Lindsay Halsey

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching site owners, freelancers, and agencies how to get found on Google via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.

All Resources by Lindsay Halsey

pricing

How to Price SEO Services

February 21, 2021

From Packaging to Pricing

How much will you charge for SEO services?

In this post, you'll learn how to create a pricing structure that is based on the value you provide, not just your time.

Watch the Video

Start with Your SEO Offering

Start by reviewing your SEO offering. If you haven't already created these, read this post to learn how to create SEO packages.

Here's what our offering looks like:

Now, let's apply pricing to each.

SEO Assessment

An SEO Assessment is a one-time project to identify where a site is today and to create a roadmap for growth.

An SEO Assessment isn't an SEO Audit. An SEO Assessment is at the 1,000 foot level. It looks at the most critical dynamics and provides overview of opportunities to help gain traction and SEO results.

An SEO Assessment doesn't cost thousands of dollars. It's meant to be an on-ramp in your sales cycle. A means for a prospect to get started.

An SEO Assessment doesn't take forever. This project can be completed in a week or less.

Audits in the thousands of dollars range rarely provide value. They are laundry lists of red flags and actions items.

An SEO assessment, priced with an entry level investment, is high value. It's gives a customer an understanding of how SEO works, how their website stacks up, and a roadmap for growth.

QuickStart SEO

QuickStart SEO is a one-time project to build a website's SEO foundation. It's completed over a defined time period – one to two months is ideal.

We call this offering QuickStart SEO. You can name your offering anything you wish such as SEO Setup.

It's designed to be completed over a 1-2 month time period.

Regardless of the size of the website, this project follows a standard process. We start at the beginning with keyword research and competitive analysis. Then, we move into action items such as XML sitemaps, fixing broken links, and updating  page titles and meta descriptions.

This project scales without investing more time as we can leverage tools and software like plugins to automate some of the SEO for deeper level pages on large websites.

As a result, the pricing range is relatively standard at $3,000. This price point delivers huge value!

That being said, you may find yourself scaling this up or down depending on what industry you typically work with.

Pricing Monthly SEO Services

Within monthly SEO services, we have 3 tiers. Start your pricing planning by reviewing what you have included in each. Here's an example:

The plans vary in effort and value. Thus, our pricing will vary as well.

Your might start by thinking about monthly hourly effort and allocate the following:

  • 1 hour/month for communication
  • 1 hour/month for reporting
  • 1 hour/month for SEO maintenance action items

Then, you layer in the estimated time it takes to create content, build links, etc.

As a result, your hourly allocation may look like this:

  • SEO Awareness: 3-5 hours
  • SEO Action: 5-10 hours
  • SEO Accelerative: 10+ hours

Ultimately, we want to go back to pricing value, not just hours. In that model, our pricing may look like this:

Next Steps

Create your pricing structure.

Once you have it in hand, you're ready to sell SEO services.

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packaging

How to Package SEO Services

February 18, 2021

As you launch and scale your SEO offering, one of the most important components is packaging.

How will you group your SEO services in a meaningful way that makes your offering easy to sell and deliver?

Learn how to create an SEO services offering that includes one-time and recurring services.

Watch the Video

Use a Model to Package Your SEO Services

As you develop your SEO services offering, an important component is creating a model to package your services.

This makes it easy to consistently price, sell, and deliver your services.

The common models for SEO services include:

  • Hourly
  • One-Time
  • Monthly

Our approach to SEO blends one-time services with monthly. It includes three offerings:

Let's explore each in more detail.

SEO Assessment

The SEO Assessment is for prospects who don't know where to begin with SEO. They might be new to SEO or just getting started with a new business. Others, may have been burned by another SEO agency in the past, and this project serves as a low commitment, trust building exercise.

The goal of the SEO Assessment is to identify where a site is today and to create a roadmap for growth.

It includes:

  • An introduction to SEO. How do the search engines work?
  • An evaluation of the website. How does the website stack up in technical SEO, content, on-site optimization, and off-site SEO? What are the site's strengths and weaknesses?
  • A plan. Where do we go from here? How do we turn weaknesses into opportunities for growth?

An SEO Assessment isn't an SEO Audit. An SEO Assessment is at the 1,000 foot level. It looks at the most critical dynamics and provides overview of opportunities to help gain traction and SEO results.

An SEO Assessment doesn't cost thousands of dollars. It's meant to be an on-ramp in your sales cycle. A means for a prospect to get started.

An SEO Assessment doesn't take forever. This project can be completed in a week or less.

Upon completion of the SEO Assessment, a client is ready for action. Enter QuickStart SEO.

QuickStart SEO

QuickStart SEO is a one-time project to build a website's SEO foundation. It's completed over a defined time period – one to two months is ideal.

We call this offering QuickStart SEO. You can name your offering anything you wish such as SEO Setup or SEO Foundation.

QuickStart SEO includes three phases:

Research & Planning – This phase includes tasks such as setting up Google Analytics, verifying a website with the Google Search Console, creating a Google Maps listing via Google My Business. We also invest in keyword research, competitive analysis, and content strategy.

Execution – This phase includes tasks completed in a customer's website such as updating page titles and meta descriptions, fixing broken links, improving alternative text, building an XML sitemap, and more.

Results & Next Steps – We expect to see a lift in the search results within weeks of completing the execution phase. At the project conclusion, it's time to review these results with your customer and talk about the next steps.

This project is considered an accelerator. It moves a client through the foundational, often time-consuming tasks associated with getting started with SEO.

QuickStart SEO can be completed on a live website or done in conjunction with a site that is in development. In the case of a site in development, the execution phase of work is invested in the new website.

Follow Our Process

Our guided approach to SEO includes an SEO Checklist which includes the 12-steps needed to deliver the QuickStart SEO offering.

Learn More

Monthly SEO Services

SEO isn't a set it and forget it marketing iniatitive. The search engines evolve. So too does your client's business.

For these reasons, we recommend that clients continue with a monthly SEO services plan.

If you design and build websites for your customers, then you are already familiar with this model. Designing and building a website is the first phase of work. But, launching a new website isn't the end of the story. A website needs ongoing maintenance and support which is best delivered with a monthly maintenance plan.

Within SEO, QuickStart SEO is comparable to the design/build phase of a new website project. Then, we move into monthly SEO to continue to maintain and build on the foundation.

Monthly SEO services include three components:

  1. Communication. This is the most important factor for a successful SEO effort. To be successful in SEO today, collaboration and feedback are required. A monthly phone call is a great way to ensure you're on the same page.
  2. Reporting. Each month, it's essential to deliver a synopsis of results and observations. Typically, this takes the form of emailing the client a report that integrates commentary with data from tools like Google Analytics.
  3. Action Items. These are the steps we'll take each month to drive results. This is the part of the process that will be incremental. Each month's progress will build upon previous months' tasks and strengthen the overall SEO platform for the months (and years!) that follow. A key component of action items includes collaboration on content expansion.

Offer Tiers of Monthly Services

As we package SEO services for delivery on a monthly basis, consider offering three tiers of service:

  • Awareness – This is for prospects just getting started with SEO.
  • Action – This is for prospects ready to drive results.
  • Accelerative – This is for prospects who want next year's results today.

Clearly define what is included in each tier of service to differentiateyour plans:

Frequently Asked Questions

The SEO Assessment is not a required first step. It's meant to be an on-ramp for those prospects who want to start small.

A prospect may choose to skip this step and dive right into action with QuickStart SEO. That can be especially helpful for local businesses who may be operating on a limited budget and want to invest in action.

Ideally, every customer continues with monthly SEO services. SEO evolves and so too does your customer's business.

We've found that customers who stop investing in SEO after QuickStart SEO come back years later frustrated that their SEO is out of date. Of course it is. It's been sitting in pause mode for a long period of time. That can be hard business to win back.

Instead, we encourage customers to think about SEO similarly to fitness. The QuickStart SEO project is the initial heavy lifting to get in shape. Once you're in shape, the effort doesn't end. But it does get easier. That's monthly SEO. Continue to maintain and build on your initial investment.

What's Next?

Put pen to paper and design your SEO packages.

  • What names will you use for SEO Assessment, QuickStart SEO, and your monthly SEO plans?
  • What will be included in your monthly plans?

Then, you are ready for pricing.

