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In today’s episode, Joe talks to Melanie Phung, Owner and Principal Consultant at Orange Spark Digital – a boutique consulting practice to help organizations achieve greater visibility and success online. Services offered include website strategy service, search engine optimization, content strategy, and web analytics. 

Melanie shares how she manages her boutique SEO agency, getting clients setup to have better performing websites in SERPs, formulating objectives and tactics to grow leads and conversion, mastering a referral system that works, and things to look out for when redesigning a website.



What to Listen For:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 01:04 Welcome to the pod, Melanie!
  • 01:57 Strategy is defining objectives and tactics
  • 03:31 Boutique agency: the flexibility to bring in virtual team depending on project needs
  • 07:33 2021 SEO trends
  • 10:35 People want quick fixes, but learning to prioritize is a must
  • 13:09 Focus on fixing the things that could cost a lot to fix
  • 15:23 Technical foundation fixes and building an SEO culture
  • 19:35 Building a website from a technical standpoint to be more SEO friendly
  • 23:01 It’s about consulting and collaboration
  • 25:05 Main resources to attract new clients
  • 27:25 What’s the best referral model?
  • 32:13 Things to look out for when rebuilding or redesigning a website
  • 36:55 Content length versus content performance

Episode Resources:

Podcast Transcript:

Joe Howard: [00:01:04] We are live on the pod this week with Melanie Phung. Melanie, tell folks a little bit about what you do with WordPress in the WordPress space.

Melanie Phung: [00:01:13] Hey Joe, I’m an SEO and content strategy consultant. I work directly with clients, but also with website developers and full service agencies, and I helped them develop strategies for building better websites. That helps them achieve their goals and build longterm incremental, sustainable traffic, targeting qualified audiences, and making sure that they’re set up to do that both like via one term project engagements or long-term engagements, but really I’m all about transparency and teaching my clients how to fish.

So helping them learn how to do SEO and transferring my expertise so that they can. Actually it’s their goals.

Joe Howard: [00:01:56] Nice. Cool. Does that mean you’re kind of in the middle of like teachers slash consultants and actually service provider, like, do you kind of provide both of those in like one package or do you kind of sell separate packages? Like here’s my I’ll teach you how to do this or here’s my I’ll do it for you.

Melanie Phung: [00:02:11] Yeah. I love that question. So. I don’t really think in terms of packages. So if you go to my website, there’s nothing on there about like, here’s what typical pricing looks like, because I really like to get to know what each client needs and where they’re at.

So strategy for me is about defining objectives and tactics and the sourcing. And as you can imagine for. Every organization, whether it’s a nonprofit or a for-profit business, those look completely different. So there isn’t a one size fits all list of services that everyone benefits from and because of their, the sourcing and how, you know, sometimes they’ll a client will have an entire marketing department.

Sometimes there’ll just be one person there. Sometimes I’m working directly with the client and sometimes I work with, um, you know, a development agency. It’s different every time. So I don’t really have packages, but I do try as much as possible to give my clients, you know, as much information and the resources they need to continue the work after we’re done, whether they’re able to do that, know that, that it might not always be the case that they can take the ball and keep running with it, but they have what they need and nothing should be a surprise to them.

Joe Howard: [00:03:30] Yeah. Cool. Are you a kind of solo team or used to just you running things? Or do you have some, some folks either on your team or maybe some consultant or some contractors working with you or is it just you.

Melanie Phung: [00:03:41] You know what? I call a very specialized boutique agency. So it’s mostly me and, um, I have the flexibility to bring in very high level.

Partners or subcontractors or help specific to each project. So when clients work with me, I figure out if me and my virtual team are a good fit. And then I put together a team that’s specific to that project. Um, and that allows me to bring in only like really high caliber people. And I’m not trying to fit, you know, Sound pegs into square holes or vice versa.

And I’m not training junior people to get caught up on like a whole new industry or a whole new set of needs. Um, you know, everyone I blame in is, is a really good fit for that job. And, you know, someone that, that I think is operating at a really high level. So we answered that question is kind of, sort of a little bit of.

Bit of both. It’s mainly me, but then I, I do have a lie on other people who are expert in their field to, to help me out when the project requires.

Joe Howard: [00:04:49] Yeah, it’s funny. Cause I think people look at it like a bigger business, like WP buffs with, you know, dozens of people on the team and they like, that’s cool.

