SEO is one of the most inquired after topics. But can you truly do great organic SEO for free?
What’s In This Episode?
- Neil Patel Lied (2:40)
- What Is SEO? (3:50)
- Is SEO Really Free? (6:18)
- How Much Time Do You Have? (7:05)
- Is It Worth The Energy To Learn From Scratch? (11:40)
- Are You Technically Minded? (14:45)
- Do You REALLY Want To Rank #1 (19:32)
SEO Tool: SEM Rush
Josh: Is organic SEO really free? It’s a question that we get asked all the time and today we’re going to chat a little bit about that.
Welcome to Creative Juices, the show where we help you feel personally confident about your online presence.
I’m your host Josh, and today I am joined by Julz and Em.
Julz: Gidday Josh
Em: Hey Josh!
Josh: You both are like who will talk first?
Julz: I’ll go first. We’ve also got Coco in the room as well.
Josh: We do have Coco the dog.
Julz: She’s a little bulldog, so if she starts snorting, scratching, you’ll know what’s going on.
Josh: Today we are talking about SEO, Search Engine Optimization.
Now we’ve all heard it all. We’ve heard it all! You know SEO is the magic pill to fix everything. You know, I need SEO. How do I get better at SEO? And all of us receive weekly emails from out of Australia customers and people who are saying let me do your SEO and you will rank higher and you’ll get more customers. And anyone can do SEO!
Julz: Oh yeah… right.
Josh: Anyone can do SEO right? All you need to do…
Julz: I’m sorry. I’m a little bit cynical on this one. Yeah I’m sorry Josh. I should be more positive about SEO, but it’s a pain point for me man. This is a pain point that goes back like years for me!
Julz: Years for me, and it starts with people that are like selling these SEO services for extraordinary amounts of money that do absolutely nothing, or do not know what they’re doing. And then… so there’s no wonder that people are so like turned off by it or something, or confused by it or whatever. Anyway that’s my rant. Sorry!
Josh: It’s… it’s so true though! We come across so many people who have hired an SEO consultant or something and then when we look in, nothing’s actually been changed. All the things that have been changed are really minute things, that don’t really make a massive difference.
Julz: Majoring on the miners! We recently came across this with a… with a proper SEO company quote unquote, who signed on the client, big retainer, and then they got handed down the chain to some junior and eventually found out that they were really not doing anything.
Josh: Absolutely! And so what happens is that as small business owners or even a lot of SEO consultants quote unquote, they really… all that they do is they go “Oh I can learn SEO by watching all of the gurus online and then implementing all of that.” And we actually have an example of this. The leading SEO guy in the world Neil Patel posted up a blog that was titled… it was pretty much explaining how H1 headings is one of the most important things you need on your website and in your blogs. And then he posted off another article a few years later pretty much saying that H1 headings really don’t make any difference whatsoever!
Julz: So what did you do?
Josh: Well, me being me, I just jumped on and I commented. I’m like… I commented on both blogs and I said why is it that this blog says that they make no difference but then on the other blog it says that it’s the most important thing?
Julz: So completely contradicting information from the same source.
Josh: Absolutely! And do you want to know what he did?
Josh: He deleted my comment. Didn’t even get back to me, didn’t even reply.
Julz: Oh!!! Neil you savage!!
Josh: And this isn’t about ripping on any SEO gurus or something, but the truth is this, that SEO is not as easy as simply following a step-by-step guide.
So, I guess to kind of get this started, we’re going to ask the question, is SEO really free? But before we get there, we need to go what is… what is SEO? So Em, like what’s the goal of SEO?
Em: Yeah, so in this conversation I guess we’re talking about organic SEO in comparison to paid ads in Google, and that means basically search engine optimization. We’ve talked about it a lot before and it’s making tweaks and updates to your website that can optimize it to hopefully, fingers crossed, rank higher in search results. Because the theory is that the more higher you rank, the more clicks you’ll get, the more people will convert on your website, the more business you’ll get, the more money you get.
