This is a transcript of episode 82 of the Let’s Get Data-Driven Podcast

I’m Lanie Lamarre and do you ever wonder like I do how the online business world would ever even work if we BANNED the use of acronyms? It’s like telling someone who speaks with their hands to sit on them while they express themselves – I’m convinced the whole system would crumble if we couldn’t use acronyms.

Today’s episode is going to double-down on the acronyms because we’re going to talk SEO, we’re going to talk SEM and we’re going to talk WTF that has to do with you – OMG, amirite?

A little public service announcement before we get started on this week’s episode: if you have “optimizing free traffic sources” or something along those lines in your 2023 goals, I encourage you to check out the Membership To Get Data-Driven in January. This month’s exclusive workshop walks you through your SEO Checklist to help you get more free, organic traffic in 2023.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s start by establishing what the hey is SEO? It’s what the cool kids say when they’re talking about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and this is the process of optimizing your website and its content to rank higher in search results when people are looking for what you have and what you offer. What content are we talking about? In short, everything you’ve published or uploaded to your website!

Your copy, you titles, your file names, your meta descriptions and tags – everything on your website is up for the grabs of search engines like Google or Bing. The whole deal for search engines is that someone types in what they’re looking for or want answers to, and the search engines spouts out relevant, useful content to that person’s topic or query… and when you’re search engine optimized, you have a better chance of that search results being YOU!

Good SEO means free traffic for you, but not only free traffic: we’re talking about highly interested and motivated people who are looking for exactly what you have to offer and share. As long as you’re willing to invest some time and effort into implementing some simple SEO strategies, you have every reason to expect to see long-term returns on those investments that continue to pay dividends, long after you’ve implemented them.

But can you pay for your search rank to have these same results? Hmmmm, kinda, but not quite.

Search Engine Marketing – or what the cool kids like us call SEM – is the pay-to-play method of ranking higher in search results through paid advertising. When you see that “sponsored” message under search results on places like Google or even in your social media feeds or on Amazon, it means someone paid for that priority placement in your search results, usually based on keywords being used in search.

Here’s the clincher: most of things you have to do to run a successful paid search campaign will be the same or similar to what you need for organic traffic.

At the core of your paid campaigns will be keyword research and getting clear about what you want to rank for. This is the same research you’ll need to do to optimize your image tags and your titles and your copy. It’s also the same research you’ll apply to the copy, captions and descriptions you use on your search-based social media like Pinterest and YouTube.

That’s why BEFORE investing in ads to be found, I recommend you hone in and optimize your free options first as you’ll be leveraging those.

Another thing SEO does for you that your SEM will benefit from is it puts your user experience first, and search engines love when you do that. . For instance, when tag the images on your website in a way that is friendly to people who have accessibility issues, this improves your searchability. When you increase your website’s loading speed, this also improves your searchability. Almost anything you do that benefits and prioritizes the user experience you provide to your website visitors will work to your advantage, and what’s not to love about that mutual benefit, amirite?

Furthermore, when search engines see that your website gets better engagement because you offer a favorable user experience, they’ll tend to position your ad above your competitors.

Either way, there’s no way around the fact that SEO or SEM will require you to make an investment of your time and some effort.

But since the time and effort you put into your paid search campaigns consists of a lot of the same work you’ll invest into organic traffic, it makes more sense to focus on the free option and THEN leverage those results into SEM to pack that one-two punch combo.

So let’s say that’s your path: you maximize your SEO opportunities to the best of your ability and knowledge, and then you apply what you’ve learned about your search performance into SEM when you invest in search ads.

And if there’s one thing I want you to take-away from this episode, it’s this: work on the things you can improve for free before you start throwing ad money at the problem. This applies to everything from the SEO for the content on your website to the sales funnels you’re thinking about sending ad traffic to; look at what your warm traffic is doing and how it is paying off because if you have problems that need to be fixed or gaps that need to be addressed, you’ll still have those problems and gaps when you’re paying money to continue under-performing. Your advertising investments will benefit from the returns you can leverage out of your organic traffic, so always start by looking at what you’re working with and how that’s paying off before spending money.

But how will you know if your SEO or SEM efforts are paying off? How can you tell if search engines are finding you and what you want to be known for?

Let’s start at the most obvious place: Google. After all, Google IS the most popular search engine today, and to find out how your website and its content ranks in Google searches, you need to create what is called a Google Search Console account. I walk you through how to do this in the Membership To Get Data-Driven but this is where you’ll see what search terms you’re showing up for in search results, which ones are getting click-throughs, what your average click-through rate is from Google to your website, what your average search position is, what pages people are finding through search, and more.

Other search engines like Bing also have webmaster tools you can use to obtain similar information, and search-based social media will also provide you with similar reporting. For instance, your YouTube analytics can help you identify what people are searching for when they find your videos while Pinterest Insights will provide you with keyword information when you’re paying for ads through their platform.

Regardless of the platform, when you get clarity around the keyword people are using to find you through organic search, you’re then able to leverage that for your paid search traffic on those very same platforms. What works on one platform may not work on another platform because it’s how the platform is used by its visitors that will dictate the trends of that platform; on the flip side of this, though, is that what is working on one platform may be worth testing on another platform to see if the results you’re seeing from one audience can be parlayed into another.

And isn’t that what all marketing and promotions really boils down to? Trying something, looking at the results and seeing how you can leverage those results into better ones next time. Not only is search no different, but it’s actually one of the easiest to repurpose because whatever you’re ranking for – or want to rank for! – on search engines will likely apply to just about every other aspect of how you’re promoting yourself. The titles you use in blog posts and podcast episodes, the descriptions and captions you’re tagging your content with, the hashtags and interests you’re setting yourself to target and be found for – all of these can benefit from the research and efforts that goes into your search strategies.

If this is a priority for you, I’d love to welcome you to the Membership To Get Data-Driven – there’s a link in shownotes – and hey! I know you have enough to do so if “more outsourcing” is also on your 2023 radar and you’re struggling a little with delegating your workload, the SEO Checklist is designed so that you can easily outsource your search engine optimization to-do list to your virtual assistant – two birds, one seed!

Talk soon – baiiieeee!