How to Embrace SEO without Losing Your Soul

Paul Boag

This week on the Boagworld Show we talk search engine optimisation. Is this something people should care about and how much attention should we all be paying to it?

This week’s show is sponsored by TeamGantt and Boagworld Masterclass – How to Improve Conversion Without Alienating Your Users.


Paul Boag: This week on The Boagworld Show we talk about search engine optimization. Is this something people should be caring about and how much attention should we all be giving it? This week's show is sponsored by TeamGantt and the Encouraging Clicks Masterclass.

Speaker 2:

Paul Boag: Hello and welcome to Boagworld, the podcast about all aspects of user experience design, digital strategy and working in digital. My name is Paul Boag and joining me as always on this week's show is Marcus Lillington. Hello Marcus.

Marcus Lillington: Hello Paul Boag. How are you this week? Okay?

Paul Boag: I'm doing all right actually, yeah. I made the mistake of lighting the fire again, so I'm sweating, but other than that, all is good. It's just so cozy and nice when you light the fire.

Marcus Lillington: Hmm, yes. I've been having the one downstairs, but I don't put the heating on. Well there's two reasons why I don't put the heating on when I'm in the house on my own, and in the little office up in the corner, is because there's no point in heating an entire house just to keep me warm.

Paul Boag: No.

Marcus Lillington: I've got a little electric heater down here, which I am going to turn on in just a second. The second reason is that the heating doesn't work.

Paul Boag: Ah.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. The classic.

Paul Boag: It's that time of year isn't it?

Marcus Lillington: October. Hmm.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: It does work and then it goes no, sorry, so…

Paul Boag: I'll tell you inaudible 00:01:34, my wife was moaning because one radiator in our bedroom doesn't work, and she was like, "We spent all this money on the house and then the radiator doesn't work." I said, "That's plumbing," do you know what I mean? Plumbing is shit. It's a fundamentally flawed system I think, this whole using water. Can't we use nuclear fuel or something and live in the fu… We're supposed to live in the future and we're still pumping water around our house to heat it. It's weird.

Marcus Lillington: Well Canadians in particular think we're very odd because it's super cold out there isn't it?

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: They all have forced air heating, so it just comes through vents in the wall.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Much more sensible.

Marcus Lillington: Rather than heating up these metal plates on the wall.

Paul Boag: I know.

Marcus Lillington: With hot water.

Paul Boag: It's a really weird thing isn't it?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: If you think about it, it's a very weird way of doing things, but there you go.

Marcus Lillington: Ours is, apparently, it's just full of crap.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: But I'll put a guess on it, central heating was put in this house in the 1950s I'm guessing, and yeah, so it's just that it fires up all happy, the boiler's like yeah, yeah, and then it obviously can't pump it round so it goes, hmm, no, I'm turning off.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: There you go.

Paul Boag: Yeah, inaudible 00:02:53 joy.

Marcus Lillington: But anyway.

Paul Boag: Well there you go.

Marcus Lillington: You carry on talking while I put my little radiator on.

Paul Boag: This apparently now is this week in plumbing instead of a podcast about anything useful or web design related. But while Marcus is faffing around with his heater, I did want to… Can I recommend a book? Am I allowed to recommend a book on the show? I'm reading a really interesting book at the moment. I don't agree with all of it, and to be honest, if I'm entirely honest, it could have been a long blog post rather than the book. It's one of those ones that repeats itself.

Marcus Lillington: You're not selling it anymore. You've stopped selling it.

Paul Boag: I have haven't I? No, it's really good, it just repeats itself quite a lot.

Marcus Lillington: Okay.

Paul Boag: It's called a Company of One, and I love it Marcus. It's the kind of book that you want to take and wave under Brian's nose. Brian is a non-executive director. I think he's pretty much given up on Headscape now. But he believes in building these big companies and selling them off, and growth, growth, growth and all that. Very much like you're seeing in the Silicon Valley at the moment. There's this culture of grow fast and all of that kind of stuff, which of course, me and Marcus Lillingtonived through in the dot com days, and it has made both of us, and Chris as well, very cynical of that kind of thing.

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: I came across this book the Company of One, you can find it at Very good URL for the podcast. Nice short one. Basically it's making the argument for not growing your business, and it's like he's sat in on the conversations we always used to have at Headscape, and indeed I have now about well, should we grow? Is that really better? Is that really the thing to do? Will be any happier and all of those kinds of things? It's just it's brilliant.

Marcus Lillington: That's number one question. Well the only reason, real reason I think, unless you're… Well the main reason is that if you want to seel something, if it's worth a lot, if you built this thing up that's worth a lot of money and it's got loads of clients and all that kind of thing, you're more likely to sell it and make loads of money, so fine.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: if that's your goal, fine. I suppose some people I think love the idea of running something that's big and difficult and complex, to even feeds the mouths of lots of people, all their children, that kind of thing, but generally speaking, it's like well why? Why bother? If you're earning enough, why do you need to add more stress to your life? Because it is more stressful having a bigger company.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: As we know.

Paul Boag: It is. Yes, absolutely. For fear of rubbing it in to Marcus' face at the moment, since even leaving Headscape, I earn more now than I did when Headscape was 20 people strong, so actually, it's-

Marcus Lillington: But that's because you're the internet famous Paul Boag, that's why.