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grow

SEO in 2021 — 3 Actionable Strategies for Growth

January 11, 2021

Search engines never stop evolving. Google, Yahoo, and Bing refresh, refine, and update their algorithms (the formulas used to rank and order the websites that appear in the search results) many times a year. The layout of each search engine results page also evolves, creating new opportunities for positioning and growth. But your position on Google, Yahoo, and Bing isn't all that matters.

What was true in 2020 remains true in 2021 – websites that excel in the areas of expertise, authority, and trust will excel in organic search. Focusing on steady improvements in these three areas is what we call a “holistic approach to SEO.”

 

As we think about SEO in 2021, here are the components of each of these three areas to focus your attention on to grow your website traffic.

Share Your Expertise

Content has been the backbone of SEO since the beginning. Google and the other search engines value expertise; your content is the vehicle through which you share it.

For many years, businesses focused their content marketing efforts on blogging, which was all about the frequency of posts. Then, there was a shift to reward longer content, and the average first-page result on Google was 2,000 words long.

In 2021, the search engines are shifting to reward content quality. But it's not just the quality of your blog posts that matter – it's the quality of every piece of content on your website.

So, what makes a page or a post meet high-quality standards?

  • Keyword Intent – Does the content on the page satisfy the visitor's needs based on what they searched for?
  • User Experience – Does the page contain all of the components that one would expect and need? Often, pages are missing essential pieces of content. For example, a typical contact page usually displays (at minimum) an address, phone number, and hours of operation. A typical product page usually requires product images, a description, a price, available inventory, and reviews.
  • Structure – Does the page/post have a clearly defined structure, marked by the proper use of H1, H2, and H3 tags? Structure assists search engines and visitors in easily scanning and understanding content.
  • Speed – Does the page load reasonably fast? With today's technology, users are accustomed to instant gratification, so search engines reward pages that deliver on speed.

Actionable Tip

As you create your content strategy for 2021, go beyond thinking about blog post topics and a schedule. Take a step back and look at your existing content, starting with the content on your homepage. Go through the quality standards above and focus your attention on any areas of weakness. These are your biggest content opportunities in 2021.

Grow Your Authority

For a page or a post to truly qualify as “expert” content, you need great content as well as external validation of its greatness. That validation comes from offsite signals in the form of links. The search engines validate the authority of your domain and brand by looking for other websites that link back to yours.

We call these links “backlinks.” Backlinks have been a critical part of the search engine algorithms since the beginning, just like content.

According to Google, a website may have technically great content (unique, lengthy, structured, includes strong keyword intent, etc), but who wrote it also matters. If the individual or brand behind the content has strong authority in a given industry, then that content should outperform a comparable (or even better) piece of content published by a less authoritative site.

To grow your website's authority, ask yourself who you partner with. These partners can pass authority to your website by adding links to your site on theirs.

Here are a few examples:

Authority starts with a verified local business listing on Google Maps (via Google My Business) along with a listing on your local Chamber of Commerce's website. Then, build authority through adjacencies. For example, an interior designer may get a link when a partner who's a contractor mentions them. Local businesses can also give to nonprofits, who may add links to donor businesses on their websites. All of the examples above give Google a sense of how much authority a local business has in the real-world ecosystem of their community, which can translate to authority online.

Businesses with national audiences gain authority by sharing expertise on third-party websites, podcasts, webinars, etc. Guest blogging is a great example of sharing expertise. To get started, generate a list of partner businesses in your industry space. Then, simply reach out to suggest cross-promotional opportunities that benefit you both.

Actionable Tip

Growing your website's authority doesn't mean spammy mass link building; it means modeling your real world partnerships online so that Google knows how your business fits into your industry. Start by making a list of partners. Then, reach out to any partners who don't yet have hyperlinks to your business on their websites. Offer mutually beneficial ways of sharing content so that linking between websites is effortless.

SEO Doesn't Have To Be Overwhelming or Expensive

Take a guided approach and grow your business. Follow our process, use our tools, and rely on our coaches.

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Build Trust

and If you want to try a new restaurant, you probably search for and read online reviews before making your final decision.

If a visitor is about to hit the “Buy Now” button on your website but hesitates because they aren't sure they trust you, then you lose the sale.

Whether you have a local small business or a large eCommerce website, trustworthiness matters in SEO. It matters to your prospective website visitors/customers, and it matters to the search engines. They measure your trustworthiness, then reward you for it.

In 2021, focus on building online trust. Here's how you can go about it:

Start with your own website. Does it include testimonials? Are they located at key decision points, such as next to a contact form or beside a “Buy Now” button? Don't limit testimonials to one page; add reviews throughout your site.

Turn to Google Maps. Create systems so you can steadily increase your number of reviews on Google Maps. You may need to reach out to customers on an ongoing basis and encourage them to leave reviews; Google encourages this. Log in to Google My Business and navigate to the “Share Review Form” box to get more information.

Go beyond your website & Google. There are other portals that include opportunities for adding third party reviews. The best place to invest your efforts will depend on your industry space. Find out where your competitors are posting reviews, and analyze your business profiles on those platforms; Facebook can be a great place to start.

Actionable Tip

Start small. Ask a few customers for feedback (as opposed to “a testimonial”). This gives your customer space to be authentic, so you'll get the good, the bad, and the ugly. Take the good comments and turn them into testimonials. Take the bad and ugly comments to heart so that you can make changes to improve your business.

What's New in SEO in 2021

While SEO evolves (as opposed to outright changing), there are some new components to SEO in 2021. Here are a few updates that excite us:

Page Experience – Google will deploy a large algorithm update in May 2021 that focuses on page experience. The new page experience component will include Core Web Vitals along with mobile-friendliness and security.  Learn more about page experience and how you can prepare. 

Passages – Google now has the ability to rank a passage from a specific page – not just the page in its entirety. This is great news for content marketers! Stay with the long-form approach by creating content that takes dives deeply into a topic. Break that piece into sections that answer questions (like who, what, why, where, when, how) and those sections could end up  ranking for related search queries. 

Web Stories – The tappable short-form story format is growing as an immersive type of content. If you haven't seen these yet, check out this overview from Google

SEO in 2021 – A Step by Step Approach

SEO requires a series of small, steady steps. It's not magic; there are no shortcuts or tricks.

The key to success is clearly defining your path – then following it.

Pathfinder SEO's guided approach gives you the process, the tools, and the training. And we boost your efforts with one-on-one coaching.

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ga4

Getting Started with Google Analytics 4

January 1, 2021

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the new version of Google Analytics. It provides smarter insights into your website's performance so that you can make better data-driven decisions across your marketing initiatives.

In this quick guide, we'll introduce the core concepts of GA4 so that you can help guide your customers through the transition in the coming months.

Why the Change to Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics is rapidly evolving for several reasons:

  • End-user privacy is top of mind. From regulatory changes and browser updates to users wanting more control over their data, there've been a lot of updates to online privacy in recent years. This has pushed Google to transition to a platform that will accommodate these changes, while still providing marketers with accurate and rich data.
  • There is too much data. Whether you have a local business or enterprise-level website, marketers are overwhelmed by data. In this world of big data, Google Analytics is rethinking how best to display the data it generates to make it more insightful and powerful.

Why Is It Called Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics is 15 years old! Google Analytics 4 is the 4th version, hence the name. Here's a brief history of the timing of the platform's evolution:

  • Urchin – 2005
  • Classic Google Analytics – 2008
  • Universal Analytics – 2013
  • Google Analytics 4 – 2020

You'll hear the “old version” of Google Analytics referred to as Universal Analytics and the “new version” as GA4.

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Introduction to Google Analytics 4
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How is Google Analytics 4 Different from Universal Analytics?

There are backend and frontend changes to Google Analytics, making the transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 the most dramatic leap forward in the product's history.

At a top level, Google Analytics 4 is:

  • Built with machine learning, which makes the data more insightful.
  • Designed to provide you with a complete understanding of a full customer life cycle.
  • Built to be durable and scalable. It'll work with or without cookies.

Here are the three biggest changes to the old platform:

In the first three versions, Google Analytics relied on the concept of hits, or pageviews. Users and sessions were the focus of this model. If we wanted to leverage events (like tracking interaction with a PDF or video player), we had to write custom code.

The new version of Google Analytics moves to an event-driven landscape, giving marketers data beyond pageviews. The new data includes scroll tracking, video engagement, site search, file downloads, and more. This codeless event tracking is all available in GA4 without having to create any custom events.

