Run - Don't Walk! From Black Hat SEO Techniques! Here's Why!
by Crystal Waddell on Oct 18, 2022
In our 22nd episode, we are joined by Stephanie Long, an SEO expert with 10 years of experience.
Stephanie is the owner of her own SEO agency, and she has some great tips to share with us on how to optimize our websites for better search engine visibility.
ARE YOU UTILIZING HEATMAPS ON YOUR WEBSITE?
One of Stephanie's top tips is to use heat maps to understand where people are clicking on your website.
This can be a valuable tool in understanding what users are looking for and how to improve the user experience on your site.
Her tool of choice? Hotjar. Hotjar comes with a 30 day free trial so grab the data while it's free and take a look at where people are spending time on your site.
IT'S TIME TO WRITE FRESH CONTENT: BLOGS, ARTICLES, AND GUEST POSTS
Stephanie also recommends blogging once a week as a way to increase your domain authority.
By writing fresh content on a regular basis, you can signal to search engines that your site is active and relevant, which will help improve your ranking.
Additionally, Stephanie suggests using HARO as a way to get backlinks from other high-quality websites.
Which Content Management System (CMS) do you use?
If you're still deciding, check out this Wordpress vs. Shopify article.
HARO IS A WEBSITE THAT CONNECTS CONTENT CREATORS (AND BUSINESS OWNERS) WITH JOURNALISTS
By guest blogging or writing for other companies, you can improve your domain authority as well, and reach a wider audience.
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE IF YOU WANT GREAT TIPS ON HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR WEBSITE FOR BETTER SEO!
Prefer to listen on YouTube? Now you can! Check out Episode 22 here:
Stephanie Long is an experienced SEO expert with some great tips to share on how to optimize our websites for better visibility.
By following her white hat SEO advice on heat maps, fresh content, and backlinks, we can signal to search engines that our site is active and relevant, which will help improve our ranking and reach a wider audience.
Thanks for tuning in!
Listen and subscribe to the Simple and Smart SEO Show Podcast here:
Stephanie Long: You're not gonna rank at all, and you're gonna be losing out to your competitors.
So why not just take the time to either hire someone or do very basic SEO on the back end to make sure you rank for these, right?
And then there's also the Google featured snippets. So when you Google something, it'll show what other people are asking for and you wanna rank for those questions.
Brittany: Hello and welcome to the Simple and Smart SEO show.
Crystal: Where we provide tips and advice to improve your website search engine ranking.
Brittany: I'm Brittany Herzberg, SEO copywriter for Holistic Health and Wellness Pros who want to show up as the answer to a Googled question.
Crystal: And I'm Crystal Waddell, an e-commerce seller and content creator. I help business owners communicate the value of their products and services through content, so you can make more sales and grow your business.
Brittany: We are business besties who love learning and sharing what we've learned. So what are we waiting for? Let's jump in.
Crystal: All right. Good morning everybody. B and I are here with our fantastic guest today, Stephanie Long.
And Stephanie Long has been working in SEO for a while. I won't try to tell you too much about her because she's gonna tell us about herself real quick.
And then we're gonna hop into some black hat versus white hat SEO discussion topics.
So I'm super excited.
Hey B! Thanks for being here today.
Do you wanna just give us a little bit of your background?
Stephanie: Yeah, thank you for having me. I've been doing SEO for about 10 years now. It was my first job out of college.
I had no idea what I was doing.
They hired me and from there I just hit the ground running and I did it every job since then.
I was laid off during Covid and I've always had clients on the side doing SEO.
So one of my best friends is like, why don't you just start your own business?
I never had a website. People were just like, “Hey,can you help my friend with SEO?” Sure.
It was like, all ad hoc.
So when I got laid off, I built my website. If you go to it and your web designer, please don't judge me.
So I built the website and now I've been marketing myself for SEO and now I run a SMM SEO Agency and I only focus on SEO.
That is it.
Brittany: I love it. Sorry I interrupted you. I was just gonna say, you've been doing a really good job marketing yourself cuz you actually found us and I was like, this chick seems really cool.
Stephanie: Yeah, so marketing also is my background. Right after I did SEO, I started working, doing everything in marketing, right?
I started becoming a marketing director, but what I really loved is SEO.
So that's what I'm focusing on.
Crystal: So you were talking about, hey don't judge my website, website designers or whatever. But what do you think is more important, like the beauty and the aesthetic of a website or the SEO?
Stephanie: Oh, of course, definitely the SEO.
I've spoken about this before,the ux, so the user experience, the design of the site.
