Understanding SEO: The Basic Concepts to Get You Started

We sat down with Harry Spaight from Selling with Dignity to talk about SEO. Read the transcript below or sit back, relax, and watch the video!

Transcript of our SEO Podcast:

HARRY: Hey, what is the good word? So, SEO, what do you know about that?

I know very little about SEO, but thankfully in this conversation, we have the world-renowned Jennifer DeRosa, she is the founder of Toto SEO, an  SEO Agency for Small Businesses. And she is going to help us with SEO today and a few other things. So, Jennifer DeRosa, welcome to the Sales Made Easy podcast.

What’s the good word?

JENNIFER: Thank you so much for having me, Harry. Everything’s a great word, if you, can’t find happiness in this world, that’s sad. We have so much going on. We are so blessed and we are blessed to be here.

We really are!

 

HARRY: I love you already, Jennifer, so it’s going to be an awesome conversation. I’m going to tell you straight out that I’m confused with SEO. I look at it, I watch people like Neil Patel. I read stuff, I buy stuff, and I let it sit there ’cause I don’t know what to do with it.

So tell us, what is SEO and why do small businesses need to know about SEO?

 

JENNIFER: That’s such a great question. And you know what? It might seem like a boring topic. You know, you might be like, this is going to be too much information. I’m not listening. It doesn’t need to be boring. And you can learn the right amount that you need to learn for your business in your situation, and you should.

One of the reasons you should learn a little bit about SEO if you have a business or thinking of starting a business or you work in a small business and you’re in charge of some of your online presence is that it’s easy to have mistakes made, and it’s easy to hire shysters in this industry. And it’s also really easy to implement some basic things like you can do this yourself, some of the things. So there’s always this like big mystery put on anything digital in our digital world, right?

AI now is a new big mystery, which that kind of is a mystery because they call it a black box. Sam Altman, the CEO of Open AI doesn’t even really know how it works. So there is some mystery, which is true. But if someone makes you feel like they have like all these little tricks and everything, and that you are not worthy up to their standards, it’s not a good person you want to be dealing with, because you can do some things for SEO. You can do the basics and you want to be careful about hiring somebody. So actually, we should explain what SEO stands for just in case.

 

HARRY: Please. Yes!

 

JENNIFER: Most people know, but if you don’t, that’s okay. It’s called Search engine optimization. Basically what it’s saying is, is you are going to be optimizing your web pages, your posts your events, or your products that are online, so that not only are they searchable, but so that search engines understand what you are trying to say. And that when people go to search for those things, search engines like Google and Bing, they understand your search intent.

What you are intending to do when you are a searcher. When I go online and I want to look for somebody to put, maybe I want to buy a fire pit for my backyard, right?

So I want someone to install it though. I want to buy and install a fire pit where I can sit around with my family and everything. If I go online and type in outdoor fire pit, do you know what comes back? And you can try this, it comes back with all these places where you can buy an outdoor fire pit, Lowe’s, Home Depot, all those places, right?

But that’s not my intent. My intent is to hire someone. So what do I do? I refine my search. I might type Mason to build an outdoor fire pit contractor to install a fire pit in my backyard. There’s a lot of different ways I could write that as a person. That’s my search intent. So how do search engines know that your website is the right one to return? You know, how do you get up in position one, two, or three?

You want to be returned, but if you don’t think about the visitor’s search intent originally, you’re going to waste a lot of time money, and effort on anything that you do because you need to start there.

Another example is if you’re going to go on vacation, you pack your entire wardrobe. Like, have you done that, Harry?

 

HARRY: No, not at all. Just a carry-on.Great.

 

JENNIFER:  And if you’re going on a ski vacation, what would you put in your bag?

 

HARRY: I would probably put in skis if they could fit, but other than that, maybe a heavy jacket and ski pants, stuff like that, right?

JENNIFER: Right! So if Google was looking at you, in your bag and opened it up, would Google have an idea of where you’re going?

 

HARRY:  Yeah.

 

JENNIFER: Would they think they’re going to Disney World?

 

HARRY: No.

 

JENNIFER: Right! They know you’re going somewhere cold. Now you might be hiking in the mountains or whatever, and they might not know whether you’re doing a hella drop or you’re doing the bunny hill. It doesn’t matter. They know you’re going, that’s the same thing with your website and search engines. You want search engines to understand what your website is doing what you provide and your offer. What is your offer? And if your offer is clear to search engines, then they’re going to say, this person is going skiing, I’m going to return this wipe. Oh no, this, this offer, this offer is the Disney world. I’m not returning that one. So you see what I’m saying?

 

HARRY: Yeah.

