For the first “Friends Friday,” I did a quick interview with the amazing Jason Zook of Wandering Aimfully.
Jason has created a ton of amazing projects over the years, including I Wear Your Shirt where he was wearing t-shirts for brands before influencer marketing was even a thing. Jason is an amazing person and has had a huge impact on my life. He’s one of the people who helped my find my way to my job at Clique Studios, helping me realize that I didn’t have to go out on my own immediately. I’ve absolutely fallen in love with my job as SEO Director and where I am at in my career.
An edited version of our conversation appears below.
What is your general approach when it comes to SEO?
Well, at first it was no approach whatsoever. I would just write content that I thought would be helpful or fun or interesting — the kind of stuff I would read. A lot of people write content first for SEO, instead of thinking: would a human want to read this?
As I got a little bit further, I start actually thinking about SEO and I realized there is a foundation of stuff that I can do. And so for me, it’s very basic. It’s to write the article first of the topic that’s on my mind, the problem I want to solve, and then think about: what is the key phrase or the key takeaway from this? And then I ask, is that the keyword? Now I see if can I pepper that throughout the H1, the H2, the H3, and the meta description. I use Yoast for WordPress, so I’ll check if it’s in there properly. And that’s really it. I don’t think about it beyond those things.
So instead of taking a keyword and thinking, here’s an opportunity, and then pursuing it from that, your approach is more like: here’s a significant problem that I feel uniquely able to solve and then I’m going to tackle it in my writing.
Yeah. I think that you can go both ways. If you have a niche site, like a coffee roasting site like our mutual friend Matt, then it makes sense to do keyword research and then write articles about that.
But I think for a lot of us who own small businesses and like to write and share things about our experiences, it’s hard to search for that stuff and write about it. It’s more about — here are some lessons I’ve learned in life that I want to share and I want to help people get through faster than I got through them. And then, let me figure out how SEO fits into that. Maybe it doesn’t for a lot of those, but it does for some. Then that becomes all the traffic that you hopefully need organically to help sustain all the other stuff that doesn’t get organic traffic that you just keep publishing cause you like to publish it.
You’re giving yourself permission to publish stuff that people might not ever search for.
Totally. A lot of people may share it and bookmark it and enjoy it and it may bring them value, but it’s not something that people are asking Google for. That’s something I think about all the time — is someone going to Google to search for this question? Oh, they’re not. Okay, well that’s not going to stop me from writing this thing because I still want to share it and it’s still helpful.
But if someone is asking Google a question and I can answer that question, it is helpful to think about that content as well — the point is not to obsess over that part of it because that’s a losing-sum game. You’re just going to be chasing the algorithm and the updates and the SEO changes and all that stuff as opposed to writing what’s unique to you that you can constantly share and produce content about.
It sounds like your approach to SEO is not any different than your approach to creating content in general.
I just try not to let anything dictate my content creation that’s out of my control because once I do that, I’m not going to create from a place of actually enjoying it all the time. It’s going to feel constantly like work that I don’t want to be doing as opposed to going, what do I want to write about? Okay, cool, some SEO terms fit into this, some keywords and phrases, whatever. Awesome, and maybe this has a chance to rank.
One of those for me was my: how to start a business with no money and no ideas article. I wrote it in 2015 and now in 2019, it’s on the homepage of Google, almost four years later. Nothing has changed. It just randomly started getting picked up now.
What’s one of the biggest mistakes that you see people making, especially beginners, when it comes to SEO?
I think it’s chasing after trying to rank. I think the best thing that you can do is be consistent and authentic about the content that you can create. If that’s a personal blog about your life, great. Let Google figure it all out later.
Or do what I did in 2014 — I wrote consistently for about two years. It was 104 weeks straight — an article, an email — and I literally did nothing with SEO on any of them. Then about two years into that, I think we started chatting and I started understanding some of the little things that I could do and it didn’t feel so complex and so crazy. Then I went back in and I optimized a couple of the articles that made sense and that started to reward me.
I just think people go too quickly to the like, let me optimize all my things. Let me try and rank everything. We’ve got to write the perfect content, blah, blah, blah. You see that it just doesn’t work quickly enough for that to be worth your time.