#155: New SEO Advice for Bloggers to Explode Their Traffic

Ready for some new SEO advice for bloggers to explode their traffic in 2021? I’m interviewing Marieke van de Rakt, the CEO of Yoast, the must-have WordPress SEO plugin. She shares tips to get your content to rank high in Google.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Why you need to write something people want to read
  • The importance of keyword research before writing your blog post
  • How to optimize your content for the screen
  • How to think about your content hierarchy
  • What cornerstone content is and why you should create some
  • The importance of structured data so Google knows what you’re writing about
  • Why niching down is so important!
New SEO Advice for Bloggers to Explode Their Traffic in 2021. Listen to this episode of The Blogger Genius Podcast with Jillian Leslie to learn how! | MiloTree.com

Show Notes:

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Intro 0:04
Welcome to The Blogger Genius Podcast brought to you by MiloTree. Here’s your host, Jillian Leslie.

Jillian Leslie 0:11
Hello friends, Happy New Year.

I cannot tell you how good that sounds make me feel positive, makes me feel optimistic. And in fact, I posted in my Facebook Group and ask people how they feel about the new year in terms of growing their businesses?

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And the majority answer was people are really excited to crush it in 2021. If you are one of those people, but you feel uncertain, you need direction, guidance, motivation strategy, please join our upcoming MiloTree Entrepreneur Coaching Group.

It’s starting January 12. We meet twice a week for six weeks in there’s a private Facebook group, and I teach it with David who is my husband, my partner, super cute guy, tech genius. It’s a really good time.

And the best part about it is you get personalized attention. People ask all the time, “Well, who’s this for?” We coach people who are just starting out. People who are somewhere in the middle.

Even people who are advanced, but they want fresh eyes on their business. I think the beauty of it is the idea that it’s live, and that you get to grow your business in real time with us, and our guidance and be part of a larger community.

If this sounds interesting to you. I welcome you to get on a call with me, you can head to milotree.com/meet. And that’s a link to my calendar.

And you can sign up for a time we can get on a phone call. I can hear about your business, your goals, your struggles, and I can share how we can help you get there.

If you want to learn more about the group and all the details, head to our landing page at milotree.com/group. I think this is the only time David and I are going to teach this, this year. So, please, if this sounds interesting to you, don’t miss out.

Also, there is a money back guarantee. Of course, I want you to be happy if you’re not happy. I’m not happy. So, there’s no risk. Again, get on a call with me, milotree.com/meet. I would love to talk to you.

For today’s episode, the first episode of the year. I think this is perfect. I also asked in my Facebook group, what is the one thing you want to work on in 2021? And by far the most popular answer was SEO.

Well, I have the CEO of Yoast on the show. Her name is Marieke van de Rakt. I’m sure I have mangled her name but she is so lovely. And for those of you that don’t know what Yoast is.

It’s a WordPress plugin you install on your blog and it helps you optimize your content for SEO. If you don’t have it installed, I highly recommend you do. There’s a free version that’s really useful.

And Marieke shares a lot of practical advice. You do not have to be technical to understand SEO remember, Google’s really smart and we talk a lot about that.

Without further delay. Here is my interview with Marieke van de Rakt. Marieke, welcome to the show.

Marieke van de Rakt 3:29
Well, great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Jillian Leslie 3:33
Before I press record. I told you that I don’t know many bloggers using WordPress who don’t also use the Yoast plugin.

Marieke van de Rakt 3:44
I was really happy to hear that. I think it’s a great thing and I think people should use Yoast if they are a blogger and use WordPress of course.

Jillian Leslie 3:55
So, could you share how you and your husband built this and where you guys came up with this idea for this plugin and really what your entrepreneurial journey has been?

Marieke van de Rakt 4:07
I think it was 14 years ago. And I was I was not working as an SEO or in WordPress yet. I was doing a PhD in Criminology at the time. And my husband had to find a new job because I got pregnant and he had to work closer to home.

And started working as an SEO consultant at an agency. And he made his first WordPress website. And then he quickly noticed that everything that he was doing concerning advice.

He was doing big brands like eBay, KLM, which is a big brand in the Netherlands. And he was advising them and he thought to himself, I can easily build this into a WordPress plugin as well and have everybody, use that advice that I’m giving those.

So, he built a number of plugins which eventually led to WordPress SEO, which is now called Yoast SEO. I never really have the intention to make money from it. But after a while, I finished my PhD and I started working at a university.

