All Things SEO (Monarch Social Podcast)

On Friday, April 2, 2021, our SEO Manager Tobes had the opportunity to be a guest on Monarch Social podcast. Monarch Social is one of our digital marketing partners. IIn this interview, Tobes discusses how he got started in SEO, as well as several misconceptions about SEO and its future in the digital marketing space.

You can read or watch the podcast episode below.

We’ve also distilled this discussion into a few easy questions and answers for your reference. Check that out on Monarch Social’s blog.

Introduction (0:16)

Morgan:
Welcome back to another episode of the Monarch Social podcast, where we discuss all things digital media marketing in hopes to give the viewers at home a little inside glimpse into this digital marketing world. I’m your host, Morgan McKell. Today I’m flying solo…

…mostly because we needed three microphones and I only brought one…

So, that being said, my beloved co-host Makoa will not be with us today but I will try to hold the banner in his honor.

The last time we spoke with you guys, a lot of things have happened and I’m going to jump into some of those cool things. The big thing was we actually did have our event. We hosted a huge digital media marketing event where we taught some of our tips and tricks of social media, marketing, and advertising. We stomped on some of the gurus out there that we think are just big phonies. We taught some real marketing. We had a great turnout, it was super fun. It was super successful and we can’t wait to do that again. And we’re probably going to do them quarterly.

The last podcast that we did, Makoa and I were talking about websites: what makes a great website and things to look for. And then we started touching on SEO, search engine optimization. And we told you guys, you guys listening, we wanted to bring on our guy. And so that’s what we did for you today. We brought in the big guns.

So, our guest today is none other than Mr. Joshua Tobler. He is the owner of Dragon Tail SEO, right?

Tobes:
Longtail Dragon.

Morgan:
Oh, my gosh. I already screwed it up. Longtail Dragon SEO, right?

Tobes:
Correct.

Morgan:
Josh actually works directly with us and he is our fulfillment center for all of the SEO that we provide. And so I thought, no better guest to have than our guy. So Josh, welcome to the show.

Tobes:
I appreciate the invite!

Tobes’ Story: How Did Longtail Dragon Start? (2:20)

Morgan:
I am so excited to have you here. First of all, tell us your story, who you are, what you’re all about. And then how did you get started in the SEO world?

Tobes:
Sure. Yeah. How much detail do I go into?

Morgan:
Yeah, it’s up to you.

Tobes:
My interest in business goes way, way back. I remember being in the fourth grade or something, we read this book about some kid who makes it big selling toothpaste. How interesting is toothpaste? But the idea fascinated me that like, here’s this kid my age who hustle and grinds and generates his own source of income and this idea just stuck in my head like a mind virus. I could not get this idea out of my head.

Morgan:
How old were you?

Tobes:
Oh, I don’t remember. Third grade, fourth grade.

Morgan:
And there was just this random kid slinging in toothpaste down the street, or at school.

Tobes:
Yeah. I think the book was called The Toothpaste Millionaire or something like that.

That interest is probably what led me to study business in college. And as luck would have it while I was in business school, they developed a digital marketing track. So, it wasn’t exactly a major, but you could take these classes and they gave you, I don’t know, a gold star on your diploma or some crap. I don’t know what it was. But I took all those classes, and I fell in love with it!

That parlayed me into a job in an SEO company doing link building. For those who don’t know, link building is one of the most important (but also the most difficult) parts of getting your website ranked in Google and other search engines. I cut my teeth doing some of the hardest stuff in SEO.

Eventually they put me in charge of the full service SEO service line. And so I was, I learned how to do the keyword research and the technical SEO and the onsite SEO and all those things. I was the guy, I was the account manager. And that was way fun. That was a great learning experience.

But that place did not survive Covid. Or at least that product line didn’t. So I got laid off.

But about a month after I got laid off, I started getting phone calls from some of my old clients saying, “Hey, they didn’t really replace you and we still need SEO. You want to be our guy?”

Morgan:
Yes.

Tobes:
I said, “Yes, I do.”

So, I got the tools I needed and set up shop and I was off and running.

Now, the thing is, I couldn’t make a living with just those clients. So, I did what any business owner should do and I hit the prospecting super hard. And that’s how I bumped into you.

And as luck would have it—and you can tell your side of the story—but I just hit you at just the perfect time because you were looking for somebody to fill those shoes. And so we got talking and I got integrated into the beautiful Monarch ecosystem.

Morgan:
Yeah. So, it was the last part of the year, last year, the end of the year. We had been discussing, adding SEO as our services because it was such a natural fit.

I met with two or three people that I wanted to work with, and they just convoluted the whole damn thing. And it just really put a bad taste in my mouth. I was like, “Screw this.”

And then lo and behold, Mr. Tobes slid into my DMS on LinkedIn and he say, “Hey, yo, I want to do some SEO with you.” I waited till after Christmas and I randomly messaged him back and I said, “Yeah, let’s actually do it. Let’s set up a meeting.”

And then the rest is history! We launched our SEO services with you in January and we’ve just been rocking ever since. And so that’s how that happened.

Awesome story! So, when did you start? Was it right after Covid last year? Or was it fall? When did you start your, “Okay, this is where I’m going full speed ahead with this.”

Tobes:
We were hanging on at that other company for a while. I was trying to do sales and whatever I could do to keep things together. So, I think I got laid off in June. And then by August I was, I was up and running. So, that’s how fast after they shut down that I got the phone call.

Morgan:
Yeah. Because SEO is such a huge thing! I know there’s going to be clients out there that are doing SEO. And then if you just turn that off or just stop doing it, they’re going to be like, “Nah, we got to keep doing this!”

What is SEO? (6:47)

Morgan:
So, one of the big questions I wanted to have you answer, we tried to answer it in our best way last time, me and Makoa. When you’re working with someone for the first time, like when you’re talking to a business owner, how do you describe SEO? What is your, not necessarily your pitch, it can be, but how do you describe SEO to someone that they think they know what it is, but maybe they don’t understand all the facets of it? What’s the easiest way to describe what SEO is for a company?

Tobes:
Well, I mean, from the company’s perspective what matters is getting ranked. So you’re getting seen, getting web traffic, right?