JENNIFER:  You don’t throw everything on there. You don’t put your whole wardrobe on your website and you write the content and you put certain things in certain places so that search engines know what your offer is and if they know what you’re offering, and the more crystal clear you can get on your offer, the more they know about it, the more likely it will be returned when people are searching for your website.

That’s what SEO is about.

 

HARRY: Very nice. All right, so I am thinking about the value of this, because I will sometimes write, sometimes post, and I have this little SEO tool. I think I might have had it at one time, forgot what it was called, and it gave me this horrible score. And then as I researched it, it says, you need these keywords. And the keywords would be like, sales dummy, because you’re about sales coaching. And then it’s, there’s so many about sales. I don’t know if it’s like, a billion, but there’s, there’s a huge number in sales. And then I’m reading or being told, well, you don’t take the big numbers because the, you’re not big enough to compete. So help me.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

HARRY: help.

 

JENNIFER: That’s okay. And that’s an overlooked step, exactly what you’re talking about.

 

HARRY: Okay.

JENNIFER: So what you’re talking about is when you said the big words. I think what you meant was highly competitive words.

 

HARRY: Yeah. Okay. Yes, that sounds better. ’cause I can say big words.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah. No, and, and that’s fine. So if I go right, if I go to a cocktail party, people will ask me like can you tell me how I’m doing? You know, in search of my website? I’m like, for what? For what are you doing? Are you trying to sell shoes? Are you trying to sell computers? Are you selling lipstick? What is your offer? So, unless you get crystal clear on that first step, and it’s what you’re talking about, it has to do with, first of all, choosing your work keywords.

This is kind of changing as we have AI, which is taking over a lot of what we do online and in language, right? But, so we’re moving towards trying to understand what people want before they type into words, right? So some of this is changing and maybe in five years if we listen to this, we’ll be like, remember when we worried about keywords? But right now we’re still worried about keywords. Okay? So keywords and keyword phrases you start with that are kind of like ski clothing. We started with that, with the example of the suitcase, right? So you need to first of all pick your keywords. How do you pick your keywords? Most people have no idea. Some tools can help you pick your keywords.

You can sign up. I like using a very simple one. Google, AdWord key Google Ads, keyword planner. It’s free. You have to put your credit card in when you sign up. But that’s only if you decide to run an ad. They’re not going to charge you anything. And you can go in there because that’s the source, right?

And so you can go in there and you can put some keywords that you think people should be searching for you online, and it’ll come back and give you a lot of information. For example, it’ll tell you what other keywords are related to that search. And it’ll tell you your competition level. It will tell you how many times that keywords are being searched that month.

It gives you tons and tons of information. So if you go in or you can use another tool, I want to tell you, there’s, there’s a couple tools. I’ll just let, your visitors listen. There’s, there’s SEMrush or SEMrush, people call it.

Two different things. So that you are allowed to use for free a limited edition, I believe for one website. MOZ is a big one, AHREF, ahrefs.com. Those are a couple, there are plenty of other ones. And if someone in the SEO world listening and I left you out, I’m sorry, but anyway, there are plenty of tools to do keyword research. Okay?

So you have a tool, but like, how do you use it or how do you start thinking about that? Or when you get results back, alright. Even before you do a keyword search, you want to go into Google or a search engine and type, type up what? Like,

I just used the example of the outdoor fire pit. Type that in. Is that the, and what comes back? That’s called the sERP, the search engine result page SERP in the SERP. Is that your, is that what you want to be listed in? Is that your competition? Or is it completely messed up? If it’s completely messed up, that’s what other people are going to be typing in to get to you.

And so they’re going to have that same thing. To refine your search, get your search down first by searching for what you offer.

Then when you have those words, plug them into a keyword tool. Okay? Then you’re going to see all that information I just told you, right? Competition, other suggested words, how do you pick them?

So if you are a newer website or what’s called your domain authority is low, we can talk about that in a minute. I don’t want to switch gears too much, but let’s just assume your domain authority is low.

For most people with small businesses, it’s low. If you go for highly competitive keywords, you are never, you’re never going to make it up there. You are not going to make it to the top.

You’re going to stay on the page, you know, six posts sixty-seven, a hundred and ten, and you’re not going to move up. So you, in that case, you got to be creative. Like, okay, let me think about my customer. And if you go to Toto SEO, you see right at the beginning it all starts with a customer.

SEO starts with a customer. What is your customer looking for? What is their problem? What are they trying to solve?

They may not be looking for what you offer just yet. They may be looking to solve a problem that they have everyone looking to

solve. When you go online, you’re looking to solve a problem. If you want to know what time sunset is, that’s your problem. You’re typing it in. Whenever you search, that’s your problem. So what is it that people might be typing in? And it may not be exactly what you offer, it may be something around what you offer.

