As an ecommerce business owner, you know the vital role SEO plays in bringing prospective customers to your site. But, says Megan Clarke, too many entrepreneurs find it intimidating… or are misinformed about what an effective strategy looks like.
They might spend a lot of money on SEO help… without much to show for it. But, with 270,000 ecommerce sites in the U.S. alone, you can’t ignore this essential element of your marketing.
Megan is on a mission to spread the word about key changes you can make to your site to get noticed by Google and drive traffic that is primed and ready to buy.
Listen in to find out…
- What every ecommerce site MUST have
- Two ways you can show Google you provide value to users
- How social media fits in your SEO strategy
- 3+ easy SEO fixes you can do this week to increase traffic
- And more
Mentioned in this episode:
Adam Lean: Welcome to P is for profit, a podcast that breaks down business concepts into simple and clear language. This season is dedicated to interviewing e-commerce experts that can help you improve your e-commerce business.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the founder of a search engine optimization company, also known as SEO. So Meg Clark started clappingdogmedia.com, and she helps businesses get found online.
So why does this matter? When someone searches in Google or Bing for something related to your business, you naturally want your website to appear in this top of the page, so that people click on it. So how do you get to the top? Well, do you have to optimize your website for Google and Bing? That’s what a search engine optimization company does. So, let’s jump into the interview with Meg and learn how she does it.
Hello business owners. In this episode, we will be talking about how to get found online. This is, of course, a very popular topic as there are an estimated 270,000 e-commerce stores in the United States. Think about it: 270,000 actual websites that are all trying to get found online. So today I’m joined by Meg Clark, the owner of clappingdogmedia.com. They’re an SEO company whose mission is to do just that– help businesses get found online. So we’re going to find out how you could do it and how to improve your chances of getting found online. Meg, welcome to the show.
Megan Clarke: Wonderful. Hey, Adam, thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to talk to you today.
Adam Lean: Yeah, so this is obviously a very important topic because we own e-commerce businesses, we’re all trying to get found online and compete not only with our direct competitors but also with the Amazons and the Walmart.com’s of the world. So let me ask you this, what led you to start an SEO company?
What Is Clapping Dog Media?
Megan Clarke: That’s a great question. Well, I started out my career, as a designer, I was a graphic designer and a web designer. And I worked in agencies for a while. And then after having kids, I started… I spun up my own freelance business and was really helping creative business owners and creative shop owners build websites. And it worked out great, it was my first step into this. And soon after starting, I ran into the same problem: website, after site after website. I would be approached by a really awesome business owner who had a really great product, I would, in turn, design a really beautiful and functional website for them. And they ended up not much different than when we started, they had a website, but they had no traffic. And I was under the illusion, as my clients were, that if you just build a beautiful functioning website for your awesome products, then people will just naturally attract to you. And, but like what you said a little bit earlier, there are so many websites, there are 4 billion Google searches a day, it’s really easy to get lost in the noise. And I soon as I heard that I really needed, there really needs to be a way to cut through that noise when you are a business owner and be found by Google. And so it was only three or four freelance websites in that I realized I really needed to if I was going to make an impact on people’s lives and in their businesses, I needed to help them get traffic. And that’s how I started.
Adam: That makes complete sense. So let me ask you this, you know, SEO, Search Engine Optimization is one of you know, one of the key ways and obviously the way you focus on to get traffic to your website. Can you explain what SEO is? Because, you know, we were chatting before the interview. And you know, you said that SEO feels intimidating, and a lot of people and I have to agree. I work with a lot of business owners. And it just seems very, it just seems like SEO is something they know they have to do. But they’re not really sure exactly what happens behind the scenes. So what exactly is SEO? And how does it work?
What Exactly Is SEO?
Megan: Yeah, and I appreciate you asking because I feel feels like snake oil. And most people have a horrible story where they spend a lot of money. And they were totally wooed thinking that they were going to be ranking number one in three weeks. And so they give somebody about millions of dollars. And it turns out, it didn’t work. Well, SEO really is a layer of your marketing. And it’s an understanding of how Google sees your website.