They used to tell you all the time, what matters in business is location, location, location. Well, that’s true, but the location is just digital now. That’s where people are getting discovered.

So there’s a lot of levers that can be pulled in the back end, but what matters is what the visible result is and that’s improved search rankings on the correct keywords. Fundamentally, that’s what SEO is.

Is SEO Worth It? (7:44)

Morgan:
I was reading somewhere that SEO is still one of the biggest budget verticals in the digital marketing world. It’s one of the highest spent. There’s a word I’m looking for. It’s one of the highest paid services out there right now, because it makes companies so relevant.

I know that there’s this back and forth right now where some people say, “Hey, SEO isn’t relevant anymore.” And then there’s other companies that, they doubled down on SEO. What’s your perspective on that?

Tobes:
I think SEO is here to stay.

Morgan:
Same.

Tobes:
I think that it’s just like probably everywhere in digital marketing, that the technology is changing super fast, that the whole environment is changing super fast. So the nature of what goes into SEO is likely to change month to month, say nothing of year to year.

But as long as there is an internet, people are going to use it to try to find the products and services they want. And as long as they’re looking for that, somebody is going to need to help businesses get in front of the right audience.

Morgan:
Yeah, I think it’s just a no brainer how it works.

On one end of it, I think where they were coming from, when people are saying like, “SEO isn’t relevant.” It was kind of how me and Makoa were thinking when we first started. When we first started our company, and I can’t remember if we said this on the podcast or not, we told it at our event, but when we first started, our whole mentality was, “Why do SEO? That’s going to take six months plus. Or we run Google Ads and I’ll make you number one every single time.” Right? That was kind of our mindset.

The thing that happened with us is we look at our oldest client right now, the one who’s been with us for two over two years, right? If they were to stop working with us right now, where do their leads go? How are people even going to find them?

But if we had been doing SEO for the last two years for them and they stopped working with us or stopped using us, they were going to be so much more benefited from doing SEO rather than just doing Google Ads with us.

And that’s when our perspective shifted from short-term versus long-term.

Yeah, short-term, we can probably generate some leads quicker by using targeted ads and PPC stuff. But, if you’re going to be a company that’s planning on being in it for the long haul, you’re going to want SEO, because that’s going to benefit you for so much longer. It’s that longer game. And so that’s how our mindset shifted.

How Does SEO Fit Into Your Broader Marketing Strategy? (10:19)

Tobes:
And I think that’s the best way to think about it.

The fundamental question here is, “Okay, I’ve got I’ve got a new business, I need more customers. Where do I put my marketing budget?”

I think you’re thinking about this the way people should be thinking about this: Well, you need leads today. So going all in on SEO might not be your best bet. You probably do want some social. You probably do want some search ads. But at some point you need to get a permanent presence.

Ultimately, once you have search rankings, it’s one of the lowest cost-per-acquisition, highest-yield marketing channels. But what you pay for that is a bunch of investment on the front end before that really starts paying off. And that’s hard.

Morgan:
I think the hardest part with marketing digitally in general, is there’s so many different avenues to do it and it can be overwhelming. It can get expensive quick.

You have to take a 50 foot top-down view of like, “Hey, what’s your end goal? What are we really trying to do?”

When a company comes into us and they say, “We just want to do everything,” I’m like, “Okay, hold your horses! Because that can mean a lot of different things! Like we’re talking to some big bucks!”

And then other companies come in and they’re like, “Oh, I needed leads yesterday! I just need leads right now!”

SEO is a spoke on the wheel. Social media is a spoke on the wheel, PPC, having a great website, videography, photos, original content, a marketing funnel—you have all these different spokes.

SEO is a huge spoke for long-term success, I truly, truly believe. Any company that wants to stay around or plans on staying around for a while, that should be a big spoke in the wheel that they should focus on.

Earned vs Demanded Attention (12:24)

Tobes:
I think you’re right. And the reason why it’s such a big spoke and the reason why it’s here to stay is—moving up a layer of abstraction—there’s a difference between earned attention and demanded attention, right?

Ads—I’ve got nothing against ads. We do ads. I do ads—but you’re inserting yourself in somebody’s experience and demanding their attention.

That used to work a lot better than it does today. Because with ads, you become part of the noise. Because everyone is doing that!

And people don’t want your banner ad. They want to find the stupid “X” and my fingers are too fat and you always miss it. People want to move on and get to the content or the experience that they wanted anyway. You are interrupting that process, and people don’t like that that much.

Versus: if you can get in front of people who already want what you’re selling. No wonder that’s a higher yield avenue!

And so this is the way to think about content marketing, this is the way to think about SEO: can you earn attention by just being the best and getting in front of the right people, rather than demanding attention?

Although in this environment there’s certainly room for both.

On-Page vs Off-Page SEO (13:52)

Morgan:
One of the things I wanted to do, Tobes, was this. When we start explaining SEO, there’s these typical questions that come up, and I don’t feel super equipped to answer them. But I thought it would be great to have you.

The first one is: what’s the difference between on-page versus off-page SEO? What does that mean? We hear that term around, “Hey, you need, on-page SEO. You need off page SEO.” Help us through that.

Navigate us through these waters, Tobes.

Tobes:
Well, the simplest answer is that on-site SEO is everything you do on your site, and off-site or off-page SEO is everything you do elsewhere on the internet that impacts your search rankings.

Morgan:
What’s more important?

Tobes:
You need both. Everybody needs both.

Morgan:
So it’s 50/50. You can have the best site in the world but if you’re not in other places on the internet, SEO is dead.

Tobes:
Yeah. So maybe let’s start with off-page SEO, because that’s going to be the part that people struggle with the most. Because, by definition, off-page SEO is dealing with a part of the internet that you don’t control, right?

The genius of Google, for people who are old enough to remember. Do you remember Ask Jeeves?

Morgan:
Oh yeah, for sure.

Tobes:
And then people kind of figured out how they did their thing and they gamed it. Then you couldn’t find what you were looking for.

So, everybody moved to Yahoo. And then the same thing happened to Yahoo.

