What Owners Need to Know About SEO -John Paglio

What Owners Need to Know About SEO - John Paglio

Do you ever wonder why your website doesn’t appear at Google? Why your competitors show up in all the local searches? John Paglio, Digital Marketing Specialist from flyte new media, is our guest today and breaks down what you need to do to get to the top of the first page of Google.

Rich: Our next guest is certified in both Google Analytics and Google Ads. However, his true passion is in helping Maine businesses take over page one on Google with advanced strategies for SEO, local SEO, and paid search. He has presented on digital marketing topics throughout New England, including leading popular workshops at The Agents of Change conference here in Portland, as the digital marketing specialist at flyte new media, he helps companies throughout Maine and throughout the U.S. out think, outlast, and outrank the competition. Today, we’re going to dive into what you need to know about search engine optimization with John Paglio. John, how you doing today?

John: I’m good, Rich. How are you?

Rich: Excellent.

John: It’s like you got like a little Survivor reference in there, too. It’s like you knew I love Survivor.

Rich: Do you know what’s funny is, I haven’t watched Survivor since season one. So I guess that was just random.

John: Out wit, out play, outlast.

Yury: That is awesome. Well John, we’re delighted to have you on the show and I feel like you are the best kept secret at the flyte new media, and you’re the mastermind behind a lot of successful initiatives. Not just for the customers and the clients who applied, but also for flyte new media itself.

So speaking about flyte new media and everything digital. Can you tell me a little bit about how did you find yourself focusing on search engine optimization as well as local SEO?

John: Yeah. Well first of all, thank you Yury, that’s very nice of you to say. I kind of really just, it fell into me. Getting a degree in marketing, you kind of don’t really know where you want to go with things. So you start in one area. I started in social media and knowing that I don’t have a single creative bone in my body, I figured that I can’t create social media graphics. I can’t do a lot of those things. So I started to lean more towards the research portion of everything, as well as the analytics and really diving deeper into analytics. That’s kind of where SEO became apparent as well as local SEO, because it’s just as big, especially being in Maine. You know, so many local businesses are vying for that first page. And then also I’m super competitive. So trying to get to that page one top three, top one. I want to be there for every single client we work with.

Yury: Fantastic. That’s awesome. Plus, it’s very visible, right? You know, you’re not on page one, you know that something isn’t working.

John: You know you have some work to do.

Rich: John, I would argue the point that you’re not creative, but I understand that people who are creative in different ways sometimes don’t see themselves as creative. But we’ll leave that, we’ll leave that aside for right now.

A lot of business owners know they need SEO, but they don’t exactly know what that means. So how do you explain SEO to someone who really hasn’t focused on it in the past?

John: You start with your website. You start with looking at your website and how you want to position yourself. So let’s just say you’re a nursing home in the area, how do you want to position your services? Are you a long-term skilled facility? Are you a memory care facility? And then from there you need to start developing out your service pages to be that foundation, to prove that you are the best in Portland, Maine, and South Portland and Bangor, wherever. And then from there you want to start snowballing that into your blogs, with your blogs being educational, informational.

So if people aren’t really ready to bring in their loved one into a nursing home, blog posts are a great way to just continue to educate them. So when they are ready to make a decision, you’re right there at the top of mind. And then if we’re talking with the local front, you want to look at your Google My Business and make sure that is all fully up to date, name, address, phone number, business hours, website, everywhere that you can be found and just kind of looking at it. And then lastly, there’s the keywords, just going back to your services as well. You want to tie all of your keywords into your services.

Yury: When you talk about key words and services, how do I know what is the right keyword? Like, do I need to focus on understanding my audience first, before I truly understand the services that I render to that audience? Like, where is the right balance? Is there a formula or a frame of reference that I need to have so I can understand what I need to work on?