And I say Google, but it’s very similar for other web search engines like being Yahoo, YouTube, even Pinterest, but it’s understanding how they view your site and the metrics that matter to them. And once you understand the metrics that make a big difference in value for Google, then you can customize or optimize your website to fit that. And sometimes it’s as easy as updating and fixing your title and your headlines and your product descriptions. And sometimes it’s a little bit more in-depth, where we have to update and update and fixture site map. But really it’s just understanding how Google reads you. And then how you can be found for what you want to be known for. And just the tricks on your site that you can do to be found.
Adam: So what are some of the main metrics that matter to Google today?
The EAT Factor
Megan: Google is a business. And I think it’s important to understand that and that they are competing against some other major search engines. Especially in the e-commerce world, they’re competing against Amazon, and eBay, and Walmart, and all of the all of these major heavy hitters. And what Google wants to do, is to provide the best answer for any given search result. So the way they do that, is they use a measurement that they call the eat, factor, EAT: it stands for expertise, authority, and trust. And they’re legitimately trying to understand if your website, if you are producing products, and content, as an expert, if you have authority, if other people look to you, as an expert, and if you are trustworthy, you know, if you’ve been around for a while, if other people have linked to you were reviewed your products, those are things that that help you build trust with Google.
And so the EAT factor is, is kind of a touchy-feely factor or ranking factor that Google cares about. And so to put that in, you know, to put that in practical terms, what you can do is help people spend more time on your website. And this is something that I hope, let’s call “dwell time.” And from Google’s perspective, if users are spending, you know, 60 seconds to two or three minutes on your website, then you must be providing valuable content that is enriching to the user.
Another factor that they care about is pages per session. And this is very similar to dwell time. From Google’s perspective, if a user is clicking around and reading multiple blog posts, looking at multiple products, reading multiple pages, then they must like what they’re seeing. And so those are two clear signs to Google, that you have a good website, you’re producing high-quality content, and you’re providing value to users, the Google looks at that as high EAT factors. So if you, if you can get people to hang out on your site, click on more pages, and just become a raving fan on your site. That is, those are literally the metrics that matter for Google.
Adam: Okay, so, I mean, as you know, I preach that you have to break your business down into measurable, you know, systems, if you will. And so that, I mean, this is a great example of something that business owners can do to measure whether or not their SEO is going right or going wrong. So measure dwell time, amount of the time on the site, pages per session. And so the those to cover, you know, the expertise, authority, and traffic, how is there anything else that that business owners can do to, to know, whether or not their SEO is not performing as high as it should be?
Megan: Yeah, well, you know, when I, when you when I just first get a new client or in talking to a client, and one way that I measure their the health of their site, their SEO health, if you will, is to Google them, I google the name of their store, the name of the owner, and what they want to be known for. So, for example, if it’s a raw cut jewellery store, you know, somebody who makes handmade jewellery, then I will, then I’ll search for that. Handmade jewellery, raw cut stone, raw cut emeralds, for example. And I see where people match up. You know, Google is… Google is a really great resource to figure out how healthy you are. Now, oftentimes, clients come to me, and I begin working on their site. And I really kind of dig into how people are finding them, what search terms they’re using, and the search terms that Google is actually ranking them for, or assigning to them. And this is always a really interesting exercise. Because a lot of times what clients think that they’re known for, or think that people are looking for them, doesn’t often match up. So sometimes when I do a little digging, and I figure out the keywords they are ranking for and that people are using are oftentimes, it’s their expertise is kind of what they do, or how they solve problems. But it’s not always their brand name and the owner’s name, and some specifics about the brand.
And then there are other times that I go in, and I do my research, and it’s just the opposite. People are known for their name, but they’re not known for what they do. So to fully answer your question, there’s a lot of things that you can do to measure the health of your site. You can Google yourself and see if you see how you’re found. Then you can also go into, you can go to my website, I have a great free audit tool that looks at several factors of your SEO health and gives you a letter score. So you can get an A for this and maybe a B for this or a D for that. And that’s another really excellent way to get a quick understanding of how Googleable or findable your site is Google. I like that.