So many people on the team, but from the inside a lot of times I’m like sometimes I kind of wish I was a more boutique agencies. Like sometimes I wish I had more like flexibility and was able to move a little faster on things like as a small team, like you could get like a really high caliber, two to three person team together to work on a super high level project.

Like in a week or maybe like a day, you could just like emails, you know, some people, you know, Hey, you wanna work on this project? Yeah, it sounds cool with me. It’s a little bit different. So I’ve actually really liked this idea of like boutique agency. Like you can run an awesome, like business, awesome, profitable, successful, all that stuff.

Business doesn’t have to be a big team. I think a lot of people think about team size and like team size, like the bigger, the team size, the better. And like I’m always the first to be like, no, like I think there are a lot of people who run like a way smaller businesses. They’re like in a lot of like measurements.

Are actually like, like a more successful business and Wu buff. So I think that’s, I think that’s cool. And you’re enjoying the boutique agency life.

Melanie Phung: [00:05:52] I love how flexible it is. I can ramp up or ramp down, but with everything there are trade offs, right. I, I could probably list a whole bunch of reasons. Why doing it your way?

Would be better. It’s more stable. Sometimes the people that I want on a team aren’t available, um, and then I have to scramble. Um, whereas, you know, if I had employees, um, I’d have not full confidence, but a little bit more confidence that I know what their time looks like. And I know how to the source things based on availability and I don’t necessarily have that, but that works for me.

Um, and I wouldn’t say that it works for everyone, but it works for me. And I hope it works for my clients. And I think it would be a good way for people to start out if they were jumping into working for themselves for the first time, or they’ve been solo, they consider themselves a freelancer and all of a sudden they want to build a business.

I wouldn’t say, go out and hire a dozen W2 employees overnight. That’s risky. Right. So, so start solo wish. Gives you some flexibility and then you can decide what you want to do.

Joe Howard: [00:06:57] Yeah. I agree with that. Slow and steady, I think is always a good pace. So cool. And before we go any further, I’ll be remiss in not telling folks about your agency.

I don’t know if you’ve mentioned it, but orange spark digital, which is just orange spark digital.com. So if people want to check out some of the stuff you’re doing over at, in boutique agency land, they can go check that out. I always, yeah, of course. I always love having like people who are in the SEO world on the podcast, because I’m like a SEO and content like nerd.

I like nerd. I like to talk about that. This stuff a lot. So I guess I like to start with like a high level SEO in like 2021. What’s going on with clients that you’re working with with projects you’re working on. What’s like the big, what do people really need to know in order to be successful this year?

Whether you’re running SEO for your own website, or maybe some folks out there. Are helping clients with their websites, SEO, like what are the big trends you’re seeing this year?

Melanie Phung: [00:07:49] Ooh, that’s tough. Right? People in the SEO industry are obsessed with playing at the margins. You know, what’s the latest tip or trick to eat out a little bit more in terms of results, which of course is important when you’re a professional and you’re working with digitally mature organizations that.

The light heavily on SEO, but I always encourage people not to forget the fundamentals. So, um, if you don’t have a strong foundation, then a lot of the other things don’t matter. That said, I think this year there’s a lot of talk about things that I would consider fundamentals, which is user experience. I had a lot of conversation about, uh, core web vitals.

I always skip over that. It’s a little bit of a tongue twister and that’s really Google sending a very strong signal to webmasters and site owners that your site needs to perform and function to a standard that users expect on the internet. And on mobile, especially. So if your site is slow, if it’s confusing, if the way that it loads leads to a lot of user experience, followings, Google wants you to pay attention to that.

And the messaging around that is almost bordering on threatening it’s scare that they make such a big deal about algorithm changes as they’ve been making about the exchanges coming up this year. So. I would say people are paying attention to that and they should be, if their sites are not in good shape, they need to be working on it.

And these are not easily fixed. This. This is not like turn a switch. This is like, fundamentally think about. You know, how are you building websites?

Joe Howard: [00:09:31] Yeah, it’s been a big challenge for us on our own website because we do help folks with performance optimization. So this is an area we’re diving into with our clients to, as part of that performance optimization, helping around core web vitals, which you’re right.

