for, if you're using them, you will rank highly. Is that what you mean?
Nanouk: Yeah. That's exactly what I mean, and even though the search volume is less, it's better to rank for those because you can rank for them. And short tails, those are keywords with high volumes but they're also highly competitive, most often. For example, if you sell knitting supplies, you can try to rank high for knitting needle but there's a short tail with high search volumes but also with high competition. Well-established websites owned the first page in Google and it's very difficult to beat those. With long tail keywords like best knitting needle or knitting needles for beginners or best knitting needles to use, those are long tails with less search volume but only a little competition and therefore, better to rank for.
Martine: That makes complete sense, and actually what you said about thinking about your customer really comes into play here, doesn't it? Because the person who's doing the searching, if you're thinking about the exact words they're going to use, you can then hit those long tail keywords. That makes lots of sense. Do you know, until this discussion, Nanouk, I have no idea about the difference between short tail and long tail, although I have heard it said several times. This is great. Keep the knowledge bombs going. I love that.
Martine: What else can I do as a person wanting to really boost my SEO?
Nanouk: Well, once you have those keywords, you can analyse them with an SEO tool. I would recommend Keysearch. I'm not a sponsor or something, but it's very easy to use and relatively cheap. That's why I recommend it. Once you have those keywords, you should optimise your blog post and landing pages by putting those keywords in the most important places like your title, your introduction and at least one subheading. And maybe you've heard of the phrase meta description.
Martine: Yes, meta description. Yeah.
Nanouk: Yeah, meta description. When you type something in Google and you got the search results, you see the title, the meta title and a little description underneath it. Well, most often, you can influence what's visible there. And if you put in your most important keywords, then people know this blog post or this website is about the topic that I want to know more about.
Martine: Brilliant. Once you've identified your long tail keywords, if you can include that in the meta description as well as in the other important places you mentioned, then that's going to maximise your chances. That makes complete sense.
Nanouk: Yes, but there's more. Of course, there's more. You should not do the keywords stuffing thing.
Martine: Okay. What do you mean by keywords stuffing?
Nanouk: It means like putting your keywords like hundred times in a blog post or in a page. That doesn't work. Once or maybe twice is enough and then use related keywords, so synonyms, for example, because Google has an advanced algorithm and is smart. Not like a human smart, but like a robot smart. Google understands synonyms and related words.
Martine: In the same vein, Google is also going to notice if you are doing keywords stuffing and they're going to ignore that post. Okay. What else can we do, Nanouk?
Nanouk: Well, it's linked to writing for your audience, that you should write comprehensive blog posts with a lot of information. In recent years, it was sometimes said that you should write for online, short and snappy blog posts because people don't have a lot of time and so, they're in a hurry and they only want to read short websites, short texts. That's not true anymore. Google and your audience, they want answers. If you can provide your audience with the answer they're looking for, then it doesn't matter if it's in hundred words or in a thousand words.
Martine: The length of your blog post, for example, isn't important. What is important is that you are providing value and answers to questions.
Nanouk: Exactly, yes.
Martine: I'm sure that's related to the fact that there is just so much content out there now.
Martine: Whether it's about SEO or not, in order just to distinguish yourself from the other people around you who were doing something similar, you need to do the answers. Do the value. That does make sense, yeah.
Nanouk: Yeah. You want people to go to your blog post and then leave knowing all the answers they are looking for. Not going back to Google and type in another search term because they have, now, more questions after reading your blog post. That's why my advice to be comprehensive.
Martine: Comprehensive blog posts are definitely what you need to be doing. I suppose and correct me if I'm wrong, if somebody finds your comprehensive blog post, reads it and doesn't have to go anywhere else to find the answers, then that will raise the ranking and then more and more people will be reading that one single blog posts and all of that contributes to getting it to the top.
Nanouk: The algorithm of Google is smart. Google knows when people just stay on your blog post for a long time and then after that just go on do something else on the internet or doing something offline. Yeah, this is called bounce rate and a low bounce rate is very good.
Martine: Right. I have to say if I'm looking for an answer to a question and I find that perfect blog post and it's long and it's got loads of detail, the first thing I do is share it on my Twitter and my Facebook, and I guess all of that helps as well to bring the traffic in.
Nanouk: Absolutely, yes, yes. Social shares should help as well. It's one of the many ranking factors Google uses to decide which websites to put on first search engine result space.
Martine: In order to maximise that situation, I guess it's important to make sure your posts are easy to share.
Nanouk: Yes, easy to share. Yeah, you should definitely put share buttons on your websites.
Martine: We got some excellent tips there. Is there anything else that we can do, Nanouk?
Nanouk: Yeah, but it's more technical.
Martine: Go for it.
Nanouk: But don't be afraid because it's going to be very easy. You should fix your site speeds. When you enter a website, it took ages before it's fully loaded, you will leave after a few seconds. Well, that's going to happen with your website if it's very slow. You not only lose potential customers but also Google uses your site speed as a ranking factor.
Martine: Right, this is really important.
