In her work as VP of Client Strategy at digital marketing agency Transistor, Lindsie Nelson focuses mostly on SEO, using search trends and keywords to develop content that drives traffic.
One thing she says digital marketers and their clients must never forget is that content can’t just speak to search engines – it needs to connect with people in a meaningful way as well so that they get the information they need about products and services.
Part of that strategy is to have long-term goals in mind, while still being able to make short-term changes to capitalize on emerging trends… like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
We talk about how you might tweak your SEO in uncertain times, as well as…
- Blending creativity with data-driven decision-making
- One of the most useful tools to improve your landing pages – and it’s free
- Long-term plans versus short-term SEO decisions
- Best practices for messaging in pages, title tags, and meta descriptions
- And more
Mentioned in this episode:
Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success Podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. Today we’re going to talk about making a CEO agile during uncertain times. Here to speak with me about the topic is Lindsie Nelson, who is the vice president of client strategy at Transistor, a digital marketing agency that specializes in search engine marketing, SEO and PPC.
In her role, she provides strategic direction for search engine optimization clients that range from large ecommerce party supply retailers to travel and tourism sites. Her diverse background in search marketing, corporate marketing and public relations provides needed element to ensure every client’s search strategy and implementation is a success. Lindsie, great to have you on the show.
Lindsie Nelson: Hi, thanks so much for having me.
Steffen: Lindsie, before we dive deep into today’s topic, let’s find out a little bit more about you. How did you get started in advertising?
How Lindsie Got Started In Digital Advertising
Lindsie: Yeah, I mean, I went through a number of different jobs before I got to search. So I was in public relations, corporate branding, flash marketing on the digital and traditional side. And I really wanted something that was data-driven. And I found this world of search where we can have marketing and that creative understanding of consumers, but also have the data to back up our decisions and what we’re doing every day. So I just kind of fell in love with search and joined a search agency and loved it. Learned a lot. And then a partner of mine, we decided to start are on agency and provide really great search strategy and options for clients.
Steffen: Wonderful. So you’re focused a lot more on SEO, is that correct?
Lindsie: Correct. Yep.
Steffen: Why did you pick SEO over the PPC side?
Lindsie: Yeah, that’s a good question. So for me, my background was really more in marketing strategy and understanding consumers. So I have a small understanding and background in advertising. But really the marketing content strategy and how we can use information like keywords and search trends to make decisions on that marketing is why I fell more into the SEO side of the world rather than the advertising, PPC side.
Steffen: I see. The COVID-19 outbreak clearly has a huge impact on many businesses at the moment, no matter what size. For some, the current situation presents opportunities, as there is a greater request or need for their services or products. However, from the majority of businesses the decrease, or they see a decreased demand and that generates existential challenges. So decision-makers at companies are wondering how to overcome the situation, but also how to set themselves up for success once things go back to normal. Lindsie, how have your clients at your company been impacted by this pandemic?
Lindsie: Well, it’s been a variety as you said, we’ve had some that have traffic and revenue gone to practically zero. We’ve had some clients that have stayed fairly consistent, and some that I’ve seen some really great surges. It really, it’s such a variety and I think that no matter if it’s improving or decreasing, I think that understanding where the change is coming from and how we can communicate to a customer base is super crucial.
I think something that is forgotten about SEO sometimes is that we aren’t Not just speaking to search engines, right? We’re not creating content and metadata just for Google. We are doing it to connect people with products and services that they need. And this is the time to reevaluate that process and if we are properly getting the information and the content that people need.
So I think a really cool example of this actually is a client that we have is a jewelry retailer. So they have something like 10 locations in the states and they have closed every single one of their brick and mortar locations, which has been their entire business model up to this point. They sell face to face, people come and look at engagement rings, they buy them. Well in the last few weeks, we have supported them in launching an ecommerce buying platform.