Em: That’s how it works. Right?
Josh: But that’s not always the case is it, because a lot of SEO is like I just want to get more impressions, I want to get more clicks. But you don’t just want to rank high for just any random search, right? You want to rank high in the searches of visitors who are more likely to purchase.
Josh: And one thing we come across all the time is SEO consultants use like backlinks or things like that, that really just drive traffic to people’s sites from countries that they’re not even in! And so they’re not going to get conversions. Site visitors doesn’t always equal conversions!
Julz: Yeah, well that touches on conversion optimization as well. I know we bang on about this as well, but I mean you can rank as high as you want, but if there’s no real conversion tactic going on, then you’re not going to make that money, or that sale, or that purchase, or that booking or whatever that is. So you know… there’s that factor as well. So we’ve got really technical sides of things but also just like strategy behind…
Em: That’s a whole other ball game as well.
Julz: Yeah, yeah. Exactly!
Em: Conversion optimization…
Josh: Absolutely! And so I guess the question is, well how do you rank higher for searches with people who are more likely to purchase? Well, you need to know your target markets searching habits, which takes research. You need to know your local competition. You need to know how to decipher your Google Analytics. You need to know how to decipher your Google Search Console. You need to know how to decipher Google Trends, and then you need to implement it in your website so that you rank according to Google’s 200 ranking factors! And there’s even more than 200 ranking factors now! And so, it’s so overwhelming, which leads us again to the question is organic SEO really free?
Em: Yeah, well I mean we’ve talked about how we don’t have to pay Google to rank, that’s why it’s called organic, but there’s always a transaction when you do anything. And so you might not be forking out money if you are working on your SEO strategy personally and you’re looking up free resources online and things like that. Yes, there’s definitely an amount that you will be able to implement yourself for example, but we just mentioned that there’s over 200 ranking factors and they go from like small things like we talked about changing your H1 headings for example, to really in-depth technical aspects of your site like page speed, schema mark-up, there’s just so much involved!
Em: So really the question is, how much time do you really have to work on your SEO and is the best use of your time becoming a master of this SEO sphere? Or is it better spent… are you a business owner? Do you really need to be focusing on running your business, or managing your team, or something like that?
Josh: Absolutely! So kind of… let’s put it into perspective a little bit. Em, when did you start working on SEO and learning SEO, and how long did it take until it worked or how long did it take until you feel like you actually understood SEO?
Em: Yeah. So I have a personal blog which I started around 2016, so it’s probably been about four years or so that I’ve been working on that. And I have probably spent at least a day a week…
Em: …minimum, most weeks since 2016, working on my blog. And when I first started, I think I’ve mentioned this before that I started to see traffic from Google coming in and I didn’t know what I was doing. But when I started to see that, that’s when I started to look into SEO and find out what’s involved, and how does it work and is it replicable? Is it something that I can pursue and grow for my blog?
Em: And so it’s probably only I would say, in the past year that I’ve really felt like I have a solid understanding of SEO. My website is up to scratch. I now get I think at least 10-15,000 traffic hits on my site per week and a lot of that comes from Google. So yeah, there’s just so much involved and it goes so in-depth and you really need to spend a lot of time, I guess, is my key point in figuring that out.
Josh: So that took like three to four years until you really feel like you started to see results.
Josh: And that’s one thing we kind of say all the time that it’s a long-term game. Like you won’t receive results for like six months, and that’s maybe even with an expert, because there’s so many variables that goes into it. In fact, Search Engine Watch did a case study of 10 different size companies to see how much time SEO would take and this is what they wrote.
“Even for the small range of organizations I examined here, small to mid-sized businesses, you can see the vast range of potential time spent on an SEO campaign. Added up, it amounts to anywhere between 12 to 104 hours per week. If you put in 12 hours a week don’t expect to climb to a top position anytime soon. On the other end of the spectrum, if you want the best results as fast as possible you may need to hire employees, contractors, or an agency.”