It totally is like, It’s like loading time and performance and time to first paint and LCP. But there’s also a lot of user experience stuff in there as well. It’s just like in general, it’s, uh, it’s more than just performance, but it’s something we’re working on for clients, but also for our own site. And we’ve found it’s been challenged because we’re actually like a.

Bigger site. We’re not the biggest site in the world, but you know, we get a lot of organic traffic and we have a pretty big site and like a big foundation to make changes to. So like changing the blog template for better user experience, like was a big project over here. Then like getting that load time down so that we could submit it back to.

Google search console as like, Hey, could you recall these pages because we’ve made some improvements there. And you said that these were bad URLs, or you said these were, um, needs improvement, URL. So even us we’re working on that pretty hard as well. Is that something you’ve found that clients have been asking a lot about this year for you when people come to you for work.

Melanie Phung: [00:10:42] For my clients I wouldn’t say that they’ve been asking a lot. About it. I’ve been telling them a lot about it and to be clear, I’m not a developer. So I want to, I hope that they listened to me because they don’t think that, you know, I standing to profit and I’m not saying like, Hey, pay me lots of money to fix these things for you.

I, I am. You know, sort of a trusted voice and, um, because of that, um, and I’ll make a recommendation site, but these foundational things can seem so overwhelming. A lot of people want quick fixes and they’re like, can you just do something for me? And sometimes, you know, the answer is, I mean, you’ve had this website.

For going on seven, eight years. And it’s so bloated and you have so many plugins, like this is a project. And if they haven’t scoped that, if that wasn’t on the roadmap, it’s a bit of a challenge to get them to prioritize it. So unfortunately my specific clients have not necessarily been reaching out to me saying, what do we need to do?

Um, but I try to be proactive and let them know. You know, here are a couple of things that you should start with. We really try to find a way to work with your developers to address these things. And if they have any questions, let’s, let’s get on a conference call and chat and see how we can clarify.

Joe Howard: [00:12:03] Yeah. I think like terminology, like Google core web vitals is more people know it in the SEO space, but some of the client’s been in it. Like they know the language, like. I want all users to have a good experience on my website, or I want my website to be faster, but they don’t sometimes know the actual intricacies of what it entails to make those improvements in like the important measurements, which is like, you want Google to make sure they see your website as fast or as performance or as good user experience.

That means performing well on Google core web vitals. So I can totally see clients just kind of using different terminology than Google getting core web vitals.

Melanie Phung: [00:12:38] Well, and they think, well, it’s been fine up until now. So why do I need to invest in making big changes?

Joe Howard: [00:12:45] Yeah, I think that’s actually a challenge we have kind of with our sales process too, because like our best. Clients at WVU boss, like our best, you know, website management, subscription clients, and whether they were partners, are the people who understand the investment in the long-term yes. I’m going to pay you money to like, not only to like, make my website better in terms of like, being maybe like, thinking about it more as like being authentic, but also in terms of like being defensive.

It’s like, what if in six months there is a Google update and, you know, I was doing some bad spammy link stuff and I lose, you know, 50% of my organic traffic, like that’s bad, but like, you kind of have to play a little bit defensively to make sure that doesn’t happen. Right. You want to. Run a good website, but it’s also just about, Hey, let’s not over commit to something that does make sense and let’s invest in something let’s invest in Melanie, because she’s going to tell us no, you shouldn’t buy those links.

Melanie Phung: [00:13:36] Exactly. I mean, the way that I like to think about it, if you had a house. And you had money that you could spend on doing some of the modeling and putting some new tile in the bathroom. Like that’s a great use of money if you’ve budgeted for it. But if someone comes in and says, you know, your water heater’s busted, and if you don’t fix it, you’re going to flood your house and cause a lot of damage or you have a new roof that needs, you know, that, that sprung a leak or something.

I mean, sure. You might want the new bathroom tile. Cause it looks good. Good. And that’s what you had your heart set on, but you know, maybe don’t focus so much on making your website pretty w like work on fixing the things that could cost you a lot, moving forward, if you don’t fix it. Right. So I would rather that you fix the hole in your roof so that you don’t cause damage later on, but if your roof is fine, then I’m not going to tell you to go place it. I don’t want you to spend money. You don’t want to spend.

Joe Howard: [00:14:32] Yeah, you’ve also kind of mentioned some of what’s most important around SEO and, and a lot of it may not be in like, what are the newest tips and tricks. Some of that may just be kind of shiny object syndrome. A lot of what’s most important SEO is really being at, you know, having a good core, a good foundation, doing the fundamentals.

