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As I was thinking about what I wanted to write about this month, it occurred to me that I haven’t talked about search engine optimization (or SEO) in my newsletter in a long time. For almost three years, in fact, which kind of surprised me, given what a hot topic SEO has become in the world of marketing the past few years.

My Personal Experience with SEO

The last time I wrote about SEO, I described how the SEO work I did on my website revolutionized my freelance writing business. I started getting a steady stream of leads from prospects who found my site when searching for a freelance financial writer or a freelance business writer, the two search terms I optimized on my site.

At that time, my website ranked around the middle of the first page of Google for these two search terms. Three years later, it sits at the top. I just checked and right now my site is #2 on Google for both of these search phrases — the only site ahead of mine is a freelance job site. And I still get calls and emails almost every week from prospects looking for a freelance financial or business writer.

The conversation I had yesterday with a prospect is typical of many I’ve had the past few years: “I’ve been asked to write a chapter in a book about a financial topic,” he told me. “I’m a decent writer but definitely not a professional so I could use some help. I did a Google search for a freelance financial writer and since your site was the first one listed, I’m calling you first.”

I don’t tell this story to brag about my SEO success, but rather to demonstrate what a dramatic impact SEO can have on a business. I receive a steady stream of leads from qualified prospects — simply because my website ranks at the top of the first page when they enter my optimized search terms.

An SEO Expert’s Input

But I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an SEO expert. I’m a good SEO copywriter, but I leave the SEO heavy lifting to others who eat, sleep and breathe SEO every day.

Jenny Munn is one of these experts. Jenny started her SEO consulting business in 2009 and she publishes a monthly newsletter with hands-on tips to help businesses with SEO tactics and strategies. So I gave Jenny a call to ask her what’s happening right now in the world of SEO that marketers should know about.

The first thing Jenny talked about was how the concept of SEO has broadened to encompass much more than just your website. “Today, SEO should be part of an integrated marketing strategy that encompasses all of your marketing activities, including offline marketing,” she said. “SEO isn’t the whole marketing pie anymore, but it’s a very important piece of the pie.”

For example, Jenny pointed out a recent study that found that 40 percent of people searching online were influenced by offline channels, and 67 percent of online users are driven to their search after being exposed to an offline channel. Or in other words, two out of three web searchers saw something in a newspaper or magazine, on TV, on a billboard or somewhere else offline and then went online to search for it.

“So it’s critical that when people conduct this online search, it’s easy for them to find your business,” Jenny said. “This means you need to sync up your offline and online marketing efforts so that they are working together as part of a cohesive integrated marketing plan.”

Overcoming SEO Objections

I asked Jenny about two things that I sometimes hear when talking to clients and prospects about SEO: That they’re intimidated by SEO because it just seems too big, complicated and scary. And that they don’t think it’s worthwhile to spend any time or money on SEO because the so-called “Google rules” keep changing all the time, so why even bother trying to rank high?

The key to overcoming SEO intimidation, says Jenny, is to start out small. “Instead of thinking about the huge, overwhelming task of optimizing your entire website, start out by optimizing a couple of blog posts. This is an easy way to get started with SEO that should yield results if done properly. Then you can broaden your SEO efforts as you move forward, learn more and get more comfortable.”

As far as constantly changing Google rules go, Jenny says most of these have very little, if any, impact on the most common SEO work done by most marketers. “Contrary to popular perception, Google isn’t out to trick marketers or make their jobs harder by constantly changing the rules and algorithms. Their purpose is to weed out spammy SEO practices and reward businesses that are doing SEO the right way by providing web searchers with the best, most relevant and most trustworthy search results.

“If you’re not doing questionable things with your SEO,” she adds, “then you really don’t have anything to worry about.”


Discussion Questions (add your comments below):

1. When do you put your Christmas decorations up? 

2. Have you hesitated to try SEO for the reasons Jenny mentioned, or any other reasons?

3. Share any SEO success stories or SEO tips to help others.