Google Analytics is implemented using a tracking code that you place on each page of your website. The tracking code for Google Analytics 4 is radically different from the tracking codes utilized in the first three iterations of Google Analytics.

The three first iterations of GA were mostly user interface updates; the tracking code remained the same, continuing to track pageviews. In fact, if you were to place the Urchin tracking code from 2005 on your website today, you'd still pull data into the Universal Analytics platform!

Google Analytics 4 is installed on your website using a Global Site Tag. This new tracking code supports the event-based model. We'll dive more into the tracking code later in this guide.

If you've recently taken a look at Google Analytics, then you'll notice that the user interface looks quite different; it's been entirely reimagined.

With Universal Analytics, we thought in terms of the ABC's – Acquisition, Audience, Behavior, and Conversions.

With Google Analytics 4, this shifts to Acquisition, Engagement, Monetization, and Retention.

New Features in Google Analytics 4

Change is hard. And knowing this is a big one can make it feel overwhelming. Let's look at the new features included in Google Analytics 4 to get you excited!

Audiences today are fragmented. The customer acquisition life cycle includes multiple touchpoints – often from multiple devices. This makes it hard to track one user across their journey from prospect to customer.

With Universal Analytics, we rely on cookies and authentication (logging into a website) to map this journey. This has its limits. For example, many websites don't have visitors who log in to the website.

With GA4, there are new identification methods to track users across both platforms and devices. For example, GA4 leverages information about Google users who have logged into Google via their browsers.

These new identification methods preserve privacy while giving marketers more accurate data about users.

Recently sent an email to your audience? Launched a new product and want to watch engagement? Often, these moments lead to the need for real-time data. What's happening on your website right this second?

Both Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 support real-time reports. In Google Analytics 4, we can get even more granular data in our real-time views.

There are many property settings in Universal Analytics which only impact future data. Filters are a good example – if you apply a new filter to a Google Analytics property, then it will impact the data collection moving forward, but there is no way to apply that filter to data from the past.

With Google Analytics 4, there are more settings that you can adjust, which will apply forwards and backward and can even be reverted. This flexibility is powerful!

Debugging Universal Analytics is tricky; it usually involves jumping between multiple browser windows and tools.

Good news with GA4 – it has a new debug view. You can see every interaction, in the order, they occurred. You can click on any interaction and see its metadata to confirm everything is set up correctly. If you use Google Tag Manager in preview mode, it'll dump all of that data into the debug view.

Audience building using advanced segments is an intermediate to advanced Google Analytics skill. This is a feature in both Universal Analytics and GA4.

With Universal Analytics though, we're limited to sessions and user-scoped segments. For example, grouping all visitors who visited a certain page or stayed on the site for a certain length of time.

With GA4, we can additionally create segments based on events. For example, grouping all users who engaged with specific video content on your website or a specific webpage.

We can powerfully utilize permanence in these segments. For example, if you use Google Analytics to build audiences for your Google Ads remarketing campaigns, you may want to stop targeting someone once they make a purchase. But is that considered temporary or permanent? With GA4, we can define these use cases and specify stopping ads for a specific timeframe (say, a month after purchase), then resume remarketing to this audience.

Goals allow us to flag user engagement that signals a conversion for our business. For example, for a lead-generating website, a goal may be the completion of a contact form.

In Universal Analytics, goals are permanent and you're only given 20 slots. You have to create goals manually, which can be cumbersome and tricky.

In Google Analytics 4, you're given 30 goal slots, which can be enabled and disabled at will. Goals are flexible and easy to set up (at least for events) with a simple toggle.

How long did it take users to complete a form or to check out? Where in our funnel did users drop out? Where did they go afterward?

In Universal Analytics this is hard (or impossible) to evaluate, but with GA4, we can utilize Funnel reports to see drop-off rates, completion rates, elapsed time, and so much more!

Upgrading to Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics 4 can't yet fully replace Universal Analytics. The current recommendation is to employ a dual setup.

Dual setup gives you the best of both worlds – a Universal Analytics property and a GA4 property. It ensures that your data begins collecting in GA4 for future use while the product continues to evolve. And it gives you a sandbox in which to start practicing using the new interface.

For existing Google Analytics accounts, dual setup means creating a new GA4 property within your existing account.

For new Google Analytics accounts, the default experience is GA4. We do suggest, though, creating both Universal Analytics and GA4 properties in your new account.

This video shows you how to set up Google Analytics on a WordPress website following the dual setup approach. We utilize Google Tag Manager. Note, that the same process works for Squarespace, Wix, Shopify, and other websites. You'll simply need to utilize their directions to install the Google Tag Manager code.

Additional Resources

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Authority on stage

Link Building – Grow Your Website’s Authority

April 24, 2020
You created a great website! It’s user-friendly, content-rich, and lightning-fast. So why can’t people find it on Google?

The answer is likely an issue of authority. Google, Yahoo, and Bing are looking for third-party signals to validate your business’s expertise. In particular, they’re looking for links pointing to your website  from other websites in order to determine your authority. So if you’re not showing up on Google, you may not have enough links pointing to your site.

Let’s start at the beginning.

What are Links?

Links (also known as inbound links and backlinks) are elements of a webpage which, when clicked on, take a website visitor to a new page (or section of a page).

This, for example, is a link.

Links can point to other pages on your website (internal links), or they can point to pages on other websites (external links).

Why Do Links Matter? 

Since the 1990’s, search engines have relied on links to do two things. First, they allow search engines to crawl the web. The search engine robots (crawlers) follow links to navigate the web and create an index, or directory, based on what they find. Secondly (and more pertinent here), links establish authority. Links act as votes of endorsement from one website to another.

You can think of accumulating links like a popularity contest. If two pages have identical content that was published on the same day, then the page with more links pointing to it will rank higher than the other. The page with more links is considered to have stronger authority, and the search engines highly value authority.

Not all links are created equal, though. Links from websites that have stronger authority themselves are more valuable than links from websites with low authority. For example, if you could get a link pointing to your website from an international newspaper like the New York Times, it would be a stronger vote than a link from your local newspaper.

What is Link Building?

Link building is a tactic to grow the number and quality of links to your website from other websites. The goal of link building is to increase your online presence and visibility which, in turn, will help you grow traffic and drive more sales.

The accumulation of all links pointing to your website makes up your “backlink network.” If you think of this network like your website’s neighborhood, then your goal is to live in a good neighborhood.

Your backlink network should contain naturally-acquired, user-friendly links from high-quality websites. The quality of the links pointing to your website is much more important than the total number of links.

Good news — it’s actually easy to build a good backlink network if you take a real-world marketing approach to link building.

How to Get Started with Link Building in 6 Steps

Link building doesn’t have the best reputation. Spammy email requests, link schemes, and old school tactics like article submissions have, unfortunately, sullied the name of this essential SEO tactic.

Let’s change the way we think about link building by focusing on building a backlink network which resembles your business’s real-world network. After all, Google uses backlinks to measure your business’s authority — and that authority comes from your business’s position in the real world, not just on the internet.

1. Establish a Starting Point

Establish a Starting Point — If you have an existing website, then there are likely already links pointing to it. How many? Which websites are linking to yours? Is your network strong, or simply broad?

There are many tools you can use to answer these questions. If you’ve already verified your website with Google Search Console, start there. Log in to GSC and navigate to “Links” in the lower left of the side navigation:

There are two helpful resources here. The first is a list of your External links. Here, you can see which pages on your website other websites are linking to. Below that, you can see a list of the top linking sites. These are websites that currently contain a link to (vote of endorsement for) your website.

This resource also includes insight into your Internal link network. Internal links are links to and from pages on your own website. These links matter, too.

Internal links act as internal votes of endorsement for your pages. They allow the search engines to crawl your website and give a sense of the relative importance of various pages. Here’s a great resource to explain internal linking and SEO.

Spend a few minutes exploring your links using GSC. Then, head to Moz’s Link Research tool (you’ll need to create a free account to use it). Do so, then run your domain through the tool. You’ll get a quantitative measurement of your backlink network (domain authority). This metric will range from 0–100.

What’s considered a “good Domain Authority score” varies, depending on the competitive space. If your domain authority is 20/100 and your competitor's is 10/100, then your website has a higher likelihood of ranking. On the other hand, if that competitor has a score of 40/100, you’ll need to work extra hard to grow your backlink network to reduce the size of that gap.