Right. You know, it’s like a professional athlete. Yeah. Maybe they can do some crazy things. You never seen anybody do before, but they can do that because their fundamentals are so solid. Right. They can do the basic stuff and extremely high proficiency rate. And I think it’s probably somewhat similar with a lot of things, but definitely SEO.

I’m trying to think of like a example of a, of. Someone who we could like advise like someone who is maybe helping with SEO, maybe it was someone who’s in your position. I know we have listeners who are kind of SEO agency or marketing agency. What is the fundamentals? Are you focused on in terms of like a new client that you’re working with?

So someone comes in and wants to work with you. I’m sure there’s some context, cause everybody’s a little different, but what are those core things you’re looking for in terms of like, you know, this is a pillar of something I need to, we’re going to need to focus on in order to be successful, not just to drive more traffic and more high quality traffic in the next quarter, but in the next, you know, five years.

Melanie Phung: [00:15:47] So there’s two tracks. Um, and that I think are both very important. There’s the technical foundation. So, if you are building your house on a pit of sand, you’re going to have a much harder job. So first we, we look at basic technical SEO, foundational stuff. Is your site, um, discoverable? Is it callable? Is it indexable?

Um, are you signaling to Google what the site could be called? Are there. Spider traps. Are you causing a lot of confusion and inefficiencies in calling and indexing? So there’s that you need that, then you need to signal to Google what the site is about. If you do a bad job of explaining about newness with your technical foundation and your information architecture, that’s something that needs to be fixed.

And those, those are the kinds of fixes that sometimes clients like, because it. Yeah. Like I tell them what to do and then they do it. And, you know, usually they see very good results very quickly, but then the hard work starts. Right. Okay. So now you have a foundation. Now you need to build a process and a culture of thinking about SEO as a channel that needs some love and attention.

And that’s where a lot of psychology comes in because you can tell an engineer fix this problem. And here’s how your solution will need to pass QA. That’s easy. It’s like fairly binary, like very little in SEO is binary, but that’s kind of easy, right? Like you have this problem. Here’s how to fix it. Fix that particular issue.

Yeah. Like mostly yes or no. But then the psychology comes into play. When we ask organizations to Lee, think their messaging, a lot of organizations like. To tell users what the organization wants them to know. Like, this is what we do. You should like us, but never giving them like that hook of like, we understand what you, the user needs.

And we need to completely flip our mindset and approach content and marketing from the point of view of what are the users need, how do we meet them, where they are, how do we answer questions that users already have? Because that’s how search works. I, Google is an answer engine, not a keyword engine users type something into Google and they have, and implicit sometimes explicit question, but it’s always a question.

I that’s why Google calls them queries, because even if you’re attacking a statement into Google search, what you’re really trying to do is find an answer to a question and organizations with their content. Need to provide answers to the questions that users are asking. Um, if they’re targeting SEO, like in the SEO channel.

So that’s a lot of training, a lot of mindset, a lot of the thinking, how they approach content development and how they craft what they do. So fundamentally at a high level, that’s where I try to start.

Joe Howard: [00:18:48] Yeah, the technical piece makes a lot of sense to me. I’m thinking of like, it feels like it opens up a whole can of worms for me.

I’m like, oh my gosh, there’s so much there. There’s like, okay, do I have my site map installed? Do I have that like hooked into Google search console? What is my, yeah, I mean having, I don’t know, Google analytics installed so I can see what’s going on on my website in terms of like bounce rate is my bounce rate.

Bad is user experience. Good. And then also from a technical standpoint, there’s like, On-page SEO as opposed to off page SEO. So it’s like, do I just need to install like Yoast or rank math or just having an SEO plugin to make sure all my settings are correct? How do I set up so that like Google makes sure that they’re crawling my site.

I don’t have like some, no indexes on pages I don’t want. Right. There’s like so much. Is there like a, a way to build a website from a technical standpoint using. You know, a theme or a template or even Gutenberg. And a lot of people are starting to use Gutenberg more often page builders. Is there a way to use those to build a website that would make it more or less like technically SEO friendly?

Cause I know there are some like theme shops that are like, we have, we sell SEO friendly themes. Is that like a real thing? Or is that like. Like, could you, could you actually like buy a theme that’s going to help more with SEO or not? Or is that not really the case? And there’s like a lot more to it than that.