Paul Boag: No, it's nothing to do with that whatsoever, and you well know that.

Paul Boag: Yeah, it's a really good book, I highly recommend it, and I highly recommend it for anyone considering striking out on their own. He tries and makes it a little bit oh, it applies to people that work in large organizations as well, which it kind of does, but the real central message of it is one aimed at people like agency owners or people doing a startup type business of going look, you don't have to grow really fast.

Paul Boag: Now there are exceptions. Marcus has named a couple, and I've no problem if you're honest with yourself. If you go, "I want to build something big because I like the idea of managing something big," totally respect that. Equally I totally respect people that go, "I want to build this so that I can sell it, and that's my aim." Absolutely fine. But when people go… I think it's that thing of oh, if I build something big I will earn enough money to be happy. That's the logic that's fundamentally flawed and I think a lot of people have. So it's really good.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. You need to find the right size for you.

Paul Boag: Yes. Absolutely, yeah.

Marcus Lillington: That's the key.

Paul Boag: Totally agree with that.

Marcus Lillington: Which probably is different for different people.

Paul Boag: Absolutely, yeah. But just I'm into the book. I'm just into it because it feels like it's channeling everything that I've already believed. Do you know? I think that's a big part. When you read stuff, or actually talks is a really good example of this.

Marcus Lillington: I've been saying that for years.

Paul Boag: Yeah, absolutely. You go to a talk, I often… Who was I talking to? There was someone I was talking to who was saying, "Oh, I can't give a talk because I've got nothing unique that I can teach people." I would say, most people, what they want to hear up the front is what they've been doing all along, so they can go, "Look, I told you so."

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, it's true. Absolutely.

Paul Boag: Yeah, same with this book, I just, "Look, I told you so. It's not just me."

Paul Boag: Anyway, Marcus, you've got a thought for the day. You're going to talk about Drupal versus WordPress. This'll be an interesting one. You'll get a lot of hate. Whatever side you come down it'll be wrong.

Marcus Lillington: Hmm, yes. Where is it? Right. I've been rather busy over the last week, and Paul sent me an email in the middle of the night with the notes, which reminded me that we have a podcast today, so I was a bit shit, what am I going to talk about?

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Then I remembered that we did a comparison between Drupal and WordPress for a pitch that we've done quite recently, so I thought I'd share that. It might even actually be useful. You never know.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: We used to say things a bit along the lines of, "WordPress is really nice to use, but Drupal can cope with more complexity, so which is your site? Which bucket do you fit in?" But actually that doesn't really apply anymore, so what are the differences?

Marcus Lillington: I guess the first thing to say, and we did this to the client in question, is that there really isn't that much difference these days. We could have built this site and we could build pretty much any site on either happily. But we had to make the case for one or the other in this particular example that I'm talking about, so we thought well what are they? We think that Drupal is very slightly ahead, just for some technical reason.

Paul Boag: Oh, okay.

Marcus Lillington: I'm going to be doing a lot of reading stuff out now that I don't understand.

Paul Boag: That you don't understand?

Marcus Lillington: Some of it I do, but the first one is a good example. Drupal, this is because Drupal completely changed the way its core is built with the release of Drupal 8, and it's adopted an object oriented approach to code in compliance with PHP standard's recommendations. You can tell I'm reading that out can't you?

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Basically it means it follows industry best practices and has a clear way that code should be developed and included. They've also developed API access to the core features of Drupal, which means that it's easier to extend and customize. You still awake Paul?

Paul Boag: Yeah. No, I get that.

Marcus Lillington: The second point is it uses a tool, a feature called Composer to manage dependencies, or if things need updating, you can do them all via this thing called Composer.

Paul Boag: Oh, okay.

Marcus Lillington: Key to this is that it… because you could do this with all the Drupal related modules and things, but it didn't deal with the wider PHP ecosystem. Just imagine, and I'm not talking from experience at all here, just imagine if a third party component had been added to your site and it was no longer used, but it had been left on a server and not updated because it's a third party thing, because it's not Drupal specific. Then two, three years later it becomes a security vulnerability.

Paul Boag: Yes. No, you wouldn't know about that.

Marcus Lillington: Just imagine that. Just imagine it.

Paul Boag: What a horrible situation that would be.

Marcus Lillington: It would be awful wouldn't it? Anyway, so the new version, this Composer thing deals with all of that, so that's a cool thing.

Paul Boag: Ah, good.

Marcus Lillington: Another thing, and this is related to the first one I think, is stricter code layouts, so with the compliance to PHP standards recommendations, basically the development of modules for Drupal is more consistent. I'm nearly there. Two more points.

Marcus Lillington: Drupal has adopted an API first approach, which I mentioned earlier, and this means that data can be both updated and read through its API, allowing secure access from other systems. It's better at integrating.

Paul Boag: For integration.

Marcus Lillington: With third party stuff.

Marcus Lillington: Final point, Drupal has a dedicated security team, real people, that is constantly testing core code and major contributed modules, so whenever there's a major security update, the community is notified in advance, blah blah blah, everything can be coordinated so that the updates are done at a particular time and all that kind of thing. That's it really. Really, Drupal versus WordPress, they're pretty much the same these days, but apart from those few points.

