The Digital Apprenticeship Podcast

Uncomplicated SEO Tactics To Increase Your Brand Exposure With Harry Sanders

May 11, 2021 Stephanie Trinder Digital Marketer and Business Consultant Season 2 Episode 23
The Digital Apprenticeship Podcast
Uncomplicated SEO Tactics To Increase Your Brand Exposure With Harry Sanders
Show Notes Transcript

Harry Sanders is the director and founder of StudioHawk, the largest specialised SEO company in Australia. StudioHawk is renowned for delivering an honest, results driven service and Harry and his team have won several awards for their SEO work and education, it’s their bread and butter. In todays episode, Harry shares:

  • Why Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is important for your trade business
  • Where to start with SEO: the three elements you should be focusing on, minus the fluff
  • The SEO tools you need to help improve your Google search ranking
  • Harrys tips for improving the quantity and quality of your website traffic, including how to prime your website for discoverability


CHECK OUT STUDIO HAWK: Website: https://studiohawk.com.au SEO Course: https://hawkacademy.co

WANT TO CONNECT WITH ME? Website: www.thedigitalapprenticeship.com.au Instagram: www.instagram.com/thedigitalapprenticeship

WANT MORE? Download my free ebook, The Digital Marketing Cheat Sheet for tradies here www.thedigitalapprenticeship.com.au/ebook

SHOW NOTES (including a blog post of this episode and all links and resources) can be found here www.thedigitalapprenticeship.com.au/23

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Stephanie Trinder:

Hey Harry, thank you so much for joining me on the show today.

Harry Sanders:

Thank you. I appreciate you having me.

Stephanie Trinder:

It's a pleasure. For the listeners who don't already know you, would you mind introducing yourself and your company?

Harry Sanders:

Sure, so my name is Harry Sanders. I'm the founder and director at a company called Studio Hawk. Now, Studio Hawk is the largest dedicated SEO company in Australia. So rather than traditional agencies that do everything, we just do one thing. And so a big part of that is also education, which is what we talk about in a program called Hawk Academy, which we educate and teach people SEO, as well to a lot of the major universities all around Australia.

Stephanie Trinder:

So good. I'm actually making my way through that course at the moment and I can confirm that it is super helpful so if anyone wants to DIY their SEO, you should start there. It’s also free to start so you can get a feel for it before you commit to anything.

Harry Sanders:

Correct.

Stephanie Trinder:

You don't just walk the walk, you talk the talk too. You and your business have received several awards over the years. Can you talk us through a couple of those?

Harry Sanders:

Yeah. So we've received a lot of different, both business awards. We received the Australian Award for Marketing Excellence from the Australian Business Awards, which was a really cool award because normally your big, big companies, like your Commonwealth Bank will get those. And luckily we got one, as well as the SEMrush Award which-

Stephanie Trinder:

That's huge.

Harry Sanders:

Yeah. International Marketing Award. We've been named The Organic Search Agency of the Year there a couple of times, as well as the APAC Awards. And a couple of days ago, I was named as a Forbes 30 under 30 in Asia, which is an awesome title to take home. Yeah.

Stephanie Trinder:

Wow. Congratulations.

Harry Sanders:

Thank you. So yeah, definitely a lot of amazing people that have gone into all those awards I've mentioned, there was not just me doing it, awesome to see the recognition.

Stephanie Trinder:

Absolutely. So if anyone was going to jump on the podcast today to talk about SEO, you are one of the best. Harry how do we get started with SEO? What are some of the fundamentals that will help the listeners today?

Harry Sanders:

All right. So usually I start off by saying everything that you know about SEO is fundamentally over complicated. So let's bring it right back down to its roots. Now SEO search engine optimization the process of coming up high in Google when someone searches for what you do. So very simply, that's what we're trying to do and what we're trying to talk about today. Now that whole thing is determined by an algorithm. Now, I know the word algorithm scares a lot of people, but it's actually very simple.

Harry Sanders:

Think of it, now there's only three factors that we need to understand and learn as part of SEO. And if you think of it like a house, you think about it, about the block of house we have, where the house is and the actual structure of the house. So how does that work? Well, the first structure we have is what we call technical SEO. So anything on the website. The page speed, how it looks, all that stuff. And that is your house. You can touch and feel and change those things and influence what they look like and how they perform.

Harry Sanders:

Then the next thing is what we call backlinks. And that's where we talk about land. Now you can touch and feel your house and increase its value. Just like you would technical SEO, but you can't just increase the value of the land. You need external factors, like what's around the land, to actually increase that for you. And so that's what we call offsite or backlinks. And that's the second kind of pillar that we need to understand.