Melanie Phung: [00:20:11] You’re hitting on one of my trigger points, Joe. I love it. Great question. I think there’s certainly things that you can. Do to put yourself at a very strong disadvantage. Um, and so I, I do think, you know, that that theme developers are really doing their best when they’re selling something that is called an SEO friendly theme. Um, you know, I think the intention there is very good.

Like, you know, the execution, you know, differs from, from developer to developer. But if it’s, if it’s. Fast and uses semantic markup and uses all of the best practices that are sort of inherent in a lot of the way that WordPress as a platform is built, that can lay a really strong foundation, but that’s not strategy, right?

So you can build a theme that, that has good URLs and you can. Cooking plugins or tools that generate sitemaps and allow you to configure robots, stop text, and no index and all of those good things, and that’s all necessary, but that’s not sufficient. And isn’t that organization behind the site doesn’t have a strategy and doesn’t know what they’re trying to communicate and who their audience is and what their unique value proposition is that makes them better than the competition.

No amount of really clean, fast. The code is going to get you organic search traffic. So it’s it’s necessary, but not sufficient. I’ve seen websites that have shot themselves in the foot because they were. The content was decent, but completely not callable indexable, not vendor rubble. Right. So you don’t want that.

Right? So world-class like, as a foundation is pretty good to begin with, and then you can build themes that are faster, slower, more bloated, less bloated, but none of that negates the need to actually have a strategy. Like who are you targeting? What questions are you answering? Who’s your audience? Are you saying anything useful? Right. That’s not a problem that technology can fix.

Joe Howard: [00:22:20] Yeah. I feel like this is a challenge that a lot of service providers have that provide kind of maybe more like singular services and more focused services because marketing is all so interconnected. It’s like we want to do SEO. Well, okay, sure. Like you want to drive some traffic to your website, but that traffic’s got to do something once it gets to the website or else what’s the point of doing SEO.

Okay. So you have to make sure user experience is good. You have to make sure you’re really. Having strategy to think about how you’re delivering your copy and how you’re selling your product is your product, even something, some is your product, even a thing, or so people want people buy, right? It’s all comes, comes back to like having.

A strategy, which, and I think that actually makes it really cool that that’s kind of, I feel like where you’re positioning yourselves yourself and your agency is kind of a digital consultancy in terms of like, um, I don’t just offer this package or that package I offer you winning, like, are you being successful? And let’s figure out together how to get there. So I did get, yeah.

Melanie Phung: [00:23:16] It really is about consulting and collaboration for me. Um, and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t do everything. I, and I, I think it’s important, like as service providers, you know, whether you’re a web developer or a marketing agency, you do SEO or whatever that you’re clear about what you do.

And that doesn’t mean stay in your lane and only ever be in your lane, but it means, like, be clear, um, and understand for yourself. Like what you offer to clients. And if that’s not something you’re good at, then bring in a partner like you don’t have to do everything. Developers don’t also need to be full service SEOs if they don’t want to be, um, if they want to be, then that’s two different jobs.

It’s not the same job, right? It’s not. Being an SEO, as opposed to developing SEO friendly themes is not a service of like here’s, here’s some code and I’m going to hand it off to you, the client, and now you, the client have to figure everything else out. Right. If you’re working with a client and they want more of that consulting, then the further them out or work with someone in the same, you know, if you’re in a position like me, someone like me or an agency like mine, don’t say that you do development work.

If you don’t do development work, I don’t do paid search. So I wouldn’t go down and pitching myself as, um, you know, full service. I also do performance marketing because that’s a completely different field. And. You know, those fields deserve the respect of being like their own full fledged things that require expertise.

So that that’s my, my soap box, you know, SEO friendly themes are a thing, but it’s not a full package. It’s not sufficient to succeed in SEO.

Joe Howard: [00:25:02] Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. Um, so how do you get new clients yourself at orange spark digital? I checked out the website a little bit and you have some resources, you know, how to critical SEO mistakes to avoid and relaunching your site.

Uh, you have some SEO FAQ’s for Google search console set up. Are those things you’re kind of using as like lead magnets? Or do you work more on like a referral basis? And it was a boutique agency. You may not have a thousand clients and you probably don’t need a thousand clients, but what’s your main resource for attracting new clients.

