How I Became an SEO Wizard: 20 Years in the Tech Trenches

In this episode I’m going to reveal what in the world SEO even is, how I learned SEO from scratch without any tech knowledge, why SEO is so important for your business and we’ll wrap up with a mini SEO tip and homework for you.
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Welcome to the She Can SEO podcast! I’m Emily Fontes and I help female entrepreneurs get found on Google, Pinterest, YouTube, and Etsy so that they can rapidly grow their businesses. You already have what it takes to be phenomenal at search engine optimization. You just need me to show you how. Don’t feel intimidated by all the techie bro marketing strategies that dominate this industry. There is a simpler, more intuitive way to do SEO, increase leads and scale your business. Are you ready to take it to the next level? Good, because I’m ready to show you how. Let’s do it.

In this episode I’m going to reveal:

  • what in the world SEO even is
  • how I learned SEO from scratch without any tech knowledge
  • why SEO is so important for your business
  • plus we’ll wrap up with a mini SEO tip and a little bit of homework for you

So what in the world is SEO?

That’s the first question most people ask me and it can be a little intimidating out there with people who are super techie or super hacker. Just even asking big “SEO experts’ that question can feel kind of icky. Let me just clear it up for you and explain it to you exactly how I would have wanted it explained to me way back in the day.

Search engine optimization is simply answering questions that real humans have and creating content that real humans want and then making sure that Google and other search engines are able to read that and include it in their search results. That’s it.

To give you an idea of how I got started in all of this, my first job back in 2001 right after I got married, I was only 20 years old, was actually in customer service for a company that made websites for realtors. I really knew nothing about websites. I was not tech savvy. I knew nothing about SEO. I knew nothing about graphic design, nothing about anything. I just was in charge of talking to people and I had a design assistant who was assigned to me. He was very nice, but eventually after talking with all the clients and helping them out, I just wanted to learn how to do some of this stuff myself. I taught myself HTML, CSS, graphic design. Most of that was on my breaks and after work. I took a class at a community college.

This was back in the day when we didn’t even have Google so that we can Google how to do things. Google was not that in depth in the amount of information that it had. So everything was kind of in the Wild, Wild West stage with website development. I had to learn a lot of this stuff on my own. Search engine optimization was way different back then when I first was learning how to do it. Google wasn’t even a publicly traded company. It was in its infancy and you had to actually submit your sites to be reviewed to get into a search engine. A lot of it was manually done and I’ve watched a ton of search engines come and go. Some of these may sound familiar to you if you’re in the elder Millennial or Gen X generation, but things like Hot Bot, Ask Jeeves, Yahoo, DMoz, Open Directory and these are all, for the most part, gone now. But they were actually the beginning of search engines and it’s really interesting to have watched SEO evolve over 20 years and see all the algorithm updates and the different features that are available and the way that search results look now.

All this stuff for two decades now I’ve seen evolve over time. I did SEO for myself and I did SEO for my clients as I did websites that were freelance and then eventually built my own local business. I like to say that I mastered local SEO before it was cool because that’s kind of the cool trendy thing right now in the SEO community. It’s really important for me to have been able to learn SEO from the business owner’s perspective as well because I think a lot of times search engine optimization specialists, they really have only done the technical side of it. They’ve never actually known what it’s like to own a business that needs SEO. Having done both things… having built a business from scratch and done the SEO for it and then also having done SEO for other people and being an SEO expert. It’s really cool to know both sides of that.

You may be thinking, why should I even care?

Why is SEO even important for your business?

Especially because it seems so technical and it can seem frustrating, confusing. Why should you take the time to learn how to do it? And I have seen SEO from the perspective of the success of my clients have had and also from the success that I’ve had. So I want to tell you a little bit of a story. I had a really successful local business up here in Seattle and I worked with lots of pregnant families. I did massage, I taught childbirth classes, I was a doula and I was a little mini famous for having sucked up all the search engine results for those types of businesses. It was going great. I loved my work. I loved everything I did.

And then in 2012 everything kind of came crashing down around my ears because my son was diagnosed with cancer.

Working with so many people, in person, in such a highly emotionally charged time, I really couldn’t just keep doing work the way I was doing. It was too emotionally challenging. I was going to the hospital sometimes every day in a week. I had to deal with his side effects at home from all his treatment and it was really just a different way of life for us. I actually had to close my business down. I passed all my clients on to other business owners and it was a little devastating. I was grieving the loss of my son’s childhood and our normal life that we had and my business and that was pretty rough. But after about a year, I knew that I needed to not only replace that income but do something that was outside of this cancer lifestyle. The momcologist lifestyle is pretty, pretty rough and you definitely need to have other things that you do so that you don’t just wallow in how hard it is.

