Michael Utley: Hey, welcome to the next Dodgeball Marketing Podcast. I'm Michael and this is Chris.
Chris Raines: How you doing? Episode 23?
Michael Utley: Yeah. Glad to be here with you all today. And we're going to talk about SEO and keyword mistakes to avoid. And like always, this is the podcast for practitioners. People who want to learn how to do these things, this isn't, sort of, "inside baseball". These are very direct practical tips for doing SEO for your business or anything that you're working on. Chris, let's talk first about keyword stuffing and other outdated tactics. What is keyword stuffing? Where are we with that?
Chris Raines: Keyword stuffing... We're about 15 years past it. But yeah, in the early days of SEO, and you know this, it was really simple to rank a page. All you had to do was take your keyword, like Minneapolis plumbers-
Michael Utley: Mm-hmm.
Chris Raines: ... and just stuff about 30 times on one page. So you'd see the title that say, "Minneapolis plumbers." And then the copy would say, "Hey, are you looking for plumbers in Minneapolis? Well, our Minneapolis plumbers who can help you with your Minneapolis plumbing needs." And it was just like this obnoxious stuffing-
Michael Utley: Really unreadable.
Chris Raines: Unreadable, yeah. And that's how you rank. Like the Google algorithm wasn't smart enough to pick up that you were short of gaming the system. And this was probably years ago. That became less of a thing and even now it's an actual penalty. If you do it, you'll get ranked down if Google thinks you're trying to game the system by stuffing keywords. So stuffing keywords... you do need to use your keyword on the page-
Michael Utley: So not just not using your irrelevant keywords, but not overusing-
Chris Raines: Exactly.
Michael Utley: ... good keywords.
Chris Raines: So you do need to use your keyword on the page. And Michael, what would you say if you're a Minneapolis plumber? How many times do you actually need to say "Minneapolis plumbing"?
Michael Utley: I'm probably going to have it on that page two to three times.
Chris Raines: Two to three times?
Michael Utley: Yeah.
Chris Raines: After that you're getting closer to that stuffing category which Google doesn't like.
Michael Utley: Yeah.
Chris Raines: So if you're trying to stuff in keywords, know that not only is it not helpful, it's actually harmful. So two to three times and then you can focus on all the other things we talk about. Once it's in there two, three times, you're good on the keyword presence.
Michael Utley: Mm-hmm. And I remember early days, I've been doing this for a long time as you have. But yeah, folks would sort of have hot topics and trendy sort of things they would stuff in there. They were totally irrelevant. And so for a long time, that was kind of like a neutral, but now that would just send a confusion signal.
Chris Raines: Right.
Michael Utley: So you don't really want to try to hitch your wagon to other topics that are outside of your topic. You really just want to have the best content you can have about what you're writing about and about what your page and your website is about.
Chris Raines: Yeah. So that's the first one, step of things to avoid, no keyword stuffing. Two, Michael, you can take this one, only focusing on visible text as a mistake. So what do we mean by that?
Michael Utley: Right. Yeah. So there's kind of the thing that happens with any kind of website design or development project and with SEO. There's a tendency for everyone to focus on things they can see. And so they treat the website as done when it's beautiful, and they forget to think about things like page speed or other characteristics of each page like having a custom meta description for each page. And so an experience-
Chris Raines: Hold on, what do we mean by meta description?
Michael Utley: Oh yeah. A meta description is a little bit of text that's part of the backend of the website that tells search engines what that particular page is about. And so that's not really something that you see when you know the agency shows up, this is the big meeting. They're going to present the new website to you. Maybe they have done a logo project for you. Maybe there's a design project for the website-
Chris Raines: No one flips the card says, "Look what we have for your meta description."
Michael Utley: Meta description. Never happens. So we've tended to be more of a performance marketing agency. We tend to live a little bit more in spreadsheets than mood boards. And so we tend to focus on these things that are more nuts and bolts and more behind the scenes. And so we've developed a sensitivity around all of these missed opportunities. So some of the items that are really easy to miss if you're just using what you see as your starting point are a lot of the handles for search engines to know what the page is about.
Chris Raines: Mm-hmm.
Michael Utley: Okay. So we just hit on one of them, a meta description. For every page it's good to have meta description that says, "This is what this page is about." And you want to make sure that your language is natural and it's the sort of thing that if someone's reading a snippet of it on a search results page, they're going to see some resonance between the title and the meta description and understand that all these things are kind of working together. You're not sort of gaming the system. You're just making sure that you check in, fill in all the boxes. So yeah, a custom meta description for each page is a really big one.