Whenever I've worked at other companies, I like to come in right away because how your site structure is set up is very important to SEO because your navigation tab is also actually highly searched for SEO.
So it's very important to get in at the beginning.
So I design my site knowing this in that way and sometimes the really pretty ones where you land on it and it's all this video, well I don't like those because that loads [slowly]and that's also you're taking up all that real estate and not putting the really important stuff on the homepage.
Brittany: So thank You for saying that because it drives me absolutely insane to see. I also am not a huge fan of the carousel images cuz I feel like personally as a copywriter I want to know I'm in the right spot and then I want to get to the meat of it,at least with the headlines.
So thank you.
Stephanie: Yeah, I do have carousel images with headlines but I make sure each one of those has a call to action.
Ones that just filter through in our video and I know they wanna just make it look really great and that's awesome.
But I like to say, are your clients potential customers clicking on that?
Like, look at your analytics.
They will tell you what they want.
You should never tell people what you think they want.
So it's always to look at the analytics of it. Like an example is, I have a podcast client and she's a graphic designer, great job. But she loved her image that had nothing clickable on it.
And I was like, let's look at the analytics seriously.
And she didn't wanna take it down cuz she is a graphic designer, but we looked and nobody was scrolling past that, right?
Cause I like to put heat maps on websites. So Hot Jar is one of my favorites.
Nobody was going past that. So I told her let's try, let's just try and change it out with a clickable link to your podcast cuz they are a podcast.
They had no link to it.
So we tried that and it showed that that's what people wanted.
Brittany: So, that's perfect. Cuz actually that actually came up with one of my Power Hour clients recently.
We were looking at a sales page and she had a video at the very top and I can't remember if there was even a headline with the video or not, but I was like, is this working?
I don't know if this is right for your people. So we looked at the analytics and she ended up taking it off.
And the week after we did the sales page, Power hour, she had three sales.
She was like, I'm never putting another video up there again.
Stephanie: Yeah, exactly.
Crystal: Wow, that is so cool. So real quick before we move past this, can you tell us what a heat map is? Like how they work and where you can install it for yourself?
Stephanie: Yeah, so I do, like I said I love Hot Jar. They do offer a 30 day free trial. They are a little expensive afterwards.
But if this is something that you really wanna focus on where people are, look, so it's where people look on your website.
So, on your homepage you can see where they click or where they stay. So like heat, wherever it's red, that's where people are staying the longest. And so that's where you wanna focus more of your call to action maybe.
Or let's say it's a specific blog title, then you maybe wanna iterate off that blog title cuz people really like what's being set.
So Hot Jar I would recommend if this is something analytically you really wanna look at and are, I think it's important.
I recommend it and that's also what I recommended to my podcast clients cuz they could see where people were clicking after we switched out their homepage image.
Crystal: Okay. So I have been told about a free version of this called Microsoft Clarity.
Do you have any opinion on Microsoft Clarity?
Stephanie: I don't know that one. I have tried other ones.
I can't think off the top of my head what they offer for free. I just did not find it as good as Hot Jar.
I mean, you know that saying you get what you pay for and I realize you gotta pick your tools wisely.
That one is just I think really, really great because I'm able to take that and transfer it to the analytics, right?
So Hot Jar says this is where people are, it's hot, right? It's red, it's hot there. So then I'm able to take that and iterate off. Maybe it's a blog post like I mentioned. So we make other blog posts that do well.
So it it's, it correlates very well with the analytics. That's why I like it.
Brittany; So I mean for anyone listening, I mean you can always start with the free tools and see I like to tell my clients like see if you're gonna use it, see how often you actually go in and play with it.
And if you find that it's useful then you can look into the paid versions.
Stephanie: Exactly. And like the podcast clients, they don't have a lot of budget, but for the 30 days they were able to see, you can get a good amount of info for 30 days and see then you can cancel it, right?
Crystal: Especially if you have somebody that can help you look at it, and just kind of disseminate whatever it was that was showing up and the data.
So that's probably really helpful that they were able to get that and then have you to help guide them and say okay, what do we do with this information?
Stephanie: Exactly. Yeah.
Crystal: Okay, so I listened to a podcast that you were on previously and I was just like, oh my gosh, this is great. I like to talk to an SEO expert, I love talking to other SEOs.
So my first question was when you mentioned in that interview that your first job was in a technical SEO role.
Crystal; What was that like and what did you do on a daily basis?
Oh man, it was a wild ride, I'm gonna say. So I was one of 50 SEO experts.
Our company dealt with all the GMC dealerships in the United States.