I knew I needed to bring on a different type of business into my life and I need something that was flexible that I could do on the fly because it’s really unpredictable when you were doing chemotherapy with a kid. Sometimes they’d say, here’s your schedule for the week and when you come you may be here for an hour or maybe it’ll be eight hours. So that sort of thing does not lend itself very well to running a local business. So I chose something that I knew I could do that would be flexible enough that was using the skillset I already had that still worked with pregnant and postpartum families face to face and I had to build a new website for that service. I had to really set up a new brand for that service. I knew I didn’t have time to do all of the marketing and networking and everything like that, all the kind of traditional marketing stuff.

So SEO was the thing I turned to and this was really the first time for search engine optimization that I was like: “This has to work. I have to make the SEO be the thing that drives this business because if I don’t, I just don’t have time to do anything else. So I need SEO to drive the leads and I need a lot of leads.”

That’s what I did. I SEO’d the heck out of that website. I really quickly climbed the rankings and got the top spot and within about a year I was doubling and tripling and quadrupling the number of leads I had and I had more than double the number of leads that I could even take for that particular business because I still had limitations on what I could do. This is kind of my big aha moment where not only could search engine optimization be like a nice thing to have, but it could actually run the business while I was asleep, while I was at the hospital and it really was the thing that grabbed all those people and brought them in and helped them right along through the process to becoming customer without me having to do hardly anything at all.

I can’t even tell you what a relief that was. It was amazing. So this business really saved my income and I got over 60% of my leads directly from Google, which was just phenomenal and wonderful. And it grew year over year over year. I had to bring on new people, I had subcontractors and eventually sold that business because it was so well known in the Seattle area. When I was done with doing that type of work, I was able to sell it for a really great price because I had built such a great brand that really just dominated search results.

Needless to say, that search engine optimization is something that I absolutely love. I just love talking about it. I love teaching it. I have been doing it so long that it feels natural to me and since I’ve seen so much come and go in this industry, my little radar for junk is really finely tuned. When I see icky SEO strategies out there, I’m like, no, I don’t think so. And when I see how technical and how hacker and geeky people get with it, I’m like, do we really have to do it this way? Can’t we just talk normally? Can’t we just use normal people language to teach this because it’s really not that hard and I almost think sometimes people in search engine optimization use the intimidating words to build up their ego a little bit and I don’t like it at all.

I don’t like making SEO feel complicated and I don’t like making it feel scary and my mission is really to give solid, non spammy SEO advice and to make it feel easy for the average person.

Almost like SEO for the rest of us, right? That’s my goal with everything I do… with the courses I teach, and the services I offer and with this podcast. What I’m really asking is for you to kind of go on a journey with me, a journey of learning how to do SEO in a way that feels so easy that you almost think: “Why the heck wasn’t I doing this all along because this really isn’t so bad?!” My promise to you is to try and make it as fun as possible and make it feel reachable so that you don’t have that intimidated feeling anymore.

All right? If you are on board, the first tiny little SEO tip I have for you for this episode is super easy so you don’t have to worry. What I want you to do is test out the three most used search engines and see the difference between the results that you get when you search on them. All you’re going to do is you’re going to go to Google, YouTube, and Pinterest and search the same phrase, whatever type of industry you’re in, whether it’s online fitness or weight loss are maybe you sell some sort of product like magnetic eyelashes, or maybe you’re a massage therapist.

I want you to choose a search term that you think someone might search and type the exact same phrase into Google, YouTube, and Pinterest. And I want you to pay attention to the type of results you get. And I want you to think, if I was my ideal customer, would I actually be happy with these results? Is this information I would want to have? And then pay attention to the differences between the three different platforms because the audience for Google, YouTube, and Pinterest is actually really different. So you’re going to get different types of results for each of them. And what’s even more interesting is that you’re going to get different results where you live than where someone else lives. Because we have so many new technologies in terms of localization that all these search engines know where you are when you make these searches and so they provide everybody with different search results based on where they are, what their search history is, so that’s your homework. Pay attention to what happens when you run those searches. Super easy, nothing too techy. Hopefully it will be really helpful for you to see those differences.

All right, next episode, I’m going to blow your mind. I promise. What I’m going to be covering is how you are already great at SEO and you do not even know it. I’m going to tell you exactly why you were perfectly prepared and aligned to do fantastically well at search engine optimization without having to learn a whole bunch of technical nonsense. You need to subscribe right now so you don’t miss it and be sure to share this episode on Instagram stories and tag me at tiny giant marketing so that all your business besties can learn all these great tips just like you just did.

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