Spend a few minutes running 2–3 competitor websites through the Moz tool. You’ll walk away with a better sense of how your website is measuring up. Now, let’s dive into growing this number.

2. Complete a Brainstorming Exercise

Who do you do business with? Who is in your professional network? Jot down a list of these real-world connections.

Take, for example, an architect. Architects typically do business with contractors, land-use planners, landscapers, print shops, etc. An architect may be in an association or have a professional community for shared learning. Architects go to events and conferences and may be connected to a mentoring program or a university. What about charitable giving? Is the architect on the board of nonprofit organizations?

Take another example — a web designer. A web designer may attend or speak at events like WordCamp or other such conferences. Web designers are members of their local communities and, as such, are likely members of Chambers of Commerce. Web designers may also donate some of their time to nonprofit organizations they care about.

Write down a list of your relationships.

3. Create an Opportunity List 

Our goal is to illustrate the professional relationships you brainstormed in step 2 for Google. How? With links from their website to yours.

Start a spreadsheet and list these relationships. Track down each corresponding website to see if a link to your website already exists. Ask yourself, “Can Google tell these professional relationships exist based on existing links?” The answer is usually no. As a result, these are all new opportunities for building your business’s authority online.

Here’s an example:

4. Choose a Tactic

List of opportunities in hand, we now need to decide how to acquire each link. Our goal is to add value for all businesses involved — yours and your partners’.

Here are several ways you might recommend inclusion on a partner’s website:

Partner Lists: Websites often have a page that notes their professional relationships via a “Partners” or “Our Friends” list. Ask them to include your business — and a link — on their partners list. Offer to do the same for them on your website.

Guest Blogging: Offer to share thought leadership content on one of your partner's blogs in exchange for a link to your website from the post. This is a great idea if your businesses are in the same (or complementary) industries.

Sponsorship: Formally support an event or nonprofit with as a sponsor. Request to get listed — with a link — on the sponsorship page.

Podcasts: Pitch yourself to be a guest on a podcast that’s of interest to your professional community.

Chamber of Commerce: Ensure your business is listed — with a link — on your local Chamber of Commerce website.

5. Outreach 

You now have a list of several opportunities with corresponding action steps. Here’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s time to reach out to these businesses and suggest a collaboration. Draft an email. Pick up the phone. Because your list is highly targeted, you’re likely to get a response to each and every request.

6. Keep Link Building Top of Mind 

Now that you’ve gone through a process to build your backlink network, you’ll start to notice new opportunities. For example, if your business gets featured in a local news story, make sure to get a link from the online version of the article to your website. Or, if you sponsor an upcoming event, you might ask for a link upfront. You might also begin broadening your existing professional network via avenues like social media and PR.

Tips for Link Building

  • Change how you think about link building by focusing on leveraging real-world business relationships.
  • Take consistent action, one step at a time. Link building is an incremental process; it’s not something you can accomplish in one sitting.
  • Offer a testimonial to each of your business partners. This is a great way to both pick up a link (from the testimonial) and give something satisfying at the same time.
  • Make sure your business is listed in any local directories like the local Chamber of Commerce.
  • Challenge yourself by pitching yourself to be a podcast guest or offering to write a guest blog post. This makes most of us a little uncomfortable at first; that’s okay.

Wrapping Up 

Most businesses find it easy to invest in technical SEO, content, and on-site optimization, which cover three of the four pillars of SEO. Most businesses find off-site SEO overwhelming, and therefore neglect it. This means there's a new opportunity for your business.

Four Pillars of SEO

Invest equally in off-site SEO and link building, and you’ll stand apart from the competition. For your web presence to grow, link building is an essential tactic. The search engines need to understand your business environment. They determine your authority based on the links they find, and they reward authority with improved rankings — and thus more traffic.

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send a monthly seo report

Sending SEO Reports to Your Customers

April 15, 2020

As a freelancer or agency offering SEO services to your customers, you strive to provide ongoing value. Communicating that value is a critical, but sometimes overlooked aspect of selling your services.

How do you communicate value? Sending a monthly SEO report to your client is a great way to do so.

What Is Included in SEO Reports?

Monthly SEO reports include performance data. Typically, they include an overview of website performance, a detailed breakdown of organic search statistics, and keyword rankings. Here's a sample SEO report to reference as an example. Note: This is an example of a monthly report generated by our guided SEO platform.

sample seo report

Delivering a report to your customer each month (typically a link to their report and/or a PDF attachment via email) establishes trust and sets expectations. Your customer trusts that you are monitoring and responding to results, and they know they will hear from you on a regular basis.

Here's the catch —the value of the report isn't just the data or the user-friendly layout. Sure, we all love to look through the numbers, but your experience and insight are the value-adds your clients most appreciate. Don’t hesitate to offer your in-depth perspective on not just the numbers, but what they mean and how they can drive the next steps.

We have found emailing your insights along with the actual report to be an effective approach. Following a consistent email format increases client comprehension.

Our standard email setup includes a written overview of:

— Performance
— Action items completed the previous month
— Plan for the upcoming month

 

Example Email to Include with a Report

Hi [Client Name],

Happy Spring! Attached is your [Month] SEO report. Your website recorded [x] sessions from organic search in [Month], a [y]% increase compared to last [Month]. Revenue was strong with $[z] of transactions in [Month], an [a]% increase compared to last year. Organic search continues to be the top performing channel and contributed to [b]% of the total site traffic!

Last month, we focused our attention on [link building]. Our goal is to [leverage your professional relationships into a network of links online that build your business’s authority online]. Thank you for your help coordinating with [partner] to secure a link from their sponsor's page. That is a valuable win in the long run.

This month, we're focusing our attention on [building expertise online]. We noticed that one of your older blog posts — [URL] — is getting exposure for some great keywords such as [keyword]. We’d like to capitalize on this further by [expanding this post from 500 words to 2,000 words]. I’ll share a proposed outline for the content expansion so that [Name] can focus on the copy.

Looking forward to our standing monthly call on Monday, [Month] [Date]. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to reach out with questions.

Best,
[Your Name]

In Conclusion

Weaving effective communication and recommendations into your monthly reports will set your SEO service offering apart from the many agencies that automate this send. It also creates a collaborative atmosphere where each customer is an active participant in the search engine optimization campaign. After all, great SEO can’t be delivered in a back office, siloed from other marketing initiatives.

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SEO glossary

SEO Glossary: 72 SEO Terms [2021]

March 31, 2020

Like other specialized industries, search engine optimization has its own set of terms, abbreviations, and industry jargon. Phrases like XML sitemap, page title, alternative text, and 301 redirects are puzzling at first. Here, we decode 72 common SEO terms using everyday language. Our goal is to set aside the complex jargon to make SEO more accessible and actionable. 

301 Redirect: A signal to the search engines that a web page has moved. A person attempting to reach the original page gets taken to a new page that’s the closest match.

404 Error: A type of technical SEO error that signals the web page could not be found (often because it’s been moved or deleted).

Algorithm: A formula that calculates the rank of search engine results. These algorithms evolve with the goal of providing a searcher with the most relevant content based on their specific search.

Alternative Text: Tags placed on images which provide the search engines with a written description of an image. Also known as “alt text” or “alt tags.” Including alternative text is, first and foremost, a principle of accessibility, but alt text also helps the search engines derive meaning as well.

AMP: Accelerated mobile pages make a page load lightning-fast on mobile devices. AMP is most often used by publishers (news websites).

Authority: A measurement of a website’s strength, which gets built up over time via backlinks. The software company Moz has a measurement tool for “domain authority,” which acts as a proxy to calculate your website's authority in the eyes of Google. A website with stronger authority will get its content to rank more quickly and easily. 

Backlinks: Links that point from other websites to yours. These links are valuable because of their ability to pass authority (ranking power) from one website to another. In the simplest terms, links act as votes of confidence between websites. The higher the authority of the website giving the link, the more authority that link will pass to the website to which it’s pointing.

Black Hat SEO: Practices that try to increase search engine rank by violating Google's quality guidelines.

Blog: A frequently updated section of a website (or and entire site) which is typically written in a more conversational manner. A place to publish your expert content.

Bots: Another name for search engine spiders or web crawlers.

Bounce Rate: The percentage of visitors to a web page or website who leave after viewing just one page on the website. Bounce rate is a measure of interaction with your site. A “good bounce rate” varies from industry to industry and also depends on the traffic source. 