And he and I had a steady job, which made him take a leap of faith. And start his own company doing a lot of consultancy in the beginning. And then while the WordPress was growing, we launched a premium product, and that kind of took off.

And that’s when I joined the company as well. So, I think we had four people employed when I joined. Because I couldn’t juggle. We had three children at that moment, almost four, and a career.

And I was also always interfering with the company, I decided I have to join him and make something out of it. And now we have, I think 120 people employed. About 90 in the Netherlands, and then 30 people scattered all over the world, actually.

Want New SEO Advice for Bloggers to Explode Their Traffic? Listen to this episode of The Blogger Genius Podcast with Jillian Leslie to learn what's important today! Brought to you by MiloTree.com.

How the Name Yoast Came About

Jillian Leslie 6:16
Can you explain, you were talking about this before we started recording how the name Yoast came about?

Marieke van de Rakt 6:24
Well, that’s actually the name of my husband. His name is Joost de Valk, which is a Dutch name. And he was talking a lot at conferences around the world, but people always pronounce his name as Yoost.

And then Rand Fishkin said, that’s an important SEO person. He said, “Your name is pronounced Toast with a ‘Y’.” And then he thought, I have to call myself Yoast toast with a ‘Y’ because then everybody will pronounce my name correctly.

But nowadays, they say, Yoost from Yoast, they still do it wrong because people don’t know the story. And we are a bigger company and nowadays don’t see him as Yoost anymore.

Which is always funny. Because if we correct them, they say, “Oh, now, I know where the name comes from.”

Jillian Leslie 7:14
But his name though starts with the ‘J’.

Marieke van de Rakt 7:17
Yeah, but in Dutch, the ‘J’ is pronounced as the ‘Y’ in English.

Jillian Leslie 7:22

Marieke van de Rakt 7:24
Weird language.

Jillian Leslie 7:25
Yeah. Let’s talk about SEO. The thing that David, my husband and I talk about all the time is, if you want to be successful online, on the internet, you need traffic.

So, when I say to you, for top line advice about creating content that gets found by Google. What would you recommend I do?

BEST SEO TIP: Write Something People Want to Read

Marieke van de Rakt 7:52
Well, first, you need to write something that people want to read. So, Google’s mission is to give people something they’re actually searching for that they want to read. So, never create content just because you want to rank high.

It should be something that there is an audience for. That’s looking for that content, because if it’s just a trick, then it won’t last in the long term.

If you really want to write something that your audience wants to read. You’ll need to do a little bit of research and find out what excites them. And what makes them happy about what they want to read and what fits your brand.

So, it all starts with user research. And then if you have those topics, and you have content that gets people excited, then you can do a lot of things to make sure that Google understands what the text is about.

And that’s where our content analysis comes in, which helps you to focus on the right terms and make sure that you use your keywords. So, the words that people are searching for, often, but not too often.

Because if you use very specific keywords in every sentence, it gets terrible to read. And you shouldn’t do that.

But we help you to optimize it in such a way that Google will understand what’s it about. And you will have a higher chance of ranking high in the search engines.

Start with Keyword Research

Jillian Leslie 9:23
Okay. So, if I’m writing content, so your first recommendation is keyword research, do you have any favorite tools that you recommend bloggers use?

Marieke van de Rakt 9:36
Well, we just build an integration with SEMrush, which is pretty expensive. But in our tool, you can use up to 10 searches for which terms you should be focusing on per day, which is many, I think.

Also, with a free account, you can get some feedback on it. So, I think the first tool that you always should use as your own head, you should think about what you want to be found for.

And after that, if you done some thinking, you can use tools like SEMrush, but you could also use Google Suggest to see what people are searching for which terms they are looking for.

And make sure that you focus on the right search terms. To focus on the terms that people are actually searching for. So, it could be that people are searching for automobiles.

Now, they will search for cars rather than automobiles, which makes perfect sense. It could never hurt to check out which words are more searched for because sometimes you might have gotten the wrong idea.

Jillian Leslie 10:48
And I use Ubersuggest which is free, which is another good tool. I was paying for SEMrush.

Marieke van de Rakt 10:59
It’s really expensive.

Jillian Leslie 11:00
Really expensive that I can get maybe 80% of the value from Ubersuggest, but I agree with you. People have their own nomenclature for their own niche that we understand in our niche, let’s say.

But that might not be the way somebody might search for the stuff that I might be an expert in. And so, it’s very important to (a), I think listen to your audience and the words they use and (b), to search around to see if it’s cars versus automobiles.