Harry Sanders:

And the third thing is search intent. So you have residential commercial zoning for that block of house, just like we do in Google. When people search for things, they want to either transactionally buy something, they might want to learn about something. And that, that all falls under this idea of search intent.

Harry Sanders:

Which, to come back to that analogy, the house, anything you can feel see touch is technical. So anything on that website is technical. Anything that we influence through external factors is what we call backlinks or offsite. So the land, and then everything else like the content and everything like that is the zoning. So that Google knows which people to send to your house. And so at a very fundamental level, that's what we're talking about.

Stephanie Trinder:

Absolutely and I love that house analogy, it makes it so much easier to remember the three elements of SEO that we should all be on top of, being technical SEO, backlinks & search intent. So thanks for sharing that.

Harry Sanders: 

Of course.

Stephanie Trinder:

I would love to chat more about search intent because I think it's so important to understand that before we start developing strategies and making changes to the website. So tell us a little bit more about what you mean by search intent.

Harry Sanders:

Sure. So search intent, everyone intrinsically is using search engines to get an answer to a question. Whether that answer is looking for a plumber in their area, or whether that answer is how, what problem they might have with their sink. There's different kinds of answers that we seek. The two main ones, that we're going to touch upon, is what we call educational and transactional. Now educational is understanding what's wrong with the sink. They're looking to understand what's gone wrong. Can they fix it? Do they need a part? All those kinds of things. So as an example of an educational question might be, “how to fix a broken sink". That's educational by nature. They're not going to be happy if a plumber jumps up on spot number one, because that's not what they're looking for right now. Maybe it is later, but right now they just want to learn what's going wrong.

Harry Sanders:

And so that's the first educational query. Then transactional by contrast is, maybe I'm looking for a plumber in Gippsland. And they just search plumber, Gippsland. That's transactional. They're looking to get a plumber then and there. But what a lot of people need to understand and learn is how quickly educational can lead to transactional. So you get a lot of people that are searching for a broken sink. I'm guilty of this all the time. I don't want to just like hire so-and-so, I'll try and Google something to see if I can do it myself. And then inevitably nine times out of ten, I cannot do it myself. And so I hire someone and what happens a lot of the time is I'll search how to fix that sink. And I'll land on maybe a plumber's website that has a blog and he talks about most common problems that are wrong with your sink. And I'll run through those problems. It might not be one of those. And then who do you think I call? I call the plumber's website that I'm already on.

Harry Sanders:

And so that educational query just converted to a transactional query. And that's where we talk about this idea of search intent. And when Google decides, even when it comes to transactional like plumber Gippsland, who to show, in what order to show people, they look at who's contributed the most also to educational queries. Because they deem you as an expert, if you contributed a lot in those areas. So what a lot of people do, and they do it quite well, is they build out this hub of knowledge and education that then allows them to not only inform customers better, but for Google to send them more customers in kind.

Stephanie Trinder:

Yeah, absolutely. It's so important to have content on your website that is considering all of these different types of search intent. So if we’re struggling to think about what our potential clients are searching for, what they’re writing in Googles search box, how do we figure that out?

Harry Sanders:

Yeah. So an awesome way of doing this, and I often play this game whenever I'm doing a talk, it's this game of what do you think gets more searches? So we might talk about plumber versus electrician, keeping it on trend. Who do you think gets more searches per month? And what we realised by playing this game, and I run through a different few different scenarios, is everyone's guessing, nobody knows. Because, humans are very subjective creatures by nature. We don't have the answer to these objective questions. Now what's great about SEO and data is we do have these objective answers.

Harry Sanders:

So you can use tools like keywords everywhere (https://keywordseverywhere.com), which allow you free access to a sample size of tools. But what it will do is tell you, this many people are actually searching for plumber and this many people are searching for electrician. And you can actually start benchmarking that. Now in that scenario, not a lot of use, right? However, when it does become useful is when you start looking at how many searches are in suburbs, around you, for instance. You might be really focused on one suburb that you're trying to rank for, but then you look and it might only have 20 searches per month compared to another suburb that might have thousands. And that's when you start really analysing it. Yeah. And you start realising, wow, maybe I should be targeting this other suburb instead of the one that I was previously targeting. And so that's what we call keyword volume. So how many people searching for that each month.

Stephanie Trinder:

Great tip. What do you think about the tool, AnswerThePublic (https://answerthepublic.com)?