John: Yeah, totally. So what I always tell people, whether they’re clients or I’m just consulting with people is take your broad keywords, take the top of funnel keyword that someone might be looking for, like ‘nursing homes’ or ‘long-term care’. Let’s just say type in ‘long-term care’, and then a local identifier, Portland, Maine, and then start looking at those top results and then start looking at who’s ranking the top five, or even top seven for those results. And then going to their website and seeing how they’re breaking down their services, you can start to see a trend.

And then on the flip side of that, start talking to your customers or your clients, how did they find you, or what were they looking for that you were able to sell them on or where competitors were getting the upper hand. And there’s also a bunch of tools out there as well that you can do this research for.

Rich: Before we dive into the tools, you brought up an interesting thing, because you said nursing homes. And I know – because before I started flyte new media I actually worked with a company that worked with nursing homes – is nursing homes don’t want to be called ‘nursing homes’ anymore. So what do you say to clients who they want to rank for a keyword that’s not appropriate or they don’t want to use a keyword, but all their customers are searching for that keyword? What advice do you give somebody like that?

John: So you want to stay true to who you are and you’re going back to your whole brand identity. If you’re not calling yourself a nursing home, that’s totally fine. But you want to make sure that there is some mentions of being a nursing home or using those industry specific keywords. Maybe not at the top of the SEO food chain in your title tag, your meta description, but making sure it’s in your copy. Or write a blog post about why we aren’t a nursing home, or something along those lines, so you’re able to explain why you don’t like being a nursing home or calling yourselves a nursing home. And then as well kind of educating everybody else about, are you assisted living, are you a long term care facility, that type of stuff.

Rich: Right. For people who might still be searching on nursing homes, because that was the term they grew up with and they didn’t realize that your industry has evolved since then.

John: Right. And then you can also, you know, Google trends is out there and you can kind of see, are people still searching for nursing homes or are they now searching for assisted livings more than nursing homes.

Yury: John, I have a question and please help me understand, I hear so many different search references. There is a local search engine optimization, then there is organic search engine optimization and there is also paid search. What are those categories? How are they similar and how are they different? And if there is one, what should I focus on if I’m starting fresh with SEO?

John: Yeah. So you’ve named three ways that you can rank on search on the search result.

Yury: Is there more?

John: Oh, there is more. There’s at least, off the top of my head, I can think of seven or eight. So there’s paid search, there’s organic search, there’s local search, there’s videos. So YouTube owns Google now, so YouTube videos are being pulled into the search results page.

Rich: Image search.

John: Thank you, Rich. As well as the featured snippets, which are kind of new, which are considered position zero, and we can get into that later. But if you’ve ever typed in a question on Google and it kind of gives you that knowledge panel at the top of Google, that’s a featured snippet, and Google’s telling you that this is the best result for your given search query.

Anyways, going back to organic search versus local search versus paid search. Paid search is when you have to pay for those clicks. Depending on the industry you’re in it can be super competitive where I’ve seen $13 to $20 a click that you’re paying for those keywords to be at the top.

Yury: Or $25 to $35 in banking, for example.

John: Yeah. I’ve also seen as low as like $0.50 cents to a dollar in other industries. It just depends on how competitive your industry is with paid search. With organic search and local search. There’s really not that much of a difference. The biggest difference is just making sure that there’s some sort of city or state identifier or location identifier in your copy, in your title tags and meta descriptions. Because when people are searching, Google knows where you are, assuming your location services are on your phone or on your computer. Google’s going to serve you local results, whether you like them or not.

If I’m searching for a car dealership, Google knows I’m in Portland. So they’re going to serve me the closest car dealerships to my current location. So as long as you’ve set your website up in a way where you talk about your location, not only your city and your state, but maybe like Southern Maine or Northern new England, or you start talking about landmarks that you’re around or streets that you’re near. That is a great way for Google to understand where you actually are. So when people are searching for w services or products in a location, you’re going to be able to be found.

Rich: So John, if I’m understanding you. Beyond just like a Google My Business getting listed places on your website, we should be talking if we have a local business – obviously, if this is a SaaS product that doesn’t matter – but if we’ve got a local business, anything from a pizza place to a CPA to a locksmith, we should be talking about the geographic area around us. And if that’s the case, what happens when we have multiple locations? Should we create a page for every single location? And if so, how robust should those pages be?