Adam: Is that audit tool on clappingdogmedia.com
Megan: It sure is! It’s right on the homepage, you literally just enter your email and your website, and I send you this pretty in-depth PDF immediately, of the health of your website. So that’s one way that I really like to… that you can measure, that you can see how you’re doing. And yeah, that’s just a great way to kind of get a good grade to see how you’re doing.
Adam: Yeah. And we’ll include that in the show notes as well because it’s super important. So, compare SEO to paid ads.
PPC vs. SEO
Megan: Wonderful question. So paid ads are where you pay Google or you pay Facebook to be on top of the search results page. And they’re great. They work if you give Google money, they will reward you with being in them. Oftentimes, the top one, two or three spots on the Google search results page. So it works. You give the money they put you on page one.
However, there have been thousands and thousands of reviews. And there was just one I think it was by Search Engine Journal, who discovered they watched the behaviour of users, web users. And most people scroll past the ads, people were all kind of conditioned to think that the first couple of results on the results page, our ads are sponsored pages. And so people tend to scroll past them. So with paid ads, you pay money, and Google will put you on top for several of the keywords that you want to be found for. Now, in contrast, that with organic search, organic search is not nearly as quick. And there’s no one you can pay lots of money to be on page one. But it is the building of trust with Google, it’s writing content that is highly valuable, and produces… It makes people want to hang out with you and become part of your community and tribe. And I said write content, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be written words. It can be videos, or audio files or podcast. It’s just if you continually speak about who you are, why you provide value and how you are the best at solving x problem, then and people respond to that they come to your site, they buy your products, they click around, they read lots of your pages, and then they really become a fan of you. That is organic search.
Adam: That makes complete sense. And you would think that Google would want people to I mean, obviously Google wants people to click on their ads, and you think they wouldn’t, they wouldn’t want to make them as obvious that they’re ads but if you think about it, Google wants the organic searches to be of high quality, so that more people trust Google so that more people will continue going to Google using Google and clicking on those ads.
Megan: That is exactly right. And, you know, they within the last, I think it was like last August was the beginning of three core algorithm updates that Google made. And these are the things that people get scared of, because they think, “Oh, I finally figured it out. And then Google made an algorithm change, and everything is just going to pop.” And that really isn’t true, if you are producing. If you have a high-quality website, that’s, that’s providing value to your users.
But what started last August, and then there was another update in May… in March, rather, of 2018, and one just a few months ago in June of 2019. And Google is really calling these quality updates. And they have found that there were people out there… One example that Google spot that Google specifically said, was a kind of a celebrity health guru, his name is Dr Axe, and he produced his website produced a ton of content, I’m talking three to four articles a day, about all sorts of health things. Like you could Google anything from gut health to your eye hurts or your hair’s falling out. And Dr Axe had an article or two on it. Well, what Google discovered was that the information that this particular person wrote on and this is not my view, I don’t really know, to be honest, was that they were just… Google was upset that Dr.Axe was out-ranking some of these other really high-quality medical journal, the Dr.Axe was higher on the search results, then, say WebMD or HealthLine, or some of these others very established medically-based websites.
So just to back up a little bit, last August, then March and then June, Google’s really been trying to figure out their algorithm so that people like WebMD can be number one they want to be known as excellent search results. And when you go and you Google, whether you’re on your phone or on your desktop, that you really get trustworthy, valuable answers back that the user doesn’t have to skim through.
Google wants to have done that skimming through for you, and make sure that the answer that you are that they’re giving to the searcher is a really accurate and valuable response. So I guess to answer your question that you asked 10 minutes ago, is yes, Google has put a ton of time, effort and energy to understand the Google search results. So that people use that as their default. And they go to Google before they go to some of these other places that we had mentioned in the past.