Harry Sanders:

That's a great tool. That's another great way of looking at questions people might be asking. It's also free tool. So you can look at what questions people might be asking and kind of build different answers to it, like we would in that educational stuff that we're talking about, that search intent. Also, if you're looking at more kind of enterprise level tools, a lot more expensive, your average person will be paying for them. But tools like SEMrush allow you to really start diving deep into content strategies and analyzing all the different verticals that people might be asking questions and the volumes and trends of each of those. So there's definitely some really useful tools out there.

Stephanie Trinder:

For sure, SEMrush offers a free trial too. So now that we understand search intent and have an idea of what people are searching for, what are our next best steps?

Harry Sanders:

So the best next step is to start writing. There's a lot of different theories and ways of doing the writing. And we talk about that about that a lot in Hawk Academy, in 10 minute videos of how to write a blog post or how to write a service page, which are really important things to know. But the best thing you can do often is just really structured in a way that makes sense for people. Are you answering the questions that they might have? Are you capturing the different search terms that Google might want to see? And are you doing that in a way that looks natural.

Harry Sanders:

Too often I see website owners just writing a bunch of stuff with the keyword in it, hoping that that's going to pass. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way anymore. It needs to be really quality content without just keyword stuffing, which is what we call when you just put the keyword on a page a bunch of times.

Stephanie Trinder:

Absolutely.

Harry Sanders:

So that's how I would go about that. But in terms of, if you've heard 2 to 3% keyword density or those kinds of things, I wouldn't worry about it. I would just focus on creating good content and reading up or maybe a couple of guides on how to do it on a service or a blog post.

Stephanie Trinder:

Yeah. It's important to write in a natural way, not just for the search engines, but for the users experience.

Harry Sanders:

Correct. Exactly right. You want to seem like a real, genuine human being on the other side, that's there to help them and kind of answer their questions.

Stephanie Trinder:

Definitely. Now that we have covered the fundamentals of SEO, would you mind telling us about technical SEO?

Harry Sanders:

Love technical SEO. Now technical SEO can be a big beast or it really it's as big of a beast as you want to make it. There's a lot of different factors. And this is where SEO can get a bit hairy for different people. But if you focus on the real fundamentals, you can't go too wrong. So technical is looking at things like the paid speed, like how fast your website loads on a mobile and a desktop device. And if you might've been seeing the Google news, you'll be aware of this thing called Core Web Vitals. That's coming out very soon and that's all about making sure websites are loading fast for mobile users. So, it's a big topic to kind of go into, but essentially it is just, what can you do to make things load faster? Is that something you can upgrade your hosting? Can you chat to a web developer? And that's going to be a big factor in how Google prioritises things in the future.

Harry Sanders:

Other things like how you lay out your page, the different headings that you use and the structure below them as well. And so there's a variety of dozens and dozens of different checks and techniques you can go through as part of technical. But the good news is it's actually, while there's a lot of things to go through and consider, they're all laid out quite logically. And if you go through something like Hawk Academy, you can see an introduction to all these issues and then only go through the ones that you actually have challenges with. So you don't need to go through everything. So we teach you how to do like an audit of your site and how you can then from an audit, start identifying and fixing some of these issues.

Harry Sanders:

Cause you'll find that these are actually very simple to fix. We've got a lot of people that have gone through this course now that we get messages from like rural farmers out in Victoria, that have not had a lot of computer experience let alone coding experience, that have managed to fix up a lot of these different technical issues and get to a sound technical perspective.

Stephanie Trinder: 

That's so great.

Harry Sanders:

Yeah. It's awesome to see. But it really is making sure that Google can read and understand your site. Because if Google can't understand your site or thinks of page speeds too slow, it's just not going to show it to anyone, which is a big hindrance for you, obviously trying to get leads..

Stephanie Trinder:

In my experience not many business owners test their website speed or know how to. But it’s so important and easy to do, you can use a free tool like Google PageSpeed Insights (https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/) that will tell you your website speed on mobile vs desktop. And obviously in today's day and age having a website that loads quickly on mobile is very important because so many people are using their mobile browser to search the web. So make sure you jump on PageSpeed Insights and test your website speed, there’s another really good plajorm that you can test it on too for comparison sake and I believe that’s called Pingdom (https:// tools.pingdom.com/)

Harry Sanders: 

Yeah. Pingdom.

Stephanie Trinder:

Yeah. I find Pingdom a little easier to understand personally, the analysis that it provides is more descriptive. So, for example you can see what content like the images or videos on your website are really big and taking a long time to load. Effectively slowing down your website. You can then compress those images or reduce their file size and re-upload them to help your website run more efficiently.