John: Yeah, I would highly recommend creating location pages. And whether they’re in your navigation or not, that’s totally your web developer’s call how you want to do it. But you want to make sure that they can be found via Google’s bots and crawlers. Whether it’s a navigation item where it says ‘locations’ and you just click it and then all of your pages show up. And then on those pages, it depends on how different each location is. Do you have different managers at each location, do you have different hours at each location? And if so, it’s all about that transparency and the user experience.

So if I’m coming to your Portland branch, I want to know who I’m talking with. And maybe it’s just your higher ups, your manager, assistant manager, whoever like three or four people. But then also get into the photos of that actual store storefront and just a few paragraphs of copy talking about why you should be choosing the Portland store.

I want to go back for a second. I don’t want people to just start stuffing location keywords in their copy. It needs to flow naturally and I see a lot of people just saying, “Oh, we need to add Portland in as many sentences as we can.” It just won’t work. And where that was the case maybe 10 years ago where keyword stuffing was appropriate or towed the line with Google, Google doesn’t want that anymore and Google will flag you very quickly if you’re just kind of typing Portland, Portland, Portland, Portland.

Yury: John, the things that you’re talking about like creating new pages, being location specific as well as mindful of the context of your copy and the keywords stuffing. What would you consider a short term strategy and what is the long strategy or what can drive faster results? You know, if I’m new or I’m just trying to be more competitive in the market?

John: Well there are no fast results when it comes to SEO. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Where Google can almost add your page almost instantly to Google search results, but really climbing that ladder to be number one or even number five, or even on the first page is going to take some time. So where I always tell clients to start is always start with a title tags and meta descriptions. So on the search result page, it’s the blue link, that’s your title tag. And then the few sentences below it is your meta description. That’s what Google looks at the most or weighs the most when it’s trying to decide who to rank at the top of the search results.

So if there’s one thing that you can do right away, it’s making sure that your title tags and meta descriptions are set and that they’re set with keywords that are about your services, your products, or your brand. And then for the longer term play, making sure the copy on all your services and product pages are strong, it’s not just one paragraph. Making sure all your services are broken out on separate pages, making sure that you’re writing blog posts on a timely fashion, whether that’s monthly or weekly or biweekly, whatever you want, however much you want to write. You just want to make sure that you’re adding new content to your website, because the more new content you add to your website, Google recognizes how often you add that new content and values that.

Yury: What are the other elements that are important? Does Google pay close attention to traffic to your website, or the back links from other credible sources? What are your thoughts on that?

John: Yeah. So Google definitely pays attention to your links. And for the last four years, it’s been the number one ranking factor is inbound links to your site that are high authority. Rich and I have gone back and forth a lot about link building and how do we do it effectively. Because there’s a lot of companies out there that you’ll get emails from or calls and you’re like, “I can get you these links for X amount of money”.

Anytime that you pay for a link, you need to know that’s illegal. You need to make sure that those links are coming in a somewhat good fashion where Google appeases by it. So you need to be reaching out to people and being like, “Do you want to link to this? This is a great blog post, and you should definitely link to this.” But it gets really tedious because they could say no seven times and you just need to keep kind of reaching out to people, whether it’s new sources, or other blog posts in your industry. It’s a very tedious game, but if you can get it down, it can have a very good long term effect.

Yury: So if I’m thinking about Fast Forward Maine and speaking about those back links. If other websites that may find Fast Forward Maine resources valuable and credible, place a link back to Fast Forward Maine, that would be considered a back link from a credible resource. And that credible resource can be somebody’s blog or an organization or other kind of business that recognize us as a valuable resource to their visitors?

John: Correct. Exactly. And better yet, you want them linking back to the episode that they found educational.

Rich: Not just the homepage then.

