Marketing and SEO 101 for your blog business

Marketing and SEO 101 for your blog business

Hey, so today we're talking to Beth Riegger, we're going to talk about some of the challenges and achievements that Beth has faced while building her business, which include being alone, fit and isolated, which is a challenge a lot of entrepreneurs face on a daily basis.

Tell us a bit about you Beth.

Well I am from the Midwest in the United States. I have to say United States because you're in the United States. Born and raised in the Midwest, so I'm a northern girl. I currently live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I'm a proud descendant of Norwegians, so I always like to put that in there. I've been in sales and marketing for about 30 plus years, and I've been building websites and doing digital marketing for the last 12.

Amazing. Well obviously working with lots and lots of bloggers we're always talking about search engines. We're always talking about websites, the best place to host and stuff, so we've got loads of questions to go through today.

Awesome.

I think the best one to start with is what is SEO?

That's a loaded question. Stands for search engine optimization and it's kind of like anything, if you talk to 15 different accountants they're going to have 15 different opinions on how you should do things. It's really, truly an art and just because one person does it one way doesn't mean that they're wrong or they're doing it badly, sometimes they are, but most of the time you're talking to different people and they've got different techniques and different ways to make you show up on the internet.

Tell me why should business owners, why should bloggers really care about that?

Well the internet obviously has changed over the few years it's been around, social media has become more and more part of our daily lives. I don't know, do you remember that movie with Kevin Costner called "The Field of Dreams"?

Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.

Where they built the stadium, they built the baseball diamond and it was the if you build it they will come, if you build it they will come, and the people came, and they were there and they watched them play baseball, and I'm getting Goosebumps even talking about the movie and I haven't even seen it in the theatres. But the days of the field of dreams for websites and blogs are over. If you don't tell people where you are they will never find you, so you can't just stick your post in the ground and say, "I'm here." You actually have to do a lot of work to show up and make sure that the right people find you.

What would you recommend working on?

Well the first thing that I would do is I would submit your website to the search engines to Bing, even Bing, they're still around, and Yahoo, they're still around too.

Is Ask Jeeves still around or not? I haven't used that for years. Is that still there?

I haven't really looked, but if you Google it there's all sorts of guides around there on how to submit your website to the search engines. You should definitely have a Google Analytics account, which is free, and you should definitely have the Google Console. Then that's where you can submit your site map to Google and various other search engines. But when I'm working with people and I'm giving them advice on how to do things I want to take a step back and just say, "Do what you can." Don't try and do all of the things and get stressed out and say, "Well Beth told me I had to list my website on Bing and I don't even know what Bing is anymore." Just do what you can. You started your blog, you started your business to do what you love and not necessarily all of these technical details. I just want to encourage people to try and do these things and reach out to the experts, and reach out to your tribe and ask them for help when you need it. I guess if you can't figure it out you can always contact a professional like me who can do it for you, but it's really easy to get overwhelmed with all of this stuff, so just take it easy and take a breath.

What parts would you say are most crucial for outsourcing? Someone's like, "Oh my goodness, I know I can do this. I can do this bit, but I'm just so overwhelmed here." What parts are the most commonly outsourced or the bits that you would say to people, "Just outsource it as soon as you can, just outsource it because it's going to fill you up."

That comment, the fill you up part, that's the biggest thing about being an entrepreneur is you want to do the things that fill your cup and the things that drag you down or the things that empty your cup are the things that you want to outsource quickly. But sometimes we have more time than money, so we have to do all the things. But when that balance starts to tip where you do have a little bit more money, look at what you've got on your plate and how you feel your business should be run, and the things that you feel need to be done in your business and the ones that don't give you joy, those are the things that you should outsource first.