So you can actually sit on your couch with your significant other, browse engagement rings and buy something that was never available for before. So the really cool piece of what’s going on right now, even if you’ve been negatively impacted, is taking these difficult times, finding solutions to get through these difficult times that are also going to benefit the business in the long run. I mean, this client now has brick and mortar. That’s not going to go away. But they also have this wonderful ecommerce option so people can buy their products anywhere. And that’s going to be a long term option for them moving forward.
Steffen: Do you see for your clients greater impact on paid search sites? So spending money then on the SEO side? So what I mean by that is, have your clients pulled back more on paid search side and then maybe invested more in the SEO side because that could be a little bit more future proof?
Lindsie: Absolutely. So we’ve definitely seen a decline in paid advertising. I don’t think it’s completely dropped off because people still want visibility in that position in the search results page. But I think investing long term is just crucial right now. I mean, a number of our clients, it’s like, okay, we need to think about fall, late summer, fall, winter. So we’re looking far in the future and how we can set them up for when things turn back on, rather than what we can do today.
Steffen: Are there specific industries that you see that are more impacted by this?
What Industries Have Been Most Affected By COVID?
Lindsie: Absolutely. So I think there’s really two particular segments that have been the most hit. So one is brick and mortar. So unless you’re selling toilet paper or water or some essential, you are going to be impacted. there’s less foot traffic happening. And the second is related, so also hospitality and tourism. People aren’t able to move freely and get on an airplane and travel across the country. So these businesses have to look at ways to interact with their customers right now, while also building a community and a brand around what they currently provide.
So an example of this, we have a tourism client and they always focus on national, international travelers. People coming to them, staying in hotels, eating at their restaurants, visiting their attractions. Well, we can’t sell people and tell people to come because they just can’t. So there’s been this really great shift in talking to the people that are already there. What information do they need? And how from an organic perspective, can we provide that? So where can they go hiking? Where can they go biking? Where can they experience the outdoors that they may have never seen before in their local area?
And then also providing resources on local restaurants that are open or how they can order out and how they can support their community. So there’s been a total shift in what we’re communicating and also how we’re going to communicate that in the future. So we’ve talked about how search is long term. Well, we think that moving past this there is going to be an integrated feeling of community with everybody. So that is going to be emphasized in our search strategy. So making sure there is that like kind of warm and fuzzy feeling when somebody gets to especially a tourism site.
Steffen: I think the great thing about the content examples you just gave is that they’re not only just relevant now, right? They are going to be relevant once we’re out of this situation when things are going back to normal. People want to know where the best attraction, where can they go hike, where they can go fish, or what are the best restaurants, etc. So I think you talked about topics that paid search, I will probably call them evergreen content. They are relevant and they’re relevant now. They’re relevant two months, three months a year from now, which means once you create a content it should deliver consistent traffic to your site.
Lindsie: Right. Absolutely.
Steffen: So you just mentioned a few industries that you’ve seen negatively impacted by COVID-19. Are there industries that actually do well, in this time?
Are Any Industries Thriving During This Pandemic?
Lindsie: Yeah, it’s actually been really interesting. So we have a number of clients in the kind of home Improvement space. So people are spending time stuck at their house looking at the projects that have been sitting either partially done or completely undone for the last six weeks or six months or six years and they have the opportunity and time to fix these things. So we have a client that sells pest traps. So they’re a contraption to capture a bug that eats into the wood of your homes or structures. And we’ve seen traffic and revenue increase 50% or so year over year, which is pretty incredible.
And it’s been kind of fun. So we created this blog for how to DIY and creates this trap on your own because in theory, you can do it. It’s just made of wood. So we saw this fun increase in traffic for DIY related searches. So we made this blog. But it’s really turned into a way to say, Hey, you guys can make this but it’s really only $20 to buy it. So most people end up buying it anyways. But we’re still providing the content that people are looking for. And they can go ahead and use that as they would like. But definitely some increases in that kind of home improvement and making their home spaces better for now and for in the future.
Steffen: Interesting. What strategies are you using to determine what changes need to be made right now, if any?