Melanie Phung: [00:25:34] So for me, it’s the ferals and that’s why I like being the size that I am in terms of an agency and the flexibility, because I do work almost entirely off of referrals. Um, I. Don’t do a lot of lead gen a lot of what I have. Well, I have very few things on my website. I am not a, an ex, you know, do do, as I say, not as I do, my, my website is not big lead funnel for organic search.

What I have published on the site or things that I’m constantly telling clients. So I put them up on my website so that I would have to stop the typing emails and I could just. Send Melanie as most common talking points to my clients or my plus specs, um, as a link as, as opposed to writing an email. So that’s my little secret.

Joe Howard: [00:26:24] We’re doing the same thing. We just launched a help center so that we can stop telling people the same thing over and over again, and have people be able to search and do it all. They’re there themselves, you know, cause that happens with us too. I’d like to dive a little deeper into that referral model though, because I think with many people running smaller agencies or boutique agencies, I think there’s a lot of talk around.

Like, how do you, how do you, you know, influence growth? How do you create systems? So you can grow and scale a business. But I think in a lot of cases, maybe most cases, especially if you’re a small agency, if you have pretty good referral model, like you don’t need anything else, nor do you probably want in anything else you could actually probably like keep running your agency for another 30 years, 50 years, if you wanted to.

Right. Just based off of referrals. So I guess my question is maybe. The secret to having a good reform model is just being a really great partner to your clients and having your clients really love you and doing great work. I’m sure that’s a significant part of it or else you probably wouldn’t get referrals, but is there anything you do to try to entice referrals a little better or anything you do to try and push your clients a little more towards, Hey, is there anybody else, you know, who you think may want to work with me?

Melanie Phung: [00:27:37] It’s always a challenge to ask for referrals. And that’s, that’s the business side, right? So like being a small solo ish boutique agency, you’re always getting the needle and doing that balancing act between like being expert at the thing that you do versus China, then a business, which is maybe not necessarily what you want to be doing.

So finding that right balance. And sometimes that means. Depending on your personality, taking yourself out of your comfort zone and asking for referrals, asking for other opportunities, going back to previous clients and asking them if they have other projects that they need help on. I mean, there’s a couple of things that make it easier for me trying to operationalize things a little bit.

Um, I know other people do a much better job at this than, than I might, but at the end of an engagement, sending a survey. Asking for like honest feedback, because, you know, I actually want to know what my clients thought, the strengths and weaknesses of the engagement work, um, and then asking for a testimonial in that case.

And, you know, if the testimonial is good then saying like, would you mind if I shared this? Or would you mind sharing this with other people or in the survey form saying, can you think of some other organizations that you could introduce me to, or. If you were looking for other services like mine, where some of the communities that provide resources like that, could you invite me?

So those, those are some of the things that make it seem less awkward and don’t make you feel like you’re setting yourself up for rejection. If you ask it that way. The other thing, if I may add to that is that I also have a couple of different models for how I work. Right. I worked directly with clients, but I also work.

With partners who are, you know, design and development agencies or who provide complimentary services. So in that case, it’s just a matter of keeping those networks warm and saying, you know, Hey, do you have any other projects coming up where we could partner together? Or have you heard of anything, um, that wasn’t a good fit for you?

But, you know, you think that, uh, an introduction might yield something. So working a couple of different angles tends to work. And then, and then being out there in the community, I really like. Um, I like helping and I like sharing knowledge. And then your name goes out there, you know, you’ve, you’ve done, you know, if you do some speaking events, like a word camp or something, and you publish some things, then your S your name starts to circulate, um, as a resource or as an expert, um, in different communities.

And you get referrals from people you’ve. You know, you hadn’t even heard of, it’s like, you know, several degrees of separation and by the time they reach out to you and they say they were referred, you’d actually don’t know who those people are anymore, but you know, that’s one way that word gets out.

Joe Howard: [00:30:39] Yeah. Looking at your website now and kind of checking out the testimonials page. You mentioned, there’s like not a ton on the website. I’m looking at the website and I’m actually like. I feel like I can like take a breath. When I look at your website, it’s actually kind of like refreshing, not having like a ton of stuff on the website.

Like when I see like what I want to work with Melanie, I see your a testimonials page. And it’s like, okay, she’s worked with like the world bank she’s worked with like PBS and NPR. And then you have some great testimonials here. Like eight testimonials. And then there’s just like a get in touch area. And it’s like very simple.