John: Not just the homepage. That’s where a lot of links go and that’s great, but you want to make sure that when someone’s on another website and they’re coming to your website, you want to make sure that they’re coming to something that they will find helpful, not just the homepage. And then I have to go navigate to episode four to cause that’s the episode I want to look at or listen to.

Rich: So John, you mentioned that these inbound links are valuable. Google sees them as a signal that this is valuable content and that’ll help our search engine optimization. But you also told us that going out and getting links is kind of like just a grind. What tactics or techniques have you discovered that might be a little easier that people who maybe aren’t SEO experts could use to get those inbound links?

John: There are two ways that I’ve found can help get inbound links. Now it’s not like the end all be all, but the two things that I found is sending every blog post that you publish out to your email list. It can be very helpful because you never know who’s on your email list. So you could be sending that out to the president of the nursing home association and you don’t know that they’re on your email list, but now they’re taking your piece of content about why we don’t like to be called a nursing home and they’re sending it out to all of the nursing homes across the state. And now they’re coming back to your website to read the content. And now you’re being shown as that authoritative figure in the assisted living long-term care facility space.

And then the second way is also kind of in the same arena is sharing it on social media. Because once again, you just never know who’s going to share it on social media. We have a client who runs a coffee shop down in Kennebunk and Staples picked them up because one of the higher ups at Staples loved the reopening video they made and wanted to share it with their entire Staples small business segment. And I think that was a million plus email subscribers.

So sometimes the link would go back to social media, which always isn’t the best play, but you’re getting more eyes on your blog posts. The more people you can get eyes on a blog post, the better, because like I said you just never know really know – it’s out of your hands at that point – but there’s two examples right there where it could easily get spun into a newsletter, or it could get spun onto another blog post, like a best of blog posts and you could be number seven on that blog post. And now you have a link back to your site from Staples.

Yury: Gotcha. That is a very great example, John. I appreciate that. So when we talk about blog posts and search and websites, we’re ultimately talking about content or words, right? And earlier you said that there are some tools that can help people discover the words that are being used relevant to specific topics. So can you talk a little bit about those tools and how exactly do they work and ultimately, what’s the value and the benefit of using those tools?

John: Yeah, most definitely. Where most tools are paid or a freemium version where you get so much free and then you have to pay for it, where I always start is Google Keyword Planner. It is a free tool that is supposed to be used for Google ads and how you frame your Google ads. But a lot of marketers use it for their SEO because what it gives you is it gives you search volume and it gives you difficulty. So the search volume is monthly. So you can see what keywords are being searched for thousands of times a month or even 20 times a month. And then the difficulty where it is a paid search metrics. So the difficulty is usually just telling you low, medium or high. And that’s how many people are bidding on a keyword.

But I like to spin it and think about, okay, if this keyword has low paid search competition that means there’s not a lot of noise at the top of the page. So I know that we can start ranking well and we’re not going to be buried. You know, we may be the first position, but if there’s four ads at the top of the page, technically we’re in the fifth position, and is anybody ever going to get that far. Who knows, it just depends. So that’s the kind of the free tool that I like to start with.

And then here at flyte, I like to use Moz and Ahrefs the most as paid tools. It just lets me dig deeper into certain keywords. It gives me content suggestions so I can type in a keyword and it will spit out all the blog posts that were written about that piece of content. And it will show me that those keywords that those blogs are ranking for, and then you can kind of formulate a whole matrix, so to speak, for a certain blog post. So if you have 15 keywords, here’s the title, here’s the meta description. And then you can hand it off to your copywriter or whoever writes copy at your business and they can go for it.

Yury: What about what about Google Trends? Is it still a relevant tool or what do you think?

John: Google Trends is definitely still relevant. I’m not sure, I don’t use it a whole lot. As Rich was saying earlier, how nursing homes don’t like to be called nursing homes anymore, they’re trying to move away from that name. So that’s where I would go to Google Trends. Are people still searching for Google Trends? And you can do Google Trends nursing home versus assisted living, or nursing home versus long-term care facility. And you can see what’s being searched for more.

