How can I get started with SEO?

From an interview with marketing expert, John Baker (bio at the end of the post).

January 16, 2024

How can I optimize my content for SEO? How can I get the most use out of it? What are some initial recommendations for someone getting started with SEO?

My initial recommendations are really just to jump in. There are so many resources out there, and it is going to be kind of overwhelming if you are the kind of person who likes to feel like you have a really good grasp of something before you try it.

I would say you are probably going to get a little bit frustrated because if you go out there and read the resources, you will feel like you are never going to know enough.

It is kind of like parenting, in a way. I can say this because I have kids, but if someone else said this, I would probably be offended. So, SEO is like kids where you are never really ready. You just have to go do it, and you will figure it out along the way. You are going to be really bad at it for a little bit of time, but through the process of chasing and pursuing your curiosity and trying to get answers to your questions, you are going to get better. You will improve in using SEO and all it has to offer, and you will be a better content marketer as a result of that pursuit.

SEO, especially now with AI and everything going on, changes all the time. How do you recommend people stay on top of SEO and constantly learn more about how to get their content to perform?

There is a lot of stuff embedded in that question. I would generally say, if it is about trying to get a feel for the future direction of SEO, I think part of it is just being self-aware. How do you engage with social media? What things do you use Google for versus TikTok, YouTube, or a crowdsourced information site like Reddit? Pay attention to where you are likely to do those things. Also, just talk to other people.

Ask questions, be curious, and learn from that.

That means having conversations and asking people how they have figured something out. Try to comprehend your ideal customer profile, also referred to as your ICP. Identify those people and try to meet them in person. Ask them genuine questions about how they interact with this crazy world we call the internet. Try to learn as much as you can through those interactions. That is one of the big ones!

In more broad terms, you may wake up one day and see your organic traffic dropped 20%. The thing that nobody wants to admit is that it is absolutely going to happen to everybody at some point. Sometimes it will recover, and sometimes it will not. Sometimes, you will see a 20% shot in the opposite direction overnight. That is kind of part of the game we play when operating with a monster the size of Google. I used to joke with my friends that if you want to rank in something, you have to make your sacrifice at the altar of Google. You know, figure out exactly how many turtle doves and chickens you need to sacrifice. You are just like, I am really not sure. Algorithms are changing. Do the best you can. Try to get those backlinks. Try to follow the best practices with keywords and see how it goes. A lot of it is just about testing. Talk to other SEO professionals. I spend a lot of time on Reddit talking with other SEO professionals and learning about their backend analytics. Sometimes, you will feel like your site is falling apart overnight, but you might see a restoration over time, too. Always be curious and talk with other people.

How do you collect first-party data to understand the mindset of your audience? How do you know what to emphasize in ranking for SEO?

So, I have a lot of kids who play soccer. I tricked them into that through my soccer fandom. One day they were all doing their practices at different fields at the same time. I had three kids on three different fields, and I was trying to pay attention to all of them. I started talking to another dad who was watching his daughter play on the same team as my daughter. I asked him, “What do you do”? He tells me basically he is my ICP in the flesh. I did not tell him about my company specifically, but I told him that his work is really interesting. I am curious and trying to better understand, so I continue talking with him. I asked him where do you go when you want to be a better version of your job?

This guy worked in IT. Where do you go to learn about new things? What publications do you read for fun? Not even just questions that are work-related, but what are publications that you just read for fun? One of the questions I asked him was specifically around language we use a lot within our company, which is SaaS, because we are a SaaS management platform for IT professionals. I started talking about SaaS, and he said something like “Nobody calls it SaaS”! He said that was vendor talk. In his company, they call it applications. They call them business apps and things like that. It was just a little comment, but it made me recognize how much time I have spent in the echo chamber within my company. We always talk about SaaS because we are the vendor. That is the language we use. But it is really just like business speak for the delivery mechanism for the software. From the other guy’s perspective, it is called applications! They are dealing with applications. So, just because of this tiny conversation, the next time I do keyword research about something, maybe a long tail keyword where I would intuitively put SaaS, I am also going to check and swap it out with applications, business applications, and use those kinds of terms. It really expands the scope. You can find those kind of language opportunities and different ways to beat out your competitors.

You will find opportunities that have a much lower keyword difficulty with comparable or even better search volume. It is kind of a microcosm of what we should be doing all the time, but we often do not because we become blind to the things we do not know.  

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