And so he’s saying that you could spend up to 104 hours every single week just working on SEO. And in this article he full-on broke down all the aspects of SEO and how long it would take to implement each thing on different sized companies. But that’s absolutely crazy!
Em: That’s like two and a half full-time employees!
Josh: I know!!
Julz: That’s massive! I mean you put that into monetary terms, you know, you’re paying 100… over 100 grand and you know…
Julz: …wages right there!
Julz: I want to add in in that point as well. You’ve got to ask yourself the question why? Why do you want to rank or what are you ranking for? Like organic traffic is cool but I came across this the other day where I was like okay, so you want to rank for that keyword, but old mate you’re based in Western Australia but old mate in Sydney is going to read your organic traffic blog post that’s popped up, maybe, on a search result. What are they going to do with that? Like you’re a local business based in Western Australia so they’re either going to consume that content and leave and go down the road to their local physio, or they’re going to what? Like if you even if your call-to-action was a telehealth call-to-action at the end of that blog post, you might get a telehealth consult out of that…. Maybe
Josh: Yeah, but you can’t provide as much value as you would if it was a local client.
Julz: So you know, you just got to ask yourself as well, like why am I putting all of this time and effort into SEO?
Julz: That’s the first question.
Josh: Which is actually the next, like one of the questions we’ve written down here. Is it worth the energy to learn all of this from scratch?
Julz: Yeah, right.
Em: Yeah! Like we talked about before if you’re saying yes to learning SEO then that takes away from your time and you’re obviously saying no to something else, whether that’s time with family or time that needs to be spent on your business. There’s always an exchange involved and SEO is complex, so you know, if you’re learning this from scratch, it’s like… it’s like learning an instrument from scratch or a new language. Like it’s honestly… can be mind-blowing!
Josh: Yeah. How long does it take to master an instrument?
Julz: Ten thousand hours! They say to master anything, to become truly brilliant, or good, like really great at something takes ten thousand hours!
Josh: And so the question is, we mentioned last week about stressed business owners, like why did you become a business owner in the first place? For most people it’s about some sort of autonomy. You want to be able to spend more time with your family. You want to be able to have more free time and so the question is like if you’re saying yes to learning SEO, what are you saying no to?
Julz: Yeah, that’s a good point Josh!
Josh: And it takes time to research, and it takes time to learn. And the other thing is that there’s lots of free resources but not all of those resources are even correct or even up to date!
Julz: Yeah, yeah, yeah!
Josh: Like and then, after speaking of up to date, you also need to put in time to stay up to date to Google because Google makes thousands of algorithm changes almost every year!! Like just in 2018… get this guys… this is crazy… Google reported an incredible 3,234 updates which is an average of almost nine per day, and that was more than eight times the number of updates in 2009!! And so Google is increasing the amount of time that they’re updating the algorithm, because they’re getting like… what? Like probably 40 billion searches a day??
Julz: And it’s getting more complex!
Julz: I mean at the end of the day, websites, as though the user experience is becoming more simple, the actual technicals behind it are becoming more advanced. So of course there’s going to be updates, there’s… you know, more accessibility, like you know, all of that stuff. So that’s a… that is an incredible stat! 3000 updates!!
Josh: And SEO like it affects more than… like it’s more than just content. So many times you look in those free resources online and they’re like update your H1 headings, or do all of this content stuff. But like we just released a podcast two weeks ago talking about Google’s new updates.
Julz: Yeah, more coming up in the next sort of six or 12 months maybe.
Josh: And that’s going to change everything! And it’s called web vitals is what it’s called, and it has everything to do with user experience. So these aren’t even technical things. These aren’t even copyright. These aren’t even your content. It’s way deeper than that!
Josh: So I guess that leads to the next question, which is are you technically minded?
Em: Yeah. So a lot of those things to implement in terms of SEO on your website, they’re technical. They’re not just simple content changes. So sometimes we want to ask like do you even know your way around your website? Or, if an error came up would you know how to fix it confidently? Do you know what steps to take? Things like Google Analytics, do you know it inside out? Can you read your traffic? Do you know what it means or how you can basically improve those things or like get that information, and then turn it into ways that you can improve your website basically? Simple technical things like schema markup as well, like…
Josh: Yeah, what the heck is schema markup?