So, everybody moved to Google. And I’m old enough to remember the first time I used Google. It was magic! You got exactly what you were looking for on the first page! Every time! It was magic!

Well, part of the magic was that they figured out how to measure not just relevance, but also authority. I think it was Larry Page that wrote a paper about it in college. He talked about it like this:

If you’re just going to index the entire internet anyway (which is basically what Google is; they just downloaded the internet. That’s why they can serve up search results so fast) then you could count references to different websites across the internet. Those are backlinks. People link to your website. That will give you a rough approximation of how authoritative a site is. It’s a brilliant innovation!

So that’s one thing that you need to do: you need to generate some of those links to boost your authority. Very, very few people can get away without doing that and see good results. That’s usually the missing piece in most SEO campaigns.

Morgan:
So not only does your website need to be strong, but Google needs to know that you’re legit elsewhere on the internet and people are referencing you and talking about you in other places.

Tobes:
Correct.

Biggest SEO Mistakes and Misconceptions (16:36)

Morgan:
What are some of the biggest mistakes or misconceptions there are about SEO that you deal with with business owners?

A lot of our listeners and viewers are business owners—people that are entrepreneurs starting a business, want to start a business, or do have a business. So, what are some of the biggest mistakes of SEO that you see and what are some of the biggest misconceptions of SEO that you see?

Tobes:
Well, the biggest misconception I see is that people just don’t do it. I’ll come to a site and the technical side under the hood is all messed up, and they haven’t looked at that.

Another big misconception is a lot of people try to optimize their site for the algorithm. And the problem with that is—first of all, they’re underestimating how good Google and other search engines are at recognizing human language. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s getting really, really ridiculously good!

Besides, we don’t have Google reverse engineered. So, you’re guessing at what you think the algorithm wants, and then you’re optimizing for that.

Plus, the algorithm is changing all the time!

So, you’re taking a snapshot of what you think the algorithm looks like today and trying to optimize for that. That’s probably a poor strategy.

A better way to think about it is: Google wants to serve up authoritative relevant results. So, be authoritative and relevant. Optimize for your audience’s ideal experience. Google is trying to approximate that with its algorithm and it’s getting better at doing that.

Morgan:
So, maybe this is more for the agencies then. Because—I’ll just be real—the majority of business owners that I know, if they’re not hiring an agency to build a website for them, they’re building it on Squarespace or Wix, or … They don’t care about the algorithm. They’re just like, “Oh, cool content. Here’s my product. Here’s my logo. Okay. Let’s go.”

Tobes:
And honestly, that’s probably more of an advantage than a disadvantage.

Morgan:
So, with agencies that are hired then are you saying that … Let’s say agencies that build websites, are they trying to build it for the algorithm? And is that where there might be going wrong? They’d be more sophisticated people that are building websites?

Tobes:
It’s the people in SEO who have been around for a long time.

Anywhere else, if I hire an HVAC guy and he says, “Oh, I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” I think, “Great! You’re an experienced guy!”

If you’re an SEO and you say, “I’ve been doing SEO for 20 years,” I’m like, “Yikes, okay. SEO looks really, really different than it did 20 years ago.”

Not that HVAC doesn’t change, but it doesn’t change anywhere nearly as fast as this ecosystem.

Morgan:
Yeah, it could be completely different. It is completely different.

Tobes:
It’s some of the old timers who have been around for a little while that are still, they’re optimizing for a version of Google that hasn’t existed in 10 or 15 years.

How Expensive is SEO? (19:43)

Morgan:
Yeah. The next thing I wanted to tell our listeners is: one of the biggest misconceptions that I have seen is how expensive SEO is, right? Any time I mention it, it’s almost like, “Oh man, SEO, it’s so expensive!”

I think it’s on a sliding scale. You can get started for super affordable, all the way up to full-blown a lot of money a month, okay? You can go as little as people want or as big as people want.

And so one of the misconceptions that I’ve seen working with business owners is, “Oh man, that’s going to be thousands of dollars every single month!”

And I just want to say, “That’s not the case. It’s a sliding scale.”

Tobes:
Yeah, it’s not necessarily the case—although a lot of SEO agencies won’t take smaller accounts anymore.

Part of the reason for that is because, what increased budget really buys you is pace—how fast you can get these rankings.

Morgan:
That’s the same with us with anything that we do PPC or social media. If you want to dump thousands of dollars into Facebook Ads and you want to be on Facebook, Instagram, Google, and we want to do a full blown scale. Well, yeah, that’s going to cost a lot of money. But if we need to start small and let’s just say run Facebook Ads, it’s going to be a very different price.

And so I think that’s with anything though, like with SEO, yeah, you can go as fast and as hot as you want if you have the budget. But that shouldn’t deter you from at least starting now fixing things on your website, fixing some of your backlinks and the things that are going to rank you. And we can relatively do that for a pretty affordable budget with Monarch and us and our relationship.

Tobes:
Yep. With smaller budgets, it’ll be a little while before you’re seeing your ideal results realized. But yeah, there’s absolutely no reason not to at least get started on that level.

How Fast Can You Reasonably Expect SEO Results? (21:38)

Morgan:
And speaking of timelines, what’s a normal timeline? How does SEO work with timelines?

Is there a build-out phase and then it’s just monthly maintenance?

Tell us what a typical timeline is. When can people expect results? What do the results look like?

Tobes:
You ready for the most disappointing answer ever?

Morgan:
Yeah. Let’s hear it.

Tobes:
It completely depends.

I’ll tell you what it depends on; it depends on how competitive the keywords are that you’re trying to rank for. If you’re trying to outrank Home Depot on hardware, you’re screwed, right?

Morgan:
Or you’re going to need a huge budget.

Tobes:
Or you’re going to need a Home Depot-sized budget.

But if you’re only trying to rank locally in your area, for example, that’s a much smaller market. There’s not as many competitors. That’s going to be easier to pull off.

That’s one of the things that we’ve tried to do on these more budget-level campaigns. I’ve gone really far out of my way to try to identify keywords that are not particularly competitive, but are still relatively high yield. That way, you’re getting in front of the right people, and it’s not going to take a really long time.

Even under those ideal circumstances, the fastest I’ve ever seen anybody see visible movement on their rankings is three months.

