Search engine optimisation (SEO) is like “witchcraft”, explains Tim – poorly understood and something of a dark art for many business operators.
Having previously joined the My Business Podcast to explore the costs of a new or improved website, Tim returns to demystify this seemingly supernatural force, and reveals:
- The best way to confuse Google and lose your ranking
- How to target web content to capture a wider audience
- Why pushing to close a sale online can be counterproductive
And loads more!
Adam Zuchetti: G'day everyone. Welcome to the My Business Podcast. Adam Zuchetti here. I've got my regular co-host back again, Andy. Good to see you back again.
Andy Scott: Good to have you back. Every time you say that ...
Adam Zuchetti: Well, it is.
Andy Scott: ... it makes me think I've got a chance of not getting a Guernsey, and it really... it puts the fear into me. That's why I stand the whole time in doing all of these things, but as always, no one wants to listen to me. Adam, I'm excited to have a returning guest today. Who have we got?
Adam Zuchetti: Yes. We've got Tim Barnett from 2BInteractive. Tim, you were in a while ago, and we've dragged you back in.
Tim Barnett: Yeah. Thanks for having me back. I guess I must've done something right for you guys to have me back on here again.
Adam Zuchetti: Oh, yeah, you could say that.
Andy Scott: Just to remind our listeners who may have joined us recently and may not have heard the last podcast we did with Tim: Tim, we brought you in to talk about how much a new website cost and there was a reason why you were qualified to do it. We just want to remind our listeners again a bit about yourself and what you do and why we've asked you in to talk about this sort of stuff.
Tim Barnett: Yeah, yeah, sure. Yes, Tim Barnett from 2BInteractive. I guess what you'd call ... we're a full service digital agency, but we focus on the customer journey and building a website to make sure that your customers are moving through their life cycle and using digital marketing tactics to nurture those clients from early stage of their buying cycle through to a sale or a lead.
Adam Zuchetti: We wanted you to come back, Tim, to discuss more the ... I suppose the usability of the site and SEO in particular, because once you've invested all your money and you've built the new website that's all fun and great, but if no one's coming to it, then what the hell is the point to it? So SEO ... Andy was just talking off-air and was describing SEO as witchcraft. And it's probably a really good analogy for SEO, because no one really knows ... well, I suppose you do, because that's why we brought you back in. But a lot of people in business just don't understand what goes into it. It just seems this melting pot of random ingredients that they don't quite understand.
So when it comes to SEO, some of the ... take us through, first of all, what is SEO and why is it fundamentally important for business owners to get right?
Tim Barnett: Yeah, well I'll just take the cover off the whole witchcraft thing. You're completely correct; we've done our best in the SEO industry to try to baffle everyone with jargon so we can keep ourselves in jobs.
Adam Zuchetti: Well done. Mission accomplished. (Laughter)
Tim Barnett: (Laughter) Mission accomplished. Yeah. No, well people say SEO is dead. It by no stretch is dead these days. It has evolved over the last ... when did I start getting into ... probably 2002, 2003 was the early stages of SEO. It's come a long way since then. So search engines, obviously, they have their paid ads. So if they've got the best algorithm, they're gonna be getting people to their websites, and they're gonna be having customers pay for more paid ads. That's important for them to make sure they're getting people, and obviously that's where people are searching these days.
I can't remember the latest statistic, but it's something like 90 percent of people will use a search engine as their first point of call when they're looking for a new product or service. So obviously SEO is vital to that, and you can't have SEO without a website. So yeah. So last time we talked about a website ... we touched on SEO there, and part of how you need to consider your SEO factors in the specification phase. That we left for another day, which is potentially today, talking about that ongoing aspect of SEO and what we need to do to make sure that people are coming to your website.
Adam Zuchetti: Yeah definitely. So, in terms of that, if someone hasn't specifically had a website designed with SEO in mind, they've got an existing one. Is it difficult to then adapt that existing site to make sure that their SEO is performing up to scratch?
Tim Barnett: Yeah, well there is varying degrees of challenges which websites provide us. There's actually ... just a little plug on our website ... there's a free SEO report, so you can go on our website and request a free SEO report. And we'll do a quick analysis, a preliminary analysis of the SEO of your website, and to identify how bad or how good it potentially is.
So you can come from the worst factors, whereas you can go and get a website for $50 from Square and Wix and a few others like that, but they're not SEO friendly. They're all a one page website. And once you've got that, that's probably about the lowest base that you can start from. So there's no friendly SEO URL's. You can't get content with additional pages that Google's gonna crawl.
So that's the lowest base that you start from. Then it moves up to, basically we just need to look at the keywords and what people are searching on to get to your website, through to if you're not updating your website, not constantly building content, then Google's not gonna know what to find you for.