Breadcrumb: A navigation element that shows your current location in relation to the structure of the website.

Broken Link: A link on the web that points to a moved or non-existent page. Broken links are frowned upon by the search engines because the crawlers are being directed to dead ends, which wastes resources.

Cache: Technology that temporarily stores website content in order to improve the load time of web pages.

Citations: Business listings which include your business’ name, address, and phone number. Think Yellowpages.com or Apple Maps.

Click-Through Rate: The ratio of people who click on your link when they see it appear in the  Google search results. Higher click-through rates mean more clicks or visits. The closer your website is to the top of Google, the higher its click-through rate.

CMS: Content Management Systems provide the structure and power to websites. The most common content management systems include WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace. These software platforms help you create and manage digital content.

Competition: Other websites that are also trying to rank based on — and drive traffic from — your keywords. Other websites that are trying to reach the same audience as you are.

Content is King: An often-used phrase which emphasizes the importance of content to search engine optimization. The search engines value content because it’s proof of your relevance and expertise.

Conversion: A visitor who completes a desired action on your website — such as filling out a form or making a purchase.

Crawling: How the search engines explore the web and index (keep track of) web pages.

CSS: Cascading Style Sheets make websites look good (or bad) by controlling fonts, colors, etc. independent of the content itself.

Deep Link: A link on your own website that points to pages deep within your site (not to your homepage, for example). These links act as votes of confidence for individual pieces of content, such as blog posts.

Domain Name Registrar: This is the name of the company that holds your web address (domain) for you. GoDaddy and Network Solutions are examples of popular registrars.

Featured Snippets: Answer blocks which appear at the top of a search engine results page, featuring content pulled from another web page and displayed on Google.com.

Google Ads: An advertising platform from Google which powers the paid listing space on www.google.com and so much more. Google Ads are sold on a cost-per-click basis, and can be utilized for businesses of all sizes.

Google Analytics: A free, enterprise-level web analytics tool from Google which allows you to monitor your website’s performance.

Google My Business: Google's free tool for managing your Google Maps listing.

Google Search Console: A communication channel with Google allowing you to understand which keywords are driving traffic to your website, and how well the search engines are crawling and indexing your content.

H1 – H6: Tags within a page’s content which define the header of a page and organize sections of content. Headers provide structure to your pages, and Google rewards structure.  Headers are also important to website visitors, since they break your content into easy-to-read parts.

Holistic SEO: Forward-thinking, long-term SEO practices which position your website for success today and years down the road.

HTML: HyperText Markup Language is the programming code used to create web pages.

Image Compression: Making image file sizes smaller without losing image quality. Often used to speed up a web page, a little like magic.

Index: A database of all of the content the search engine crawlers have collected. Think of it like an old-fashioned Rolodex or a library.

Internal Links: Links on your website which point to other pages within your website.

Keyword Research: The process of identifying the words and phrases your audience uses to search for your products, services, or expertise.

Keyword Stuffing: An old-school tactic of placing too many keywords on one page. It makes for a poor reading experience, so avoid this.

Keywords: The words and phrases which users enter into the search bar. Keywords are also known as “search queries.” The search results for these words and phrases will direct people to your brand, products, and services.

KPI: A Key Performance Indicator is a measurement of how well your marketing initiative met the overall campaign goal.

Landing Page: Any page on your website that serves as the first page a person will view. Some landing pages have specific purposes, like supporting pay-per-click advertising. 

Local Pack: A group of (typically) three Google Maps listings representing local businesses and appearing on the search engine results page.

Local Search: Anything you do online to promote a business with a physical presence, such as a salon or an electrician. Local search begins with Google Maps.

Long-Tail Keywords: Multiple-word phrases that are entered into the search bar for a specific reason. These phrases make up 70% of the total online searches! For example, long-tail keywords such as “what are the best headphones for kids” or “wireless headphones for swimming laps” imply that the user wants to buy something. These keywords are often less competitive than shorter phrases, and tend to have higher conversion rates.

Meta Descriptions: A tag in the header code of each web page. The search engines often use these to display these in the description portion of the listings you see on a search engine results page. Meta descriptions directly contribute to the likelihood of a person clicking (or not clicking) on your listing in the search results.

Meta Directive: Code snippets which live in the header code of each web page. These directives aren't visible to website visitors, but they provide search engine bots with page-by-page instruction on how to index a page’s content.

Mobile-First Indexing: In 2018, Google started crawling and indexing your pages based on the mobile version of your website instead of the desktop version.

Organic Search: The free listings displayed on Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Page Speed: The amount of time it takes for a web page to load. There are many additional measurements within page speed — like First Contentful Paint (FCP),which measures perceived load time.

Page Titles: Also known as title tags. Page Titles are tags in the header code of each web page. The search engines use these to craft the linked titles of the results you see on a search engines results page. Page titles influence the likelihood of a person clicking on your listing (the click-through rate).

Pay-Per-Click: Also known as PPC. A model of marketing where a marketer pays for website traffic on a cost-per-click or cost-per-visit basis.

People Also Ask: A block displayed on some search engine results pages, featuring questions and answers relating to the search query.

Personalization: The ability of the search engines to customize the results you see based on factors such as your location or your past search history.

Query: A word or series of words entered into the search bar.

RankBrain: A machine learning aspect of Google's algorithm which rewards the most relevant search results.

Ranking: The order of the search engine results, with #1 being the best and located at the top of the page.

Rel=Canonical: A tag in the code of a web page that tells the search engines which version of the page is the original, and which are duplicates or copies.

Relevancy: The relevance of the content on your website to search queries. The more relevant your content, the more likely your web page will perform well (appear higher) in the search results.

Responsive Design: A method of building website layouts with content blocks that seamlessly reassemble depending on the size and orientation of the visitor’s screen.

Robots.txt: A file on your website that tells the search engines where they’re not supposed to go.

Schema: Code that tags elements of your website with structured information that the search engines can then extract and display on the search engine results pages. For example, schema powers the recipes that show up directly in the search results.

Search Volume: The estimated average number of monthly searches completed using  a search engine like Google. Search volume is measured separately for each keyword.

SEO: Search engine optimization is the art and science of getting your website found using the free (organic) keyword space.

SERP: A Search Engine Results Page is what you see after you enter something in the search bar on Google, Yahoo, or Bing.

Short-Tail Keywords: Approximately 30% of the searches performed online use short phrases — keywords like “headphones” or “headphones for sale.” This is called “the short tail of search” and the keywords used are called “short-tail keywords.” These keywords tend to be high in both volume and competition, so these phrases are often out of reach.

Site Speed: A measurement of how quickly a sample group of your web pages loads. 

Site Structure: How your website content is organized. For example, the homepage is the top (most important) page, followed by those located in your main navigation. Often described by the number of clicks away from the homepage a particular page is located.

SSL Certificate: Secure Sockets Layer encrypts the data that gets passed between a server and a web browser. It makes your website appear as HTTPS, which is more secure.

Structured Data: Snippets of code that give search engines precise information about a web page’s content. Structured data allows search engines to easily organize web pages in the search results. Did you ever wonder how Google quickly displays recipes, movie times or concert information? Structured data (Schema Markup) gets the credit.

Traffic: Visits to your website.

URL: The web address of an individual web page.

White Hat SEO: SEO practices that are in line with Google's quality requirements.

XML Sitemap: A file on your website that tells the search engines what to explore. Similar to your website’s resume.

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communcation

Communicating with your Customers in Times of Uncertainty

March 26, 2020

We’ve always said that communication is the backbone of high-value SEO services. In ever-changing and uncertain times, this is the case more than ever.

From local restaurants to enterprise level companies, businesses across the world are facing uncertainty.

Over the past week, we’ve all received dozens of emails from companies about their COVID-19 preparedness. If you offer SEO services, now is the time to reach out to your customers. But, how?

Proactive Outreach

Today, our SEO agency contacted customers to address the current climate and its impact on search engine marketing. Rather than go with a generic email to our full customer list, we took a custom approach and emailed each of our clients individually.

Our clients already know we have the capability to work remotely and a team large enough to ensure consistent delivery of service. What our customers don’t know is how we will evolve their search engine marketing strategy to meet today’s world and tomorrow’s uncertainty. 

Keys to Connecting with Customers

In the course of a day of work, we were able to reach out to our full list of clients one by one via email. Our emails included two primary themes:

Reassurance — Because our SEO strategy is holistic, there are no urgent or last-minute changes to be made to the approach. Steady is the name of the game.

