Meet WebinArt mentor Martha Moger, aka The Stitch Writer. Now collaborating with us for the second year running, Martha is freelance copywriter who loves creative business. She helps makers and independent brands to flourish by finding the words to show what they do.
Huge thanks to Martha for very kindly allowing us to re-blog her original article from her website - https://www.thestitchwriter.com/
When I sold things on the internet, I feared a slow death by boredom if anything about SEO crossed my line of sight. At the same time, I was also having trouble getting my products found online.
It’s because of that experience that I never want anyone else to feel the same and it’s been my inspiration to try and decipher SEO for creatives since then.
A lot of stuff about SEO might feel too hard or boring to try and understand but to me, people getting to see more of your work and fall more in love with it can’t be boring. If you do SEO right, it will bring you better traffic and customers.
Of course, in SEO-land, things get out of date really fast. And sometimes the articles you find are either irrelevant or just too shallow (how many times have I read that I’m supposed to blog because “it’s good for SEO” with no explanation on why or how?!)
So, this guide is setting out to NOT be all of those things.
It’s not hard, it’s not boring, it goes deep and tells you why. It’s me, reading up on what the industry experts are saying RIGHT NOW and bringing everything I’ve written about SEO up to date in language that the creative movers and shakers of this world will understand. If you want to read more in-depth then I’ve put links to all the sources of my research at the end of this post.
In each section I’ve outlined an SEO trend for 2020, then nailed down some practical ideas you can try. If you want to download the entire thing, for free, to read later on, click here to subscribe.
Part One: Move Over Keywords, Hello User Intent
Keywords used to be what getting found online was all about.
What’s a keyword? - a word or set of words (known as a ‘long-tail keyword’) that someone might be searching for. For example ‘modern cross stitch kit’ or ‘9ct gold engraved bangle’.
In the old days (like, 10 years ago..) it was possible to rank on Google by stuffing copy full of keywords, even if it didn’t read well or make sense. But those times are long gone and these days will get you, at best, ignored and at worst, buried in search results never to be heard of again.
In 2020, Google is focused on delivering better, more valuable answers to the things people are truly searching for. In other words, it’s trying to understand and deliver the answer to the true need or want the searcher had in the very moment they made their enquiry.
These searches will be based on one of these three ‘intents’:
A search for a specific place (navigation)
A search to find something out (information)
A search to do or buy something (transaction)
To get started working out user intent, try typing a phrase into Google, for example ‘beginner cross stitch kits’. The top results are all links to products. In other words, people’s main intention is to buy a kit.
When you scroll down a little you’ll see this, which tells you the kind of questions beginners have about cross stitch.
And when you scroll right down to the bottom you’ll see this, which tells you some of the other things that are important to the searcher. Look for common words or themes to help yourself put together a picture of the user’s intent.
According to content strategist and expert Beth Gladstone
"The best tip I could give for thinking about SEO in 2020 is to swap keyword research for user research. Keyword research is important but it often leads to us "keyword stuffing" and thinking more about getting the right keywords in place, than thinking about how best to position our product/service in the customer's mind.
How to start? Think about how you use Google, how you write searches and potential ways your customers might type in queries. What might they search for and what are the related products/searches that branch out from this already? Then write content, or product descriptions that fit those searches like a glove. If you write for your user first, and Google second, I promise you'll see better SEO results in 2020".
Having said that, keywords still have a place. There are basically three things you need to know about them.
Long-tail keywords are the way forward. Think ‘9ct gold handmade brooch’ rather than ‘gold brooch’.
Why? Less people will be searching for these more specific, long-tail keywords, meaning there’s less competition for you. Plus, when you get more specific, you might get less traffic but it will be much more tailored to what you’re selling or talking about and more likely result in someone sticking around longer or making a sale.
There are lots of tools you can use to find keywords, some paid and some free. Two of the best are reckoned to be Ahrefs Keyword Explorer and SEMrush, which can do all kinds of brilliant and in-depth things and have price tags to reflect it.
Still, the scary man also comes for free and will give you all kinds of long-tail keywords based on the questions people are really asking about any given topic.
DON’T BE PUT OFF BY ANY OF THESE TOOLS. With a bit of experimenting they are easy to use and will give you good ideas of keywords and topics to create content that other people will actually find online and want to engage with.
Know where to put your keywords. In your url, title, sub-headings, tags and meta descriptions is a yes, as well as scattered naturally here and there through whatever you’re writing.
Stuffed as many times as possible into your copy like a robot is a big NO. In 2020, the job at hand is to be the best answer to what searchers want to find by writing superb, high quality copy for real people, as naturally as possible.
If you’re writing a headline or title for a product listing, the same applies. Write it naturally, describing what the item is and if you can work your keyword in, so much the better.
What’s a meta description? - You know when you Google something and the answers come up with a bit of text underneath to describe what’s on the page? That’s a meta description and your best bet is to fill them in for every page on your website, using keywords where they fit naturally.