And a lot of people get discouraged when they put in their keywords and they notice that there’s 30 to 40 monthly searches and people shouldn’t be discouraged by that because if those are your keywords, those are your keywords. So you need to go after them.

I talk to my customers or clients all the time about if you can get 10 of those 30 onto your website, and then five of those tend to convert on your website, that could be huge. Depending on what industry you’re in, two or three clients can really put you over your quota for the month or the quarter, or even the year.

Yury: Those three that you didn’t have before.

John: Right. Right.

Rich: Right. Some clients might be worth $5 and other clients might be worth $50,000. And it really does depend on your industry. And I agree with you, like sometimes that small search volume is reflective of an industry that you only need a few clients. And that’s just the nature of that particular business.

John: Yeah.

Rich: John, we’ve been talking about Google and Google tools. Is it all about Google, or should we be paying any attention to Bing and some of these other search engines?

John: Bing is definitely getting there. There is a market share in Bing. I believe Bing holds like a third of all searches or maybe a little higher than that, of all searches. Because if you think about it, any Microsoft product is Bing, it defaults to a Bing search. So any phone, any laptop, tablet.

Rich: I think Siri might tap into that too, because they don’t want to use Google.

Yury: Yeah. Alexa uses Bing for their search results. Right?

John: I’m not sure I don’t have an Alexa, so I don’t know. I try to keep those things out of my house. But yeah, Bing is definitely getting there. They’re like the Northeast where everything happens on the west and it takes three years to get to the Northeast. Google and Bing are kind of like that too, where Google does something first and Bing is still like two years behind, maybe or a year.

But look into your analytics. If you’re noticing that your Bing traffic is increasing, that’s great. Bing has webmaster tools, just like Google does. So like Google Search Console, upload your site map to Bing, make sure you can be found on Bing and just kind of, there is no different SEO tactic for Google to Bing, it’s the same thing. You know, SEO is SEO regardless of the search engine, but you just want to make sure that your website is being found on Bing as well as your location. Google My Business and Bing locations are one in the same because once you set up your Google My Business, you can actually just link it to Bing. You can just pull all the information into Bing and you don’t need to fill out anything else.

Rich: Well, so what I’m hearing is the tactics don’t need to be any different. What we’re doing for Google is just good for search in general. On your point though, it’s interesting because I was just listening to this audio book that talked about advertising based on browser. And it turns out that people who use Internet Explorer are more likely to use common brands as opposed to high end brands. And basically the idea was, if you have a high end craft beer, you should not advertise to people using Internet Explorer on average. You should advertise to people using Chrome or Firefox, because those are people who go out of their way to find something better. Where people who use Chrome – so if you’re advertising Budweiser – probably you should just focus your attention on people who use Internet Explorer because they just go with what’s in front of them. Bing is the default search engine for a lot of people. So I wonder if it depends on your industry.

John: And the Bing searched, demographics skew older. So the older generations use Bing. And my theory is they just don’t change their browser whenever they get a phone or a laptop, they just kind of use the browser that they have.

So I work with a financial planner and we’re doing Bing ads because we’re going after people who are looking into retirement, and we know that the older demographic is on Bing so we’re putting money towards Bing ads that are just like Google ads as well.

Rich: Fascinating.

Yury: You guys, we talked a little bit about the difference between Google and Bing. But for location listings, are there any sites that are more important for us? Like, we know Google obviously, Google My Business, but what about solutions like Yelp or Yellow Pages or some other resources in that particular category?

John: Yeah, there’s a lot of high ranking, authoritative links or citation sites that can bring links back to your website, but they’re also not valued very high. So if we’re thinking about getting links back to our website, it’s great that we get all these citation sources. So if we’re thinking about high ranking citations, Yelp is definitely a good one. Facebook, surprisingly enough, because people are searching Facebook more and more. They’re using that search bar at the top of Facebook to search, especially locally, like ‘what to do in Portland, Maine this weekend’, or ‘bakeries in Portland, Maine’, or whatever. And you want to make sure that your listings are showing up on Facebook as well. Yellow pages is another good one, Bing is like the third biggest one, just because it is a search engine.