Industry-Specific Insight — We try to put ourselves in our customers’ customer’s shoes. What needs to be adjusted to be considerate, timely, and appropriate? Here are a few examples:

  • Travel: Calls to action around “book now” may not be well received at a time when airlines are slowing down service and borders are closing. A quick scan of page titles and meta descriptions ensures that our verbiage on Google.com is less about now and more generic.
  • Local Business: Restaurants, therapists, libraries, you name it. If it is a local business that serves people in person, it is likely there is a change to hourly operations.

Asking your customers what their current hours are and letting them know they should notify you of changes ensures you can keep their local business listings on platforms like Google My Business up to date. Learn more about best practices for updating hours of operation on Google Maps.

Client Outreach Examples

Hi Bob and Nancy,

How are you? I hope you and the team at [Company] are doing well. I imagine this is a dynamic time for your customers’ businesses and in turn yours.

We’re here to help along the way. Because we’re engaged in a long-term SEO strategy, we don’t have any immediate changes to our approach that need to be made. Our team is busy working on our March action items which include updating page titles and meta descriptions and publishing a new blog post about [topic]. 

In the meantime, we’d like to update your hours of operation. Can you please email with your current hours so that we can update Google Maps via Google My Business accordingly?

Please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here for you.

Stay healthy out there,

Lindsay

 

Hi Samantha,

How are you? I hope you are staying healthy. I wanted to check-in regarding our current marketing initiatives. 

SEO — We continue to focus our efforts on organic search. Because we are engaged in a holistic approach, there are no immediate changes needed for strategy. This month we’re focusing our efforts on updating and expanding our keyword research. We also published a blog post based on your recent email newsletter.

Google Ads — The campaign is currently set to run with up to $500/month of ad spend. We’re targeting local keywords in the Chicago art gallery keyword space. In light of current circumstances, we’ll likely see low search volume for these phrases and thus will spend less than the $500/month budget. Would you like to use this time of low tourism to target a few artist keyword spaces? The goal would be to drive online inquiries/sales. For example, we could target phrases relating to Damien Hirst. 

Google Maps — We should update your Google Maps listing to reflect current hours and closures. We can do so in a way that doesn’t signal to Google a permanent closing. Instead, we set up the new hours of operation day by day. Do you have a defined schedule of operations for the coming weeks?

Our team is available anytime … we’re working remotely from home offices and are here for you.

Stay healthy out there, 

Lindsay

What if Clients Want to Cancel Services?

If your outreach is compassionate and understanding, you should hopefully be able to avoid this situation. However, cancelations may happen during these turbulent times.

If a client wants to cancel, remember that this is not a good time to be calling in and strictly enforcing terms in a contract, if you can avoid it. That will only sour relationships you have spent quality time and effort cultivating.

Instead, it’s a good time to be considerate and flexible. After all, it is understandable for some clients to cancel services out of total necessity during this dynamic time. Let them know that you will finish out the current month’s work for them and will keep things warm should they want to pick right back up where they left off after we all weather this storm together.

Then, when we do all get through this, you can reach out to them and ask if they need a hand kick-starting their business’ recovery.

Here’s a sample email in response to a cancellation:

Hi Will,

Thanks for reaching out. We completely understand. Pausing SEO during these uncertain times is a necessary decision for some businesses. The work that is in place will continue to carry value for the months to come. As the economy recovers, we can always pick things back up.

Our terms are 30 days notice, but we don’t need to enforce that in this case. We’re in the midst of our March body of work and your last invoice will be the one you just received yesterday. We’ll wrap up our work this week and next. We will also make sure everything is in good order for a pause.

As the new world normal develops, you may find value in a small Google Ad campaign that can immediately target any components of your practice that show signs of opportunity. It’s hard to predict that maybe now, but we’ll keep an eye out and be sure to reach out should you start to see some new seeds of growth in an area that we may be able to amplify.

Thanks for offering to leave us a review. That would be awesome! Here’s a link to our Google Maps page.

Best wishes,

Lindsay

Stay Healthy and Keep in Touch

At Pathfinder SEO, we’re wishing you health and happiness. We are here for you too! Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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delivering value

Delivering Value in Your SEO Services

March 19, 2020

If you are a freelancer or digital agency considering adding SEO to your services, you may wonder how you’ll deliver enough value to your clients. SEO services are not as concrete as more deliverable-based services such as web design, web development or ongoing website maintenance. What can you consistently deliver to your SEO customers that is tangible? How can you make sure they’ll understand the value of your SEO services?

The true value of SEO services comes from measurable results, such as increases in sales and/or leads. To achieve this kind of growth, we need to increase traffic — and not just any traffic, but qualified traffic. To drive qualified traffic, we need to increase a website’s visibility in the search results by focusing on specific keywords. Everything is interconnected.

Setting goals like improving keyword rankings, growing traffic, and ultimately increasing sales is an essential component of delivering value. Learn more about driving SEO results.

If you talk to our agency customers about the value we provide, you’ll hear echoes of appreciation for more than just results. Customers care about communication. They care about action. And they want transparency.

This is true today more than ever. Today, businesses are facing an uncertain future. The path to SEO success has likely radically changed. Today, a business may still aim to improve visibility (rankings) in order to prepare an advantage when search volume for their services rebounds.

Take, for example, a vacation rental company. Investing in SEO today ensures that when we’re all able to travel again, that rental business will appear front and center. They’re building a forward-thinking foundation; they aren’t expecting increases in organic traffic or revenue as soon as next month.

There are three critical ingredients to being valuable to your clients in today’s SEO climate (and really, this applies to any service in any climate):

  • Customers want to hear from you. Communication is paramount.
  • Customers want to know how their website is performing. Reporting is essential.
  • Customers want to be reassured that you are taking the steps needed to help grow their business. Following through on action items is the name of the game.

Let’s explore each of these components in more detail.

Communications

Historically, strong client communication hasn’t been part of offering search engine optimization services. SEO was once done in a back-office environment. Often, the value of the service was derived from the mystery of what was being completed or the illusion of implementing secret tricks.

Today, communication is the backbone of SEO services. If you are going to help your client grow their online expertise, authority, and trust, you are going to need to collaborate — which requires active communication.

Communicating about SEO services is just like communicating about other digital marketing initiatives. Explore our client communication tips, including the recommendation that you avoid using industry jargon.

Reporting

Communicating results with an easy-to-understand Monthly SEO Report adds value to your services. Monthly reports include an overview of website performance, a detailed breakdown of organic search statistics, and current keyword rankings. Here's a sample report to reference as an example. Note — this is an example of a monthly report generated by our proprietary guided SEO platform.

Delivering a report to your customer each month establishes trust and sets client expectations. Your customer trusts that you are monitoring and responding to the numbers. They know they will hear from you on a regular basis. We recommend delivering the report by email, with a link to the live report and/or an attached PDF. Learn more about sending monthly SEO reports to your customers.

Action Items

Action items are the tasks you complete on behalf of (or in collaboration with) your client to move the needle. Typical action item examples include:

  • Creating custom page titles and meta descriptions to better market pages in the search engine results.
  • Updating a Google Maps listing to reflect the current hours of operation, or adding a post for an upcoming event.
  • Customizing the performance of the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress websites.
  • Creating a new, informative blog post.
  • Expanding the content on a core service page or product page.

Our SEO agency focuses on having a rolling roadmap of action items to cover the next three months. It’s dynamic — we update this list as we see results, or as the business evolves. But our roadmaps are process-oriented, as illustrated below:

getting started with SEO

At Pathfinder SEO, we share our SEO process by providing an SEO Checklist and Monthly Task so that it’s easy for you to complete Action Items on behalf of (and with) each customer.

Your constant delivery of value in the form of concrete, evolving tasks will set your SEO service offerings apart from the majority of agencies who have a lot of expertise, but take little action.

In Summary

You don’t have to be an SEO expert with years of experience to offer your clients outstanding value. Focus on transparent communication, thorough reporting, and concrete action items. You’ll establish a partnership for years to come.

Learn more about how Pathfinder SEO can help your freelance or agency business grow with SEO services.

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SEO results

How Long Does It Take to See Results from SEO?

March 19, 2020

SEO is a long-term marketing strategy. But how long does it take to see results? Good news — your initial results are just weeks away. And as you continue your SEO efforts in the months ahead, your measurable results will compound.