And that’s the best case scenario. And that’s just rankings improvements. Traffic improvements follow that.

Morgan:
So, you get ranked better and then traffic follows that? Traffic to your website?

Tobes:
Once you get onto the first page, which is roughly the top 10 results. Because nobody moves to the second page of Google. So you got to get those first page results. Once you get there, then you’re going to start seeing the traffic come in.

Then, assuming that you’ve got good conversion rate optimization, that’s when that starts turning into sales. Then we’re looking at positive ROI. But now we’re probably six months in, best case scenario.

Morgan:
So, business owners or people that are looking into SEO need to have a long-term mindset that says, “Hey, this isn’t an overnight fix. We’re going to have to fix a lot of stuff on the backend. Then we’re going to put some actual time and energy into a campaign to get you to where you need it.”

And it might be a year out. Hopefully sooner—maybe we’re six months to a year, but let’s say a year—mindset of dedicated SEO services.

But the whole point of it is: you’re going to be ranking better on Google. Your website will be more relevant and more searchable, and it’ll get more people to your website. You’re going to get more traffic to your website. And that’s how we have to tell people how to look at SEO. Right?

Tobes:
Correct.

Is SEO Still Relevant in 2021? (24:29)


Morgan:
So, I have this random question in here too, Tobes. I kind of asked it earlier, but for the people that say SEO isn’t relevant anymore, what is the Tobes response to that?

Is SEO relevant in 2021?

Tobes:
Yes.

Morgan:
All right. You heard it from him.

Tobes:
I don’t know what else to say about that. I honestly don’t know where that idea comes from.

As we move into a noisier and noisier media environment, earned attention is going to become a more important aspect of your whole marketing channel distribution. Not less relevant.

Morgan:
I completely agree. Like I said, my mindset had to get changed. When we first started, that was the mindset. And then all of a sudden we realized there was so much more value we could give to our clients if we just offered one more little thing.

And so that’s what changed our whole perspective. We’re right there with you. Monarch totally believes in SEO. It’s why we offer it. It’s a huge thing that we offer right now.

Where Can People Find You? (25:37)

Morgan:
Last thing. Tobes, you’re great! Thank you for being our guest!

Where can our listeners find you? Where can they see what you’re all up to or what you’re doing? Where can they find you online?

Tobes:
Well, at this point, I’m doing work for you for the most part. So, monarchsocialbrand.com is a good place to start.

Longtail Dragon has its own website that I have not kept up at all (because you keep selling these SEO accounts so fast you’re keeping me too busy) but that would be longtaildragon.com

Morgan:
Awesome!

Well, that brings us to my next point. Guys, turn on your alerts. I want you guys to follow us. Give us a subscribe. If you want, you can find us on Spotify, Apple podcasts, iHeart, we’re all over the place.

You can find us on Instagram and Facebook as well.

New episodes of our podcast drop every single Tuesday.

And thanks for being our guest today, Tobes.

Tobes:
Hey, I appreciate it. This has been fun. We can do this again sometime.

Morgan:
Let’s do it.

All right, guys, take it easy. Till next time.

6 POWERFUL PRACTICES FOR YOUR 404 PAGE

In an ideal world, your website users will never arrive at a broken page on your website.

In fact, one of the first thing we do for our clients is perform a technical site audit to make sure that–among other things–none of their internal links are pointing to broken URLs. If we do find any, we remove the link or point the problem URL to a working page.

But despite your best efforts, there are still times when a user might end up on a URL which returns a 404 NOT FOUND status code. When that happens, there are a number of things you can do to minimize the negativity of the interaction and maybe–just maybe–even make the experience a positive one for the user.

Build A Custom 404 Page

If your website users land on a URL that doesn’t exist, they’re going to see a 404 page. But it’s up to you whether they see their browser’s generic “can’t be reached” notification or a custom page you’ve set up for this very purpose.

A custom 404 page can minimize the user’s frustration at failing to find what they’re looking for.

It can provide an easy-to-use interface to point them towards the resources they want and need.

Most importantly, it can keep them on your site and get them back into the funnel rather than exiting and finding what they’re looking for on your competitor’s site instead.

Brand And Customize Your 404 Page

You’d rather your users don’t end up on a 404 page. But if they do, you might as well take the opportunity to facilitate another brand interaction.

Make sure your custom 404 page has the same colors, fonts, and logos as appear on the rest of your site so that users don’t feel lost or confused.

Use Conversational Language On Your 404 Page

One way to reduce the negativity of the 404 experience is to speak to the user as if she’s a human. Be authentic. Empathize. Apologize for the experience and offer resources that may help solve the problems she has.

Consider making your custom 404 page funny. This doesn’t work for every brand, but if humor is within your brand’s Overton window, it can be a great way to minimize the user’s negative experience.

Make It Easy To Navigate From Your 404 Page

The user isn’t where they’d like to be, so make it as easy as possible for them to get where they’d like to be as quickly as possible.

The easiest way to do that is by including your normal header and main site navigation at the top of the page.

Add Links From Your 404 Page

Adding links is another way to help the user find what they’re looking for. You may consider linking to some of your pillar content or money pages.

Install a Site Search Bar on Your 404 Page

Site search is another way to help the users navigate to the resource they’re looking for. Most CMS platforms have the ability to install site search functionality on your website.

One of the first things you should do when you begin your SEO efforts is to eliminate broken links and 301 redirect broken URLs so that users and Google’s crawler don’t end up on a 404 page. But just in case a user somehow finds their way to a page that doesn’t exist, a custom 404 page can do a lot to build your brand reputation with them.

If you’re concerned that you might have broken links on your site, use a free SEO site audit from Longtail Dragon to identify them for correction.

WHAT ARE LONGTAIL KEYWORDS?

WHAT ARE LONGTAIL KEYWORDS?

Longtail keywords are low-competition search terms that are easier to rank for in search engines like Google than broader “head terms.”

HOW TO FIND LONGTAIL KEYWORDS

Longtail keywords are generally variants of head terms.