Harry Sanders:

So those images are massive. I've yet to see a trade website where they're not using incredibly large images for those photos of the jobs. Everyone always wants really high quality images, but what they don't do is they don't resize them to the format that's actually used. So they might have an, 8K image in a tiny little section on the website. But what happens is that full, 20 megabyte image gets loaded for what would be, a 500 kilobyte or really, really small image in comparison.

Harry Sanders:

So that's a massive thing to take away and running those tools like Google page speed or GT metrix (https://gtmetrix.com/), is another one I'll throw out there, will give you an indication of where that's going. And so if it says you've got too big of images go through and resize them, if it says your server response time is poor, then go through and look at it, different hosting that you might be able to get or get faster hosting. And so that really gives you an indication on some of those technical elements that you can get sorted out and see a lot of benefit for. One of the clients we work with is a company called Reece, and they do a lot of different kind of trade services around Australia. And one of the massive gains they saw was through those images and that technical component of their SEO.

Stephanie Trinder:

Wow there you go. Do you suggest any particular tools for compressing images? Recently I’ve been using Compress PNG or JPG (https://www.compresspng.com/)

Harry Sanders:

There's a few. There's a heap of them now, there's EWWW (https://ewww.io/), which is a compression tool and that's free as well. There's Smush, which is another one. There's a heap of them that compresses images almost automatically for you, if you're on something like WordPress or Shopify, so you don't even need to worry about it.

Stephanie Trinder:

Awesome, thanks Harry! Another component to SEO that a lot of trade businesses could implement to see return, is getting more backlinks. Could you talk about backlinks, what they are and why they're so important?

Harry Sanders:

Yeah. So backlinks, if we look at how search engines work, I like to intrinsically understand. So when search engines first came to the market, Google wasn't the first search engine, there was Ask Jeeves or AltaVista. There was so many of them, but Google did one very unique thing and they did this thing called backlinks. And so when Larry and Sergey were sitting around and Harvard discussing what the best research papers were and how they knew, they came up with this idea of the best research papers had the most citations or references. So they started saying, "Well what if the internet worked the same way? What if the websites that were the best had the most citations or references?" And as times evolved, that's how Google was born and introduced that third pillar of those pillars that we spoke about before.

Harry Sanders:

And this concept was introduced of, how do we get these backlinks? And it's become more about quality than quantity now. So it's like the quality of the different links we're getting. But what a lot of trades can do is there's a fantastic website called SourceBottle (https://www.sourcebottle.com/) . And it allows you to respond, to call out requests. We call this technique, press call outs. But every day the media will ask for a bunch of tradies, electricians, plumbers, you name it, there'll be asking for it. And basically your job is to, as soon as you get it, respond to them with why you're an expert and go on and give a comment on maybe a piece they're writing. And it could be a small blog, could be a big piece of content, but it will come up on their site with a link back to your website. Now, every single one of those links you get provided to these relevant is building up your authority in Google and causing Google to want to show you to more potential people searching for your services.

Harry Sanders:

So that's how backlinks work at a very, very fundamental level. And also that press call-out technique is available in the Hawk Academy as well. So you can kind of go through that and actually see how that's built.

Stephanie Trinder:

Love that. And I love SourceBottle. I’m subscribed to their call-outs so I receive them daily, sometimes multiples times a day because journalists and brands are constantly looking for news stories.

If you, the listeners, do respond to a call-out, one hot tip is to put as much information as you can about your business. So list your main points, include a link to your website and attach a couple of professional photos if you can, because you really want to make it as easy as possible for the person on the other side to include your contribution or run with your story.  They don’t have a lot of time so they won’t go back and forth with you.

Harry Sanders:

A hundred percent, these guys do not have time to be going back and forth. We use this expression, "Don't bury the lead," so if they don't understand why they would use you as a source in the first email, they're just not going to do it because they would get a lot of sources. They're not going to come back to you asking for more information or anything like that. They don't have time. So you really need to be on point. And you also need to be really fast with responding to this because it is often first in best dressed. But it's a fantastic way of getting these backlinks for your brand. There's a variety of different ways, but the other ones take a lot of time. Whereas this is something that you can just kind of do in five minutes a day, kind of just chip away at and then see the massive SEO benefits that it yields.

Stephanie Trinder:

One of the things that caught my attention when I was going through your Hawk Academy course was when you dispelled the myth that there is a magic trick to SEO. There are so-called SEO experts out there promoting the latest trend or hack to improve your SEO position because that’s what people want to hear, we live in a ‘now economy’. So I really appreciated your honest and transparency, if you do the fundamentals, do the work, you’ll see improvements.