In financial terms, you can think of your SEO efforts as building long-term capital. The work you put in today will continue to pay out over time. This is why SEO tends to have a high return on investment.

Take, for example, a blog post. In the first few weeks after it’s published, you may only get a little bit of traffic. But over time, the same post will continue to drive more and more traffic. At that point, even if you need to pause your content efforts for a few weeks, your existing content will continue to drive both traffic and business. Here’s an example from a blog post published on our website:

So How Long Does It Take to See Results from SEO?

Several factors influence the speed of results:

  • Industry — The industry you’re in impacts the timing of your results. Some industries are more competitive, so your results will usually take more time.
  • Commitment — The amount of energy and effort you contribute will directly impact how quickly you see results, and the consistency of your effort over time will impact how quickly those results compound.
  • Iterative — SEO is iterative; it’s not just about how quickly you can move. Your results will continue to layer over time as you deepen and refine your efforts.

Most Pathfinder SEO customers see initial results within two weeks of completing our SEO Checklist. Then, as our customers continue investing time in their SEO efforts, their results continue to build.

Establishing SEO Goals

Setting specific goals is paramount to any SEO initiative. The primary goals of an SEO campaign are to increase revenue, drive more sales, and/or generate more leads.

To achieve any of these, we need to increase traffic — and not just any traffic, but qualified traffic. To drive this kind of traffic, we need to increase your website’s visibility in the search rankings by focusing on keywords. Everything is interconnected.

Setting key performance indicators within each of these categories will both ensure you’re on the right path and align your team’s expectations. We’ll start setting goals at the keyword level, then move to the sales/revenue metrics.

Keyword Goals

When it comes to setting goals around specific keywords, think in terms of a keyword funnel.

Keywords relating to your brand should be relatively easy to rank for so that you can see results in a matter of weeks.

Mid-funnel keywords relating to your products and services may take a few months to rank.

And upper-funnel keywords could take years.

When we first launched Pathfinder SEO, our keyword goals looked like this:

  • Short-Term: Rank #1 for our brand.
  • Mid-Term: Drive traffic to our blog posts for long-tail keyword searches like “how to connect Google Search Console and Google Analytics.” Drive traffic to our product pages for keywords such as “SEO checklist for small businesses.”
  • Long-Term: Drive traffic to our homepage and product pages for competitive phrases such as “WordPress SEO” or “DIY SEO.”

Traffic Goals

When you improve your rankings, your traffic will grow. Use Google Analytics to track and measure this growth.

The biggest question is always around traffic growth. As you look at the search volume around your current keyword list and rankings, you’ll start to get a feeling about traffic growth. You could spend hours trying to model and project growth based on this data, but we recommend a more intuitive approach to set goals around traffic growth.

Because there are many variables (some internal and some external), we almost never hit these goals spot on. Instead, we use a repeatable process.

We set a goal, measure our performance against the goal, and then update the goal based on real-time data. If we’re already knocking it out of the park, we need to raise the bar. If we’re struggling to meet the goal, we need to figure out why and then temper our expectations.

Of course, when it comes to traffic, it’s not just about volume — it’s about quality. You can measure quality with metrics like bounce rate, average time on site, and pages/visit. As your traffic grows, the goal is to maintain these metrics at original levels.

We’d rather have 10 really qualified website visitors than 100 poorly qualified people. Why? Because we care about sales, revenue, and leads.

Sales / Revenue / Leads

Most websites are focused on sales, revenue, and lead generation. Setting goals around these metrics is important to be able to calculate a measurable return on your investment.

Often, sales, revenue and lead generation goals are set by a business owner or marketing manager because they are higher-level business goals. For example, to grow a team or create a new product, a business may need to increase their sales from organic search by 25% this year. Knowing this bigger goal is helpful to assess if traffic and rankings are on track for this to happen.

In Conclusion

Setting goals is hard; there are many external factors. Goal-setting ensures that everyone is on the same page while giving us benchmarks against which to measure and update our efforts.

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SEO Tools for Beginners

SEO Tools for Beginners — What SEO Software Will I Need?

March 4, 2020

If you were getting ready to go for a hike, you’d start by packing a backpack with water, food, sunscreen, another layer, and a rain jacket. Your goal would be packing your backpack with the essentials while leaving behind items that add unnecessary weight.

Choosing an SEO toolset also requires intentional preparation. Carefully craft your SEO toolset to ensure you have all the SEO software you need — without data overload nor unnecessary expense. We’re sharing the best SEO tools for the beginner to the advanced marketer.

Best Free SEO Tools

Good news — the best SEO tools are free! Here are three must-use software tools, which are all from Google:

  1. Google Analytics — Measure website performance using this free, enterprise-level web analytics software. Simply set up an account and add the tracking code to your website. Then, you’ll begin to collect data about your website’s performance and visitors. Use Analytics to understand which traffic sources are driving your visitors — search engines, social media, referral websites, and more. Glean insights into which pages perform well and which are in need of improvement.
  2. Google Search Console — Set up a communication channel with Google via the Google Search Console. No, you won’t get to talk to an actual Google team member about your website traffic, but you will gain insight into which keywords are bringing your website traffic via organic search. You’ll also get feedback about how the search engine crawlers are navigating and indexing your webpages.
  3. Google My Business — If you have a local business with a physical storefront or services in a specific geographic area (think restaurants and plumbers for example), then Google My Business is for you. You’ll get a business listing that will show up on Google Maps, and more. Google My Business helps level the playing field for local businesses competing for real estate on www.google.com.

SEO Software for Beginners

Most SEO software is built for users with advanced SEO knowledge ranging from keyword research tools to technical SEO crawlers. They’re helpful for intermediate to advanced SEO professionals, but they can be overwhelming or even paralzying for beginners or users with small websites.

Pathfinder SEO was born out of the need to help small- to medium-sized businesses effectively apply SEO strategies. We call our approach “guided.” Pathfinder’s unique software combines tools such as keyword research, rank tracking, and monthly reporting along with a proven and easy-to-follow process. The Pathfinder process includes an SEO Checklist and Monthly Tasks — both of which break SEO into easy-to-follow steps. And the best part is the inclusion of SEO coaching.

Tools + process + coach = a beginner-friendly, affordable SEO solution.

SEO Software for Advanced Users

For advanced users or large websites which require more detailed technical SEO analysis, there are several best-in-class SEO tools:

  1. SEMRush — SEMRush is an online visibility toolset. It includes SEO features alongside tools designed to integrate with paid advertising, social media, content marketing, and more. Get this Guide to SEMRush to learn more.
  2. aHrefs —This all-in-one SEO software was born out of backlink research and competitive analysis. It features keyword research, content research, rank tracking, and web monitoring tools. If you are interested in learning more, check out this detailed review of aHrefs.
  3. MozPro — MozPro is an all-in-one, SEO specific software. It includes keyword research, rank tracking, reporting, off-site SEO analysis, and on-page graders. Check out this complete guide to MozPro to learn more.

Best SEO Software for WordPress

If your website is powered by WordPress, then you’re in luck — there are several powerful and easy-to-use plugins that will help you grow your website traffic.

  1. Yoast SEO — Yoast SEO is a multifunction SEO plugin. Built by SEO’s, this plugin is on the cutting edge of SEO. The free version includes everything you need for a solid SEO foundation. The premium version layers in even more tools like the ability to redirect pages and do a more in-depth analysis of your page content against your preferred set of keywords.
  2. All in One SEO — This plugin is feature-rich and easy to use. Build an XML sitemap, add page titles and meta descriptions to your posts, and much more. All in One SEO has over 2,000,000 downloads and is updated frequently to ensure it keeps up with the ever-evolving nature of SEO.

Regardless of which WordPress SEO plugin you select, installing the plugin is just the first step. The plugin needs to be configured to help you grow your traffic. Pathfinder SEO subscribers can follow our step by step process to do so.

Learn more about the best WordPress SEO plugins.

Choosing SEO Software

Take your time when choosing your SEO software. Start with the free tools — Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Google Analytics. Then, add one paid platform at your current experience level:

  • If you’re either new to SEO or a web professional doing SEO for small- to medium-sized businesses, then Pathfinder’s guided approach is a great fit.
  • If you’re either an advanced SEO professional or working on larger websites, consider SEMRush, aHrefs, or MozPro.

Looking for a comprehensive guide to ALL of the SEO tools and software on the market? Backlinko features a review of 188 SEO products!