Paul Boag: Paul in the chatroom describes it very nicely. He says he would categorize the difference as Drupal is a CMS, sorry, WordPress is a CMS and Drupal is a framework for building a CMS. I think he's saying that a little tongue in cheek. But to some degree I see where he's coming from there, that there is more work to setting up Drupal, I think, than there is a WordPress site, but it gives you a lot more granular control.

Paul Boag: I think my tendency would be for sites that are bigger with a bigger budget, I would lean more towards Drupal, but for smaller sites I would probably lean towards WordPress. Maybe that's because of my own knowledge and skillset, but also there is something very alluring about the massive catalog of plugins for WordPress that does make life very easy and very quick. Yeah, I means there's so much-

Marcus Lillington: But they exist for Drupal as well. Tens of thousands of them.

Paul Boag: Really?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Okay.

Marcus Lillington: But there really isn't a lot of difference, so but it was just we had to do that exercise, so I thought I'd share it.

Paul Boag: Yeah. No, it's an interesting exercise to do. This thing of plugins, I think, is quite a big issue because one of my clients recently, it was one of the clients that I mentor, and they wanted to know my marketing technique and how I drove leads and all that kind of stuff. I was talking them through my system, and time and time again I was talking about, "And I use this plugin for this thing and this plugin for that thing, et cetera." He was like, "Yeah, we build all our websites in Craft, so we don't have any of that." That is one of the dangers of picking a less mainstream product, is that you don't have that same level of plugin support around it, which is always a good thing. But then you, from the sounds of it, you get that both with WordPress and Drupal.

Marcus Lillington: I think two years ago I did a comparison between Drupal and WordPress versus Craft, because we were looking at Craft.

Paul Boag: Oh yeah?

Marcus Lillington: Because it's such a lovely interface, a really nice CMS to use.

Paul Boag: It is, yeah.

Marcus Lillington: But we basically came to the conclusion that yeah, it's not well supported enough. But so you don't get thousands of people building plugins for it and that kind of thing.

Paul Boag: Which is a little bit it's a shame in some ways because it's almost a catch 22 isn't it?

Marcus Lillington: Hmm.

Paul Boag: Because if it isn't popular enough, people don't buy into it, and what I like about plugins, sorry, what I like about competitors like that is it pushes the whole industry forward and pushes those bigger players to keep improving. Yeah, I hate to say it, but for example, I really like Gutenberg, and I'll get hate mail for saying that I like Gutenberg, but I do. I think it's a definitely improvement, but there you go.

Marcus Lillington: Well it's easy to use. It's not called that anymore is it? It's called something else, just like…

Paul Boag: Oh isn't it?

Marcus Lillington: Something, Box Editor or something. I don't know.

Paul Boag: Well, it is, yeah.

Marcus Lillington: But yeah, it is easy to use. But that, this is a little bit of a tangent, but I remember thinking about this idea of small CMSs and them being sold as open source platforms, which they are, but it's like if there aren't many people using it, it may as well be proprietary. It needs to have this huge community supported for open-source to be of any real value.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Except of course you can get the core code and you can mess around with the… If you're technical enough…

Marcus Lillington: I meant from a client perspective.

Paul Boag: And you've got enough resources. Yeah. From the client perspective, I agree.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Yeah, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington: If what they're concerned about is business continuity, it's like well, it doesn't really make any difference. Anyway.

Paul Boag: No.

Marcus Lillington: I've gone of on one.

Paul Boag: No, no, it's a good one. It was a bit different for us to talk about developing stuff.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, for me.

Paul Boag: Well yeah. You're the one talking about development stuff. All right, what we're supposed to be talking about this week is SEO.

Marcus Lillington: Something else I don't know anything about.

Paul Boag: Oh well, yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Well, a bit.

Paul Boag: I think it's worth saying at the outset, I'm not an SEO expert, but then the whole point of this season is it's to look at well, do we all need to know anything about SEO, and if so, how much do we need to know? It's not like we need to know a huge amount about SEO. I'm not expecting you to all become experts in SEO, neither am I, but rather to have maybe that basic understanding of what we're doing with that.

Paul Boag: I ummed and ahed as I do pretty much for most of these subjects every week, as to whether to include it or not, whether it really is a subject that we all need to pay attention to. O decided to inaudible 00:17:23 this one on the end, as much because I think most people have a very out of date attitude towards SEO that is quite a negative attitude, understandably so, and I'm quite happy to include myself.

Marcus Lillington: Because of people who used to write inflammatory blog posts on the subject.

Paul Boag: Yeah, and I did very much write inflammatory blog posts on Smashing Magazine about SEO, and I was proved entirely right I have to say, in terms of the direction that SEO eventually moved from that. But that was a long, long time ago, and the whole industry has really come on an enormous way. I think we do need to pay attention to it, I think we all do. We all know how important search engine rankings are. There's no getting around it. It's annoying in fact. The one that gets up my nose at the moment is the fact that Google have just got it sewn up so well haven't they?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: I am ranked number one for the term customer journey mapping, yet there are four ads above me, and they extract content from my article and display it in a snippet about my link as well, so you don't… well you do need to click through. I was actually sitting there going, "I wonder whether or not to pay for advertising on customer journey mapping," and that is the very thing that I rank number one on. The number of companies that end up having to pay for advertising for the name of their own company, that they come number one list over, because the competition have taken out ads on that word. Just anyway, right or wrong, that is the world we live in.