  • They might have geomarkers in them (“nail salon near me” or “karate dojo minneapolis“).
  • They might be questions related to the head term (“psychological safety definition” or “does weight lifting reduce body fat?“).
  • They might be niche subtopics of the head term (“citrus derived cbd oil” or “addiction treatment center that does mental health counseling“).

When we do keyword research for our clients, we start by identifying the head terms, which will probably be the generic terms for their products or services. From there, we use proprietary tools to identify longtail variations.

Suppose you’re doing keyword research yourself and don’t have access to our technology. In that case, a good workaround is to Google your head term and look for the “people also ask” or the “searches relating to” boxes.

LONGTAIL KEYWORDS EXAMPLES

Let’s say you’re a personal injury lawyer in Salt Lake City, and you’re trying to improve your search rankings for your car accident practice area.

Some head keywords might include “car accident lawyer,” “car accident attorney,” and “car accident law firm.” Each of those terms is queried thousands or tens of thousands of times a month in Google. But they’re tough to rank for because you’re competing with all the other attorneys who do car accident law.

So instead, you target longtail keywords that include geomarkers, questions, and niche subtopics. You might identify some of the following keywords:

  • car wreck lawyer northern utah
  • how many people die in car accidents every year?
  • chances of dying in a car crash
  • what to do after a car accident
  • car accident attorney slc
  • car accident statistics
  • lower back pain car accident settlement
  • should i get a lawyer after a car accident?

HOW MANY WORDS IN A LONGTAIL KEYWORD?

Longtail keywords are about keyword difficulty, not the number of words.

A common misnomer is that longtail keywords are called “longtail” because they contain more words in the search query. Longtail keywords indeed tend to have more words, but that’s not why they’re called longtail

The term actually comes from a statistical curve that plots the search volume against the number of keywords:

Long Tail Keywords And How To Find Them
Source: WordTracker

The graph’s far right consists of the long “tail,” where the lowest competition keywords live. The fact that those keyword phrases also tend to be longer than the head terms is irrelevant.

In other words, the question is not “how many words” does a longtail keyword need, but rather “how easy to rank for” does a longtail keyword need to be?

WHY USE LONGTAIL KEYWORDS?

If you’re a very astute observer, you may have noticed that almost all search volume is concentrated over on the left side of the graph. Way more people are searching for head terms than their longtail variants!

So why even bother trying to rank for those tiny longtail keywords?

Head terms are high-volume, but they’re also high competition. In a competitive space, you may be investing for months or even years before you show up on the first page of Google (and nobody goes to the second page).

A longtail keyword may only contribute a little bit of website traffic, but you can capture that little bit much faster! That means a lower cost-per-acquisition.

Additionally, you may be able to rank for many closely-related longtail keywords if you optimize your site effectively. Even if each individual keyword contributes less traffic, that traffic adds up as you accumulate more and more first-page rankings.

For small and medium-sized businesses with shoestring marketing budgets, you want to lean into this longtail keyword strategy hard, especially when you’re starting out.

Once your longtail strategy is generating enough revenue, you can think about trying to elbow your way onto the more competitive SERPs.

WHAT ARE MY NEXT STEPS?

If you’re interested in learning how to start finding and ranking for longtail keywords, schedule a free consultation and we can answer your questions.

Alternatively, leave a comment below and I’ll try to answer it ASAP.

SUBDOMAIN VS SUBFOLDER: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE FOR SEO?

BACKGROUND

Should you put your blog on a subdomain (i.e. https://blog.yourdomain.com/) or in a subfolder (i.e. https://www.yourdomain.com/blog/)?

This question has caused some controversy in the SEO world. In this post, I’ll try to sort it out.

SUBDOMAIN VS SUBFOLDER: WHICH IS BETTER FOR SEO?

The consensus among SEO experts is that most sites should host their blog in a subfolder rather than a subdomain.

Let’s examine why this consensus exists and why there is some controversy.

GOOGLE CAN CRAWL BOTH

Google’s own John Mueller was asked the subdomain vs subfolder question, and his response basically boiled down to “we crawl subdomains separately, but we can crawl them, so it’s mostly up to you.”

This answer, however, is misleading.

John’s statement makes it sound like there is no SEO advantage or disadvantage to either approach, because Google’s crawler can understand your content either way. Crawlability, however, is only one of many facets of SEO.

WHY SEOs PREFER SUBFOLDERS

Rand Fishkin explains why Google’s official word on this subject does not translate to viable SEO strategy in this popular Whiteboard Friday:

“I think one of the reasons [this question] emerged in the last few years is, unfortunately, some statements by Googlers themselves … basically saying, ‘Google has gotten much better at identifying and associating content that’s on a subdomain with the main domain, and you don’t need to worry about placing content on two separate subdomains anymore.’ I am sure that Google has actually made strides in this area, but this question still has the same answer that it did years ago. … From a technical operations perspective, some things might be easier [with a subdomain], but from an SEO perspective this can be very dangerous.”

Some things might be easier with a subdomain, but from an SEO perspective this can be very dangerous.

~Rand Fishkin

A blog post from Cloudflare contains a more detailed explanation of why subdomains are dangerous for your SEO:

“Keywords are diluted across subdomains. Each additional subdomain decreases the likelihood that any particular domain ranks in a given search. A high ranking subdomain does not imply your root domain ranks well. In a search for “Cool Blog”, bobtopia.com suffers from keyword dilution. It doesn’t rank because its blog keyword is owned by blog.bobtopia.com. …

“Subdomains also suffer from backlink dilution.  … [An] attribution to a post [on] blog.bobtopia.com does not help bobtopia.com because the subdomain is treated separate but equal from the root domain.  If Bob used subdirectories instead, Bob’s blog posts would feed the authority of bobtopia.com. …

“If you’re a startup or small business looking to optimize your SEO, consider subdirectories over subdomains. Boosting the authority of your root domain should be a universal goal of any organization. The subdirectory strategy concentrates your keywords onto a single domain while the subdomain strategy spreads your keywords across multiple distinct domains. In a word, the subdirectory strategy results in better root domain authority. Higher domain authority leads to better search rankings which translates to more engagement.”

The subdirectory strategy results in better root domain authority. Higher domain authority leads to better search rankings.

~Cloudflare

We agree with these assessments.