Andy Scott: That's interesting you bring that up, Tim, because we brought you in, again, I suppose, to talk about one of the articles that you wrote for us, which was Using SEO to Aid the Customer Journey, that was on mybusiness.com that [inaudible 00:05:14] a while ago. And something that was in there that I thought was really interesting about that article that I thought would be great for you to unpack for us, is about customer experience management, which I kept calling it "CEM," when we were ... before we started recording, but that's not what we refer to it as, is it.
Tim Barnett: No, they're used interchangeably, CEM or CXM. I like the X cause it's got the X Factor.
Andy Scott: Oh, I see what you did there! But in terms of ... for our listeners that may not have heard that phrase before, what does that actually mean, and where does SEO fit in with all of that, or is it just more of this jargon that you guys are inventing just to keep yourself in business again?
Tim Barnett: Ah-ha-ha! I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you. No. Well, customer experience, or customer experience management is one of the hottest topics these days. As I mentioned in the article, some big international and Australian companies are spending multiple millions of dollars on understanding their customer journeys, and that's understanding what is the first touch point that a customer might have with their brand, and how they move from that first touch point through to a sale, and then to keeping that customer loyal and happy and becoming an advocate of that brand afterwards. So that is that whole customer journey.
So for some customers or some clients, it's a very small journey. For others, it's a massively complex one and involves hundreds or thousands of different touch points along that journey from the different decisions that go through the buyer, through to where they're hearing about a brand, whether it ... whatever media that might be, whether it's digital or whether it's paper or billboards or whatever that might be. So understanding that is a hot topic today. And SEO is ... does fit into that journey, and I guess that's what that article was about.
Adam Zuchetti: So SEO's not just about simply getting people to come to your website, but about trying to capture people at different points of their buying journey, and bringing them to the relevant sections of your website.
Tim Barnett: That's right. Just touching on keywords: so even today, clients will come to us and they'll be focused on ranking for certain keywords, and they'll go, "Why aren't we ranking for this keyword? We should be ranking number one for that." By the end of the day we've shifted the focus from keywords. It's not about keywords, it's about content, and about covering a mass amount of keywords.
Again, a statistic ... I can't remember right off the top of my head ... but Google says something like there's 95% of new searches every day. So the chance of someone doing another search is highly likely, so you might have one keyword that you're ranking for, but you're most likely going to be ... get two visits from that one keyword, and a thousand visits from the rest of the keywords that someone's searching on. So that's why you can't focus on a few tile key ... or a few keywords.
You mentioned about covering different points in that journey? Yeah, so that's what it's all about. So when you're building your website, you need to understand the different mindsets that someone might be in when searching for your product. So the one that I use in that article, which is a good one to explain it, is a car buyer's journey.
So everyone ... it's a familiar story to many of us out there. We go through the story of, yeah, I need a new car. Might be different scenarios for that. One good example is a family. So you're a growing family, you've got two kids in the back, a third on the way, and you go, "They're just not gonna fit in this small sedan we've got, so we need to find a bigger car." So you're gonna go to the website. And at that stage, you're at the early buyer's ... early stage of your buyer's journey.
You're going to be going to the Google, for instance, and be typing in "best large family car," or "best family car," or something like that. And the content that you want to deliver up to that customer is completely different to someone who's at the end of their buyer's journey. So you don't want to be asking the person to take a test drive. They're not anywhere near the stages of taking a test drive. So you want to be putting up content which is relevant to them about helping them make the right decision about what is the best family car, what is right for them, and helping them move to that next stage of the buyer's journey.
Andy Scott: Is that a way ... and I suppose it's reminded me of a lot of salespeople who think it's all about the clothes. It's all about the clothes. Is that a mistake that you see with SEO, that businesses become so obsessed that that website is about making people buy my product, that they forget that the path ...
Tim Barnett: The checkout's the be-all and end-all.
Andy Scott: Yeah, the path to purchase is actually the really important part, and to be able to appear consistently in that path ... or the process to purchase, sorry, is going to help you actually make that close. You don't necessarily see it. Is that fair, do you think?
Tim Barnett: Oh, completely fair. And it is ... to be honest, it's a hard sell to clients, because they do see their website as a salesperson is making that sale, and if you start talking about these people in the early stages of the buying cycle, they're gonna go, "When are they gonna buy something?" And you go, "Well, maybe three months down the track." And they go, "Yeah, we're not interested in that. We want to get these people at the end of their buying cycle."
And that is a challenge. And that's trying to sell that. And especially in the car industry, which is very sales-focused, and the sales guys who run those car yards ... and they want to use this website as a tool to drive those sales, then that's a hard shift, to get those guys to think about that. Yeah. So spot on.
Adam Zuchetti: How do you really calculate the return on investment, when it comes to SEO?