I’m like comparing your site to our site. I’m like, wow. We’re saying it’s like, there’s a lot of stuff on our site. Like maybe we need to like, just cut out. Like half that stuff. It’s like not super important. Maybe the most important part is like, you know, focus on the work and then minimalist, you know, things that are most important for you to want to see.

Oh, she works with some great companies. People have great things to say about her. Maybe I should get in touch. So I dig it, dude.

Melanie Phung: [00:31:31] Thanks, Joe. Appreciate it.

Joe Howard: [00:31:32] Cool. Okay. We’ve talked about SEL trends, sort of stuff. We’ve talked about, some foundations sort of things. Um, we definitely have folks out. They are, who are website builders, whether they’re agencies or whether they’re, um, freelancers, or maybe they wouldn’t even call themselves that maybe they’re really just like, how do I get into WordPress?

And I just, I build a website and I put a website together. Let’s talk about like, um, maybe a rebuild for website. Cause I think that’s what a lot of. Clients are going to come to folks with, in terms of new projects, I need to rebuild a site to have an existing site. It’s cool, but it was built in 2004 and I need a new website and, uh, you know, I want to really start my digital presence.

So it probably makes sense to get a new website and then make that the foundation of stuff we do moving forward. So from an SEO standpoint, what are the things you usually look out for? Maybe or mistakes. I know you have a post on your website about mistakes too, but things to look out for in terms of I’m going to start to rebuild, what are those, some of those things I have to focus on.

Melanie Phung: [00:32:27] I’m always nervous when I hear organizations talking about the design and they’re just focused on aesthetics.

Right. They, they don’t like the way the beautiful website. I want a beautiful website. Old website looks old and dated. I want something that looks better. That makes me nervous because then I worry that they’re not thinking about what the goals are and what’s worked for them in the past. Sometimes these old and not very attractive looking websites have a lot of history and they’ve been performing well.

Right. So one of the sort of sad truths about the SEO world is that a lot of old websites perform very well because they’re old, right? They’ve been around a long time. They’ve had time to build authority and a lot of links and. By rebuilding, you know, one of the pitfalls is that you might be breaking something that’s been working a really long time.

Um, and so you have a lot of traffic. You lead build a new site to, from the ground up all new URL structure on your content strategy, and you lose everything that was working for you before. So not thinking about. Redirect is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever seen, not looking at content performance, like which of your pages have been performing the best, the guard lists of whether you like them or not.

Um, and then getting rid of those, moving them, changing them dramatically. Um, a lot of website. Strategists who don’t have a background in SEO really liked to talk about everyone’s short attention spans these days. And so they’ll advise their clients to aggressively cut down on the content. They’re like the content is too long.

No one wants to read it. But the length of the content was one of the things that made it better than what else is out there. So they’ll say, oh, edit it down. No one has the patience to read more than 300 words. Well, okay, well now you’re not saying anything that is interesting or unique or differentiated.

There’s thousands of other web pages in the world that talk about your topic and more than 300 words. So now you don’t have credibility and authority anymore. So not being strategic about, about website, new designs is one thing. Um, there’s, there’s a big trend towards single page applications and building things in the act and Java not great for SEO, right?

It might be pretty, it might have a lot of like cool effects that you like. You might like the way that it handles better on the backend. But not great for spiders. And so, you know, you don’t want to build, you don’t want to like content for robots, but you do need to build code architecture that the robots understand if you want to play in their world.

So those are a couple of big things that make me nervous about the designs.

Joe Howard: [00:35:26] Yeah. That kind of brings me to another. Question around kind of content length, because you kind of talked a little bit about people cutting down content. I’ve always really liked longer content because I always felt like people could read as much as they want to.

And as long as you have kind of like some hot keys at the top, or like a little menu at the top that says like, yeah, skip down to this section to go read more about that. If you want to like, read just about that, but you can give people the opportunity to read short if they want to, but also have. A long, super authoritative piece of content that hopefully will be the best piece of content about that topic on the web.

That’s like kind of the direction we’ve gone in, in terms of content length. Like I think the length of our average content has gotten longer over the past, like six months year, as opposed to the time before, because we’ve just been leaning in this direction.

Melanie Phung: [00:36:15] And is it working for you?

