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

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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google

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.

Let’s look at an example. Click on the image for a larger view.

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.

Search Engine Optimization is focused on building your visibility in all of the “free” blocks — organic search results, local search, People Also Ask and featured snippets.

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.

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

NOT SURE WHERE TO START WITH SEO?

Let us identify where you are today and create a roadmap for growth.

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grow your business by offering seo services

Why Offer SEO Services

February 8, 2020

If you are a web designer or developer, you may be thinking about how you can grow your business this year. Selling more website-related projects is one option. Adding a brand new (and complementary) service — SEO — is another.

Benefits of Offering SEO Services

Adding SEO to your services comes with several benefits including:

  1. Maintain and Improve Relationships — SEO requires ongoing collaboration and partnership, so you’ll have a reason to communicate more regularly.  Offering SEO services creates an opportunity to deepen a client relationship as you work together to help their business evolve and grow.
  2. Solve a Problem — Getting found in Google is a nearly universal problem and if you’re offering SEO services, you can help. Your clients need your expertise to guide them in the right direction.
  3. Win New Business — Your sales process will be more competitive because you will offer a more comprehensive solution to your customers’ big need which is driving new business and generating new sales.
  4. You are Already Doing SEO — Site speed, user experience, responsive design sound familiar…  you are already checking the box on elements that the search engines value. Let’s get you credit.
  5. Build Recurring Revenue – SEO is a great add-on service that complements your existing monthly maintenance contracts. It’s scalable, it’s predictable, and it is best done and billed on a monthly basis.

Hesitant to Offer SEO Services?

Adding a new service to your business is a big decision. Once you put it out there and take on clients, you’re committed. To evaluate whether it’s the right move for you consider the counterarguments.

Here’s why you might not feel equipped to offer SEO services:

  1. Lack of SEO Expertise – We often hear freelancers and agencies express concern about depth of expertise. It can be nerve-wracking to start a new service, and it’s understandable that you want to be prepared. What we’ve found, though, is that you don’t need to be a cutting-edge SEO expert to be able to offer great value and provide results. Instead, you need the right process. A proven series of steps to follow and complete so you know you’re delivering the right amount of service.
  1. SEO Changes Too Much – It’s inevitable, isn’t it? Just as you’re hitting your SEO stride, Google will release an algorithm update. Don't fret. A holistic approach to SEO will see you through. If you follow SEO best practices long-term, you’ll begin to realize that SEO evolves more than it changes. With that being said, it's easier to stay up-to-date with than most might imagine.
  1. SEO is Overwhelming – There are so many tools and so much data in the SEO landscape; it’s hard to discern what you need to do and what flags are just noise. At Pathfinder SEO, we’ve used our experience and expertise to develop a solution that includes exactly what freelancers and agencies need — a process, tools, and a coach — to make SEO accessible and actionable.

Put Yourself In Your Client’s Shoes

Let’s step back and remember your customer’s pain at this junction. When your customer hears “SEO,” they may say it’s too expensive, too complicated, there’s too much data, or it takes too much time.

You can overcome all of these hurdles with your customers. Remind them that SEO services will increase their sales, leads, and traffic. Their investment will be more than paid for, and they’ll establish a long-lasting foundation that will continue to reap search engine rewards.

For your own business, offering SEO as a service means increased recurring revenue, as well as more stability and predictability.

The Ingredients for Success

Interested in adding SEO services to your web design and development business? Here are the next steps:

  • Create a packaging and pricing model.
  • Start selling your services to new or existing clients.
  • Follow a proven process to deliver the services and create value for both you and your customer.

Want to learn more about growing your business with SEO? Check out the SEO as a Service section of our Field Guide to SEO.

Want a consultation with a Pathfinder SEO coach to better assess if offering SEO as a service makes sense for your business? Request a demo here.

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