Tim Barnett: How do you calculate the return on investment when it comes to SEO? We always talk about SEO as being an investment. So it's not like a paid search model, or Google AdWords, where you can go, "Okay, you're gonna pay two dollars for a click, and you want to get a hundred visitors to your website, so that's gonna cost you $200, and you're gonna get 10 conversions, which is gonna make you $100 each. So that's gonna ... you're gonna get $1,000 for spending $100." That is the simple mathematics, and you can easily do that with Google AdWords.
SEO is a bit of a witchcraft, shall I say, so there's a lot more involved in that, so it's a bit hard to put return on investment, because there's no specific things. Google likes to keep us in the dark about exactly what they do, so there's a whole lot of different tactics that you need to do, and it's ... really it's about ongoing investment, building content, changing your website, building value in your website, and making sure that you're trying to do your best to appease the Google gods as they are.
But in terms of return on your investment, it really comes down to at the end of the day how much you're putting in, and how much ... how many ... what you're getting out of it, whether that be leads or sales, or it might just be about those early stages of the buying cycle. It might be about getting visitors to that, and if you've got your customer journey in process, and you've got the tools to measure that, it's about okay, we've got 50 people to our website at the early stage, and we've seen them come back at a later stage. We've seen 20 people of those people come back at a later stage. And that's one of those, I guess, rather than a sale at the end of it, we can actually then track people moving through that funnel.
You're not getting the dollars at the end of it, but you've gotta think about the end game, and that you own that customer then. They're familiar with your brand. They're comfortable with your brand. And they're the ones that are gonna be those loyalists at the end.
Andy Scott: I guess it brings it back to ... I guess when you came in before, Tim, when you ... we spoke about the importance of actually planning a website, and how the most important side of that wasn't the pretty pictures and the colours and the "about us" page, but actually understanding how you want that website to function as a business tool. And I'd certainly recommend all our listeners go back and dig that podcast out and listen and read back that article as well. Is that ... cause all these things sort of holistically tie in, don't they. Understanding why you want the website. Understanding how your customer experience part of the purchase works, and then understanding how that SEO sits on the top of that. Is that what you find with clients who work successfully with websites, that it becomes them understanding what the components do, and then their end-goal part of that, with content, as well, that leads to the greatest success?
Tim Barnett: Yeah, well, that's spot on again. In our agency, we're considered ... or we call ourselves a full-service agency. We cover so much, and that's hard. So we always think about trying to specialise or what have you. But to get the best out of any of these things that we're doing, out of your website, out of each of those channels, you need to think holistically about it. So that comes ... that really does come back to that initial discovery phase of building a website.
And we go through the same process. We're doing any marketing for you. So from a SEO perspective, that SEO audit is a component of that, when we look at what people are searching for on your website and the content on your website. So yeah, it is about understanding your business, how all those fit together, and how people are using digital channels and your website to find out about your business and become your customers.
Adam Zuchetti: You were talking before, Tim, about making changes to the site and keeping it fresh, and things like that. Is it possible to basically do too much change, and you get a decent ranking, you're quite up there for what you wanted to do, and then you change it too much, and you're actually become counterproductive. Is that at all possible?
Tim Barnett: Oh, yeah. When I say "change your website," you don't really want to be changing it so much as adding to it. So if you're changing your URLs all the time, you're putting up pages and taking them down, that's just gonna confuse people. You don't want to get a page up there and have that ranking really well and driving a lot of traffic, and then all of a sudden you go, "Yeah, let's just change up our website a little bit and change our URLs and our structure, and then ..."
Not only are you gonna be confusing the users, Google's gonna be confused as well. It's gonna try to find that page that once existed, and then unless you have set it up correctly, they're gonna go, "Oh, where'd that page go?" And then that's how websites have died, with going through migrations from one website to another, changing the architecture of it, and haven't planned properly for an SEO migration, and they've lost all their traffic.
Yeah, so it's about building on your content. So you don't want to be changing it, you just want to be adding to it.
Adam Zuchetti: Are there any prominent examples that you can think of where someone has done it spectacularly badly, and the website has died as a result?
Tim Barnett: Oh, yeah, not in terms of ... not so much changing your website, but when you get a new website rebuilt, that's where you get the horror stories. I can't ... it was a ... don't want to name any names, but it was a bit electronics store. This was a ... Google told us this example, that they went through a complete website rebuild, and I think it was 90% of their traffic ... this is back in the day when page search wasn't so prevalent, and people were heavily relying on SEO, so you'd be familiar statistics of 95% of traffic to websites were from SEO. And this electronics store relied heavily on that traffic.
And this was a big store. They were getting hundreds of thousands of visitors each month from SEO, and that obviously contributed to their bottom line. Their sales were coming through that website. They completely rebuilt their website. Every URL was different, so Google basically lost all their URLs within the space of a couple of weeks, and then it's gonna take months for those new URLs for Google to reindex that. But those first few couple of months were just killers for that company.