Harry Sanders:

Absolutely correct. I think too often people get caught up in things like schema markup or Hreflang tags, which are great different techniques that have their own place completely outside of what your typical SEO campaign might look like, and are very situational. And people look at these and go like, "Oh, this is a nice hack. That's going to get me a lot of yield." For most of your listing, those things aren't going to do anything for you. These fundamental things is what's going to build your brand and get you leads.

Harry Sanders:

And I guarantee you, if you can nail two of these three, hell even three of these three, you're going to be getting a constant stream of leads coming into the business. And it's not going to take you a lot of time. You can be doing one content piece a month on your blog or that educational hub. You could maybe build out a service page about something you're doing. You could do a page speed report and get that fixed up or even go through and do press call-out. But if you do one or multiple of those things, your personal guarantee, you're going to see an increase in the amount of people coming to your website and inquiring about what you do.

Stephanie Trinder:

Totally. On that Harry, would you say that it's most important to first have an efficient, user-friendly website before people start pushing out lots of content?

Harry Sanders:

Yeah. I would say that it's absolutely true. So Google, you need all three of these things, but Google really wants to see the foundational stuff. Do you have a functional website that users can interact with and it loads fast? That is like the first thing, cause you want to get that ticked off because otherwise you can do all these other things, but you're not going to convert anyone at the end. So getting that technical website fixed is a great way of doing it.

Harry Sanders:

And then I always like to head over to the blog stuff so I can start pumping out some content. And then that also leads into the press call-out stuff because what's going to happen is the technical websites all sorted. I don't need to worry about that. That's going great. I've got some content so that people can see I'm already an expert in what I do. I'm not just another plumber, another electrician, another tiler, I'm the electrician, the sparky, whatever it may be that you do, but you're the person, the expert. And then that feeds into your press call-out cause they already want to talk to you because they've seen your website and they've seen the different things you do and the different things you talk about. So they know that if they chat to you or link to you, that they're going to get a great piece of content from you.

Stephanie Trinder:

Absolutely. Just as you were saying, "Plumber this electrician that, plumber, electrician," it made me think back to a few years ago, when people would name their businesses in such a way that they would include keywords in the hope that they would have a better chance of being found.

Harry Sanders:

Yeah.

Stephanie Trinder:

What is your stance on that today?

Harry Sanders:

So I wouldn't worry about that at all. So Google calls that exact match domain, herd staffing. Basically trying to put in your keyword in the domain, like Melbourne plumber. Google pays little, to no attention to that anymore. It's those fundamental three things that I spoke about. So I always prefer to use a business name because that's a brandable asset, and you can trademark and do all those things with it, and to build something under. So I would suggest people do that. I wouldn't be focused on calling it your suburb plumber or anything like that, unless that's already your business name. Build out a brand.

Stephanie Trinder:

Yeah cool, by avoiding the buzzwords it becomes a more unique and less diluted search term that comes with it’s own benefits. Doesn’t it?

Harry Sanders:

Yeah, exactly right.

Stephanie Trinder:

Yeah

Harry Sanders:

Exactly right. But it's not going to give you any SEO benefit calling it Melbourne plumber.

Stephanie Trinder:

Thanks for clarifying that Harry and thank you so much for sharing your SEO knowledge with us today. Before you leave, where can we find you and where can we sign up to your SEO course?

Harry Sanders:

Yeah. So the best way to reach me is at [email protected], the course is at hawkacademy.co. So you can go there and learn all about all the different things. We've got a lot of free resources on there for people to learn and go through all the fundamentals, and even learn a bit about digital PR, which is also free. Then we've got options, different options in that course. And you can kind of click around and go through everything it's made for business owners like yourselves. So you can do things in five, ten minutes and you don't need to go through everything. It's kind of tailored towards what you need to do. So it'll talk about service pages, but you won't need to go through all the e-commerce modules if you don't have an e-commerce section on your blog. So it makes it the shortest path to becoming an understanding SEO as possible, compared to a lot of courses that make you do everything, even though you're never going to do them ever.

Stephanie Trinder:

That's exactly what we need as small business owners. There’s a video as well as text component and the videos only go for a few minutes each so they’re very easy to digest. It’s very helpful, I love what you have done. So listeners if you have been thinking about ways to get more traffic to your website, to improve your search ranking, then definitely check The Hawk Academy. 

Harry, thank you again for joining me on today's show.

Harry Sanders:

Thank you so much, Stephanie. And thank you guys for tuning in.