Listen to the Words Your Audience Uses

Marieke van de Rakt 11:33
Yeah. And if you have a lot of comments on your blog that will give you like, clues about how people phrase their questions. So, listen to your audience. That’s the best advice you can give someone, but people often forget the first step.

So, tools of course, are really helpful. But thinking about what you want to rank for yourself is always the first step. So, I always want people to think before they use tools.

Jillian Leslie 12:05
And I would say think about the problems your audience is having if you can approach it via the problem. And that people are there for when you have a problem, you’re motivated to go to Google to solve it. Versus like a nice to have. Nice to haves are nice.

Marieke van de Rakt 12:23
So, at Yoast, we have a redirect manager. But often people don’t know what a redirect manager is. So, they’ll never search for the redirect manager in Yoast. They’ll search for a solution for that 404 or something.

Focus on the Problem You’re Solving

So, you have to get into what the problem is rather than what you’re offering. Because people maybe don’t even know that what you’re offering is the solution to their problems. So, problem driven search terms are really a good way.

That’s like marketing. I think that’s what marketing is about. To get inside the heads of people and to see what they’re facing as a problem rather than the solution you’re offering.

Jillian Leslie 13:08
You know so intimately. Yes.

Marieke van de Rakt 13:11
You forget that all the time because we know our product so well. And then often when we are going out to market it, we are talking about how awesome our redirect manager is. And then I always have to say, but people don’t know what it is.

Jillian Leslie 13:24

Marieke van de Rakt 13:25
People don’t understand what that is.

Jillian Leslie 13:27
So, when you’re thinking about structuring your content, do you believe in headings and solutions and bullets and questions it’s not like writing essays back in middle school?

It is really dissecting content and attacking content from different angles. And what’s your thought about that?

Optimize Your Content for Reading from a Screen

Marieke van de Rakt 13:56
You’re exactly right. So, it’s really different to read from a screen than from a book. So, you have to write differently as well. It’s different from reading from a newspaper.

Because if you read from a screen, you have a lot of distractions from ads, but also from things you can click on and then you’re gone. That’s much harder in a book.

So, you need to have that in mind that your audience is bored very quickly, and is distracted very quickly. So, you need to make sure that you have a text or content that’s easy to digest.

And that’s easily structured so that you can get the attention of people and get your message across. So, I believe in writing short paragraphs, I do like summaries and I do a lot of subheadings and headings.

Because they help the reader to grasp what your text is about. At the same time. I do believe that you can write like a lengthy piece. Google really likes these long reads.

So, they’re good for your SEO. But that requires something of you as a writer to make sure that people can understand what it’s about.

Jillian Leslie 15:16
We coach groups of bloggers, and I say you have to write for two audiences. Google and your audience have skimmers. So therefore, Google likes a lot of text. Because that way, you’ve really answered the question.

Google wants to serve up the best solution. But people are busy. I don’t know about you, but I skim everything on my phone, I can’t read on my phone, I skim on my phone.

Therefore, I’m always looking for the headers that will tell me, do I really want to read this section. I’m looking for the bullet points, I’m looking for the video.

I want all of this stuff so that I can just almost like snack on it on it, rather than absorb it and read it.

Marieke van de Rakt 16:06
If you look at how people read a text, you see them reading the first sentence of a paragraph and then go to the next paragraph.

But if you make those first sentences count, people can skim through your text and only read those first sentences and kind of get a grasp of what your text is about. Maybe decide to read on. Or maybe just remember what they’ve written.

And will come back to your website. But if they can’t make anything of it, they’ll leave and don’t remember what you’ve written ever. So, I always make sure that my first sentence of every paragraph kind of gets you through the entire piece.

Jillian Leslie 16:50
Yeah, that’s good advice, which is, can you read your content with the first sentence of every paragraph.

And I also make my paragraphs now incredibly short, even one sentence. Because when you are thrown a huge chunk of text, at you, it’s overwhelming, especially on your phone.

Marieke van de Rakt 17:11
I don’t believe in one sentence.

Jillian Leslie 17:13

Marieke van de Rakt 17:14
Because I think Google is getting better at serving like a small portion of your website. So, they’re getting through that. But then they need to know which sentences belong to with each other.

So, I do believe in short paragraphs of four or five sentences should be it.

Then Google will know these four or five sentences belong together. And this one is another piece of text. So, that helps Google to understand what your text is about.

And that could really pay off in the long run, for sales copy or if you want to convince someone to buy your product, I do believe in one sentence, paragraph. So, we have that.

So, I think that’s a difference between the informative pieces and sales copy, which I kind of think that the short sentences seem to work in newsletters and get people’s attention on those sentences.