Michael Utley: Another thing, another missed opportunity that we often see when websites are brought to us after the design work is done, and we're doing the SEO to try to make it not invisible to search engines, is thinking about the images. And there are two things with each image that are always overlooked and then there's a third one that people do better with, but they're all important. Number one is the alt text for the image. That's pretty easy. A lot of people are familiar with that now they can see it.
Chris Raines: And by alt text, I'll just explain a little bit. That's the text that's behind... sort of behind the image that if the image doesn't show up for whatever reason the browser, Google will show the alt text in its place. But it also gives Google kind of some information about what the image is about.
Michael Utley: It does. Google's been doing this for a long time. And I would say that in the grand scheme of things, they tend to take information that they get a little bit less directly as highly credible and so they like alt text. Another one is the file name of the image. What do you call in the image? That file name can be made up of keywords. And so you can those right in the URL of the image. And then another one is captioning. Putting some texts under an image. Google's smart enough to say, "Hey, there's this image. There's some text under it." And so those are good ideas. So those are things that are not always things that people think about, and meta description. And then another one is the URL of the page. And so all these things work together and they're really easy but they're not necessarily the things people focus on when they're just looking at the page and saying, "Yeah, it looks okay to me." This next one. Why don't you take this one? Let's talk about mobile friendliness.
Chris Raines: Yeah. We talked about this a lot. And this I guess it's not really a... I guess SEO and keyword mistakes. So yeah it's an SEO thing. So this one will be really short, that if your website's not mobile-friendly, Google is going to penalize you. All things being equal, you're going to list lower if your website isn't mobile-friendly. And all that means is if you pull it up on a mobile screen, the elements rearranged to be in a mobile-friendly way. And we've all been on sites that are desktop only, where you have to scroll horizontally to see things and pinch and zoom, it's really a kind of a pain. That's another one of these things that in the old days you kind of got boosted a little bit if you had mobile-friendly website.
Michael Utley: It was maybe a bonus.
Chris Raines: It was a bonus. And now it's just a table stakes. If you're working with a web designer and they're not designing mobile-friendly websites, then fire them immediately. This is not going to be an issue in a few years because none of those people are going to have jobs. So this is kind of something that we'll probably stop talking about someday, because it's just going to be like, table stakes, right? But again, mobile-friendly websites, you're going to get penalized if you don't have them. So make sure it's mobile-friendly. If it's not, read it. It's worth it to redesign and do the mobile-friendly website.
Michael Utley: And I'll add a couple of points to this. So yeah making sure that your website is working well, the internet is a phone. It's a phone first and it's a desktop or laptop computer second.
Chris Raines: Literally to Google, through mobile-first indexing, it's a phone.
Michael Utley: Yeah. Since October 2019, with the mobile-first index being pushed to prominence for all traffic, we've really been in a world where... Was it 2018 or 2019?. . . We had 20 website projects come in all at once when this happened.
Chris Raines: It was like it was 19.
Michael Utley: Yeah. I think it was... I might be thinking about 19. But yeah, mobile first indexing was a real shift and some missed opportunities that we often see with mobile website design is not thinking about just is the page loading? Is it working correctly? But what is the mode that someone's in when they're on a mobile device? So we tend to like to use a sticky header that stays in view as someone scrolls on the site so that they've always got that phone number there ready to be utilized because they're on a device that's integrated with a cell tower.
Michael Utley: So more often, even though now laptops are... A lot of folks are using FaceTime and making calls from computers. But yeah, having that telephone link right there in the header. And then also just, these guys, "thumbable" buttons, thinking really simply about what's the big thing people are here to do and boiling it down to those one or two things and making sure that your website is not trying to be a documentation resource for your existing customers, but the inbox for people who are trying to connect with you.
Chris Raines: Yeah. That's great. And I'll let you take this last one because you have deeper knowledge of this than I do, but it's a schema markup. At first, we needed to describe what is schema markup? Why's it important?
Michael Utley: Oh no, no. Let's skip it. We're going to do anchor text first.
Chris Raines: Oh, boom. Okay. We skip that one. Skipping anchor text. Michael what do we talk about this one.