Nanouk: Yeah, but there is a very handy tool. It's called a website gtmetrixs.com and you can enter your domain name, your URL and then you will get a list of recommendations. It's free to improve your site speed. Just go there, put in your website and just see which recommendations you get and then just start working on it.
Martine: I'll make sure there's a link to that page in the show notes as well, Nanouk, so people can have a look at that. I think Google has also got a page speed analyser as well because I've certainly used that in the past but I'll definitely be having a look at this other one. Is there anything else that you would like to recommend to the listeners of the podcast for SEO purposes?
Nanouk: Absolutely. Did you ever hear of the phrase link building? Well, link building is a strategy to collect back links, so other websites linking to your websites. It's a signal to Google that your website contains valuable information. The more back links of high quality, the better.
Martine: For example, if you were to, on your website, put a link to this podcast episode on my website, that would be a back link, wouldn't it?
Nanouk: That will be a back link exactly.
Martine: Excellent. Then, if all of your friends were so excited that you're on a podcast, they put links to the podcast on their websites as well. That will again be more and more back links?
Nanouk: Absolutely, and that's good. That's a good signal to Google. It's even being said that it's the most important factor Google users to decide which websites to put on number one in Google. So, link building is important.
Martine: I wonder how you go about link building. Do you just email people and ask them to link to you? What would be the best?
Nanouk: That is one strategy but it's not for everyone, just going around asking people for links. I think you should just stay with a few strategies. For once, write very good blog posts because when you offer the best information that is out there, then people will find you in the end and link back to your websites. But before people find you, you need to do something else. Another strategy, for example, is to guest post. It's a very good strategy to get the back links and to increase your audience.
Martine: I think guest blog posting is a great strategy not only for SEO but for all sorts of other things as well. Like you say, a great strategy for SEO and for just generally getting your name out there. If you can find opportunities to guest blog post preferably with websites that are way more popular than your own, then go for it.
Nanouk: Yeah, exactly. You should look for authority websites in your niche, like the websites that are in the top three of Google in your niche. You should go out and ask them if you can write a guest post for them.
Martine: You just got to be confident and not worry about the fact that they ... What's the worst that can happen? They might say no-
Nanouk: They can say no.
Martine: Exactly, and that's not really a big deal, is it?
Nanouk: No, it's not. No, maybe they don't do guest posting or maybe they think you are a too small blog but that's okay because in a few months you're bigger and then you can just ask again and maybe they say yes.
Martine: And if you're nice and approachable and friendly in your sort of email that you pitch to them with, then they'll be nice back I'm certain.
Nanouk: Yeah, exactly. In your pitch, you should give some examples of topics you could discuss in your guest post and you should emphasise the benefits you can offer for the website you want to guest post on in their audience. If you do that in a very friendly way, yeah, they will say yes.
Martine: It's not so much the size of your audience that's as important. It's about whether your audience is really, really engaged with you. If you've got a small audience that listened to everything you've got to say and share it and as opposed to a massive audience who are not engaged, that's more important to have that engagement.
Nanouk: Yeah, it's quality over quantity.
Martine: Definitely, definitely. Okay, is there anything else, Nanouk? We've gone through some amazing, amazing tips there. Have you got anything else for us?
Nanouk: Well, we just discussed guest posting and I think a lot of bloggers and website owners, they find it very challenging to find the time to write blog post, to guest posting and in the meanwhile run their business. I think that in managing your time, you should stop making an unrealistic planning with, for example, wanting to publish two or three posts per week or something. Just slow down and if you can only write three or four posts per month, make it two for your own blog and two guest posts, for example. I think-
Martine: That's a great strategy.
Nanouk: I think in the long run, that works better than writing only for your own website.
Martine: Great tip. I've just written a little note to myself, reach out to some blogs and do some guest posting because I've done guest posting in the past but to be honest, I haven't done it for ages. I've been really concentrating on building up the content on my own blog.
Nanouk: That's good, but many bloggers and website owners have the tendency to just go on and on and on but you already have so much valuable information on your website, you should then go back to old posts, update them and publish. It takes less time than writing new ones and then put some more time in guest posting.
Martine: I'm so doing that. I've written myself a note to go ahead and do that. God, I love doing this podcast, I get all these excellent advice. I'm going to do some updating of all posts and make sure that I'm pushing those out to my social media platforms and then think about who I'd like to talk to about guest blog posting. That's a great suggestion.
Nanouk, thank you so much for such amazing information, it's so useful both to my listeners and to me as well because I've got a to-do list now of things I have to do. Thank you for your time. Tell me where can people find you online?
Nanouk: I have two Dutch websites so maybe that's not so relevant for your audience but I do have an English blog. It's called digitalnomadswithkids.com.
Martine: Amazing, Digital Nomads with Kids?
Nanouk: Yes. It's about traveling full time with kids and living a location-independent lifestyle.
Martine: Lovely. I will make sure there's a link to that on the show notes for anybody who's listening. Thank you, Nanouk. It's been great. Love having you on the show and you're welcome back any time.