Adam: What are some low hanging fruit things that e-commerce stores, let’s say an e-commerce store that has 50 products on their site… What are some low hanging fruit things that they can put into place, say, you know, this week, to increase their chances of being found online?
How To Improve Your SEO Right Now
Megan: Well, when Google comes to your site, they send these things called robots, robots or spiders or crawlers, it’s all the same thing. It’s a little robot that literally read your site. It looks through the content of every single page. And the way they read your site, or they read a page, is in a very similar way, as humans read newspapers, they start at the top and they scan the title and the headline. And so think about it, when you read a newspaper, you read the things that are big, black and bold. And then if that is that the title piques your interest, then you can go back up and finish and read the entire article at length. And so what e-commerce sites can do today is to go look at the titles of your pages, the titles of your products. And within your blog post or your product description page. Do you have anything that stands out? Do you have headlines in there that make it easy for users and robots to quickly scan and get an understanding of what that page or product is all about? So I recommend going through looking at your titles and ensuring that they are filled with keywords that describe exactly what that product is so that Google can read that and match that up clearly to somebody who is searching for it. I don’t like kind of vague quippy headlines or title like, “And then this happened,” or “this is the best ever!” Those were really popular a couple of years ago, but they don’t add any value to users, because you don’t know what the heck that thing is all about. So I vote writing, you can go in and write really clear titles and headlines. And that is the best thing that you can do to get started to be found
Adam: These robots that you’re talking about that crawl the website, has Google tried to make them as human or fake as possible? Meaning I mean, I know you know, 15 years ago, you could keyword stuff and just put a bunch of text on a page. But that means nothing to a human. But the robot sees just these keywords. And I know that’s obviously frowned upon now, but as a, you know, as Google tried to make this so I guess my the crux of my question is… I have a client that has an e-commerce site that we’re struggling with the descriptions and the headlines on the product page, we’re struggling… you know, the SEO side of the company wants to keywords, you know, enrich them. The merchandising side of the company wants to make sure the descriptions are better for shoppers. So who wins?
Megan: Everybody wins. is somehow a combination of the two of these is you like what type… can you tell me what kind of product this website is?
Adam: Yeah, they sell bicycles.
Megan: I love bikes. I just got a new bike, and it is my favourite thing. The funniest thing, I was so delighted, and I just got a new bell for it. Okay, so I love it.
That got me really excited. Okay, so let’s talk about bikes. So, hey, I have for example was searching for a women’s beach cruiser bike. So in my brain, literally, that’s what I Googled: best women’s beach cruiser bike. And I think that’s really helpful for the SEO side of it, like the SEO side of the company. Now the merchandisers are speaking to the customers who are a new client isn’t necessarily an SEO gal might be looking for, you know, the most comfortable beach cruiser, or one that’s like a vintage beach cruiser. And so it, so they’re going to try to speak to somebody who is looking for that I that ideal beach cruiser that, you know, old and, like, vintage era. So I think both of them win… I think you have the ability to use words that describe the style, or this feeling or the emotion that you want people to get when they find that bike, as well as be really descriptive. So I love those words. Like in both examples were beach cruisers, I like women’s beach cruisers. I like vintage women’s beach cruising, or comfortable beach cruisers, all of those things, I think, can balance both the merchandiser side and the SEO side.
Adam: Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, the key is, is obviously you got to protect the organic, protect what Google sees. But you also got to merchandise and make, you know, make sure that your conversion rates are higher. But it all feeds into what you were saying earlier, if the if the descriptions and the copy on the website is of quality, then they’re going to spend more time on the website have more pages per session, which would help feed the EAT the expertise, authority and traffic that you were mentioning earlier.