Because if you have talked to anyone about the buyer’s journey, you know, it begins with awareness. And people might not, they might be in the awareness. It’s you need to create awareness about your product. And if people don’t know who you are or know you have a solution, they’re going to be looking for other things. Those are the keywords you want to go for originally.

And so if you can find those lower competitive words that are being searched and you can create content and optimize your pages around those words, then you have a shot. Because if the search engines start returning your website for those lower competitive words, right? You start getting returned. You’re returned. Now they’re watching, people do click on their listing in the SERP when they get on their page, and they’re staying more than three minutes. You’ve got good content on there, they’re staying for three minutes. Yeah. And if we think like search engines and we think like Google and all of them, what’s their model? Their model is to provide the best return websites returned in the search.

Because if they return crappy websites and people go to them all the time, they’re like, I can’t stand the search engine. I’m never getting an answer to my question and it’s terrible results. I’m not using them anymore. How people will go somewhere else. So it’s in the search engine’s best interest to return the best websites. If you’re a small business or you work for a small business, starting your best interest to be the best website. Okay? And what that means is you need to give the search engine signals by keeping people on your website and getting people there. And if you can’t get them there with the highly competitive words, start with the low competitive words. Get ’em over, keep ’em on your website, and slowly you’ll start to move up.

HARRY: Very nice.

The idea of being, on the sales side of things, what I’m thinking is we sell outcomes. People frequently sell their products.

 

JENNIFER: Yes.

 

HARRY: But what buyers are not necessarily, they don’t know how to get the outcome that they desire, for instance, I’m just thinking of what someone might be looking for is, uh, how to lose weight. I’ll go very vague.

 

JENNIFER: Okay?

 

HARRY:  They don’t know how they’re going to lose the weight. They don’t know what program. They’re not necessarily going to search for your program because they don’t know that that program exists, right? Am I following, am I tracking here?

JENNIFER:  Yes.

 

HARRY: Okay. Yes. So you’ve got that, right? Losing weight is probably a keyword that is massively used somehow, right?

Yes!

 

JENNIFER: So, what’s different about your offer? What is, what’s your differentiators?  And then talk about those solutions that you’re offering. How is your solution something different that’s not the same as everyone else? And it does play into sales. That’s actually where, your SEO and your sales should inter they should intersect on many, many, many levels. But you know that sales are not the, you don’t go into a sales meeting and say, you’ve got the best solution. And here it is and it’s the only one. No, youwell, some do.

 

HARRY: Too many do, but yes, you should not do that.

 

JENNIFER: So you listen to what people are saying, you listen and you, you hear key little phrases and like key little details that they tell you and you’re like, ah, they’re not hiring me for this. They’re hiring me for that. Nice. And they talked about that, right?

 

HARRY:  Yeah. This is starting to make sense. It’s starting to get this SEO stuff. Yeah. The other thing you said, which I enjoyed hearing Jennifer, is that you said that they’re sticking around for a few minutes reading and tell me the value of that.

 

JENNIFER: I, you know what I said reading, I could mean you could be watching a video.

 

HARRY:  Yeah. I don’t, you didn’t say reading my bad, but you said they’re there for three minutes or something. So talk to me about that.

 

JENNIFER: Oh, you got to get people to stay on your website. This is how it goes. First of all, you start in position 100, right? So you’re never going to get found, right? You start in position 100. If you’re in position 100 for all your words and you go into Google Search Console to find that out, by the way, you set it up, it’s free there. I do a boot camp on that. Once in a while, you start with Google Search Console, okay? You find out what you’re being searched for.

You say, okay, they already know I’m about this. Your first job is to move up. So work on moving up. Okay. There are strategies to move up. You need to make a lot of content around it, and you need to optimize your pages as do the SEO on your pages.

Then when you’re up it in position, you know, one through 10 or whatever, right? You’re being returned. That’s awesome. Like, yay for us. Well, then you gotta get people to click. That has to do with how your, result looks In the SERP, which is a search result page.

 So you want to write a title and a meta description for every page so that it looks great on the listing, and there are strategies around that as well.

 Right. You want to talk to the person about what they might be searching for. Remember their search intent. Remember their search intent. Remember their search intent. Don’t talk about your product. Remember their search intent when you’re writing your title and your meta descriptions, okay? When someone sees your listing in the SERP, they click on it.

All right? That’s number two. So now we’ve moved up. Now we’ve got someone to click on our listing. Yay. Perfect. This is going great. If they bounce off right away and they don’t engage with your website, they don’t stay there watching a video or go to another page or read something or whatever, they just go there and come right off.