Marcus Lillington: Can you remember when Google was new Paul?

Paul Boag: Yeah, I can.

Marcus Lillington: Oh, look at this new thing. Isn't it good?

Paul Boag: I know. I know. We all got pulled in with its ease of use and its effectiveness.

Marcus Lillington: I know.

Paul Boag: Damn them for making a good product.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: crosstalk 00:19:39.

Marcus Lillington: If only AltaVista was still around eh?

Paul Boag: Yeah. Yes. Even it would just be a bit better if there was anything really that competed with Google on the same level.

Marcus Lillington: Well doesn't Bing supposedly?

Paul Boag: Oh really.

Marcus Lillington: No? I don't know. I've never used it. That was a question.

Paul Boag: In terms of market share it's minute compared to Google.

Marcus Lillington: But is it as powerful?

Paul Boag: I think it's much in a muchness, but it's irrelevant if no one uses it.

Marcus Lillington: If no one uses it, yeah.

Paul Boag: There's DuckDuckGo as well of course, which is the more ethical version of it, but you know.

Marcus Lillington: But Google say they do no harm.

Paul Boag: Well this is very true. I tell you one area where, this is a massive tangent, one area where Google do outperform Bing that I discovered recently from my teenage son, which did worry me slightly as to why he knew this, but anyway. If you Google how to commit suicide.

Marcus Lillington: Oh God.

Paul Boag: Yeah, I know. We talked about it, it was fine, he saw it in a Reddit post, it's all good. Well the fact that he's on Reddit disturbs me, but anyway. Reddit's a hive of scum and villainy in my opinion. Anyway, if you search on Google for how to commit suicide, you get the Samaritans helpline, and all these articles about why you shouldn't commit suicide.

Marcus Lillington: That's very good.

Paul Boag: Do the same thing on Bing and it gives you advice about how to kill yourself.

Marcus Lillington: Oh dear.

Paul Boag: That's a bit worrying isn't it?

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: Perhaps Google isn't all bad.

Marcus Lillington: No. I was just being a little bit naughty, because they had to change their we do no harm ethic thing didn't they? Because then they realized that actually they might be doing harm her en there around the world.

Paul Boag: Yeah, exactly. Comes to something when the company has to, "Actually, we are doing harm." Do a little bit of harm.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. Try not to do too much harm. There you go.

Paul Boag: Minimize your harmage.

Paul Boag: Right, okay, so anyway, there's the huge tangent. What we do know is that search engine rankings are important. There's no getting round it. Of course as marketers you're going to care deeply about that because if you get good SEO ranking, that means you can spend less on pay-per-click advertising, well at least in theory, although I did just undermine that. But that's the theory. PMs need to care about it simply because clients care about it. Copywriters need to care about it so they write relevant, well ranked content that uses the user's language. Designers need to care about it because actually, if you look at modern SEO and what Google wants from you, actually a lot of that is build around what I would call UX best practice, so there is a huge amount of overlap in that area.

Paul Boag: Developers need to care about it because one of the most important things Google seems to care about is speed. That makes an enormous difference in your rankings these days. Of course user researchers need to care about it because most journeys actually start from a search on a search engine. Actually I struggle to think of an audience that shouldn't be giving this at least some attention if that makes sense.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. Even salespeople to a certain extent. They need to understand, or yeah, they need to understand it enough so that they can explain to their would-be client how their company is dealing with that well.

Paul Boag: Yeah, absolutely. Really, it's something that I think, to some degree, we can't ignore.

Speaker 2:,

Paul Boag: Before we talk about what you need to know about SEO, let's just talk about this week's sponsor, which is TeamGantt. Really great tool that you should definitely check out. Do you know Brett Harned that we've had on the podcast a couple of times? Digital project manager guy, Brett.

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: Remember him? crosstalk 00:23:51.

Marcus Lillington: I've never met him I don't think.

Paul Boag: No, I don't think you have actually, so it's hard to remember people crosstalk 00:23:56.

Marcus Lillington: But yeah, I know who he is, yeah.

Paul Boag: Yeah, yeah. But anyway, he now works at TeamGantt, and he's doing some really cool stuff over there. First of all, TeamGantt is a beautifully intuitive project planning application, so it's easy to manage your projects and your timelines visibly. Visually.

Marcus Lillington: crosstalk 00:24:18.

Paul Boag: Visually.

Marcus Lillington: Visually.

Paul Boag: Either.

Marcus Lillington: Graphically maybe.

Paul Boag: Graphically, yes. As this is coming from someone that deeply hates Gantt charts with a passion.

Marcus Lillington: You're not a fan.

Paul Boag: I'm not a fan of Gantt charts, no, but these guys, I do like what they do actually. It's great. Being able to visually see what's going on in a project is a great way of rescuing your project from project chaos and missed deadlines and all that kind of stuff. It works great for both large and small teams, so project managers and team leads can easily see the picture with reports, but they can also dig into the details of particular people and resources. Specialists like designers, copywriters, marketers can customize their view so they're just seeing the relevant stuff to them, and they can easily switch between a calendar view, a simple list or a Gantt chart, so people like me who don't like Gantt charts have got alternatives.