So we optimized for everyone. So we had a book of clients, my clients, I wanna, I can remember it was like 130 about.
So I had 130 clients I optimized websites for and you're probably like, how did you do the whole website?
We only did the homepage and then some had VIP packages, so some got more than others.
But, that was what I did with only homepages for these GMC dealers and it was really hard to give great service to that many clients.
They also, here's another story. They all wanted to rank for, let's say GMC Buick. Okay.
So they all wanted to rank number one for GMC Buick.
Well, I'll give an example because one of my VIP clients was in the Seattle area where I live.
So they wanted to rank for GMC Buick and I was like, well do you understand that GMC Buick is always gonna rank, like the GMC website will always rank for these cuz they are putting millions of dollars behind paid search and that's just their website, right?
They've been around for however long. So they have a high domain authority, which means they have been around a long time.
Google sees them as very highly authoritative, right? So it's gonna, you're never gonna rank for that.
Also, I would tell them they're at the top of the buying funnel. You don't want to grab them at that point. You want them to look at gmc, see what kind of cars you want and then get it more tailored.
So GMC Buick dealership in Seattle, right? Like you wanna hit them for those kinds of keywords.
So I always had to educate them.
Those were some of the hardest people to educate dealerships. But I had to educate them on, you never wanna rank for seed keywords or, or sorry, go after seed keywords, which are two keywords.
You always wanna go after a long tail, which is three to five keywords. So that was my first foray and it was hard.
So I'm glad I got that experience really explaining that to dealerships about not ranking for just two keywords.
Brittany: Okay. Follow up question to that. Cause Crystal did, like, she's gonna go with all of the questions. With the funnel. You mentioned the funnel.
Brittany: So the customer journey, like the top of the funnel, middle funnel and the funnel, right? Or the bottom of the funnel?
Where do you find, I'm not even sure how to ask this, but like when you're doing SEO keyword research with most of your clients, where do you find you're really in that funnel with finding those keywords? Does that make sense?
Stephanie: So are you meaning do I go after the high, medium or low keywords for them?
Brittany: So they come in, they're more interested In, right? So like more we're in the funnel, are you-
Stephanie: Yeah, medium right? So medium of the funnel, I can’t remember what the terminology is.
But so in the medium of the funnel, because they've already done their research, right?
You want them to research, this is my opinion, everyone is on different pages.
I want them to research on a different platform. Like I want them to do all of that there and then they're ready almost to buy like they want, they want more targeted services.
So that's where I like to come in the middle because I do the lead magnet so they can see offers that I give or my clients give, read their blogs and then, at the end make the purchase.
So they're already, so they've done their research then they found the client or myself and then that's where I like to be at that point.
I mean, again, everyone's different but I like to capture them.
I want them to do the research somewhere else before.
Brittany: Yeah, that makes total sense. I was just curious like how, where, where the bulk of your time, like with most of your clients rather, like how-
Stephanie: That's simply the lead, like Yeah, in the middle of the lead time they've done their research.
Like one example of a client, they love it when people do the research on competitor sites and then don't like the offerings and then Google keywords related to what they're looking for and find my client, right?
So then they're in the middle of the funnel and then once they get to talk to the CEO, then they are sold on the tool. So that's an example, yeah, of what has been working for them.
Crystal: That's great. Yeah. Okay, so let me throw my 2 cents in here and then I'll ask my follow up question.
Okay, so when we're talking about funnels, you know there's there's, there's always like the top of funnel, middle funnel, bottom of the funnel. So there's tofu, mofu, bofu, which I always, I find that hilarious.
I can't say without laughing.
Crystal: But Pinterest actually made this even more clear to me because there are three parts of the funnel aligned with, top of the funnel is awareness.
So, I think what we're talking about here is like not wasting our time with awareness, letting other people answer those awareness questions, right?
And then the next phase is consideration. And so that's when people are aware, not only of their problem but that there's a product out there that will meet their need to solve that problem.
And that's really smart, Stephanie, to focus your energy there because it's like, let everybody else educate you about this, and then come buy from us.
Stephanie: So I love that I've done that over the years of doing SEO, but yes. Yeah, sorry.
Crystal: Yeah, no problem.
And then the bottom of it, that bottom of the funnel is the actual conversion piece, and so just to kind of give everybody, there's so many terms that float around.
So finding where they intersect and how they integrate is just, has been so helpful for me.
Cause I'm like, oh, that's what they're talking about. You know what I mean?
Stephanie: So yeah, for sure. Little, little ahas that I just wanted to share.
But the other thing you had mentioned was domain authority and the fact that big GMC has higher domain authority than like local dealerships, right?