Jillian Leslie 18:09
In terms of links and managing links. So, I’ve got my blog, and I’m in a certain niche, let’s say it’s cars. And I look at used cars and new cars. I don’t know that much about cars. But let’s say that I have these certain areas that I’m an expert in with cars.

And I’ve created a whole bunch of content around this. But now how do I think about hierarchies and linking stuff together? So, the Google goes, “Jillian man, she is the car expert.”

Think About Your Content Hierarchy

Marieke van de Rakt 18:53
First thing you need to be doing is to think about which articles are the most important ones to me, which do I really want to be found for. Because you’ll usually be writing a lot about similar topics.

And that will get Google confused. Because I don’t know, anything about cars.

Jillian Leslie 19:11
I know, let’s pick something we know about.

Marieke van de Rakt 19:16
I always take ballet shoes. I did ballet when I was younger.

Jillian Leslie 19:20
Okay. Let’s do ballet shoes.

Marieke van de Rakt 19:22
So, if you have like four or five articles about ballet shoes, it’s about a different topic. But pretty much focusing on the same key phrase, Google will get lost, it won’t know which one to show in the search results.

And if Google will get confused, you’ll probably end up ranking lower with all of them.

Jillian Leslie 19:41
Because they’re likely competing with each other.

Marieke van de Rakt 19:43
If you’re competing with your own content then. You should never compete with yourself. You have too many people competing with already so, never compete with yourself.

But what you should do is think about if I have four articles about ballet shoes, which one is the most important one. Focus on the most competitive term. Which could attract the most traffic, which one most resonates my mission of my website.

And then make sure that you link from all of the other ones focusing on similar topics hrough that one important one. Because what Google does is it follows links.

And if it sees all of these articles pointing towards that one important one. Then the Google spider will come around there pretty often because it follows it back and it comes again.

And then Google will know, this is the one that is most important. So, the way you structure your site gives Google important clues about where the most important content of your site is.

So, they will eventually rank that one.

Jillian Leslie 20:45
If I’ve got four articles about ballet shoes.

Marieke van de Rakt 20:49

Jillian Leslie 20:50
I shouldn’t be linking them all to each other?

Marieke van de Rakt 20:54
No, you should link them all to that one important one.

Jillian Leslie 20:59
Okay, but let’s say, there are two that are somewhat related, would I want to link those together?

Marieke van de Rakt 21:13
You can do that. Because it makes sense to link that way. But making one the most important one and take all of the other ones and link towards them kind of in a pyramid.

Will be clear to Google that that one gets the most internal links, which means it’s the most important one.

What is Cornerstone Content with SEO

Jillian Leslie 21:31
Hmm, and that you would call Cornerstone content?

Marieke van de Rakt 21:35
Yeah, the most important one. So, I always would make that the best one with a nice video in it and very lengthy and the best. So, that would be your Cornerstone content article.

And you would make sure that that one has the most internal links pointing towards them. Yes.

Jillian Leslie 21:51
So, if I am in a niche, how many of these cornerstone pieces of content could I have? Does it matter? Could it be a ton, or should you keep a certain number, so that Google understands?

Marieke van de Rakt 22:08
So, for each specific key phrase, you should only have one important article. And you should, test that every now and then. Do an internal search, you can do a search only on your website in Google.

And if a lot of articles turn up with the term ballet shoes, then you should make sure that only one of that is the cornerstone one. But maybe you have articles about ballet lessons as well. And you could do that again for that search term.

But for each specific search term, you should have like a pyramid. But you could have like a really big website. I don’t know how many cornerstone articles we have at Yoast. I think we have more than 20.

Because we have those different subjects. They all have little articles underneath them.

Is Google Really Smart?

Jillian Leslie 23:05
Do you feel like Google is really smart now?

Marieke van de Rakt 23:11
Sometimes I think they are and sometimes I think they’re not. So, it depends. They’re not smart in Dutch yet, but they are smarter. And they don’t understand Dutch.

So, you can get away with all the tricks that people in the United States were doing before because the Netherlands is such a small language area, I do think they’re getting better in understanding what a text is about.

But at the same time, they’re adding structured data, which is really important because Google doesn’t understand. So, if we see a recipe, we instantly see, oh, this is the number of calories. This is the preparation time. And we can get that just from reading.

What is Structured Data and Why Do I Need It?

And they’re much worse in getting that. So, they’re not that good in it. And they need structured data to do that. And that can really help you to get Google to understand your website if you do that correctly.