Paul Boag: You can sign up to get a free plan by just going to I can never spell Gantt. It's one of those words I can never spell. G-A-N, double T, which makes no sense to me.

Marcus Lillington: Correct.

Paul Boag: It's ridiculous.

Marcus Lillington: It's a name isn't it? Mr. Gantt invented it I think, he says.

Paul Boag: Oh.

Marcus Lillington: I think.

Paul Boag: You just pulled that out of your arse didn't you?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. I've got to check it now.

Paul Boag: But here's the thing, if you want to get two free months of their advanced paid plan, with time tracking and all that kind of stuff built in, if you pop Brett an email, he's a lovely guy, he's a lovely guy, he said to me, "Oh yeah, we'll sort something out." Because I said, "People like a deal." He's agreed to do that. All you need to do is drop him an email to and feel free to pick his brain as well. His job is talking about digital project management and talking about how to manage your projects better, so I'm sure he'd be quite happy to have a little chat with you. He's a lovely guy. We need to get him back on the show at some point. But anyway, that's TeamGantt, so check it out at

Marcus Lillington: Right, here we go, a Gantt chart is a type of bar chart that illustrates a project schedule, named after its inventor, Henry Gantt, 1861 to 1919.

Paul Boag: It's been around a long time, Gantt charts.

Marcus Lillington: Was not talking out of my arse.

Paul Boag: No you weren't. Well done.

Marcus Lillington: For once.

Paul Boag: See, you do know things. What do you know about SEO? That's the question Marcus.

Marcus Lillington: Well probably more than I think I do, but hmm.

Paul Boag: Let's see how much of this is new to you, because I don't think a lot of it will be. Because to be honest, I don't think we need to know a ridiculous amount. A lot of SEO in my opinion is just common sense.

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: Is really it's remembering to think about it at the appropriate times in a project, and integrating it into your workflow. I think the most important things to remember is what the objectives are of search engines like Google. Now don't answer the cynical objective, which is to make shit tons of money. We know that one. Set that one aside for a minute. In terms of search, what they want to do is connect users with the best and most relevant content, after paid advertisers.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Actually, the way to rank well on search engines can be summed up by the simple statement of you create the best and most relevant content. If you do that you will rank well.

Marcus Lillington: That's all I have to do to get to number one on Google?

Paul Boag: Not necessarily number one, but yes. Yeah. I do honestly believe that largely speaking, if you create the best content that is the easiest to access and most relevant to users, you will end up number one on Google. But there are obviously other factors involved, but that is the core of it. Really, whenever a client talks about SEO, really that's what they're saying. They don't know they're saying that, but that's what they should be saying.

Marcus Lillington: But what they're saying is, "How do I get to number one on Google?"

Paul Boag: Yes, they are. The answer to that is to create better content that is more relevant than everybody else. But that's a hard thing to do.

Marcus Lillington: It is.

Paul Boag: But it's quite a useful answer because it puts the onus back on them, because they're often the ones that create the content and it's usually pretty ropy in my opinion. But anyway.

Paul Boag: Really, what you're doing is you're writing for people first and actually search engines second, because increasingly search engines do the hard work of working out whether your content is good or not. But there are some keys to creating the best and most relevant content for people, like using the right language. Using the words and terminology that your audience uses. I'm having this debate at the moment with a client.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, I'm interested to know what you mean by that.

Paul Boag: Well, what I mean by that is that I think a lot of us tend to use the kind of terms that people… Right, when people enter a term into a search engine, they're saying, "This is what I want," and they're saying it in their tone of voice. But often our websites don't use that same tone of voice, okay? Let me give you an example. One of my clients refers to dimensional mail.

Marcus Lillington: Hmm. Yeah, okay.

Paul Boag: Nobody ever talks about dimen-

Marcus Lillington: No one in the world uses that term apart from them.

Paul Boag: No. They talk about direct mail and swag basically you know?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: That's an example. Also, I think people use not even just jargon, because that's an example of jargon, but sometimes they use flowery language that sounds great, kind of marketing, "We're going to create business synergy," and all of that kind of bullshit, but people don't type into a search engine how do I create better business synergy?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: That's not the kind of… Really, keyword research and that kind of thing is about understanding the terminology that people are using really.

Marcus Lillington: That's quite interesting because you know I was talking about doing a competitor review the other week?

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Basically it was for companies that do English tests for… You can go and take an English test so that you can get into an American university or Australian university or that kind of thing, and I was looking at five different competitors. One of the competitors, because of their name, so their brand, they were called Language Scert, S-C-E-R-T, referred to their tests as certificates and becoming certified. That bothered me because it's like that's not what your audience refers to these things as. I want to take an exam or a test. But that's the problem with that. Well, it's not a problem, you just need to ensure that you're thinking about… When you're looking at tone of voice, which is part of branding, you need to consider this at that point I suppose, and so I have learnt something new.

Paul Boag: That is the trade-off isn't it?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. Because when they think-

Paul Boag: They've got a decision to make. Either they can be brand consistent or they can rank well on Google. They can't do both.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. But I suppose the point I'm making here is when we're thinking about setting up brand, we're thinking about the character of the company. You're not thinking about things like using your audience's language, so that's interesting. That's a new thing for me.