Joe Howard: [00:36:16] It’s working in some cases we do find that found that we have more impressions. We show up for more searches across the web. But some of the challenge we do have is that. The performance of a single page or like the load time of a single page, if it’s so long, it does sometimes, no matter what you’re doing, it’s like you do all the lazy load stuff. You do all speed optimization stuff, but it’s still got like 40 images there.

And like Nick RCOO Nick complaints. And we have this all the time. It’s like, I keep being like, we make it faster. He’s like, you got to cut the content down. I’m like, but it’s like, we can’t do that. Like, what else should we go? We deal with, there’s got to be something else. But we find that we struggle a little bit in that wrestling between.

Content length and writing the most informative piece of content possible, not just for  sake, but for completedness is sake, but that wrestling a little bit with performance optimization. I don’t know if that’s something you found with long pieces of content, but I could use some advice personally, if you’ve encountered anything like that before.

Melanie Phung: [00:37:16] Uh, well, so the first thing I was going to mention was what about lazy loading? So you’ve already thought about that, but, but the, the thing that I thought was really interesting as I was listening to you, explain the challenges that you talked about, you know, length versus performance immediately. My mind went to a different place about what performance meant, but you meant.

Speed optimization. I was thinking like, does the content help you achieve your goals? Like in terms of conversion, like does the content perform to your business objectives? So that’s an interesting conversation, right? Like you can be talking to clients or partners or your, your CEO and actually. Not even be having the same conversation and not realize it.

I thought that was interesting, um, in terms of definitions. So I always go back to like, does the content help you achieve your goals? If the page is a little slower than you’d like, but you’re generating a lot of leads and interest or whatever, you know, session engagement, then it’s performing fine. Right.

If all of the other pages that you’re competing with in the SERPs. Are performing the same or worse than you don’t need to be faster. So it’s really all about a balancing act and the business objectives that you have. So nothing is in a vacuum that you’re competing against other sites on the web. And if.

As everyone else is guiding long and loading a little bit slower than you’re not necessarily at a disadvantage.

Joe Howard: [00:38:44] It’s a good point. I really like what you said about the performance, because that happens a lot. It’s like performance can mean different things and that’s probably the first step to a conversation is making sure everybody’s on the same page and making sure that you know, what the point of a page is, the point of SEO is not to.

Drive traffic to your website. The point is to drive qualified traffic to your website. That is going to take another action, which is hopefully, eventually like monetize your site. However it’s supposed to monetize, whether that’s like affiliate stuff or whether that’s paying you for SEO services or paying you for your website management services.

If you drive a million visitors a year and nobody. Does anything, they all bounce from that page who cares? You know, they’re not doing SEO very well. So I think that’s a good place to wrap up for today’s episode. But before we truly finish, why don’t you tell folks now anywhere they can find you online, your agency stuff online, all that stuff?

Melanie Phung: [00:39:39] Yeah. Yeah. Um, you can find me at orange spark, digital.com and twitter.com/melanie phone. That’s M U L a N I E P H U N G. Very good.

Joe Howard: [00:39:49] Cool. And last but not least, I always ask our guests to ask our listeners for a little apple podcast review. So if you wouldn’t mind asking folks to leave us a quick review, I’d appreciate it.

Melanie Phung: [00:39:59] Sure. If you are listening and you haven’t already left of a view and five-star rating, what’s stopping you do it now.

Joe Howard: [00:40:07] WP mrr.com forward slash review. Redirect you right there. If you are on a Mac or apple device, you can leave a star rating, but you can also leave a comment. Tell a millionaire, something you learned from this episode gives us guidance on what content got good momentum going, good listenership going, what we should do more topics on in the future.

And I do read every review that gets left. So it does bring a nice bright spot to my heart as well. If you are a new listener to the show, we’ve got a hundred. 50 ish episodes in the hopper. So if you have a certain topic you’re having a challenge with or something, that’s just on your mind, just go to WP, mrr.com forward slash podcast.

There’s a search bar right there. So you can search for whatever you’re having challenge with. I’m sure we’ve had an episode about it in the past. That is it for this week. On the WP MRR WordPress podcast, we will be in your ear buds again next Tuesday, Melanie. Thanks again for being on. It’s been real.

Melanie Phung: [00:41:04] Thanks Joe.

Joe Howard: [00:41:05] Everybody.

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