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What is SEO?

February 12, 2020

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art and science of getting found on Google, Yahoo and Bing. With SEO, you improve your website's visibility in the free, organic search results. In turn, website traffic increases – as do sales.

Anatomy of a Google Search Listing

Before we dive into SEO, it's important to clarify what real estate we're going to be talking about on Google.com.

Search engine results pages (SERPs) have many layouts. You can think of a search results page as being built out of blocks. Depending on the search intent of the search phrase entered, you'll see a different combination of blocks. Your location, perceived intent, personalization (past search behavior), and other factors all influence what you see on a SERP.

In this example, there are several sections of results, which include both paid and free opportunities. Those with teal arrows are paid results. Those with orange arrows are free opportunities. Those with black arrows lead to more Google searches.

Paid Ads – Google Ads power these results  Google Ads allows advertisers to purchase real estate on www.google.com on a per-click basis. This type of advertising is often described as pay per click (PPC). Google runs an auction to determine which ads appear in this section of the search engine results. Advertisers define what keywords they want to bid on, how much they are willing to pay, and what ad text they would like to display. There are many other controls – like geographic targeting – making paid ads highly targetable.

Featured Snippet – Each result is called a snippet. A featured snippet is a result where Google extracts information from the featured webpage and shares it directly on www.google.com. A featured snippet may be at the top of the free or organic space (as it is here), or it can be lower on the page. When it is at the top, we call the snippet a “position zero result”. Featured snippets can be lists, paragraphs, or tables.

People Also Ask – Many search engine results pages include a “People Also Ask” section. This is free real estate that features questions and answers. The content is automatically extracted from your webpage.

Organic Search Results – In this example, the traditional organic search results start halfway down the page! In today's world, this is common. Each organic search result includes the URL, a title, and a short description. Some of these results also include rich snippets, where Google has pulled in information about price, availability, reviews, and more.

Suggested Products – This example includes a suggested product block because the search query has eCommerce intent (meaning the user wants to buy something). Clicking on these listings leads to another Google search for the products listed. Google is usually invested in getting us to search again while staying on Google.

Local Search – In this block, Google features three local businesses. It's often referred to as the “3 pack”. Local search gives related businesses the opportunity to compete on a more level playing ground with large websites.

How Search Engines Work

Now that we know what SERPs are, let's explore how search engines work. Search engines have crawlers (also known as bots and spiders) that continually explore the web. They create an index that you can think of like a modern take on an old-fashioned Rolodex.

When a person enters a keyword or keyphrase, the search engines use an algorithm to calculate how well a webpage matches a search query. If the webpage checks all the boxes, it could appear at the top of page one. If it doesn't, it could appear at the bottom of page ten.

Search engine algorithms are complex and ever-changing. Still, we believe SEO is simple because the goal of the search engines is simple – to deliver relevant, quality results. You are great at your business. To get your website found on Google, we need to ensure Google understands this greatness.

Websites that excel in the following three areas excel in organic search:

  • Expertise – Sharing your expertise online is the foundation of SEO. To do so, you need content – text, video, images. And that content needs to be featured on a user-friendly and engaging website.
  • Authority – To amplify the notion that your content is truly “expert,” others need to be linking to your website. Links on the web act as votes of endorsement. Google is always watching these links to measure your website's authority and credit you accordingly.
  • Trust – We want to visit trustworthy websites and do business with trustworthy businesses. Thus, search engines value trust. Online trust is built via online reviews, being accessible (being mobile-friendly and having your contact information available on your website), and authorship.
    Good news – what the search engines really value is real-world marketing. SEO doesn't reward tricks and quick fixes; it's about long-term, sustained good marketing. And we can do that!

The Goal of SEO

The goal of SEO is to increase sales, leads, and conversions. Growing the traffic to your website and improving rankings are secondary goals that help you achieve the most important objective – growing your business!

For some businesses, the following goal may be small, but it's essential – ranking #1 for your own brand (as shown here):

Once this baseline is achieved, then the fun starts – improving visibility for non-brand keywords. This is how we reach a new and bigger audience.

It is important to set goals when you are getting started with SEO. Defining an immediate goal (something we can strive to achieve in a month), a mid-term goal (something we can achieve in a few months), and a long-term goal (something we can strive for in a year) ensures we are always headed towards a destination.

When we first launched Pathfinder SEO, our goals looked like this:

  • Short-Term: Rank #1 for our brand.
  • Mid-Term: Drive traffic to our blog posts for long-tail keyword searches like “how to connect Google Search Console and Google Analytics” or “is Yoast Premium worth it”.
  • Long-Term: Drive traffic to our homepage and product pages for competitive phrases such as “WordPress SEO” or “DIY SEO”.

What are the Benefits of SEO

The benefits of SEO are many. Here are a few:

  1. Grow Your Reach – 93% of online experience begins with a search engine query and 70% of the links clicked on by search users are organic search results.
  2. Create Long-Term Value – SEO campaigns carry long-term value. The work you invest today pays dividends down the road.
  3. Positive Impact on All Marketing Channels – Search engine algorithms value user-friendly websites. A user-friendly website is impactful for all of your marketing channels. There is a positive feedback loop here.

TAKE A GUIDED APPROACH

Follow our step-by-step process and grow your business.

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Common Approaches to SEO

As you get started with SEO, pause to consider which approach best fits your unique business. There are three common approaches:

Hiring an Agency – Outsourcing your SEO to an agency allows you to rely on experts. Some agencies like ours focus only on search engine marketing, while others offer a full suite of services – from web design and development to email marketing and more. Agencies can save you time, but they always come at a cost. Because SEO is a long-term initiative, most SEO services need to be managed via a monthly retainer. They also don't occur in a vacuum; they require active collaboration with you and your business. We liken this to an 80/20 rule. The agency can do 80% of the work, but you'll need to contribute 20%.

Do-It-Yourself SEO – A DIY approach saves money, but costs (a lot of) time – most businesses that engage in DIY start by learning SEO before doing SEO. There are a lot of online resources to learn SEO – courses, blog posts, and tutorials. The primary value of DIY SEO is that you already know your business and audience, which is required. The downside is that you probably don't want to become an SEO expert just to grow your business.

Guided SEO – Guided SEO is the middle ground between DIY and hiring an agency. It gives you a process without asking you to become an expert in SEO. It offers a series of lessons with specific homework assignments so that you can start to get your site ranking in just a few hours a week. It also adds monthly coaching to keep you accountable and answer all your critical questions. Pathfinder SEO offers this kind of guided approach.

Getting Started with SEO

Now that you understand the value of SEO, how it works, and common approaches, it's time to get started.

The first step is growing your awareness. What are your website's strengths? What are the weaknesses? Our goal is to help you turn those weaknesses into opportunity and growth.

An SEO Assessment is how most businesses get started. Our coaches will audit your website and will deliver a graded assessment of how your website stacks up against the four pillars of SEO. We will create a roadmap for growth.

FAQ's

How do I do SEO?

SEO is a long-term marketing initiative. This means that time, effort, and consistency are necessary to improve your rankings. To “do” SEO, you need to focus on growing your website's expertise, authority, and trust in the eyes of the search engines. First, decide which approach works best for your business – hiring an agency, DIY, or guided. Then, commit to a steady effort. It's much like hiking to the top of a mountain … one step at a time.

Can I learn SEO on my own? Yes, you can learn SEO. There are great courses and webinars online. A few of our favorites include:
– Yoast SEO Academy: Online SEO Training for WordPress
– LinkedIn Learning: SEO Courses
– Digital Marketing Kitchen by Rebecca Gill and Cory Miller Is SEO difficult?

SEO isn't difficult. It requires a step-by-step approach. It doesn't require technical skills like writing code. It requires a commitment to putting the work in and following a process. At Pathfinder SEO, we break SEO down into a series of simple steps that you can easily complete. We give you both tools and a coach. You can think about it like a gym membership, complete with a personal trainer.

What skills are required for SEO?

Basic computer skills are required for SEO. It's helpful if you start with a foundation that includes proficiency with word processing (documents and spreadsheets). If you are comfortable with email and can book a plane ticket online, then you'll excel with guided SEO. Dedication over time, as well as critical thinking matter more than your technical computer skills, though.

NOT SURE WHERE TO START WITH SEO?

Let us identify where you are today and create a roadmap for growth via an SEO Assessment.

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