It’s not just theory, either. Evidence suggests that sites whose blogs live in subdirectories outperform sites whose blogs live on subdomains.

Hosting your blog on a subdomain isolates the potential SEO benefit of blogging to the subdomain, which is probably not what you want.

Instead, you want your blog (and any backlink equity your blog generates) to contribute to the SEO goals you have for your main site.

Interested in learning more about how Longtail Dragon can help improve your performance in Google searches? Learn about professional SEO services!

HOW TO DO SEO FOR SMALL BUSINESS

This blog post was derived from an episode of The Inventive Journey Podcast with Devin Miller, where I appeared as a guest. Listen or watch that here:

WHY DO SMALL BUSINESSES NEED SEO?

Location, location, location. This is why Search Engine Optimization is important.

In the 21st century, it’s not about where your building is located. That might help too, but it’s more about whether or not you can get your brand in front of people where they are.

If you’re not in Google, you don’t exist. As far as getting in front of the people who you want to buy from you, for all functional purposes, you don’t exist.

Google wants to serve up results (1) that are relevant, (2) that are authoritative, and (3) that provide a good user experience. So you have to be relevant, you have to be authoritative, and you have to provide a good user experience on your website.

What does that actually mean?

KEYWORD RESEARCH

Before we even start SEO, we need to know what keywords we’re trying to optimize for.

What are people looking for that is relevant to you?

That’s keyword research, and that’s a pain in the butt.

But if you have no budget at all, you can go to Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends, which will get the job done. I use a little bit more professional tools that make it a little bit easier.

Expend some elbow grease, because you want to find every conceivable variation of every product and service that you offer, and every question that people have about it.

That will guide your content strategy and everything else you do through the course of an SEO campaign.

LONGTAIL VS SHORT TAIL KEYWORDS

Short tail keywords have an enormous enough of search volume–there’s a lot of people searching for exactly that phrase. But it’s also very difficult to get on the first page of Google for that term.

If you’re not getting in the top ten placements then you’re not really getting much traffic from Google. If those first page results are just gargantuan sites that you’re not going to outrank in any reasonable amount of time or investment, strategically that’s not the keyword you want to go after.

Instead, you want to go after a keyword that’s a little bit more niche. There might not be as many people looking for it, but it’s hyper relevant, and it’s easy to rank for. These are longtail keywords.

When you target longtail keywords, you can be the big fish in the little pond. You can own whatever traffic there is going to those keywords.

For most small businesses, that’s the direction you want to go.

During the keyword research process, you’ll have identified both longtail and short tail keywords. You really need the short tail keywords in order to identify the longtail keywords–that’s how you find them.

You may have in the back of your mind, “Ultimately, I want to own the entire industry in search.” Maybe that’s your long-term goal.

But in the meantime, you want to be getting some positive ROI on your SEO investment, so the quickest route there is to get those longtail keyword rankings first.

CONTENT

Google wants to serve up content. What does content mean? It means you are giving people information that is going to help them solve problems.

If you’re a business owner, you’re an expert in something. If someone is willing to give you money for what you know, then you know something that’s worth something.

You can’t rank without content, so you’ve got to start creating content or hiring someone to do it for you.

Content a necessary but insufficient condition to rank in Google.

WRITING FOR HUMANS VS WRITING FOR GOOGLE

Sometimes when you read keyword-optimized content, it sounds unnatural. When you’re trying to write to get the words in there, as opposed to writing so normal people can read and understand it, how do you make that balance? How do you write so that a machine likes it–so Google likes it–but so that normal people can also read it?

That’s a question that not enough people in the SEO world are asking. Too many people are writing for the machine. And here’s the problem: the machine is changing.

Google is an enormous freaking company! They’ve got some money. They have the best technical talent in the world constantly trying to better measure and evaluate how well your website works for people. It’s not there yet; the machine is not a human-equivalent artificial intelligence. But it’s getting that direction all the time.

So rather than taking a snapshot of how the Google algorithm works right now and then optimizing for that, remember that Google wants to serve up relevant, authoritative content that provides a good user experience.

So write for the humans.

Get your topics from the keywords, but write content based on that that’s for humans and that’s understandable for your audience. Don’t just try to write for Google.

Let the keywords be your guide, but don’t optimize for machines. Machines aren’t the ones who you want to buy your product.

LANDING PAGE OPTIMIZATION

Content doesn’t just mean blogs, it also means landing pages.

Think about your landing pages as the hubs of content clusters.

So let’s say you’re an IP lawyer, and one of your product groups or profit centers is going to be trademarks. You’re going to have a Trademark landing page.

Content on that page is very, very important. You want that keyword optimized, and you want it to provide a good user experience.

You’re also presumably writing blog content about trademarks. You want to make sure that that blog content is internally linked from the blog post to the trademark landing page that you ultimately want to direct traffic towards.

So you’ve got a trademark content cluster, maybe you’ve got a copyright content cluster and a patent cluster.

Structuring your site in this way will tell Google that this landing page is really important for these keywords. Here’s your trademark landing page, and all of that link equity that’s being generated from the blog posts is going to filter down into that page.

Content clusters are a strategic way to think about how to structure your content. You want to make sure you’ve got one page you’re trying to promote for a group of closely-related keywords.

BACKLINKS

So far, everything we’ve talked about only addresses relevance. Remember: relevant, authoritative, positive user experience. We’ve talked about relevant. What about authoritative?

Anyone who’s old enough to remember Ask Jeeves (and then it became ask.com) or Yahoo Search remembers that they were awesome, until they weren’t.

It became obvious at a certain point that if you searched something in there, everything that was coming up was a bunch of junk you didn’t care about, and you were 3, 4, 5, 6, pages deep trying to find what you were looking for. So we all moved to Yahoo, and before long the same thing happened to them.

The reason why Google owns search today is because they were the first search engine that came along and gave you what you wanted just about every time.

I was young but I remember. It was a miracle! It changed the way I interacted with the internet–and the way everyone else interacted with the internet–forever!

The difference was that Google figured out a way to measure authority that nobody else had.