Megan: Absolutely. And you know, so let’s just take that what you just said, like, let’s search for vintage women beach cruiser bike. And if the product description was meek, and weak, and only maybe a sentence or two, then that doesn’t give me as the user a really good, you know, 3d experience of what this bike is. So I really like when I, when I found my bike. And I, when I googled it, I bought it online, the website that I ended up going was was a page, a website that had great titles, really in-depth product descriptions that said, you know, that really gave me an idea of what to expect, they had really great photographs that showed every angle, all the details that I would be interested in, if I were to really buy a bike. And they also had reviews, and I think reviews that really key for e-commerce sites, they’re real words from other people who literally bought your bike, oftentimes, they posted photographs, and all of those things together provided great words, great keywords, great experience, and it made me spend more time on the page. So if I get to a page that maybe ranks really high for vintage cruiser bike, but doesn’t have all those things, doesn’t include really good images and reviews and descriptions, and maybe even a video that I’m not going to spend a lot of time on that site, going to probably bounce back to the search results page and see what other company I can come up with. So I hope that kind of illustrates how all of these things play into being found.
Adam: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it, you know, a lot of people try to, you know, separate SEO from Pay Per Click versus, you know, marketing versus, you know, social marketing. But if you think about it, I mean, and I’m sure you agree that SEO is sort of a holistic thing, because you’re looking at the entire website, which would improve the authority and the traffic and the and the expertise that the website has, which would only help your efforts if you have Google ads, or Facebook or, you know, or social media marketing.
Megan: I say I have a couple of things that I say regarding this, but I say good business is good SEO. And then I really try to preach to people that SEO is simply a layer of your marketing, you can’t say, “Okay, I’m going to set up a new business, I need to get an SEO,” No, SEO is a layer of your social, like, let’s talk about social for a little bit. I love social media. And I would argue that you may you can’t have a bit of a robust, findable website, if you don’t have a strong presence on social, because social… different people are on social and you know, people, different people on Instagram and Facebook, and Twitter. And I love building communities in those places. And you know, talking about your value, giving tips, showing images, writing, showing reviews and customer stories, and also driving people back to your website, because Google sees that you’re getting traffic from Google and from social sources, that again, leads into your authority and your expertise. Because if people are leaving Instagram and then going to your site, then you must have a really compelling message and product
Adam: Absolutely. Makes complete sense.
Megan: And I love that, I’m so thankful that you said that because I’m on a one-woman mission to take away these negative connotations and these bad experiences where people think SEO intimidating and like snake oil, and to really break it down and say Actually, no, you can do this. And you’re already doing it in so many different parts of your business. As you can look at it in a holistic way, then you can really make some strides and some differences for Google.
Adam: Absolutely. Well, Meg, thank you so much for being on the show. You know, SEO is such an important topic for e-commerce because you know bringing it back to how it affects your profitability. If you’re not found, you’re not going to have sales, which is an obvious reason why it affects your profitability. But also, you know… every e-commerce store has a marketing budget. And you know, I’ve preached that your marketing budget, you have to ensure that you have a positive return on investment and an SEO doing it the right way, the way you’re talking about is is a great way to have a positive return on your investment so that you can increase your profit margin. So where can where can listeners find you?
Megan: Well, my business is called Clapping Dog Media, and you can find me on the web at clappingdogmedia.com. I also spend a lot of time on Instagram, especially Instagram stories, and my handle is Clapping Dog Media. So you can find me there as well. I also, do not as often as I would like, I create videos on YouTube. I have a YouTube channel where I posted simple SEO tips. People can go to spend five minutes learn how to write a good meta description or headline and then apply it to their business that day.
Adam: Oh, excellent. Okay, perfect. Why clapping dog?
Megan: Well, I love dogs and my dog is a golden doodle named Vader. And he sits under my desk all the time. And so I get really excited when things go really well. Like we get rankings or more traffic comes and so I am enthusiastic, and I clap a lot. And so Vader would wag his tail and get excited with me.
And I know I’m an entrepreneur, I work at home. I have my dog, so it’s just me and Vader in my office. I have other people that work with me, but they’re all virtual. So it’s just my clapping dog. It’s me and Vader wagging and clapping.
Adam: Oh, I love it. I love it. Well, thank you so much for being here.
Megan: Thank you. It was a pleasure chatting with you today.