Jillian Leslie 24:05
Could you explain what structured data means?

Marieke van de Rakt 24:09
Structured data is a way of talking to Google. Telling Google, if you have a recipe, this piece of content is the preparation time. This piece of content is the number of ingredients. You have that for all kinds of categories.

And we’re slowly building it into Yoast SEO. We don’t have the recipe block yet. But we’ll get there. I think next year, we’ll look at that. We do have like the frequently asked questions blog.

And you can get that in such a format that Google will get you those nice frequently asked questions, results in the Google results. And we do some things automatically, you don’t have to do anything with them.

And we have some structured data blocks which help you to get the content in that specific format. So, the fact that structured data exists, kind of tells us that Google isn’t that smart because it needs help understanding your website.

But at the same time, we see it, recognizing words forms. So, it does know when a plural and a singular, it recognizes that. Past Tense it recognizes that. So, we do know that it’s getting better in language as well.

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Jillian Leslie 25:26
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Why You Need a Recipe Plugin

Jillian Leslie 26:18
I like that one thing we say to anybody. If you are doing recipes, and you want Google to find them. You must have a recipe plugin or at least add structured data because otherwise Google will not rank that. There’s absolutely no way that will get found.

And I do. So, I’m really liking Gutenberg, because the Gutenberg editor in WordPress, and in fact, then the Yoast blocks are showing up in my Gutenberg editor. And I thank you for that. Because it is a way now to tell Google exactly what my content is. So, it’s a win win.

Marieke van de Rakt 26:59
I will got a recipe blog and a jobs blog for people who, have job openings, you can have a special structured data for that. We’re building those. I think we’re building those, but we’re building a lot. So, I don’t know when it’s coming out.

Jillian Leslie 27:15
Are you building one for DIY’s? Do you have that?

Marieke van de Rakt 27:21
Yeah, we have ‘How To’s’.

Jillian Leslie 27:23
‘How To’s’?

Marieke van de Rakt 27:24
Yeah, we have our ‘How To’s’ and frequently asked questions. And I know that they’re building but that’s not coming in this year. We’re building recipes and jobs.

Jillian Leslie 27:37
That’s great.

Marieke van de Rakt 27:37
We’re going to do more of it. I know which ones. And recipes are also on our list.

Jillian Leslie 27:44
That’s terrific. Because those are again, anytime you can have a direct line to Google and say, “Hey, guys, this is what my content is about.” The better. It’s like, the more you can help Google the more Google will help you.

Marieke van de Rakt 28:00
Yeah, because it’s just kind of make sense of your website of the things you have in your website, which helps a lot.

Jillian Leslie 28:09
Now how do you think about as, a blogger? Bloggers, I think their scarcest resource is time. When you think about creating content. And what we’re talking about, especially when it comes to cornerstone content.

It’s a big undertaking to write a cornerstone piece of content. How do you recommend bloggers think about allocating time for writing content, maybe creating videos, and we haven’t talked about how Google sees videos.

And then you’ve got to push your content out on social media to get people to see it as well. And I do think Google picks up signals from social media to determine the quality of your content. So, what would be your advice?

Looking for new SEO advice to explode your traffic in 2021? Click on the link in bio to listen to this episode of The Blogger Genius Podcast with Jillian Leslie to learn how!

Why You Want to Invest in Quality Content

Marieke van de Rakt 29:01
Yeah, I think you’re right, it’s a hard thing to get. I would invest in quality content. So, that would have to be a large portion of your time, because in the end, you want traffic to your site.

And you want not only traffic the moment you publish, but also in the months after you publish. So, that is focusing on SEO and making sure that you get traffic from Google, I think, the best long-term strategy.

And of course, you need to get it out there on social media, and you’ll have to do something but it all starts with quality content.

So, I would advise to take the largest portion of your time and make sure your content is well optimized for the search engines because then you’ll have it for a long period of time.

I also believe in updating your content and not trying to come up with something new all the time. If you have a site, which is a little bit older, you probably have written amazing articles already.

And you could add something or update it and then just republish it again, because a lot of people will not have read it before. So, you can just relaunch your stuff. You could do that. If you make sure if it’s updated and still valid information.

Jillian Leslie 30:37
How much do you think you need to change for Google to really see this as new content? And then Google will, they’ll see this? They’re not going to ding you for having published it in 2015.

If you update it, they’re going to go, Oh, this is new content. But some people will go, well just, you know, swap out some photos, or some people go, “Well, I added a little text.”

Or some people just say, “I updated the date.” The publishing date. What is your thought about that?