Today is quite a good day to do this interview because Moz has just launched this new domain authority way that they're ranking the domain authorities of websites and I have been a ripple of fear and panic spread through world and to me, my answer, and I did put it out on my social media channels earlier, and I am going to record a whole podcast on this shortly, is cool your boots guys. Your domain authority does not define you. I'm sure Beth's go a bit more of a technical look on it than I have. But produce killer, relevant content, and your DA, and all of those statistics, all of that stuff, that will take care of itself. But what advice have you got around this Beth, what can you ... A few people in my communities were saying they've had a big drop in their domain authority, it's gone from I think Mikey said has gone from 18 to 9. Some of them are just rapidly increased, they've gone from 20 to in the 40s. What is domain authority? Why should bloggers care about it or not care about it as such? Help demystify this for them.

I think the biggest thing is the internet is always going to change, it's always going to change. Just when you thought you had that algorithm figured out they're going to change it. Just when you've finally got the right audience on Facebook, Facebook changes their game. It's keeping up on these things and making sure that you're aware of them is good. But if your blog only has 500 hits a month, okay that's great, you probably don't need to be worrying about domain authority quite yet. Domain authority is kind of the long range game plan for search engine optimization, making sure that you've got quality links and you know where you are and where you're moving, but it's kind of like playing the stock market. They say in your retirement funds that you should be going for the long game so don't look at those 10% hits as closely as the overall you started with 10,000 and now you have 100,000. Those are the more important things.

There's always going to be these little blips that happen and you need to pay attention to them, and you need to be educated at least enough to know if the person you're working with is working on the right strategy. I came across a client just last week that is working with an SEO professional who is using tactics that were around in the early 90s. We're almost to 2020, so things have changed quite a bit and they're still doing those things. Unfortunately, although those things are not wrong, they're not current and they're not going to help move the needle for that client. It's making sure that you're staying on top of it, you're not sweating the small stuff, that if you can make a change you can, if you can follow these outlines ... They're never going to give us all of the answers, they're going to hide some stuff on us. You have to do what you can with what you got.

Absolutely. I completely agree, you're never going to have it all. I think that's why it's so important to keep up a level of consistency around everything you do so that you're not defined by these changes.

Yes.

You're not working so hard to one specific thing, you're just being consistent in all areas and covering all your bases as best you can.

And not put all of your eggs in one basket.

Absolutely.

A holistic marketing plan, like I said, you don't need to do all of the things, you don't need to be on every social media platform, but to not put all of your efforts into SEO and put all of your efforts into just Facebook or just Instagram. It's having your stuff everywhere and being consistent is the most important thing.

Well let's take that back to basics. Say you opened a shop in the high street, you opened Green Grocers. People don't do Green Grocers anymore, but we're opening one, and you have to advertise it. Yes, you've got that foot traffic walking by, so you've got people walking by and they're going to tell other people you're there, but you would also have several other avenues of letting people know that you are physically there. If there was no internet you'd be advertising in the newspaper, you'd be leaflet dropping nearby, housing estate, you'd probably partner with a bakery or partner with a [inaudible 00:11:18]. There's loads of ways that you can bring people into your business without relying solely on one method. We've never done that in business, ever, so why just because we've got the internet and it feels like I'm just going to chuck all my eggs into the Instagram basket, why, why would we?

That's really funny because I feel like a lot of people do that with their advertising and their marketing now. They've got this gigantic following on Instagram. I'm like have you ever tried to find a phone number for Instagram or Facebook? There isn't one, so if they shut you down, guess what? You're done, devastating. You've got this marketing engine that's just chugging along and it's working great, and you do one little thing or one person reports you as being bad and there's no talking about it, you're just done.

Absolutely. I know a lot of, because I shoot with a lot of influences on Instagram, I know they have backup accounts, but the amount of times that I've worked with them and then the next time I go to work with them they're like, "Oh my goodness, my account got shut down, then my backup one hasn't got the right people and it was nowhere near the same."

Right?

It just literally throws them into a whole other place, which is why I always say, and you will love me for saying this, please always put your blog on a website somewhere and have Instagram as a way to generate people in but don't solely blog on Instagram. It's a a great place to ... I wrote a ripe gem today, I feel like trademarking it, it was so good, it was like let people into your head with your written content, your blog content, let them into your head, answer your questions, and let them into your heart on the social media, on your stories and stuff. Share you stories-

Oh I love that.