Lindsie: Yeah, yeah. I think there’s definitely some movements that can be made right now. And there is a four-step plan that we were kind of going through with each of our clients to figure out what changes do need to be made right now to our search strategy. And the first step is really determining what is working right now. So this is using Google Analytics, Google Search Console, which are both free tools to find out information like what landing pages are improving? Which keywords or queries are improving in impressions? And using that information to really adjust maybe where our focus is at that time.
So I love the landing page report in Google Analytics. So we can see, okay, in the last, I don’t know, 14 days compared to the previous period, are there any landing pages that are level, are improving, or maybe they’re improving or decreasing a little bit less than they were than the rest of the site. So if we can see the site as a whole is decreasing by let’s say, 50% in traffic. But we have this small subsection of the site that’s decreasing by maybe 5%.
Well, maybe it’s a time to really invest some time and energy into those pages that are not experiencing the declines that some of the other pages or sections of the site are. And that can also be applied to Google Search Console and looking at queries that have impressions that are improving or staying stagnant. And really using that information to drive what changes we can make. So first is looking at what’s working right now. Second step is also figuring out what trends are happening related to our industry.
So this is getting outside of our tools and kind of looking at the environment. Looking at Google News Searches related to your industry. Looking at social media. And also Google Trends is really really helpful for these types of searches. So you can see over the last seven days or, you know month, if a specific keyword or topic is increasing. So for a party supply company, people can’t have big birthday parties with friends and family.
But what they are still doing is looking for at-home birthday solutions. So how can they throw a really awesome, memorable fourth birthday party for their kid while in quarantine? And that’s information we can provide right now and create. So once we have an understanding of what’s working, what kind of trends are popping up, we can also go into the third step, which is creating a definitive plan for this. So all of this is moving fast, right?
We want to plan for long term, but if we’re going to make short term SEO decisions, we have to move quickly. And having a defined plan of which pages need to be changed and altered today. Maybe there are pages that need to specifically talk about COVID-19 or about this current health crisis. Or maybe there’s new content that needs to be created. Maybe there needs to be a section of the site that specifically communicates something for the community. We can do that.
And we can do that fairly quickly as long as we have a plan in place. I would say the only major, major thing to remember if you’re going to be changing your site for these kind of short term wins, is to keep a really detailed list. So have a list of landing pages that you’re changing or creating, and what you’re adding to these pages so that when things start to level off or go to normal past where we are today, those pages can be reverted fairly easily.
Without the concern of like, you know, two years from now you realize, Oh, we have all these pages that we talked about something that happened in 2020. So definitely keep a detailed list of that. And then the fourth step is really implementation. You know, get it implemented, coordinate your team, whether it’s internal staff or the client staff to get things moving as quickly as possible. competitors are doing it so we have to stay on top of it just as quickly.
Steffen: So what I hear from you is when it comes to content creation during uncertain time, like this pandemic, there probably shouldn’t be a mixture between content pieces that are focused on long term information. So, as you mentioned before your tourism client where you talk about the best restaurants, best places to hide or fish, etc.
But there probably should also be at least an element that addresses that current situation. And so you develop content for exactly that, well knowing that once you’re out of, you know, the COVID-19 situation, which hopefully assuming we’ll be no one is going to look for information on that anymore, which means that the traffic that you generate through those pages will most likely go towards zero.
Lindsie: Correct. Correct. Yes. So having kind of an integrated strategy of information that we need today to keep things moving and progressing, but also picking up when things gonna go back to a normal and making sure we’re ready for that. It’s something that I think is super, super important right now is that we are ready when things turn back on.
Steffen: So content, obviously, is one part of SEO. Is link building heavily impacted by uncertain times, or did nothing changed on that end?
Why Link Building Isn’t Currently a Primary Focus
Lindsie: You know, I probably wouldn’t focus a ton on link building right now, honestly. I think that there could be opportunities to reach out to other sites or networks that are experiencing similar times as we are. But I think right now really focusing on messaging, even if it’s relooking at some of your most important pages and the title tags and meta descriptions, so the things people are seeing in the search results.