Paul Boag: Yeah. No, that's good.

Marcus Lillington: I can go now.

Paul Boag: I see where you're coming from. Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Bye.

Paul Boag: Absolutely. I think, so it's about using the audience's language, and we're going to dive into that a little bit more in a second. The second thing is it's about producing the best and most relevant content regularly. That's part of the trouble that I think a lot of people have with search engine rankings, is they create these static sites that don't update, they don't change, they don't evolve, and so Google says that that content is less relevant. I'm being asked in the chatroom, "Do you think the fresh content still is an issue in ranking?" Yes I do. Google haven't explicitly said one way or another, but the reason that I do is I know, take for example that customer journey mapping article, I have to go back in and refresh that probably once or twice a year, otherwise it will begin to slip down the rankings.

Paul Boag: Now whether or not that is because other people are producing new content or whether Google's algorithm is gradually pushing things down, I think the principle is still the same, that you've got to be producing content on an ongoing basis. Because the other reason of course is that the more content that you're producing over time, the more interest, sorry, the more interest there is in it, the more linking there is to it, and the bigger domain authority that you build. That's why Boagworld ranks so well, is because for 14 years I've been there, I've been consistent, I've been putting content out every week, and so Google has learnt that I'm a reliable source. That's the other aspect to it I think.

Paul Boag: But let's dig into this idea of keywords. Using the right words, the right terminology, and how to integrate those into what you do. This is where, I think, some of these search engine tools are really quite good, so there's Serpstat is the one that I use. The way that Serpstat works is I can go in and I could type in, I don't know, user experience design, and it will tell me how popular that term is, it will tell me related terms to it, it'll give me questions with that tern in it. I can use that to integrate it into my articles.

Paul Boag: For example, I'll give you a really good example of where this worked particularly well. I wanted to write an article on choice paralysis. I've always known it as choice paralysis, but I ran it through Serpstat and it came back with this related term of analysis paralysis, which is a cooler term, let's be honest. Actually, I then ran both terms, choice paralysis and analysis paralysis through Google Trends, so you can compare the relative use of those two terms, and analysis paralysis was way higher. In other words, a lot more people use that phrase then use the phrase choice paralysis. Means the same thing to me, that's the language that users are using, so I-

Marcus Lillington: Used that, yeah.

Paul Boag: Wrote the article with that word instead. That's what I mean by using your user's language, is actually finding out.

Paul Boag: Going back to your example Marcus, the answer is you would go into Google Trends and type in English certification and English test, and you'll be able to see instantly which the winner is and prove it to the client.

Marcus Lillington: They're not my clients though, it's fine.

Paul Boag: Oh okay. Stuff them then. Okay, so then once you've identified those kinds of words around whatever subject it is you're talking about, ebv you're going to start including them in your title.

Marcus Lillington: Stuff them into everything Paul, surely.

Paul Boag: No. That's really interesting, you can actually easily overdo it, and actually it has a negative effect. There is a very low threshold actually, at which point Google starts going hang on a minute, what are they up to here. It's almost turned right on its head. You've got to almost be careful not to put it in too much, where it used to be you used to put it in a lot. But you are going to want to include it in the title of your page, and I'll come on to tools in a minute, Paul's just asked in the chatroom what tools I use to see whether you've overdone SEO, and I'll come to that in a minute.

Paul Boag: But yeah, so you include it in your titles. Include it early in whatever piece of copy, within the first, I don't know, 10% of the copy that's in the page. Try and include it in the URL, include it a little bit in the headings. In alt tags, but, but only when appropriate, because an alt tag is describing the image, it's not a place where you just shove in keywords randomly. Often it's not appropriate to put it in there, and don't you do it. Don't you do it, that's bad. Then yeah, that's basically it. You just write the copy with that stuff involved.

Paul Boag: Now the other thing you might want to bear in mind is make sure, and I have this problem, make sure you don't have pages that are competing over the same keyword. Google needs to know that on Boagworld, this is the page about analysis paralysis. Of course, when you've been blogging for 14 years and have over 1500 posts, you get a little bit of repetition. Every now and again it is worth stepping back and looking at are you clearly showing both your users and the search engine the definitive information on this particular subject? Often you can create things called cornerstone posts, and cornerstones posts are typically longer form posts that give an introduction to a topic like analysis paralysis, and then link out to all of your other posts on that subject, and those posts then link back to the cornerstone post so that Google gets a very clear idea look, this is the hub of this kind of information if that makes sense.

Marcus Lillington: Okay.

Paul Boag: That can be worth doing. What else? What's your readability as well? This is a good one from a UX perspective, but good from a SEO perspective as well, that Google actually seemed to, in some situations, seemed to penalize content that is written to too high a reading level. That's for usability reasons, that as we scan copy, even if we have a postgraduate degree and are really well educated and all those things, we turn into morons when we're scanning copy because we've only got a few seconds and we're trying to process all this information, and so you make your language as simple as possible.

Paul Boag: Also of course, a lot of people don't speak English as their first language, so they might be incredibly intelligent, but not be particularly good when they're reading English as the second language and they're in a hurry to do it and all the rest of it.