Surgeons are going to measure that a couple of times and it’s kind of like, you know, you know, like when you, you’re, you’re going to find a restaurant, you’re walking around a strange town, no one’s in the restaurant. You go in there and eat usually. You go eat where people are because you don’t know. But they must know.

They must know something. I don’t know what it’s, they know I’m going with them. So it’s the same thing. So you have to get people to stay on your website. Oh, it makes

HARRY: Perfect sense. All. We’re now making progress. We understand SEO and search engine optimization. Then SERP is, is that Search Engine Results Page?

 

JENNIFER: Yes.

 

HARRY: Yeah. All right. Yes. I’m learning. And then, so we’re searching for, we have to figure out, this is the key is how do we know what our clients or prospects are searching for?

JENNIFER: Wow, that’s a good question.

You create a buyer persona. It is like an avatar. Some people call it an avatar. I don’t know if you’ve ever created one or not. If you haven’t. It is so amazing to do exercise. When I did it for myself years and years ago, gosh, my whole outlook on my customers changed. It is so helpful when you’re doing sales because you can recognize right away, the customers you want, so you identify your people with what’s called a buyer’s persona.

It’s a fictional representation of your ideal customer, and you go through with an exercise. And you find out how old they are. Their living situation, marriage, children, graduation, whatever. How, tech-savvy are they? How, what’s their day? Tell me about their day. I love knowing about their day. I want to know about their day. How much time do they have on their hand? Where are they going? What are they doing? And then you talk about their goals and their roles in their life and their stressors and all this other stuff.

And then you might find out that people are hiring you not for what you think that you’re hiring for. They’re hiring you for something else. For example, when I had tech care, I had a web development agency for a little over 20 years. And I sold that company, when I did my buyer personas, I had someone that I worked with a lot and I did a lot of her marketing.

She was a marketing manager at a company, and so she would hire me to work on different websites and do some print material and all of that. I did my buyer personas on her. I loved working with her. I loved it, loved it, loved it. I realized she was hiring me to make her look like a rockstar to her boss.

 

HARRY: Wow.

 

JENNIFER: That’s what she’s doing. So I will gladly make her look like a rockstar to her boss and how I’m going to do that. I’m going to work with her. I’m going to be honest with her and tell her when something’s not right. I’m going to give her stuff that she can turn in so she gets promotions. And so my, it’s more important, not that I’m like, Ooh, the best and the cutting edge.

 My thing is more important, understanding the culture of her company and what her boss is looking for.

 

HARRY: The things you’re saying. This is exactly what selling should be, you’re not selling the product. You sold what that person was looking for, which is they want to look good in front of their boss.

It’s magical, right? When you can be that aware of what people want, that’s how you sell successfully. No wonder you have been a success over the years. It’s no surprise is what I’m trying to say.

 

JENNIFER: Thank you.

Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun. And you know there are certain things you do after you pick your keywords.

You put your keywords in strategic places or strategic places. You put your your keywords. Okay. That’s what doing the SEO is that you need to do. There’s another component to this and that’s called your domain authority. That’s what Moz calls it. It’s called, the authority score.

Anyways, there’s always been some kind of page rank. Well, what is that? That is, I’ll give you an example of what it is. First, put yourself in high school. And you’re in that it is cafeteria and you know where all the popular kids are. They sit over at that table over there and there’s a new kid who comes in, oh, you haven’t seen this kid before, but that kid sitting at the popular table, what do you assume, how popular do you think they are on a score of one to 10? If they’re sitting with the tens?

 

HARRY: Yeah, they’re 10.

 

JENNIFER:  Okay. If you see someone over, you know, with the nerds, the unpopular kids and nurse saw that, what do you think they are in terms of popularity? And those are all, those are all twos over there. What do you think that person is going to be?

 

HARRY: Yeah, same. Two, two.

 

JENNIFER:  So it’s the same thing with your website. Websites have a score. This has to do with linking. You might have heard of backlinks. People hear about backlinks and they understand like, Ooh, I’m going to buy some backlinks.

No. Okay, so what a backlink is, it’s just a link back to your website. Look at this fancy, square, scary word. It’s a link back to your website. That’s all it is. Someone else has links back to your website, okay? No big deal, okay? No big deal. If your mom makes a website, she can link her website to your website. Now you’ve got a backlink from your mom, okay?

So it’s not a big deal. This is the thing. Backlinks pass authority. What does that mean? If you get a link from a really popular website, really authoritative that all the search engines like, this is Forbes. A news organization, the government, maybe you can consider that authoritative or not, whatever you think, right?