I think having a solid messaging of what that site is about and what we’re doing today is going to be really impactful. Whereas I think link building is just kind of a constant throughout that really shouldn’t evolve or change too much during these times.
Steffen: Are any of your clients changing products or services right now to kind of adjust to the situation that we’re facing?
Lindsie: Absolutely. I mean, we’ve talked about one of the clients, you know, launching an ecommerce site, which not everybody is able to do. But there’s also a lot of adjustments in what people are making. So we work with a lot of manufacturers that have never made face masks or ventilators before and all of a sudden, they’re adjusting to be able to provide, make, or source these products.
And that is impacting us from an organic perspective because we’re creating healthcare pages, or we’re optimizing these healthcare pages that were maybe kind of bleak before because they didn’t do a whole lot of product creation in that industry. Whereas now it’s super important. So we’re investing some time into making sure those pages are updated with our capabilities and how these companies are adjusting based on the current situation.
Steffen: That’s interesting. Would you say that them adjusting is probably only going to have a short term impact on traffic and things like that, unless they’re already in that industry working?
Lindsie: Well, I think that it’s a little bit of both. So we have some clients that are just strictly creating facemasks for this short period of time and they’re going to be done with it. But like we have one client that did provide some products in the healthcare industry before. So they’ve been certified by the FDA.
They have all the ISO certifications to provide health care products, and it was a small kind of niche for them. Where now I think it’s an opportunity to grow and getting more experience and exposure in this industry, I think it will have long term benefits and effects for their business and we can help them kind of navigate to allowing it to be a bigger piece of their business in the future.
Steffen: So how would you then, with that in mind, with that healthcare company that you work with, how would you then set up the future SEO strategy? Because it clearly then should have an impact on the future strategy, right?
Lindsie: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. So for them, for example. So we looked at their current health care page, what kind of copy they had, client examples, even lists of, you know, what they can create and what they provide all had to be updated. So we had to look at the content they had. We definitely looked at metadata, but also, I think what is really important that people overlook sometimes, is your navigational structure. So making sure that healthcare is higher up in your navigation, it’s easily accessible from the homepage.
You have a really solid internal linking strategy. Are their blogs linking to the health care page? So making sure that the site is this beautiful little web of links, indicating priority pages and making sure health care becomes one of those priority pages. And whether that’s deciding that maybe making silicone keypads is less important. And we’re going to now prioritize ventilators or things in the healthcare industry, we’ll have to kind of make those decisions as we kind of evolve the strategy over time.
Steffen: I’ve been in digital marketing. There’s not often paid search in 2004. So 16 plus years now. And even now I have a feeling that SEO for many companies is still an afterthought. Why is now a good time to invest in SEO for companies that have not seriously considered doing so? Because obviously, you talk about clients that already have SEO activities in place. So it’s probably an easier conversation of those companies to say what we need to shift a little bit to adjust to this current situation. But for companies that have not invested in it or just dabbled in it and haven’t really taken it seriously, what would you say to them? Why now?
Why Now is the Time to Invest in SEO
Lindsie: Yeah, that’s a really great question, I think now is so much more important than it’s ever been before. We are going to become more and more digital. And whether there’s going to be brick and mortar stores or not, people are going to need access to websites. And the competition is only going to grow. So even if you’re in an industry where nobody’s doing SEO, let’s say there’s, you know, five competitors in your small market and nobody’s doing SEO, so you just don’t do it either. Well, what if somebody does?
They’re going to annihilate everybody else in the competition because they have that stronghold in the market. I mean, Google really finds history important. The longer you’re doing these things, the more change in evolution you have, all our positive kind of ticks for your website. And right now, you have to kind of get in before anybody else does. I mean, search is constantly changing and growing. But today, I think setting up your site in a place that if this happens again, or when something like this happens again, even if it’s just market-specific, you’re ready to take that on and it’s not as much of a hit.
You know, we can overcome this where it’s like, a little bit of a back step when we have a problem, but then it’s a big leap forward. So I absolutely think that right now is a great time. And heck, if you’ve got some extra time on your hands, why not invest a little bit of time and effort into places that you haven’t had the time to do before?