And Apple Maps is starting to kind of make a search to the prolific citations. People are using maps more and more on their phone. They’re not using their GPS or their Garmin anymore, they’re using their phones to get around. And I believe I was going to say Waze uses Apple Maps, but I’m not sure about that.

Rich: No, I think Waze is owned by Google.

John: Okay. So that just kind of makes it even better that you should have a Google My Business location, because if Waze uses it, a lot of people use Waze as well.

And then we get into the niche citations. So like if you’re a restaurant, Open Table. Or if you’re in the tourism industry, you want to make sure you’re on TripAdvisor. In the car dealerships, I think it’s like Dealer World or something like that. So there’s a lot of niche citation websites that you can be on and just making sure that you’re finding those places. And if you’re not going to drive traffic to leave reviews there, you just want to make sure that you have a profile there. And just making sure that when Google crawls all these different citations, that the address is consistent, the name is consistent, as well as the website.

Rich: John, this has been very helpful. There is a point in every episode where we ask our business experts this very question, so I’m going to pose it to you. If you could change one thing to improve the business ecosystem here in the state of Maine, what would it be?

John: Well, this might be my millennial side coming out, but I think it’s the importance of all businesses knowing that they need to have an online presence. Whether it is a functional website, or looking at social media more. There’s how many different platforms now that we can be on? Find one or two that make sense for your business model and be there, making sure that people know who you are, not just by driving and pointing at a building, but making sure that you have your presence felt online. Posting blog posts, they’re posting company outings, company news, new hires, just making sure that transparency level is there with an online presence and paying attention to reviews.

You want to make sure that if people are having a good time wherever they are, you want to make sure that you’re telling your staff about it. Or if they’re having a bad time, figure out how to fix it, and then kind of bring it to light yourself instead of letting the media bring it to light or a bunch of trolls, just kind of hitting your website or just bashing you online without you even knowing it. You really just need to understand that having an online presence is just going to get bigger in 2021, 2022, so on and so forth.

Yury: Awesome. John, that was a very helpful and insightful conversation. I really appreciate you coming on the show. Rich, thank you for finally releasing the biggest secret of flyte new media and letting us grill John on his knowledge. John, if our listeners want to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about local search and paid organic search, where can they find you?

John: The best place to find me would be LinkedIn, John Paglio on LinkedIn, probably.

Yury: Fantastic. Thank you, John.

Rich: Thanks, John.

John: All right, guys. Thanks so much.

Rich: And that was great having John on the show, he definitely knows his stuff. I know some of that conversation might be nerdy if you’re not really into SEO. So if you do want to kind of review everything that John said, we’ve got a full transcript at our website. You can find that at fastforwardmaine.com/ 56, while you’re there, feel free to link to it from your own website directly to that page.

All right. This is the part of the episode where we do “fast takes” where we talk about the lessons we learned today. So Yury, what was your fast take?

Yury: My fast take, that search engine optimization, Regardless of the way you approach it whether it’s paid or organic, it should be viewed like everything in life. It’s a journey, it’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint. So prepare to do some due diligence, prepare to understand your personas, your customers, and most importantly, understand what type of language and words they use in order for you to succeed in the very competitive marketplace. So that is my fast take. Rich, what about you, what is your ‘fast take”?

Rich: Well, as we mentioned, John works with me and John and I both get pretty nerdy and passionate about SEO. So a lot of this stuff is conversations that we have had in the past. So I guess my fast take was my big surprise that Bing is a thing. Like honestly, I never think about Bing at all. But based on that book that I mentioned that we were talking about, and John’s comment today, that depending on your industry you may want to take a look at Bing and see if you should be maybe spending some money there or finding out what you need to do to use their webmaster tools. So be very aware of some of these secondary search engines as well.