So yeah. Planning an SEO migration is vital in making sure new pages ... you can change the URLs, but making sure you're telling Google that, "Oh, yeah, I moved that page from this to that new URL."
Andy Scott: I think that's something that because a lot of ... some businesses don't always end it up with the URL that they really wanted, and then they become available, and think, "Oh, fantastic! That's my business name, I'll grab it." Is that the biggest threat you see to sites that have built up that bank of SEO, or built up in the credit bank of SEO I suppose, the biggest threat to those businesses, that they suddenly do that without thinking, and they're all excited, and they plough on ahead, and then mistakes happen?
Tim Barnett: That is a risk, but I don't think it ... I wouldn't say it as the biggest threat. And these days, most companies that are going to be relying heavily on SEO and have a decent knowledge of their business, they're not gonna fall into that trap of changing that URL.
Yeah. So no. Bottom line is no.
Andy Scott: Yeah. Okay.
Adam Zuchetti: Do you know the proportion of traffic now? Cause you were saying that back in the day it was about 95% of traffic was SEO-based. Do you know what kind of proportion it is now, SEO versus paid traffic?
Tim Barnett: That's a good question. I'm not so heavily involved in the statistics of our clients these days. I know it's not as big, especially in this ... I think in the last podcast, I mentioned the word "omnichannel" and "multichannel," so there's a lot more channels at play now, with the advent of social media. So there's a lot of other channels at play. And they come into effect whether you like it or not.
SEO still is a big factor. I think I mentioned about 90% before. It's probably down around the 70%. But clients who aren't planning on doing any of those other channels, not using ... don't have any social media presence, they'll potentially will still be up around 90%. But we always have the saying that "don't put all your eggs in one basket." And people these days are wakening up to that fact, that they don't want to be just focused on SEO; they do need to be playing in those other channels, and they do need to be thinking seriously about them. So Google can affect someone's site so drastically, then they need to make sure that they are focusing on some of those other channels.
Adam Zuchetti: In terms of SEO, and across different devices, do you find that there's intricacies between, say, a desktop computer, and a mobile device? So someone might be searching for the same business or the same product or something like that, but are they ... because they're mobile, are they more interested in searching for directions, whereas the desktop might be more back of end product information and that kind of educational piece?
Tim Barnett: Yeah. There is certainly a skew towards certain things like that, like you mentioned, directions, and finding out contact details. That is a big one on mobile devices. But the use of mobile devices these days is so prevalent that there's not such a big differentiation. People are actually doing their market research while they're on the train or while they're sitting on the couch at home, so they are using those devices for a whole raft of searches.
But you do bring up a good point about desktop versus mobile, and Google has actually just brought out an algorithm which they're just trialling at the moment, which is called Mobile First, where is Google's going to be looking at your ... how your website appears on a mobile device over how it appears on a desktop device. But that shift from desktop to mobile, it's gone from whereas before you had 20% to 30% of people use ... from a mobile device up to over 50%, and that's just increasing more and more.
So that's what ... people who don't have a mobile-friendly website at the moment and they're heavily reliant on SEO, they need to seriously look at a mobile website, cause that could seriously affect them, that new algorithm of Google.
Adam Zuchetti:I was just gonna sum up by asking you if there is one particular piece of advice that you'd give in terms of SEO. But would that actually be it? That if you don't have a mobile-friendly site, get on it?
Tim Barnett: Yeah, that's right. Most people do these days, and if you go to a web agency and they say that they're not gonna build a mobile-friendly version, then I would run out the door as quickly as you can. So that is the most important thing, yeah, in terms of any website build or from an SEO perspective, making sure it is mobile-friendly.
So when I say mobile-friendly, it's what's called "responsive" these days, so it's ... you don't have ... five years ago you used to have two different versions of your website. You used to have a "www" and an "M-dot" or something, but these days it's called responsive, so it'll respond to whatever device you're on. So if you're on a 22-inch monitor, or you're on a small iPhone, then it'll respond to those different devices.
Adam Zuchetti: All right. Tim, I think we could talk about this all day, but we've kinda run out of time. So I think we'll have to leave it there. Your website, I suppose, is the best place people can find you, is it?
Tim Barnett: Yeah, so there's not a whole lot where you ... go on a very lean approach to our website, just one page, and we're building out the content of that, so ... But you can go to our website, 2binteractive.com.au to find out a little bit more about our services, or look us up on ... or look me up on LinkedIn.
Adam Zuchetti: All right. Fantastic. Andy, thanks for coming in.
Andy Scott: Not at all. Thanks for having me. Tim, appreciate your time again.
Tim Barnett: Thanks for having me again.