Marieke van de Rakt 31:09
When we do ours, I think we rewrite 1/3rd. But I don’t know if that’s like a rule, I just think that you should make sure it’s adding value to your user. And in our case, if it’s SEO advice, something is changed during the time you published.

And it’s time you’re going to republish. So, you need to make sure that those things are taken care of in that article. I think the main issue here is does it add value to your reader at that point? Or is it just old information?

If it’s just old information? It’s not good enough. But if you’re really adding something to it, I don’t know how much you should change. I don’t know, I should make a rule of thumb for that.

I think we usually do like 1/4th or 1/3rd. What we do now a lot, and I think bloggers who have been blogging for quite some time will have the same thing. You’ve had so many blog posts, that you have that problem that you’re competing with yourself.

You could also combine two articles make one really great article out of that and republish that one. So, these are all kind of tactics to create content from old content.

The Value of Adding Video to Blog Posts

Jillian Leslie 32:28
Now, what about video? Do you recommend I’m updating a post that I put a video in it? And how does Google see that?

Marieke van de Rakt 32:36
Google isn’t that good in seeing video. YouTube is but Google isn’t. And Google and YouTube are the same thing. But I think for YouTube, as well, the description of your video is really important, because Google isn’t that good in understanding video yet.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not important because people liked video. So, I think you should add video, depending on your audience, of course. Because if you’re focusing on older audience, you probably will get away with doing less video.

But we’re doing video more and more as well, too. So, we’ve noticed that that’s helping our customers.

Jillian Leslie 33:15
Right. And it increases time on site and certain metrics that Google really looks to, to say, oh, are people engaged by this?

Marieke van de Rakt 33:25
Yeah. So, if your audiences are engaged by looking at video, you should add video to your website.

Jillian Leslie 33:38
I know, this is a hard question. But do you do try to hit a certain number of words, let’s say, cornerstone content is your most important content, because it’s really at the top of the pyramid.

And you want it to be as fleshed out as you possibly can? So that it answers all of the questions somebody might have about that topic. How many words?

Marieke van de Rakt 34:04
I think we have that in our plugin. But I don’t know, you have 1000?

Jillian Leslie 34:08
No, you have like 350 I think.

Marieke van de Rakt 34:10
That’s for the normal articles.

Jillian Leslie 34:12

How Many Words Should Your Cornerstone Content Be

Marieke van de Rakt 34:13
You can check a box. And then you’ll get the Cornerstone content checks. And we’re a little bit more strict there. Because it has to be like perfect, and I think we say 1000 or 1200. But I don’t know what we’re saying. I don’t know our own advice.

I think it’s 1000. It should be a long read. So, I think 1000, 1200 words that could be like a cornerstone content article. Adding video. We released today. We now called it a digital story. Which has like a little quiz in it and it has multiple videos.

And it has infographics and stuff that’ll make for engaging content. That’ll make your cornerstone standout, I think.

Jillian Leslie 35:03

Marieke van de Rakt 35:03
That will make people want to link towards it. So other people as well, that’s just the plan. I think those types of contents could be like, really something but you have to make something that’s really awesome in order to get people to link to you.

Jillian Leslie 35:24
Yes. And so, when we think about Google authority, so that Google knows, okay, we’re the ballet people, we’re the experts in ballet, that we’ve built up our authority.

And I guess, SEO is also a long game, meaning if we had started in 2009, writing articles about ballet, chances are, we would have much more authority.

Marieke van de Rakt 35:52
Yeah, that’s totally true. So, it’s, like, how long are you are in your field, the higher chances are that you’re going to rank high, you also have like, brand authority. So, if your brand is something that people trust, or have a lot of that, that’ll help as well?

Yeah, that’s a hard thing to come by, to get authority. I don’t think it’s impossible for a new blog, you’ll need to yeah, you’ll need to do a lot to get to that same level as people who have been in your niche for a long time.

Jillian Leslie 36:30
Do you have any advice to scale that mountain faster?

Marieke van de Rakt 36:39
How’d you do that? Work together with people that are already in the fields. You could do a little link building in a way that it’s intended. So, reach out to people ask them to link to your content.

Write really awesome content. Make something that people will want to link to that will help. And just stick it out. Because I think in the end, new brands will always have a chance in the search engines, but it will take a while before you get there.

Jillian Leslie 37:14
And one thing that I continue to hear from SEO’s is your traffic from Google is more valuable than your traffic from social networks in terms of ad revenue.