Steffen: I think that’s a great point. And I think what I probably also want to say is doing things now on the SEO side doesn’t mean that tomorrow you’re going to see an applicant traffic. Obviously, SEO is a mid and long term strategy. And I think what many of our clients, for example, see as a value is that in times like these, when you might not be able to invest so much in paid media activity, your traffic from SEO normally doesn’t get much of a hit.
And you don’t have to pay for it, right? You pay for it in advance because it’s an investment once you start doing it. But once you have started with it, it’s going to consistently deliver traffic to your site, whether that’s informed or if people are just visiting, getting to know a company, generating lead sales and so on.
Lindsie: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that having that kind of long term view of this and being able to overcome challenges without the hiccups kind of major market changes is really, really beneficial for any business.
Steffen: So if someone said, Well, you know, now that I can’t do sales anymore because no one wants to buy anything, so, okay, I’ll start with SEO. Where would someone start?
Lindsie: Yeah. Well, we always start with a technical audit, especially if you’ve never worked with an SEO before, even if you have worked with an SEO agency before, I think making sure the technical health of a site is so, so important and something that’s really overlooked. So making sure that search engines can effectively crawl your site, making sure that there aren’t pages hidden by weird, you know, robots is really, really important to make sure that things are set up well.
So always starting with an audit, making sure technical health is in place, but then also doing a general content audit of the site. What information do we have comparative to the competitors and what can we be doing better? And obviously using data as much as possible to prove those things. So looking at keyword search volume as well as Google Analytics, Search Console, whatever information we can compile to get us there and try to get above those competitors.
Steffen: There are a number of tools out there that, you know, someone who just wants to get started who don’t have the money to hire you guys, for example, that they can use to get an audit done. I think the one of the challenging things I always see when we talk to companies, like they say, Well, you know, we can use a deep crawl, for example, to get an audit, which is totally fine. But, you know, it’s information that the system gives you. It’s then up to you to decide what is important and how to interpret the information right.
Lindsie: Right, and how to get it done, right? I mean, that’s, so we’ve even had companies come to us say, Oh, we’ve had other agencies give us an audit and we don’t know what to do with it. So it’s like giving Information is one thing but also saying, Okay, this is the order in which we need to do it and this is how you get it done based on your CMS.
Steffen: Yeah, yeah. The last question to the topic, you know, SEO in uncertain time and how to keep your SEO strategy agile. How much should an SEO strategy be adjusted, if at all, during uncertain times?
Lindsie: Yeah. I mean, I think that there’s a little bit of both parts of being agile and being focused, right? We always have our long term goals that we want to reach and achieve, whether it’s quarterly, annually, whatever it happens to be. And I think those still need to stay kind of top priority. But we have to also be able to adjust based on times. Right now, we can’t emphasize on things that aren’t selling or interested in at this point because it’s just, it’s not going to work. And that’s not what people want.
And we have to be hyper-focused on what the consumer wants and needs right now. So I think having a little bit of a split strategy right now where you’re spending time on how we can adjust things today, and then how we can optimize for the future and get to those long term goals even after all of this is done. So I think definitely keeping an eye on the end goal but also being able to move and shift along the way is what’s most important.
Steffen: Lindsie, thank you so much for your answers, for insights you shared with our audience. And then thanks for coming onto the Performance Delivered Podcast. If people want to find out more about you and, you know, they started doing some things for themselves, you know, used to deploy any other tool out there that provides initial audit but they feel overwhelmed by the sheer information that those tools spit out and don’t know where to start and how to fix things, right? How can they get in touch?
Lindsie: Yeah, absolutely. So They can get in touch by going to transistordigital.com. So we have a bunch of resources, there are ways to communicate with us. Anybody can email me a Lindsie LINDSIE@JFET.io. And I’d be happy to talk to anybody and even help people kind of get started and whatever I can do to help people along the way.
Steffen: Perfect. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you liked the Performance Delivered Podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about supporting digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.