I love it. I know, I love it, I wrote it down. I was like, "That is really great." I was really pleased with it, but I think that's so right.

I named my business keys to success. My tagline for several years has been "Providing you with the keys to your online success". I say you need to own your own stuff. If you are only marketing on Instagram you don't own Instagram, you don't own that. To push them to your blog, and to push them to an email list, you've got more ownership if you do that.

It's just that backup plan. I don't know. I think for longevity and sustainability you've got to be thinking that long-term. I feel like that's quite tricky for some people, they jump into a blog, "Oh you know someone said to me I'm really great at styling outfits so I've started to just style my look every single day on Instagram." Before you know it, the snowball effect has happened. They've got the swipe up feature come in, they're selling through affiliate links left, right, and centre, they're getting modelling stuff, and all this stuff, and they haven't gone through the process of creating the foundations to that business. Then it comes to a point where they're like, "Oh I'm really working hard. I'm having to work a lot of hours. I want to scale this business now or I want to earn the same money but do less work," but they can't because there's no flexibility in the business that's been created around them. Does that make sense?

Right, yeah. It does, for sure.

Let's talk a little bit about photography, obviously my favourite topic on the earth. I am asked all the time around how many images should be used on a blog post. It's another one of my great answers that doesn't really answer anything technical, it just says, "Hey, just use what tells the story, use common sense." Tell the story in images the same as you are in words. But is there a technical answer to that? What would be your opinion on it?

There is no opinion on it. Like you said, it's just as many images as it takes to tell the story, but even more, the biggest mistake I see people making is just Googling for an image and taking that image off of the internet.

No.

I know.

You're like no, don't do it.

Don't do it people, please don't do it. Some of those thing are okay to do, but for the love of all that is holy, we are all trying to make a living, just buy a Ding Dong picture for a $1 or use your own pictures, or use-

You could be in so much trouble though aren't you? If you get found out to be doing that, there's websites, where obviously as a photographer I know, there's websites set up now that basically people an eye on people's work. Photographers upload stuff there and the website just tells if anybody's using it. It's not like you can really get away with that now and I think technology's only going to progress much, much quicker. I reckon by the end of next year there will be nobody able to do this because they're so hot on the licensing.

It's true. There's so many fantastic places where you can find free stuff. There's tons of great apps that you can use to make your own stuff. There's, well of course, Adobe's Lightroom, but there's Photofy, PhotoGrid, Overture, Ripple, Boomerang, Legend. There's 1,000s of apps that you can use, just create your own stuff.

There really is. There's an abundance of ways now to create your own stuff, and especially if you are an Instagram blogger primarily and you're using that platform a lot to share stories and share snapshots behind the scenes, you can take the images and repurpose them, spend a bit more time on them, edit them, put them into a quote cart, slot them into the back of a boat where they don't need to be amazing, amazing images, but they're relevant to you and your brand.

I think that we lose that, we lose making it really relevant to us personally and to our brand because we do have this influx of really good stock photography, really good quality stock photography and it's very tempting just to go hey I'm going to use that, I'm going to use that, oh I'm going to grab that because that's going to work really well. And yes, they do work well and sometimes you do need a picture of Santorini, you haven't been but you need a picture of it for whatever reference reason. It's great to grab it as a stock image. But I do believe in really making images personal to you because that's what makes people look at them and engage with you.

Yeah, yep. I agree.

Also, I think a really great way for anybody that's really tempted to go on Google and go, "Oh, I need to Google this, I'm just going to put that image on." You can go to Pinterest, create a Pinterest board, use a ton more images and then embed it in your blog post. That's much better. You're not taking anybody's images, you're just showcasing a Pinterest board, everybody gets the links a much better option.

Oh my gosh, genius. That is such an amazing way to do that without breaking any laws, that's amazing. I love it.