Marieke van de Rakt 37:27
I don’t know that. I think it will. And I think the organic traffic is just really important, and maybe also something that people rely on rather than ads. People have a lot of ad banners.

So, having traffic just from the organic search result is something that kind of feels authentic or something. So, I would always focus on having and making sure to be found in the search engines rather than just focusing on ads.

Jillian Leslie 38:07
Now, let’s talk about Yoast for a second. So, we use the free version of Yoast. What would I get in the paid version that I’m not getting in the free version? Because I am getting those Gutenberg snippet box things.

Marieke van de Rakt 38:23
Lots. You’ll get help with your internal linking. So, we do internal linking suggestions and help you to set up the internal linking correctly. You’ll get word from recognition. So, in the free version, which is the most important thing, I think.

In the free version, you have an analysis, which doesn’t take into account plurals and past tense and word order, which can make it.

Jillian Leslie 38:49

Marieke van de Rakt 38:50
Yeah, so our premium analysis does that. And it does that in 12 languages, which we are going to release Hebrew tomorrow, which is amazing. I really like the fact that we’re doing that. So that’s really language specific.

And, we do that in the premium analysis, you get a redirect manager, which helps you to get those 404’s redirected nicely. And as of next week, and I haven’t told this to anyone, you’ll get our full access to our Yoast Academy.

So, we have courses, we have some free courses, and we have premium courses. And you used to have to buy those courses, but we’re integrating them in our premium product. So, if you buy premium, you also get access to all of those courses.

Jillian Leslie 39:40
Oh, that’s wonderful.

Marieke van de Rakt 39:43
Help you with all the other things that are hard to do.

Jillian Leslie 39:48
Okay. Do you have any advice for bloggers who are either just starting out, or in the midst of this process, and maybe you’re feeling frustrated?

Focus on Getting Found in Your Niche

Marieke van de Rakt 40:01
It can be frustrated, because if you’re just starting out, you can’t compete with the big guys yet. So, I would say focus on what you’re good at. So, maybe if you’re in ballet shoes, and you are in a very specific niche, focus on getting found in your specific niche.

Focus on getting traffic, that is probably on search terms that are not that competitive, but you are able to rank for. Because the traffic you’ll be getting are those people that are searching exactly for the product you’re offering or the blog post you’re writing.

So, that could give you audiences that are really engaged. And if you’re able to write a lot of these specific niche articles, and have traffic from there.

Then you can also try to write something that’s focused on a little bit more competitive a little bit more head term. And then slowly, make sure to link towards that one most important one and get those long-tail articles.

Which we tell them focus on those very specific search terms help you get traffic to that most important one.

So, I would always focus on easy going after search terms, making sure to get that traffic and then going up to more competitive search terms. And then in the end world domination.

Jillian Leslie 41:35
I love that. So, it’s starting small, starting very niche. So you’re in a niche, and you really answer one specific question that the bigger players in your niche are not going to go after. But if you go after that, you can win that word, those key words.

And then you start to string them together. Somebody described to me is like a tree and leaves. And you start though with the leaves. And then slowly you can build branches.

And then the tree trunk are those huge keywords, maybe you’ll leave and never get there. But maybe you could make a smaller tree and have a small tree trunk,

Marieke van de Rakt 42:24
Oh, all those little leaves could end up with a lot of traffic together. Because there are small niches but you’ll get the right people to your site. Altogether that could be like, a whole lot of traffic.

And then in the end, you’ll be able to compete with more competitive terms as well. So, that’s always the way that I would focus on going into a new niche. Or something that you don’t have any authority in. Start low and build up.

Or if you have a local business starts ranking locally, rather than trying to get at nationally, because locally usually is far easier to rank for.

Jillian Leslie 43:12
I think that is great, great advice. And I think it gives people who are just starting out or people who feel like they’re stuck a direction, because now you can go to Ubersuggest, or you can use the SEMrush words in Yoast.

And you can do research to figure out what keywords you want to go after. And then go after those. It’s funny because I have a friend who’s a female SEO and she loves the whole gamifying of going after keywords.

I think that most people in my audience don’t find that interesting. But if you can find that fun, like oh my god, I could win this keyword and then you go after it.

And then you see in your analytics, like in your search console, like I’m winning that. I think there’s something satisfying I think there is a goal.

Marieke van de Rakt 44:11
It is. And it’s also satisfying if you get this nice rich snippet in your in the search results. If you have Windows, we’re still getting excited of that as well.

If we have like a featured snippet or something. You don’t have those very often you’ll gain a lot of traffic to your site just by having that one. I like the game as well.