So, if you're starting out with a website or say you're even, gosh I hate to compete with that type of giant dealership, like the head of the company or whatever.
But what are some ways that you can increase your domain authority the fastest when you're just kind of starting out?
Stephanie: Well, I'll use myself as an example because I was zero outta so to 100, right?
So I was at zero, I'm now 13.
I don't do any paid search, it's all organic obviously.
That's what I do for a job and that's what I myself do.
It has just been about, I started with three pages, that's it.
And then I started blogging. So I blog once a week. So it's been about blogging.
I do HARO, which is “help a reporter out”. So they link back to me, right? So that's back linking.
So we can get into that later. But now, I've now done podcasts and write for other companies.
So I get backlinks from them, which helps with domain authority.
And then I've just slowly been adding right to my website and I add blogs to Medium, so there's another outlet.
So you're just constantly putting out fresh new content. You probably know this from being a content writer.
If I can give anyone any piece of advice, update your content, make it fresh. Like if there is an old post that's doing really well, revive it.
Add new stuff to it, bring it back up to the top of your blog.
So that's what I do, just blog. I go on podcasts, I write for other places and I'm now 13 out of a hundred.
But it's slow, right?
Anything organic, anything free, you gotta remember that is slow. So nothing's gonna come fast.
And I have no patience.
So I had to remind myself that, but it's slow going, right?
So don't come on here and think you're gonna write maybe start, right?
You write 10 blogs right away and post them.
That's not, that's not getting you like up to the top of the, in the search engines right away.
So. slow process.
Brittany:I like to say that SEO and time are BFFs because they just, it does, it takes time. And I think that you're doing the right thing.
I totally agree with your strategy because I'm always talking about HARO and blogging, even though I don't blog so much on my own website.
Stephanie: It's, it's a goal for, I take yourself every Sunday I have an, I have a reminder on my calendar every Sunday. Blog, write a blog here.
Brittany; Here's a question for you. What word count are you aiming for? Or are you, is it more about just doing it or are you looking for a certain word count?
Stephanie: No, it's just about getting the good content out there. And I like to always put time in there, so the time to read.
I did an AB test and I actually have people read it more if there's a time on there versus not a time because let's say you're in a hurry and you're like, oh God, this is gonna be 20 minutes, maybe you'll come back to it.
But versus going to it and seeing how long it is and then bounce off.
So I like to have time there showing that, oh this is only three minutes, I can get through this right Now.
Brittany: And how are you figuring out the time?
Stephanie: So I have a plugin, I use WordPress and I have a plugin that automatically does that when I load my blog.
Brittany: Love that. I'll have to see if there's a Google Chrome extension for that.
Stephanie: You should. Yeah. I feel like there probably is, but probably, yeah.
So I have more reads on the ones that had time on them versus not time.
So I went through and have time on all of them.
Crystal: Now, you know what this reminds me of? This is like a total off to the distance thing. So just stay with me for a second.
Crystal: My son just got this assignment in class last week. There's a substitute in his class, and like three kids handed it in before the class was over and he had to bring it home for homework.
He was working out for two and a half hours on Saturday, so I was just thinking, I was like wouldn't it be funny if you put on there, just like a guesstimate of how long that blog was was like, oh yeah, it's like three minutes but it's actually gonna take you like three days.
And I know we would never do that, but it's funny how estimates work and how sometimes we think oh it'd be this long.
So it's nice that there's an actual plugin to deal with that.
But okay, so I wanna back up and ask like how did you get your job writing for Medium?
Stephanie: So it's not a job, I just signed up as a partner. It's really easy.
You can just sign up and then I just upload blogs so you can do it metered.
And what metered means is people that are on their paid platform, they can get paid if they view your blogs.
So I've done paid versus or metered versus non metered.
And because I'm not super well known in the world if I haven't metered, I noticed people don't read it as much as versus non metered.
So that's my recommendation getting started out cuz I metered all my stuff.
I was like, yeah, I'm gonna make a ton of money and I made 8 cents.
So yeah, I literally made 8 cents, 8 cents went into my bank account. I Was like, oh my.
Stephanie: Yeah, thanks. So I don't meter any of my stuff anymore.
But yes, super easy just sign up on a business account. Like you can do their partner program, which I signed up for, but obviously I'm not metering my stuff anymore.
But you can make money off of it so.
Crystal: Very cool.
Crystal: So is the advantage for you doing that now, the back link? Is that why you're doing it versus getting paid for it?
Stephanie: I think it's just another platform people can find me on. That's what, that's why I'm doing it.