Yes, well I think we just have to be a bit creative about the way we use images. The other thing that I get come up a lot is obviously website speed and other things. summit that everybody's talking, and talking, and talking about, optimizing your images for websites. Is there a rule of thumb around this. Obviously as a photographer there's a way that I do it when I give files so that they're not massive because they are-

Right.

... massive when they're high res, aren't they?

... web optimization where Is there a way that guys can do that for themselves?

Well I'm a Photoshop user and let's just take an image that we got off of Unsplash, for example. The image that you get from Unsplash is going to be 5,000 pixels by 10,000 pixels. I'm just using random numbers. Then it's going to be 10 megabits. When you put it on your blog and you just want a little tiny two by two picture, that thing is gigantic and it's going to slow your website down to a snail's pace. I always put it into Photoshop.

There’re several other applications that you can use, some online, some offline, but I put it into there and I crop it to its size, but then in Photoshop there's a file save, or export save for web legacy. I tell people that's like changing it from you weighing 300 pounds, the 10 megabytes, down to 10 pounds, so it will be in kilobytes. As long as you're in KBs, kilobytes, you're good, you're golden. But also, you don't need something that's 5,000 pixels wide, so you change it. If I wanted it to go across the whole top of the page I'd make it 1,200 pixels wide by 400 or 500 tall. You're going to have to play around with it and make sure that it skews correctly, and it looks nice, and the parts that you want to see are going to be in there, but I definitely encourage people for the love of all that is holy please make that thing weigh less.

Absolutely. I don't think we realize, and especially if you are updating photos regularly. If you're writing a blog post and you've got a file of go-to images, the thinking about optimizing them can just be at the back of your mind, so you can quite easily just upload stuff that you know is there, not really thought about the size of it. Then before you know it you've got a really hefty, hefty site. This actually happened to me on mine with my podcast covers. I've got several different sizes of it because when you upload it to iTunes you have to have I think it's 800 by 800, or it might even be bigger than that. It's quite big, but you have to upload. I realized that some of them had got the big ones, it's like, "Oh, now I need to go back and change it," but it's so easy to do, isn't it?

It really is. There's another program, I'm Googling it right now because I'm like, "I got to remember the name of that program." You can throw things into Canva and resize,

... compresses in there doesn't it?

It does and then there's also Pixlr, P-I-X-L-R .com. It's basically Photoshop for free-

Really?

... online. It's Pixlr, P-I-X-L-R .com.

Oh that's awesome, we'll have to check it out because I didn't know that existed. I know you can resize in Lightroom and I like the fact that you can batch export then when you resize in there. I just don't use it very often anymore, unless I've got a big catalogue, I've done a big shoot and I've got a couple of 1,000 images or whatever, I'll put more into Lightroom first and cull them from there. I like to just ... I don't know, Photoshop is my go-to really for resizing.

Yeah, Photoshop's my go-to as well. My husband just laughs at me because I've just recently learned Photoshop, I'm not a photographer, I'm not a graphic designer, so all this stuff is new to me. He's been dealing with it for 30 years with his job in printing and I'm like, "How do you do this?" He's like, "Why are you asking me this? Go find it out for yourself, go take a class."

Yes, this is it. It's just not in a software isn't it, or a program, but it can be tricky because they all have their different quirks and different ways of doing stuff, different shortcuts.

I have to remind myself that I'm not a graphic designer, so if people are pushing me and asking me for things that are not necessarily web related I need to check myself and make sure that I'm not doing those things, saying, "Well I can figure that out," because I do have that tendency to just say, "Well I love learning and I love all things technology and application, so I'll just figure that out." No, that's my job. I need to stay in my box. It's okay to learn new things, but if they're asking me to be their graphic designer that's not what I do.