Jillian Leslie 44:35
Absolutely. And the snippets remember, in Google, when you search for something there the results that come up special. The answer to the question or the recipe with the little recipe card, whatever those are called rich snippets.

And getting those you can gamify it you can work toward optimizing your content to try to get that snippet. And again, it might be that you’re the snippets that show up when you search for ballet slippers. And my results might be different.

Meaning just because you’ve gotten it doesn’t mean you’ve gotten it for the world. And they’re hard to keep, like you got to keep working at maintaining your position to continue. Because Google is always testing stuff. However, it can be fun.

And it can be a way to work toward goals so that it doesn’t feel like you’re just putting stuff out there. And you’re not even sure if anybody is seeing it. There’s a real feeling. I call it like you’re yelling into the abyss.

And you’re not sure there’s anybody out there paying attention to you. And I think going small is a way to get a number of people to start paying attention to you.

Marieke van de Rakt 45:47
I think so too. And then from that, you can work your way up. But you should. If you’re like in the travel business, I have this friend who offers tickets to the Inca Trail, which is in Peru close to Machu Picchu.

And there are like really big brands there in that business that she was unable to compete with. But she started small. Having her husband from Peru, and he was like a guide there.

And they could really get into the fact that they offer family friendly routes, and they had someone from the area. And they focused on that and wrote blog posts on that. And they were really successful up until COVID, which totally ruined everything.

But they really attracted a lot of sites and they were able to make a living out of that before COVID. And that’s a really competitive business, the travel industry, but you can make it if you find your own niche and find where you’re special at.

Jillian Leslie 46:57
I like that, find your niche, find where you’re special and dig in, dig in. And is I always say this. It’s a long slog. I remember when we were building our site, Catch My Party, and we had reached I think 30,000 pageviews.

And my husband turned to me and he said, “Oh my god, this is like the size of our town.” And I was like, “We’ve arrived we’re there.” And he goes, “Oh, no, no, we need to get this number to a million.” And I was like so deflated.

And he turned to me and he thought it was comforting. And he goes, “No, it’s just a long slog.” And it is people joke that it’s a grind. And I don’t mean to make these words super negative.

But I do feel like it is about commitment. It is something you show up for. And you chip away at and if you do it strategically, with a plan, you can really see success, but it is about again, consistency showing up and doing the work.

Marieke van de Rakt 48:00
Yeah. Some people say that SEO is seriously effortful optimization. It’s not. It’s not easy. It’s just a lot of work.

Jillian Leslie 48:09
Absolutely. Well, this has been so delightful. Okay. So, Marieke. Did I do it? Did I say it right? I’ve been practicing. If people would want to reach out to you with questions what can they do?

Marieke van de Rakt 48:25
Well, you can find me on Twitter. I’m @MariekeRakt. So that’s the founder in my name is not in my Twitter. Of course, I have my own blog. But I’m not blogging regularly. I should blog more. That’s marieke.blog.

At Yoast, you can read a lot about me. I write a lot of blog posts there as well. So that’s yoast.com. That’s about it. I think I’m on Instagram, my Facebook, and I’m very active there.

Jillian Leslie 48:52
Great. Well, I have to say, thank you so much for being on the show.

Marieke van de Rakt 48:57
You’re welcome. I enjoyed it very much.

Jillian Leslie 49:01
I hope you guys like that episode. My biggest takeaway is that SEO does not have to be that hard. And it’s not that technical. It is about making smart choices upfront. So, it’s what long-tail keywords you go after.

It’s how you build out your traffic. It’s how you structure your content. It’s how you think about your niche. And really, it’s all about serving your audience.

For those of you who want to accelerate your growth in 2021. And you’re thinking about joining our upcoming groups starting January 12. Please get on a call with me.

I would love to talk to you head to milotree.com/meet and that’s a link to my calendar and you can pick a time that works for you. And I’ll get to hear all about what your goals and your dreams are. And I’ll see you here again next week.

Other Blogger Genius Podcast Episodes About SEO You Might Be Interested In:

#073: How to Up Your SEO Game to Get Even More Traffic with Camille Whiting

#068: Explode Your Traffic Using Simple SEO Tips with Jeff Hawley

#067: 6 Easy Hacks To Get More Traffic To Your Blog

#047: One New Strategy that Will Grow Your Traffic with Deepak Shukla

#038: How to Gain Mega Free Traffic with the SEO Skyscraper Technique with Deepak Shukla

#013: What Bloggers Need to Know to WIN at SEO with David Christopher

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