But so these types of big organizations that have high authority, you get a link from them and it’s called a follow link. If it’s a public, oh my gosh. People are going think all Google and everyone’s going to think you’re in the popular group.

If you buy backlinks, some people buy backlinks. And a lot of people who hire these companies end up in a lot of trouble because you know what they do?

They build these pages that are gobbly go. You can never understand the words. They’re not even English and they put links to your website and all these thousands of other websites. And they paid them for these links and it ruined their domain. Authority because all the search engines think they’re hanging out with the unpopular kids. So you know what the main authority is? 0, 1, 2,10 is terrible.

And if you have a website that’s been around 15 years and your domain authority is still down that low, something’s not right. So you want to hang out with the populous. And how do you do that? You work hard to get yourself on podcasts like this.

 

HARRY: Awesome. I love it. You’re such a plugger. That’s so great.

Fantastic. This is another one of those things where I’ve looked at and I said, backlinks. I’m a believer that it’s reciprocity. You gotta put things out in the universe and then things will come back to you. So how do I create a backlink to someone else’s site to mind?

Is there any value in that?

JENNIFER: Well, you can’t create it unless you can hack into their website, and then I would not recommend that. No.

 

HARRY: Okay, good. I thought you, uh, so yeah, explain how, all right. Yeah. Talk to me.

 

JENNIFER:  We gotta get the links. So when you’re, when you start, your demand story authority is going to be zeros what it’s going be.

Okay? Your goal is to grow it. How do I grow this?

Number one, stick around for a long time. Okay, well, we can’t speed up time, okay? So forget about that. I mean, just keep your website up.

The second thing is, you know, go for those keywords that are lower competition. Start writing a lot of content, write a lot of content, write a lot of content, write a lot of content.

Write stuff. Write articles, write things. Optimize your pages. Choose those words. Optimize your pages, and optimize your products. Optimize all your service pages. Don’t have a one-page website that’s one raffle ticket. These are raffle tickets. Every page is a raffle ticket to get more people to your website.

You buy one, you get one chance. You buy 250, you get 250 chances, right? So get more raffle tickets, build more, and write more articles. Now we’re going to get the backlinks. How do we get the backlinks? There are a couple ways strategies people use. One is you can look up your brand and see if there’s one.

Unlinked brand mentions. That means is your brand mentioned anywhere on the internet already and there’s no link. Okay. That’s number one on the link brand mentioned.

The other thing is a guest blog. Write to the local newspaper, the patch, things like that. They want to know what you’re doing. Okay. You can also join organizations, join the chamber, or join any association where they’re going to give you a link back to your website. Those are good as well.

Social media. Set up all your social media channels, and make sure they link back to your website. So these are some ways to do it, but it doesn’t happen overnight. And buying links most likely is going to get you in trouble. Not all the time, but most likely is going to get you in trouble.

And then you have to unravel that and you have to disavow links. Mess.

 

HARRY: Yes. We don’t want that. It sounds horrible. Yes. You have so much value in this conversation. I hate to end it. So where can people find more of you? Because you’re awesome.

 

JENNIFER: Thank you. Well, this has been so much fun. So much fun. It’s, it can be fun, it can be an experience, and it can grow your business.

You can either look at TOTO SEO or TOTO COACHING  and that’s where I have my course that I teach people.

It’s like there’s so many things we need to do. The business, what can we do that we can put our effort into, that’s going to have maximum impact, right? So, building out your website’s good, making sure that it’s, it’s optimized for SEO, get people on it and then get people warmed up and then get people converting.

 

HARRY: This has been a blast. You have made SEO a fun topic today, Jennifer DeRosa, and for that I’m grateful. So we’ll see more of you.

JENNIFER: Thank you very much, been so great.

Jennifer DeRosa

Jennifer DeRosa is the visionary behind Toto SEO and Toto Coaching. As the founder of Toto SEO, she specializes in offering SEO solutions tailored for small businesses. Through Toto Coaching, she provides an interactive online course, complete with weekly coaching sessions, empowering small businesses and entrepreneurs to craft websites that not only presell their offerings but also foster trust among their clientele. Jennifer's thirst for knowledge recently led her to complete a course on No Code Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning at the prestigious MIT University. She's also on her way to becoming the author of "Building DIY Websites for Dummies," a new addition to the renowned "for dummies" series. Before her current ventures, Jennifer was the driving force behind TechCare, a web development agency she founded and led from 2001 to 2021. Her career also includes consulting roles with industry giants such as Mercedes Benz Credit Corporation, US Surgical, GTE, GE Capital, Unilever, and Calvin Klein. She is a frequent speaker for WordPress Meetups, SCORE, and others.