I'm hoping people find me on it. So as much as I can get myself out there as a thought leader, that's my biggest goal is to become a thought leader in SEO.
And people come to me for training. Like I've, I've moved a lot to more training and teaching, so I'm actually gonna be teaching some courses at the college I went to.
Unknown: That's really cool. What is it that you really like? What's the one takeaway you want people to have about SEO?
Stephanie: I want them to know that it's not a one and done thing and be patient with your SEO person.
So just because they come in and do one project, you think it's done? No, that's not true.
And it can take anywhere from three to six months to start ranking.
So just remember this is ongoing and it's not an immediate thing because people think it's a one and done project.
Crystal: I love that. We all need that reminder. Okay, so I have a thousand questions, but you're here to talk about black hat versus white hat SEO.
Crystal: So I wanted to, kind of frame my next question with that because you say, obviously people need traffic to their website and you believe the answer to that problem is SEO.
Can you explain one why you feel that way?
And number two, things people should watch out for, in terms of white hat versus black hat and getting that traffic to their website?
Stephanie, Yeah, so when people search, I mean we all do it right?
Like the best restaurants in Seattle,
I use that as an example.
If your website's not optimized, you're not gonna rank at all.
You're gonna be losing out to your competitors.
So why not just take the time to either hire someone or do very basic SEO on the backend to make sure you rank for these, right?
And then there's also the Google featured snippets.
So when you Google something, it'll show what other people are asking for and you wanna rank for those questions cuz that Google is literally giving you exactly what people are asking.
So you want to be that, that website that answers those questions.
So that is becoming more and more very important and that's what I do for myself and clients.
I look at those questions and I write blogs around those because that's what people are asking for. So that's very important. Sorry, can you say your second question again?
Crystal: Yeah. The second question is just like, okay, if somebody is impatient, and like we've talked about already, SEO takes time.
You have somebody come in and they're like, Oh no, I can get you ranking this fast.
What are you watching out for?
Stephanie: I think it's funny, I get these emails all the time, Hey I can help you with SEO, I'll get you to number one next week. And I'm like, I'm an SEO person, you're out, right?
You also didn't write your email in proper grammar.
So I'm like, what? That kills me.
Anyways, if they tell you they'll get you to Google in a week, watch out. We just talked about organic, anything free is a long game.
So that's already a red flag. What else they do is they'll say that we'll put keywords, all your keywords on the homepage that you wanna rank for that is called keyword stuffing.
So if you wanna rank for, I'll say, let's say I wanna rank for SEO specialists in Seattle.
They will put that multiple times all throughout your website or sorry, all throughout your homepage, I'll just use that as one example.
Like one page all throughout your homepage in the back end that's called keyword stuffing.
Google is super smart and knows you're trying to gain the system by trying to rank for that keyword.
The rule of thumb is to only do that two to three times on a page. So that is a huge plus.
Let's say you are looking for a Google SEO specialist in Seattle and you get to that page and all it is is a very ungrammatically written SEO specialist in Seattle multiple times all throughout that page, right?
So that, and then you're gonna click off it, you're gonna bounce off and Google knows that it's not what the customer is looking for.
So that's super terrible.
The other thing I had mentioned is on the back end they can go into the code and just spam it with, I'll use SEO special in Seattle again.
And that's cuz people can't see it, right?
So they think, oh, Google won't know because nobody can see it. Well Google knows that you just put that all throughout the code.
That's terrible, don't do that.
And then also like clickbaity stuff. So don't talk about that you're an SEO specialist and then you take 'em to a nutrition website, right? Like don't do things that do not align at all with what you're trying to sell them.
So there are some really big examples. The keyword stuffing I think is the biggest thing.
And when I did start out with SEO, that was still something we did, I hate to say. But then Google caught on and cracked down on that and penalized you.
So then it'll penalize you and they'll demote you for [lack of a] better word in the search engine.
Unknown: Yeah. You fall out of favor with them.
Stephanie: Yeah, exactly.
Brittany: The biggest takeaway from this is that Google knows, I feel like, that comes like somebody, I always feel like somebody's watching me. Google knows.
So Google knows. Google knows. And so if you get any of those kinds of emails, they're spammers themselves. They're my favorite.
They're like, Hey, I can help you do this stuff.
And just like you said, we're all dealing with SEO, all of us in this, like right now, $15.
Stephanie: You get what you pay for. So yeah, just watch out. Yeah.
Crystal: Thanks for joining us today.
Brittany: If you like this info, subscribe before you go so you never miss out on something related to SEO.
Crystal: See you next time.