What they did is downloaded the internet. That’s not an exaggeration. They made a massive index of every webpage they could find on the entire internet, and they counted the number of hyperlinks that linked form one page to another. Those are called backlinks.

RELATED: What Is A High-Quality Backlink And Why Does It Matter?

The pages that had the most backlinks rose to the top, because those backlinks were considered 3rd party validation. They were like a vote for your content.

But then everyone started to cheat the system. They started to make websites that pointed to their website and finding black hat ways to generate backlinks.

Google found new ways to identify and punish manipulative links. They only want to count links that are truly third-party validation of your content. So if a link doesn’t meet their guidelines, they want to at least ignore the link, if not punish it.

RELATED: Free Backlink Audit

So if you were to go on Fiverr and get a whole bunch of backlinks for $5, those are probably not going to help you and may drag down your rankings.

There’s a lot of controversy about what Google considers a toxic backlink and what it doesn’t, and they’re very opaque about the topic. But a good rule of thumb is that the easier a link is to get, the less it counts.

Luckily, Google is a lot less punitive with those tactics than they used to be. They’ve moved in the direction of ignoring links they don’t like rather than punishing them. But manual actions are still happening, so you still have to be careful.

An even better rule of thumb is to ask, “What is the kind of link that Google really does want to count?” Well, it’s third-party validation. It’s a link that actually speaks to the authority of your content. That means it’s going to be on an independently-owned site (there can’t be any signal that you own this other site that’s also linking to you). It needs to be editorially placed, meaning it’s not on a “write-for-us” site where you can publish. There needs to be a human who evaluated the content, decided it was good, and decided to post.

And it should be relevant and provide value to the reader.

RELATED: What Is A High-Quality Backlink And Why Does It Matter?

LINK BUILDING TECHNIQUES

Getting backlinks incredibly difficult because by definition you don’t own the other places on the internet that you want linking in to your website.

But there are techniques to do it and to do it legitimately. I utilize as many of them as I possibly can when I’m doing SEO for my clients.

Ultimately the way to earn legitimate links yourself is to have the best, most authoritative research on a topic, people are going to link to that. But that’s really difficult if you’re a local HVAC company that serves three cities in Wyoming. It’s hard to be that guy.

One tactic is to produce content for other relevant sites tangentially related to your industry and ask them to publish it.

Another tactic is reaching out trough HERO (Help a Reporter Out).

Another good tactic is to find instances of your company being mentioned on the internet that haven’t linked to you. You can reach out to the webmaster and ask them to include a link.

Another way that I really like that’s sneaky but still very legitimate and white hat is to pull your competitor’s backlink profile and see which of their pages are attracting the most links.

You can look at that competitor page and say, “Well shoot, I have better content than this! Or maybe I don’t, but I could create better content than this.”

And then you make a better version of that same content, and you can reach out to those same sites who are linking to your competitor and say, “Hey, you’re linking to this page, but it’s broken or inferior content, and I’ve got this superior content. So how about switching that link over to my page instead?”

I call that “Competitor Sniping” and I love doing that!

USER EXPERIENCE

So the first pillar was relevance. Check. And then the second was authority. Check. The third one is user experience.

User experience is going to become increasingly important. Google has just announced that they’re using some more user experience signals in their algorithm starting next summer, so this is something worth paying attention to.

Long story short, your pages need to load fast, especially for mobile users.

Have you ever loaded something on your phone and the page jumps around and there’s a popup that takes up the whole screen? Don’t do any of that.

Make sure your ads are streamlined if you’ve got ads.

Your page has to give the user what they want without interrupting or annoying them.

you need to make sure you’ve got an SSL certificate and you’re on https not http.

Your website needs to be mobile friendly.

There’s a lot of constituent pieces that go into good user experience but you can search for “core web vitals” and it will give you a full list of things that are going to be tracked. Some of these things already are tracked.

The long of the short is you need to make sure that when someone lands on your site, they get what they came to get with as few interruptions and annoying delays as possible.

GETTING PROFESSIONAL SEO SERVICES

What kind of investment should people expect to make to be successful in SEO?

It depends on how competitive your keywords are. If you’re a local business, it takes less investment to rank locally than it takes to rank nationally or globally.

Most SEO agencies won’t take accounts that are less than $2,000 per month. Obviously that’s a big budget for a lot of small businesses.

We’ve tried to structure our SEO packages to be more affordable to small and medium sized businesses because I like them better. I like small business–that’s what I’m about!

Get started with a professional small business SEO service today!

WHAT IS A HIGH-QUALITY BACKLINK AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?

WHAT ARE BACKLINKS?

links

A backlink is a hyperlink created when one website links to another. The number of backlinks your site “has” is the number of links on the internet that point to your site.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BACKLINK AND AN INTERNAL LINK?

Backlinks point to your pages from other websites, while internal links point from one page on your website to another page on that same website.

They’re both important, but for different reasons

HOW DO BACKLINKS HELP WITH SEO?

The number of backlinks your page has is one measurement of how “authoritative” your content is. Search engines (like Google) view those links as endorsements of your content’s authority. It’s like the internet is “voting” for your page.

Google wants to serve authoritative, relevant results that provide a good user experience. Increasing the number of backlinks that point to your important pages is one crucial piece of an SEO campaign.

WHAT MAKES A QUALITY BACKLINK?

Short Answer: A quality backlink is a powerful, relevant, legitimately-earned link.

Long Answer:

Not all backlinks are created equal. Google gives more weight to links that come from powerful pages than links that come from weak pages. Google will also discount–or even punish–links that it suspects are ill-gotten, “spammy,” or manipulative in any way.

There’s no one way to measure backlink quality. Quality metrics can be broken down into two broad categories: how likely a link is to help you, and how likely a link is to hurt you.

(1) How Likely A Link is to Help Me

A backlink is most likely to help you when it is:

-located on a powerful page

-situated in relevant content

Powerful

The ideal way to measure a page’s power would be with Google’s internal score called PageRank, but Google no longer makes that data publicly available. Tools like Moz, SEMrush, and Ahrefs have scores that attempt to simulate Google PageRank.