You know you can do it quickly as well, like if they need something it's tempting just to go, "Okay, I can just quickly do that," because I know I can just do it rather than waiting for them to commission the graphic designer and the go back and forth. I know it can make the process seem quicker, but I can completely appreciate what you're saying. When you're creative in your online you do have to learn a lot of ... and even as a blogger you have to learn a hell of a lot of different skills to get your blog off the ground. I wrote about this a while ago and the list was just about as long as my leg the amount of things we have to learn. It is tempting just to jump in and go, "Well I can kind of do it better, I could quickly do that for you."

Well there's also if you're a blogger and you're on WordPress there's a plug-in called Smush, WP for WordPress Smush, S-M-U-S-H. It's not really the best way to upload and then resize your images but if you happen to have a lot of images and you don't want to go back and resize them all. It is a good plug-in, there's a free version and of course a premium version, a paid version, and both of them work fantastically.

Tell me about your journey Beth because you've been in business for a really long time. Like I say, you've come from a couple of different areas, how has that looked for you? I know you've had to overcome this isolation, which we all feel because it is very lonely, even with social media, all these platforms, all these people connecting with you, well it's people talking and doing things. It's still a very lonely experience being an entrepreneur. Tell me how you've coped with that and how you manage it.

There's lots of layers to that onion. The biggest thing that I can say is I would encourage people to get out of the house at least once a week, whether it's for business reasons or personal reasons, such as having coffee with your friends or having a drink with friends, on a date with your husband, or wife, or significant other, or going to a regular networking event. That has really helped me overcome the isolation that I have felt and also to find friends that are on the same journey as you and in the same world as you. Okay, Jade and I don't even live on the same continent, but you know what, we can have a virtual cup of coffee, we can hop on a Zoom and talk about what's happening in our worlds, maybe with some of the challenges that we have, and just have some good conversations. We don't have to leave, but it's really good to get out of the house every once and a while.

Yes, it is, it really is. You don't realize it is until you do it. Some days for me it's walking the dogs, walking the dogs just blows away the cobwebs of being here. I'm so used to being on the ground during shoots that it's gone very seasonal for me. I plan it like that purposefully, but I do a lot of my shoot stuff now late spring, summer, early autumn, and then I don't really shoot so much late autumn or winter, or not for clients anyway. It's like a long time to be on my one compared to being on shoots or having people around me all the time. I understand what you mean, it really makes a difference just stepping out the door and just stepping out of your bubble that you create for yourself.

The other thing that I tried was co-working office spaces have become all the rage in the United States. You pay $100 a month or some nominal fee and you can go to this place 2 or 3 times a week. The more often you go the more you pay, but there's people around you. For me, I'm incredibly outgoing, clearly, we hardly know each other and we have lots of stuff to talk about. Everybody there was there to work and not necessarily socialize. It's not that I just wanted to sit there and talk somebody's ear off for an hour and a half, but I wanted to get a funny text and laugh about it and somebody next to me say, "Oh, what are you laughing at," and that didn't really happen.

I actually happened upon through networking a good friend, who's now a good friend, his name is Jason. He and I actually rented an office space together in an official office building. We go to work every day. We don't necessarily have to go to work but I enjoy having somebody sitting next to me, sitting across the desk in front of me. It's really helped a lot in the being by myself kind of thing. It's really great to have somebody who is in the same realm as you to say how do you think this looks on this website. Oh, yeah, I would maybe move that here or move that there, or make this bigger, emphasise this text a little bit more. That's just happened over the last couple of months and I'm really, really enjoying it.

That's lovely that you can balance that feedback or feature. I have a feeling your school report card looked like mine and it was like, "Jade chats to everybody. Jade's too chatty and we have to keep moving her to the single desk and she's distracting others." I'm like, "Hey, I'm a podcast host now, who's the joke on really?"

Right.

Is there anything else you want to share Beth? I feel like we've had a really good show.

We have. This has been just so great to talk to you. I hope I've left everybody a little bit better than when we started, and they got some knowledge. It's been a lot of fun.

Amazing. Thank you so much for joining us Beth.

Thanks for having me Jade.

You can connect with Beth over at k2smarketing.com

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