Paul Boag: Then the other thing that I mentioned in the introduction, pay a lot of attention to speed. Google seems to be very keen on that one. Be generous with your links as well. Link out to lots of people and lots of sources. Again, that's good user experience. It's providing reference material. We get really stingy on our websites, even I find myself doing this, "Nah, I don't want to let the user go somewhere else to somebody else's site." But actually, Google will reward you for that. It likes that you're doing that, so ultimately it pays back doing it.

Paul Boag: But also link internally too, so make sure you link posts together. If you look through my articles, I have a whole load of different methodologies for crosslinking. I have little pull-out see also this article, I have related links at the bottom of every post, I manually add links, but here's the interesting one, and this is definitely worth doing, the problem, let's say I wrote a post today on analysis paralysis, as we seem to be using that as my keyword example, so I've now written a definitive post on analysis paralysis, now I've probably mentioned analysis paralysis and choice paralysis many times.

Marcus Lillington: At least 500 times in this podcast.

Paul Boag: Exactly. Yeah, in this podcast alone. Yeah. All those posts that I've written in the past won't be linked to my new definitive source, and that's shit obviously. There are some great plugins, back to WordPress, which, well basically you can go in and say look, any time you find the phrase analysis paralysis, automatically link it to this post. It'll go back through your entire site and update all of those old posts to link to the new one, which is great. That's a little tip that I find quite a useful.

Marcus Lillington: Cool.

Paul Boag: Obviously while you're writing all of this compelling content, make sure you write unique and relevant meta descriptions, so that's the stuff that appears in your search engine results. Pay particular attention to the advanced snippets that are around today, where it adds a picture and various other kind of stuff. All of that's worth looking at.

Paul Boag: Make sure that your URLs are meaningful and include your keywords. Make sure you think about social media as part of your overall SEO strategy, because Google pays attention to how many times things are mentioned on social media and that kind of stuff. Watch your re-directions when you redesign. That's one of the main reasons I haven't redesigned my site because it fills me with terror, the idea of having to redirect all those links, so that's a huge piece of work that needs considering any time you're redesigning a website. It's so, so important to get that right.

Paul Boag: Really, that's pretty much all I want to say in terms of what you want to learn, but let's talk about some of the resources to get you started with that, and that'll answer the question in the chat room about tools and things like that.

Speaker 2:,

Paul Boag: Before we do that, I just want to talk about our second sponsor for the day, which is me. I just wanted to mention my Encouraging Clicks Masterclass that I run. At the moment I've reduced the price down from $175 to 87 because I've decided why not? It's been out for a while, let's screw over the people that paid full price to begin with and now put in on discount, because that's the kind of thing that really annoys people.

Marcus Lillington: Everyone loves it when companies do that.

Paul Boag: Yeah, I know right?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Yeah, so that's what I'm going to do. Well you expect when something's been around for a while it gets discounted doesn't it? Check it out because it's only $87. Did I say pounds earlier? I meant dollars.

Marcus Lillington: No, you said dollars.

Paul Boag: Oh, did I? Right, cool. It's a course about… See, that's quite funny. In the chatroom, he's just said, "See, inaction does pay rewards." Yeah. It's a course on improving your conversion rate without alienating users. In other words, without resorting to things like dark patterns and that kind of stuff. You're going to learn the foundations of conversion rate optimization, you get to understand psychology and decision making, how to reduce cognitive load and why that even matters and what exactly that is, learn ho to persuade people without alienating them, create compelling calls to action and how to improve your conversion rate into the future, over the long term.

Paul Boag: It's really it's an ideal course whether you're a designer, a marketer, an entrepreneur or a product owner. It's a self-learning course, you can learn at your own pace. It's over four hours worth of material, 29 lessons, I really should have done one more shouldn't I, to make it 30? But 29 lessons. Currently only £87. I'm going to put it back to its-

Marcus Lillington: Dollars.

Paul Boag: Dollars. I'm going to put it back to its normal price of $175 on the 1st of November, so if you want to get it, you have until then to do so, which you can do so by going to

Marcus Lillington: Boom.

Paul Boag: Okay. Let's talk about resources. Boom.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Lay it down or something. Drop the mic or, I don't know, whatever the cool kids say these days, yeah. There are loads of great plugins to help with this kind of stuff, so the all time famous one that anybody who uses WordPress must have heard of is Yoast.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Yoast does an excellent plugin that give you advice to get you started in your SEO. You'll enter in the keywords you want to score for and it will recommend things like put it in the title and do it this amount, and don't have too much keyword density and dah dah dah. It'll check your posts for that, so that's a very good one.

Paul Boag: There is another one, so I used Yoast for years, but more recently I switched to another one called Rank Math at It does some stuff that… Well, no, let me be honest, the main reason I switched is it's prettier. It pretty much does the same thing as the Yoast plugin, but it's prettier. Also, there was some stuff that, in the Yoast one, that you had to pay for, features that you had to pay for while Rank Math is free at the moment. Whether it will remain so I don't know, but you might want to check that one out as an alternative.

Paul Boag: However, what you cannot beat Yoast over is his blog. If you care about any of this SEO stuff and want to learn more, he's got an absolutely brilliant blog that I highly recommend. Really, you should install Yoast's plugin and pay for it just to support his ongoing blogging, because it really is incredibly useful. You know how a lot of SEO stuff gets very technical and obscure, and you go, "What? Uh?" I never feel like that when I read Yoast's stuff, so there's that.