If you don’t know how to find the place in your website to write your meta description, just search ‘where to write a meta description in Squarespace’ or ‘where to write my meta description in Shopify’ or whichever other platform you’re using for your site. Don’t avoid doing this. You should totally do this.
Basically, we need to be listening to customers, finding and using the right keywords, then rolling it all into valuable content that our audience will care about.
Don’t market products or services without speaking to your target audience first. Ask them what they think, then use that information in whatever you do next.
WHAT TO DO NOW:
i) Try a keyword tool.
ii) Look up long-tail keywords in your niche.
iii) Type some phrases into Google and work out the user’s intent.
iv) Brainstorm some content around what you find.
And now, we need to talk about content.
Part Two: Content Has Grown Up
Just like using loads of keywords, constantly publishing fresh content used to be the way to win if you wanted to get found online.
What is content? - information or experiences that can be expressed in all kinds of formats, from written word to video.
But constantly publishing rubbish content is something that anyone can do and Google knows it. So things are no longer about the quantity of content you put out.
SEO is about the quality of the content.
If you want to be at the top of the search results, your content has to be outstanding. That looks like actionable, valuable information and expression that is the first or most original or just better than anything else out there.
Long form content (for example this post is over 3,000 words) that focuses on complex questions that take serious time and effort to answer is valuable. If it’s good, people will stick around and engage with it and that significant ‘dwell time’ is picked up by Google as a positive signal that will help you to rank better.
What’s dwell time? - the amount of time that a visitor spends on your page or website. The longer they stay, the greater the chance that your content is really good and worth sticking around for, sending a positive signal to Google and giving you a boost.
An engaging video (‘engaging’, not ‘perfect and professional’) that shows someone how to do a skill in-depth is valuable content. An in-depth review of a certain craft tool that lots of other people are interested in is valuable content.
Content needs to serve a purpose. We can’t just write blog posts because “it’s good for SEO”. Content has become so sophisticated that if you don’t know what purpose it’s serving for your business, you need to answer that question before you write a single word.
Next, think about creating content like a playground for your audience. Can you be compelling from website to social media account to offline experience? Can you give your audience the content they need long after you’ve made a sale, giving them support and opportunities to become your biggest fan?
Pay attention to your headlines and titles too. According to Copyblogger, 8 out of 10 people will read a headline, but only 2 out of 10 will go on to read the rest of what you have to say.
Brainstorming emotive headlines until you come up with something really compelling is an incredibly important part of your content. Try a tool like Headline Sharethrough to test them out.
Content has grown up. And making yours REALLY GOOD is a big part of the SEO puzzle.
WHAT TO DO NOW:
i) If you’re still tapping out hundred word blog posts with no focus on keywords, searcher intent or your brand or your audience, just stop it. Now.
ii) Work out what you want to say and start planning content across your different channels. If you don’t have time to make really good content, get someone to do it for you.
iii) Run a content audit. Where are you repeating yourself and could delete or amalgamate or re-purpose content to make it more valuable and up to date?
Part Three: Experience, Authority, Trust
The E-A-T algorithm was created by Google to give users the very best answers and stands for Experience, Authority, Trust. Basically, the search engine wants to know if your website is the real deal.
Reliability is something you can’t really fluff and the more authority you can prove around a given topic, the more likely you are to be near the top of search results.
A lot of this assessment isn’t happening on your own website either. Google can evaluate your brand and business across all kinds of different sources and then string together an answer that puts all the pieces of the puzzle together.
If you’re cited by a trusted influencer, brand or website and they’re linking back to you (called a backlink), that’s a great place to start. Every time you replicate that kind of link from a new, trusted source, you’re adding another notch of authority, trustworthiness and expertise to your brand.
Look at this reference to my own site from UK craft marketplace Folksy. I happen to love working with Folksy and find it really interesting, but it also serves as a great backlink from a trusted site that has built a reputation and authority over a long time. You can’t just replicate that overnight.
Where your name is mentioned in a sentence that indicates you’re an expert, a backlink isn’t even necessary. That’s the power of Google to join the dots.
This is where SEO starts to work hand in hand with a PR strategy. It turns out that getting your product or brand endorsed by a well regarded magazine is not only a great way to get in front of a wider audience, but when the information appears digitally, it’s a great way to increase your authority and boost your search ranking.
Cecilie Olsen from PR membership platform PR Dispatch says this:
“Press coverage is very powerful in terms of reaching new audiences and grab influencers’ attention. Repeat coverage enables you to constantly stay on the radar of the right people, while giving you credible words to put on your website and communicate through your marketing. Having the press’ seal of approval makes you appear desirable and visible - if editors are excited about your brand and product range influencers are likely to pick up on it.