Em: I know! Most of the time we say that people are like what?? But it’s so important especially for local businesses as well to have schema.
Josh: And only a third of local businesses actually use schema. And so it shows that most people actually have no idea about this and yet I would guarantee that more than a third of local businesses want to rank higher in Google Search.
Julz: Oh it’s the request that we get constantly, constantly is SEO! I want to rank number one or I want to improve my rankings but you know A are you willing to put into that and B do you feel confident to do that yourself? Because some people have tried you know. They’ve gone away and they’ve attempted to improve their website on their own and like everything out there, there’s good software, there’s good, you know, services that are available, but there’s also lots of dodgy ones, and they’re only free and people try to do their organic SEO on the free and on the cheap, and uh it ends up in a worse place than what it started out. And then they come across our desk and it’s like hey my thing is broken, or this is broken. And it’s like well I can see what you’ve done here.
Julz: Let’s undo what you’ve done and fix these things.
Josh: Well, it’s like a great example of that is the Yoast SEO Plugin. It’s the most used plugin on WordPress for SEO, but most people actually don’t understand it. Like when you put in a keyword in Yoast and it gives you the green light, it doesn’t actually mean anything!
Julz: That you’re going to rank.
Josh: Like what does that green light actually mean?
Em: It basically means that you’ve implemented their suggestions, I guess, to their standard. But I mean it doesn’t… because I know there’s a section where you put in your keyword into Yoast and that doesn’t actually mean that you’re going to rank for that keyword. Yoast doesn’t talk to Google. It basically is its own little algorithm that’s based off of Google, but it’s very simplified. So yes, go for the green lights in Yoast, but it’s not necessarily going to mean that you rank, unfortunately.
Josh: Absolutely! There’s so much more behind it. Like we said, there’s over 200 ranking factors and so you can really only understand that if you are technically minded.
Julz: Yeah. You got to ask yourself again, like coming back to where do you want to focus your energies and what do you want to become a master of? Like I had this thought last night where it was like thinking of Podiatry for some reason, and I was going well you know, when you’ve hurt your foot and you go to a Podiatrist you don’t like think like you get your foot strapped up, right?
Julz: It’s not the tape that fixes you. It’s the Podiatrist and their expertise that they trained 10 000 hours in to learn and understand exactly what’s going on within your foot!
Julz: And so, this is like the thing that’s really tripping me out at the moment, because people come across the desk and they’re like, oh you know “I want to get SEO done but I don’t want to pay for it”. Well it’s like, well you know, you could try and attempt at these tools and it might not fix it. What you really need is an expert, somebody that really understands what’s going on here. You’ve just got to ask yourself do you want to learn that?
Josh: Yeah. It’s like we’ve never graduated from the magic band-aid mindset.
Josh: Like you know, like I have a daughter and she fell over the other day and scratched her hand and so I got out the magic band-aid and put it on her hand. And she went from crying to all happy because now she’s got the magic band-aid! And like that’s the mindset that we have! Like “Oh if I just slap on these SEO fixes, then that’s all that needs to happen!”
Julz: And the other aspect is that we live in this instantaneous sort of gratification society, where we just have to instantly get things like right here, right now, instant results…
Julz: …really, really, quickly. And SEO, I’m sorry to say, it just doesn’t work exactly like that!
Josh: Yeah, which leads to our very last question, which is do you really, and we mean really, do you really want to rank number one? And I can say to all of our listeners, you do want to rank number one and here’s why. I’m going to re-list off a few stats.