Paul Boag: The other tool that I mentioned earlier is one called Serpstat. That's Now that is a paid for tool, but really good for keyword research, really good for tracking your rankings on certain keywords. My piece of advice there is I think their default price on their on website is a bit overpriced in my opinion. Keep an eye on something like AppSumo because every now and again, they do a big discount. Their normal prices on their website for their light version is $69 per month, but you can get it for $35 a flat fee forever if you hang around for a bit and wait for AppSumo to come onboard. That's a little tip there.

Paul Boag: By the way, someone in the chatroom, I'm guessing in the chatroom, has just bought my workshop. I've just got a notification in saying I sold one. Now that…

Marcus Lillington: It was Paul.

Paul Boag: Paul, you make me happy. He's just said, "It was me." See, that's the kind of marketing I like. You say something and you get an instant sale out of it.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: About bloody time you got round to it.

Marcus Lillington: Proof you're all in the sales funnel hey?

Paul Boag: Yeah. Well it was funny, interestingly we were talking about this in Slack recently. I don't know whether you saw that.

Marcus Lillington: oh no, I'm a victim.

Paul Boag: Anyway, so there's Serpstat. Then there's Google Trends, which I mentioned earlier. Google also have a really good page speed test tool. If you've not used that before you should check that out.

Marcus Lillington: Lighthouse.

Paul Boag: I've written a post that you might want to check out, which is How SEO Has Improved the User Experience in my blog. If you're a user experience designer and you're like, "Meh, SEO's evil," I'd recommend checking that out. Just go to Boagworld. Don't bother with the show notes, just type in SEO into my search engine and it'll come back.

Paul Boag: Then the very last thing I want to mention is there's a website called Search Engine Journal, which is a fairly heavy going website if I'm honest. A bit too technical. But it also does have a complete guide to SEO, which you can download, that is very good and worth checking out.

Marcus Lillington: Okay.

Paul Boag: There's a whole load of different tools that hopefully will get you started, but the real way, to be honest, most of the time, the only things you need to remember is when you sit down to write a piece of content, identify the keywords relating to that piece of content, use a tool like Serpstat of Google Trends to make sure you're using the right words, then use a tool like Yoast or Rank Math or something like that, to make sure that you're using those words appropriately within the content that you're producing. If you do those two things you're sorted. That's really all most of us needs to know about it.

Paul Boag: But the one message I really want to leave everybody with is, I hate to say it, but SEO is not the evil thing that I said it was all those years ago. Actually, I think although I want to say a lot of nasty things about Google, I really do think that it's moved things forward, and that it's moved the whole industry forward to make it much more user-centric, to make it much more focused on creating better content, so I do appreciate that.

Paul Boag: Couple of people in the room have asked what the plugin that I use to update my posts, to automatically embed those links. There are actually a load of different ones that are all pretty good to be honest. The one I used to use stopped working when I upgraded to Gutenberg, and hadn't been updated for years, so probably wasn't a good choice anyway. The one I use at the moment actually is one that's designed for affiliates, so it's the idea of you injecting advertising links into your post, which is like ugh, but it does exactly what you need to, and it's a tool called Affiliate Butler. It basically allows you to create auto-links based on certain keyword terms, so that's definitely worth checking out and giving a go.

Marcus Lillington: Cool.

Paul Boag: Okay, I think that about wraps it up for this week's show, and Marcus, do you have a joke for us?

Marcus Lillington: This is a joke from Bob Salmon in the Slack channel. Never challenge death to a pillow fight unless you're prepared to deal with the reaper cushions.

Paul Boag: No, that's terrible. No, I'm sorry, that's not even a joke.

Marcus Lillington: It is. Reaper cushions. Come on. That's pretty good isn't it?

Paul Boag: No. It is not a proper pun on words. I'm sorry. Yeah, look, Lesley agrees. That is just terrible.

Marcus Lillington: Ah well, it made me laugh, but that's easy.

Paul Boag: Who was that? Who was that who said that?

Marcus Lillington: Bob. Bob Salmon.

Paul Boag: Bob Salmon?

Marcus Lillington: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Paul Boag: He's going to get banned from the Slack channel for that. That is truly terrible, and you picked that. There are lots of good jokes in the bad joke channel.

Marcus Lillington: I liked that one. All right, I'll do you another one. Let me find another one.

Paul Boag: Okay, give me another, all right, because that just crosstalk 00:54:37.

Marcus Lillington: If anyone wants to discuss how bad my carpentry skills are, my door is always open.

Paul Boag: No, that is good. I like that one.

Marcus Lillington: There you go.

Paul Boag: Okay, I'm happy now. You've made me happy. All right then, that's is for this week. Thank you guys so much for joining us on this week's show. Please join us next week when we're going to be talking about engaging others online, which I think will be an interesting show about how to avoid flame wars. Which I think might very much be a do as I say and not as I do type show, where you learn from the horrible mistakes that I've made over the years. Yeah, we're going to talk about that, because increasingly we all have to interact with people online and yeah, it's easy to screw it up as I've discovered on a few occasion. Yeah, that could be quite a comical show.

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: But until then, thank you very much for listening and talk to you again next week. Goodbye.

Speaker 2:

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