Curtis Hays is a digital consultant and owner of Collideascope, a digital marketing agency focused on search. Curtis helps clients optimize their advertising activities, create leads, and increase their return on investment. One of his specialties includes leveraging SEO strategy and best practices to harness the power of WordPress and Google. His goal is to help businesses get found online. In this episode, Curtis delves into the importance of cleaning up the back-end of your website, how to create relevancy for a search engine, and how to start ranking on Google.
The Problem: Anyone Can Build a Website
A major part of Curtis’ job is helping businesses optimize their website’s searchability.
5:47 “We live in a world today where virtually just about anybody with a bit of technical knowledge can put up a website. And, so, what is that doing to the internet?”
Curtis shares that Google alone gets 3.5 billion search queries per day, 20% of which are new. If you want to be found, back-end optimization is essential. And that’s not always a straightforward process.
Curtis says many businesses use WordPress templates as their websites, which also come with demo pages such as widgets or sliders. These demo pages typically come with a plugin called Yoast, which causes each individual post to be automatically added to a sitemap and to Google.
This can become problematic if Google is asked to organize too much information from your site—most of which is irrelevant to searches—and your site ends up buried other search results.
10:42 “You have to create relevancy for a search engine for a specific page.”
Curtis says a remedy for this is to manually optimize the Yoast plugin:
- Look at your website’s sitemap—that’s what tells Google what to index on your site.
- Type www.yourdomainnamehere.com/sitemap_index.xml into your browser, using your own domain name.
- Look for things being indexed by Google that aren’t helpful to how you think users are searching for you—e.g. thank you pages, demo pages, tags you didn’t think you created, etc.—and clean them up.
SEO Best Practices
Curtis outlines a few best practices he’s learned in the field:
Your website needs well-written titles and meta descriptions.
Meta descriptions are the information about the website that is shown in a search result that doesn’t actually appear on the website. They help Google understand the website’s main topic and provide users a short summary.
Think SEO when creating WordPress headings, not design.
Curtis points out that web designers often focus on headings for aesthetic reasons within WordPress, but they don’t realize that Google uses those headings to organize and understand the content of the website. He recommends using h4, h5 or h6 headings in sidebars so you don’t duplicate information that may end up being included on multiple pages of your website.
Include searchable links.
Curtis highlights that Google crawls pages via links. That means how you arrange your links is the difference between your website attaining search result relevance or not.
19:57 “You can help create this relevancy by linking the keywords that you’re trying to rank for—and linking them to the pages that have the topic of that keyword.”
For example, if you want to be found for podcast production, link to “podcast production” instead of “click here”—that’s not searchable.
The bottom line is: if your site is well-designed but not built well, you’re going to have significant issues.
SEO v. Human User
Curtis says there can be a big difference between how Google crawls your site and how a user uses Google. The key is to make searching for you intuitive.
He says that can be as simple as adding no-follow links, meaning users will see the links but Google won’t, keeping your sitemap clean.
When trying to rank for a keyword or phrase for a post, Curtis says to research the way users are searching around those keywords. He recommends using these tools:
29:18 “You should always approach an article from an intent perspective, meaning I need to be answering a question for somebody else’s search.”
Curtis says he’s most frequently asked how long an article should be. His answer: However long it takes to answer the question.
Once you create an article, think about other blogs you’ve written that could be updated. Link them to the new article.
Curtis also encourages copywriters to spend twice as much time promoting their article as they do writing it. You’re selling yourself short if you don’t promote.
No Going Solo on SEO
Curtis stresses that SEO is not something that just one person does. It takes a team of good copywriters, technical workers, researchers, analysts, and designers.
He recommends focusing on the short term on making sure your website is clean and well organized. From there, focus on promotion. Do everything you can to develop your website.
Curtis provides concrete, navigable steps to help small businesses start to tackle SEO. In highlighting the importance of smart site mapping, creating relevance through intelligently-placed links, and understanding how users search, any small business can begin to step up their website’s searchability.
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