92% of traffic, of all website traffic, goes to the results on the first page of Google. On the first page alone, the first five organic results account for 67.6% of all the clicks. And then, position one in Google enjoys a 34.36% click-through rate. So, pretty much 92 of all traffic is on that first page. 35% of those will go to the first one, and what would that be… the rest, the other 30% will go to the other four results. And then get this! Correctly implemented SEO can drive a 14.6% conversion rate. So imagine that first website who gets 35% click-through rate of all of the Google traffic to that search, and then they convert almost 15% of all of those clicks because they’ve got a great SEO strategy, and their websites optimized for conversions. 28% of searches that include local intent will, will result in a purchase. And so, you want to rank number one, but do you really want to rank number one?
Julz: What’s that worth to you?
Julz: That’s the question. What’s it worth to you?
Josh: And so many of us, like we look at it as an expense, but it’s not an expense is it? It’s an investment!
Julz: Yeah, yeah! And like Em seeing with her blog, it’s a different context for most businesses. It’s a blog of course, but you know, she’s invested a lot of time, and energy, and strategy, and thought behind that and lots of trial and error. But now it’s… it is like she says running on like its own… you know… off its own momentum.
Josh: Absolutely! And so, this is like super overwhelming probably for our listeners. Like… it’s like “Oh I’m putting so much effort into this but I’m really only just scratching the surface”.
Julz: But this is why we’re talking about it, because we want to address this issue! Because it’s like the most um… what would you call it? Misunderstood!
Em: Yeah, most talked about, but like one of the biggest strategies that we see people say “Do SEO! It’s free, and you know your business will boom! It’ll fix all your problems.”
Em: It’s the band-aid!
Julz: It is, it is, and sort of the… I guess the point that we got stuck in, because we tried to accommodate to the… obviously people want SEO. They want it cheap because they don’t want to pay for it. So we created a course for that, and then we put that out there we didn’t actually get so many bites, because I think what we’re finding is that, well, technically it’s far too advanced, and like I heard the other day, do I want to kill my life learning how to learn SEO?
Julz: And I was like well, that’s a good point! And so we’re sort of stuck in this place of going well people want it, but how much do they want it? How badly do they want that if they’re not even willing to invest their time or a minimal amount of money? You got to ask the question!
Josh: Absolutely! And so you’re really left with four options that we can think of.
Julz: What are they?
Josh: And the first option is that you do nothing. You just ignore SEO and you just hope that you rank high, and if you have a lot of traffic coming to your site well maybe that would work. But for the majority of people that won’t work.
Option number two is you can purchase an SEO tool, which ranges from like a few dollars a month to a few hundred dollars per month. And one of our favourites is SEM Rush.
And then, option number three is you could hire an SEO expert. The SEO expert already utilizes those programs but you also get the thousands and tens of thousands of hours of experience, and in testing things, and seeing it fail and then so implementing new things. You get all of that and I guess the hard thing is that there are SEO experts out there who aren’t actually experts either, and so we would recommend that if someone’s charging less than a thousand dollars a month, then they’re probably not implementing it well enough because remember, it takes up to 104 hours per week to do good SEO. And so many times we come across companies that are purchasing SEO consulting and they’re not really doing anything. Because SEO is so confusing, people can absolutely just rip people off!
So, option three was to hire an SEO expert, and then option four is that you can blunder through the masses of uninformed, outdated SEO content on the web and you can spend thousands of hours by yourself trying to implement and update, and like Julz said, just totally ruin your life by spending your entire time doing that.
Those are your options and so I guess the question is, we’ll just reiterate that question again, is organic SEO really free?
Julz: Yeah. So which boat do you fall into? I mean, if it’s any of those options, we’ll put them all below. We’ll put the option one, if you want to do a course. You can learn it yourself. If you want to get the tools we’ll put a link to SEM Rush down there.
Julz: Like we’re going to give this stuff away! But or if you want to chat to us, book a discovery session and we can walk you through some options, moving forward.
Josh: Absolutely. It can be overwhelming but you really need to look at it from a higher level. Rather than just working in the business you want to work on the business.
So that’s it! That’s us for today. Thank you so much Julz and Em for joining us and thank you so much for all of our listeners.
We’ll see you next time!