To stay relevant in an increasingly competitive landscape it is crucial to have a beautifully designed website with regular and interesting content that speaks to your audience. By sharing and talking about your content on Instagram, you’ll add value, spark a conversation and enhance your brand identity. It’s the perfect platform to engage with and create meaningful conversations with influencers while encouraging more people to visit your website.”
So make sure you are building links and placements in the media that actually relate to, push and build your brand. Once this audience trusts you they’ll be happy to link to you, talk about you and buy into what you do.
Other very basic and simple ways to prove your authority online include having a thorough about page on your website, a physical address and phone number and relevant links out to other pages.
Good references from sites like Trustpilot or a Google review are also ways to prove how trusted your business is as well as sharing news about off-line events like conferences, trade shows, awards and collaborations online.
E-A-T is pretty massive in 2020. It’s why building your brand is actually one of the most important things you can do.
WHAT TO DO NOW:
i) Think about who / what / where you could partner with to show that you have expertise, authority and trustworthiness. How are you going to approach them?
ii) How could you encourage customers to leave positive reviews for you and how will you deal with any negativity?
iii) Check your website to make sure you have a physical address and phone number in place.
Part Four: The Three V’s - Voice, Visual and Video
In 2020, the three V’s are on the up. People are still consuming a ton of video, searching more than ever before by voice and increasingly using visual tools like Pinterest and Google Lens for online search.
Google Lens is an app that works by trying to identify objects when you point your camera at a code or label. It then shows relevant search results based on what it scans. Scary, huh?
As a creative, you’re bound to know about Pinterest already but it’s way more powerful than a tool to store eye candy images. Pinterest is a search engine all of it’s own and comes up frequently at the top of Google search results too.
If you want to use the three V’s to get ahead in online search in 2020, here are some suggestions.
Visuals - Make sure you name every image you use with a relevant keyword in the alt text or at least with a description that says what the image is about. Tap into Pinterest’s blog to see how you can start to make the visuals you pin work harder for you.
What’s alt text? - the place for you to name your images. Instead of letting an image be called ‘00078936.jpg’ for example, rename it with a keyword or a description of what’s in the photo or graphic.
Video - Our appetite for video seems unquenchable and you can help to tell Google what it’s all about by using the title, description and tags, putting in relevant descriptions, keywords or maybe answering some of those questions and phrases you found in your user research.
Another useful way to tell Google what happens in your video is to organise it into sections, for example, if it’s a video about weaving your sections might include ‘setting up the loom’, ‘organising your materials’ or ‘working the first row’ (I’m not sure… I don’t know about weaving!). This could work really well if someone is searching for information which can be answered by your video, but might be buried in the middle of it. For the total lowdown on how to make SEO-brilliant videos, Brian Dean is your man and you’ll find these tips and so much more from him.
If you can, try to get a decent keyword into a compelling title for your video and think about providing a transcript too. Then put your video into a text-based blog post to entice people to spend more time on your site.
Voice search - One of the biggest things to happen in recent search times is Google giving answers to short questions right on the results page. You can get the answer without even having to click on a link. Which means that people will be getting answers without ever needing to visit your website. Boo.
According to Brian Dean, Google is only pulling voice search answers from content that’s already in the top 3 answers on a regular page. This department is seriously competitive and whilst we can’t ignore it, personally I’ll be concentrating on getting onto page 1 of search results consistently to have a stab at coming up in voice search.
WHAT TO DO NOW:
i) Name your images in the alt text
ii) Experiment with content in video format. You can see some of the videos I’ve made here - with just an old iPhone and tripod.
iii) If you’re making video, pay attention to titles, keywords, transcripts and sections.
Part Five: Fix Up, Look Sharp
In 2020 you have to stop imagining that you are getting most of your traffic from a desktop. It’s way more likely to be coming from mobile and that means that you need to be easy to use and looking good on mobile.
If you’ve got technical or security problems with your site it’s not going to do your ranking any good. I’m not going into that here because quite honestly I’d be way out of my depth. Find a techie and make friends with them to make sure that any user to your site is getting the best possible experience in terms of site speed and page speed with behind-the-scenes tinkering.
If you use lots of images (and you’re creative, so I’m pretty sure you do), a good way to make sure they don’t slow down the time it takes your site to load is to use a tool like Tiny.png to shrink them. You don’t lose the quality, things are just a whole lot faster.
Similarly, when it comes to the actual content on your site think about how you structure it so that Google can easily understand the layout. Once you’ve got an overall picture of what’s important to your audience and the content you’re creating, tier it into clusters with a few foundational topic posts, then cluster out from those covering related topics to each one.
Think of it like looking for your favourite shirt in a jumble of clothes on the floor. Easier to find if you just hang the stuff up in some kind of order.
And with that, we’re done!
All images belong to Canva.
Many thanks to Martha Moger for letting us share this blog post. If you enjoyed this article, you can connect with Martha here -