One negative indicator of link power is a rel=”nofollow” attribute. If the link’s HTML code contains this attribute, it signals to search engines that the link should not be considered an endorsement. Research suggests that there is still some value in nofollow links. Still, they are much weaker than links without a nofollow attribute.

It’s very common in the SEO industry to measure a link’s power by measuring the entire website’s authority the link “lives” on. Moz has a score called Domain Authority (DA) that is most commonly used for this purpose.

Both Google and Moz insist that Domain Authority is not a reliable measurement of a backlink’s power. For practical reasons, however, DA is probably going to be used in this way for the foreseeable future.

Relevant

There is no reliable way to numerically measure relevance, although some have attempted to create one.

A common way to determine the relevance of a link is to see if the link’s anchor text contains a keyword you’re trying to optimize for. Similarly, you might look for the keyword in the content surrounding the link or in the referring page’s headings or title tag.

However, that level of over-optimization is rare in the wild, so it could be seen as unnatural or manipulative. These are not my preferred method of determining backlink relevance.

A better method to determine relevance is to look for value-based relevance. To decide whether a link is relevant or not, ask yourself three questions:

(1) Does it make sense for this link to exist on the page? I.e., does the link give the reader any value?

(2) Does it make sense for that page to exist on its website? Is it topically relevant to the purpose of its website?

(3) If a user was reading the content of the linking page and they clicked on the link, landing on your page, would they find what they were hoping to find? I.e., was your page delivering on the value that the link promised

If the link makes sense with the page, the page makes sense with the site, and the promised value of the link is delivered by your page’s content, that link is relevant.

(2) How Likely A Link is to Hurt Me

Even a powerful, relevant link can be counterproductive if there is any indication that you obtained the link illegitimately.

Some companies have developed different kinds of “spam scores” to measure the likelihood that a backlink will earn you a penalty from Google.

I haven’t found these spam scores to be especially helpful or accurate–they tend to be a better indicator of backlink strength than backlink legitimacy.

But there are still some clues you can look for to determine if a backlink is illegitimate:

(1) The link is hosted on a link farm or a private blog network

(2) The link looks like an advertisement–it obviously exists to promote your site, not to add value to its surrounding content

(3) Excessive or unnatural keyword optimization

(4) Hidden links, such as links from site widgets or plugins

(5) The link is found in duplicate, spun, or plagiarized content

(6) The link is found in user-generated content, such as a “write for us” guest post

(7) Sitewide or “footer” links

(8) Blog or forum comment links

One or more of these indicators could signal that a backlink is illegitimate. If you accumulate enough of these unnatural, spammy links, you could find yourself in trouble with Google.

In short, a quality backlink is a powerful, relevant, legitimately-earned link.

HOW TO GENERATE QUALITY BACKLINKS FOR MY WEBSITE

Generating backlinks is the most challenging part of SEO. But backlinks are an essential part of improving your site’s authority, so a solid SEO strategy MUST have a method of generating quality links. It’s simply not optional.

Techniques for generating quality backlinks include:

(1) Guest blog posting–generating original content which links to your site and asking third party sites to publish it under their name

(2) Broken Link Building–identifying broken links and asking the webmaster to point those links to your resources instead

(3) Unlinked Brand Mentions–finding instances where your business is mentioned online and asking the webmaster to link to your site

(4) Competitor Backlink Sniping–pulling your competitors’ backlink profiles, identifying broken links or links that point to poor-quality content, and asking the referring website to the point that link to your higher-quality content instead

All of these techniques are incredibly time-consuming. Longtail Dragon SEO utilizes all of these techniques to improve your backlink profile and increase your site’s authority.

HOW MANY BACKLINKS DO I NEED?

It depends on which keywords you’re trying to rank for and how competitive those keywords are.

One way to estimate the number of backlinks you need is to analyze the backlink profiles of the pages ranked on the first page of Google for your target keyword.

The important number is not the number of backlinks that point to each of those pages. Instead, the important number is the number of “referring domains” in the backlink profile–the number of unique websites that link to the page. The average number of referring domains in the page-level backlink profiles of page 1 results will roughly equal the number of backlinks you need.

I say “roughly” because there are other variables that matter.

Suppose you can optimize your page for its target keywords better than the first page results. In that case, you might not need as many backlinks because your page’s superior “relevance” for the keyword makes up for its inferior “authority.”

Also, not all backlinks are created equal. Suppose the current first page results have low-quality backlinks in their profile, and you acquire high-quality backlinks in your profile. In that case, you won’t need as many links.

HOW TO GET LOCAL BACKLINKS

The best way to earn local backlinks is to make sure your business appears in all relevant local business directories online. Many of those will link to your website.

WHAT ARE DOFOLLOW BACKLINKS?

Dofollow backlinks are backlinks that do not contain the rel=”nofollow” attribute telling Google not to count the link as an endorsement.

While rel=”nofollow” links are not harmful per se and can even be helpful, dofollow links are generally more desirable.

HOW TO CHECK MY BACKLINKS

Google will give you a sample of your backlinks in Google Search Console. Tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz can pull a more comprehensive list of your backlinks.

Alternatively, get a backlink audit from Longtail Dragon and we’ll give you a list of all your backlinks.

IS BACKLINKING ILLEGAL?

It is not illegal to link out to a third-party site or generate backlinks for your website.

If you use unnatural, manipulative, or spammy link building techniques, however, you can get your site penalized by Google.

HOW TO CHECK BAD BACKLINKS

Google will give you a sample of your backlinks in Google Search Console. Tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz can pull a more comprehensive list of your backlinks. Those tools will also give you toxicity or spam scores that will help identify the bad backlinks–although I take those scores with a grain of salt.

Alternatively, get a backlink audit from Longtail Dragon and we’ll manually inspect your backlinks and give you a list of backlinks we suspect are toxic.

HOW TO DISAVOW BAD BACKLINKS

You should generally not disavow a backlink unless you have received a manual action (penalty) from Google. If you have received a manual action and you think you have identified the backlinks that are responsible, you can disavow those links in Google Search Console.

Backlinks are not everything in SEO, but they are a vitally important part of a solid SEO strategy. If you are doing SEO yourself, you need to know this stuff like the back of your hand. If we’re doing SEO for you, a high-level understanding is more than enough.