Michael Utley: Yeah. So there's a pretty... It's really hard to get inbound links. Inbound links are a lot of work. And the reason is everybody knows that when you put a link on your website to another website, it's a little bit of... it's a little work to make sure that it's implemented correctly. It's essentially offering some credence and credibility to that target website. And if you're a media outlet or we're here in Nashville, if you're the Tennessee, you might even have corporate policies that say, "Hey, don't just put links to everybody's website because they ask you to." So when you do have folks that you have an opportunity to get an inbound link from, you want to make sure that you're setting yourself up for success for it to be really effective. It's pretty common with a press release strategy or something to maybe have a URL that's linked.
Michael Utley: But another way to approach it is to mix it up. Occasionally having some... your full URL, and to have that linked is fine. But it would be even better to have a link on some good keywords. So something like cybersecurity for healthcare. That would be a really good set of keywords for the target website that's about that subject matter to have linked, not just the URL but those good key keywords. And it's okay also if you have your brand name occasionally get that linked in some of those links. So as you're working with other companies, entities that you're interacting with, whether it's the media or some organization you're supporting or whatever the relationship is for getting a link to your website on their website, it's good to the degree that it's reasonable given the relationship, to direct them to use some good keywords in those links and occasionally even rotate in some branding with your branding.
Michael Utley: And so having that kind of discipline follow up to try to get a valuable mix of keywords in all the links that are pointing to your website is, over time going to be very valuable. And in some situations, you have high degree of control over those other websites. This could be another website that you're on. Or a charity or a nonprofit that you're a part of and supporting and they have a lot of flexibility. Even those small websites are highly valuable as an inbound link when you're using those keywords. It's really difference between the lights being on in the room or not for search engines. Those inbound links are one of their biggest factors for credibility for the destination website.
Chris Raines: Right. Okay. Let's go on to schema, which is the one we hopped on too early. The importance of getting schema market where you can. So let's start by Michael. I'll let you explain what is schema markup? Why is it important in marketing?
Michael Utley: Yeah. Absolutely. Schema is a scary word that really just means taking the content that you're publishing on your website and making it available to search engines in some formats that have been made available in the past to search engines for their own use. So let me give you an example. If you are some kind of organization or company that has events and you sell tickets to those events, you can actually, on your web pages. mark up or tag or code your content so that you're feeding it to search engines as this is an event. So you can have... And I'm going to just ignore COVID as I describe this. But You can have a name for the event. You could have a date, you could have a location, you could have a cost, you could have a link for buying tickets. And these would be examples of schema markup for events as an object, because an event is an object-
Chris Raines: And they're going to show up, in the, what do they call it, knowledge panel?
Michael Utley: So, yeah. And there are any number of ways that Google, for example will show these results in a unique way on their homepage or on their search results page. So we think of that as often choosing to be in what we call search position zero. So if we have some data that we want to serve up to search engines in this particular way, and there are lots of different types of data that can be marked up with schema, there are, oh, I would guess hundreds now. You can choose to do this with your website and show up actually above all of the organic results because they're trying to have different formats of content that are more useful to their audience. Now here's something to think about as you get into this and we'll wrap up with this.
Michael Utley: It is not always necessarily the case that more is better. We have, at times, with websites for which we do search engine optimization, laid out all of the different schema that are available for a client of ours. And we've chosen to execute to their websites various types of schema and serve up that content and seen, as a result, traffic go down. Why? Because people are getting what they want from the Google search results page itself-
Chris Raines: It's just on the outside.
Michael Utley: ... and not coming through to the website. So there are pros and cons with giving Google your content for them to use in a way that's sort of served up for them. And we've had other websites where it was really a great benefit for them to gain some exposure and be the authoritative voice on a particular subject, even if they didn't get the click and the visits to the website.
Michael Utley: So there are pros and cons to deciding what to use when you use it. It's not always the case with schema that because it's available. Like most tactics we would say, doing it all, having a unique meta description on every page. We're going to run that until there's a unique description for every single page. We're going to go a hundred percent on that every time. With schema, not so much. We're going to make more choices about what we want to do what we don't want to do.
Chris Raines: Right.
Michael Utley: Yep.
Chris Raines: Okay. Good. Hey, this has been SEO and keyword mistakes to avoid. Thanks for being on the episode, drop in comments, subscribe, and we'll see on the next one. Thanks, everybody.