How to Avoid SEO Shiny Object Syndrome (and Why SEO Really is Just Common Sense. Really)

FlinchI did something that made me flinch last week – I was a guest on a radio show/podcast. However, like most things, it wasn’t as scary as I made it out to be.

In this 20-minute audio, you’ll learn:

  • How I got my start into SEO
  • Why you can NOT just “forget about SEO and just write good content.”
  • How to go forth and do keyword research
  • Can you really do SEO yourself?
  • One of the biggest keyword research mistakes small business owners make
  • Why applying SEO really is just using common sense
  • How to avoid “SEO shiny object syndrome”

Listen here. Again, it’s just 20 minutes. Then drop me a line and tell me how I can improve for my next radio appearance. These things are addicting. 🙂

If you prefer to skim the audio transcription is below. Enjoy!

Image source: Flinch 


Brent:  We’ve got a great guest today and I think is going to be a really, really interesting conversation.  Let me introduce Jenny Munn.  She’s an SEO trainer and consultant, and the founder at  Welcome, Jenny.


Jenny:  Thank you, guys.  Great to be here.


Brent:  Yeah.  We’re really excited to talk about this topic today.  To start us off, why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background?


Jenny:  Great.  Well, I am, like you said, I’m an SEO trainer, but I didn’t start out that way.  Actually, a few years ago, I decided I wanted to go into business for myself and so, I became a freelance copywriter, which for those of you that don’t know, it’s a business writer, so it’s something who writes copy for websites or for articles or press releases to help out other businesses.  So, I went out on my own.  But, the problem with going out on your own is that you need to get your own clients, right?  I started networking, and I invested into creating a website for myself and I learned something called SEO.


A few years later, I became an SEO consultant because that’s what really sustained me to creating my own business.  It brought me tons of leads and clients week after week and month after month.  So, here I am today.  I teach other business owners and other marketers how to do SEO to help with their own business now.


Brent:  Jenny, you mentioned that you went out and learn yourself.  We just did an episode — we have a show called e-Rep Raw and it was called…


Todd:  Google PhD.


Brent:  Google PhD, thank you, Todd.  And is that how you learned the SEO?  What was your first steps for somebody learning SEO?


Jenny:  First of all, it started with knowledge that when somebody Googled “Atlanta copywriter,” which is what I did, I just knew I wanted to get to the top of Google.  I wanted to be found when someone typed that in.  When they were short listing a company or a provider or service, I wanted to be there.


Now, a few years ago, what do they say?  Ignorance is bliss.  If I would have known all the hype about SEO, and all the misperceptions that are out there today, all the rumors and all the negative stuff about SEO that’s out there today and prevalent, I don’t know if I would have ever gotten into it.  So, I just really decided I wanted to do it and I just jumped in.  So, yeah, I just learned through hands-on learning really just for my own business.


Todd:  I find it interesting, you call yourself SEO trainer and copywriter, and I think of copywriter, that’s a term of a job that’s been around for literally hundreds of years.


Jenny:  Right.


Todd:  SEO trainer, 10 years maybe?  Fifteen at the outside.


Jenny:  Yeah.


Todd:  I mean, is that problem, is it interesting?  How do you reconcile the two?  How important is it to have both those elements in what you do?


Jenny:  You know, that’s a great question.  All SEO people usually tend to start from somewhere.  Most SEO people are technical or they start from being marketers, and that’s actually a big misperception, that SEO is so technical the average small business owner can’t figure out how to do it, it’s well outside of their scope.  But, that’s just really not true these days.  My specialty is the writing.  It’s the content and it’s what you actually put on the page to be found in Google.  So, that’s kind of how I got brought up to be an SEO specialist through my writing and through knowing what to put on the page in order to rank for Google.


Brent:  I downloaded your book, How to SEO Your Site: A DIY Guide for Small Business Owners


Brent:  Yeah.  And I’ve been reading through it.  I haven’t finished it yet. But already, it speaks to my knowledge that was there and it’s just expanding it fantastically.  Keywords.  I didn’t know much about keywords.  Now I’m realizing that what you think are keywords, a lot of times aren’t the keywords for the people that are looking for you.  Can you just expand upon that and talk about what really are good keywords?


Jenny:  Absolutely.  Well, I love to take an example we were actually chatting about before the show started.  What you guys do, you’ve said that you help companies do marketing and sales, or inbound marketing, or content marketing.  But for you guys, when you’re thinking and when you’re trying to put yourself in the shoes of a customer, well, is that person typing inbound marketing?  Or are they typing in content marketing?  Or are they typing in e-reps?  What do they actually call what you do?  And that’s the whole point of knowing your keywords and keyword research.  It’s not about what you think you are and what you call your business or what products or services you provide.  It’s what the person on the other side of the computer thinks you are, and that’s the keyword you want to target.  What you know people are proving to type into Google.


Todd:  And listen to that, and it’s, again, the ancient wisdom of think like your customer, put yourself in the shoes of your…  I mean, you said the exact same thing in a different set of words.  I want to poke at that a little more.  I hear the phrase a lot “Content is king.”  You talked about your background, I mean you are a copywriter and that’s where you come from.  I’ve heard folks say, “You know what?  Don’t worry about what the Google algorithm is doing and Panda this and Penguin that, forget about it.  Just write good content and SEO will take care of itself.”


I don’t think I believe that.  Address that issue.


Jenny:  Yes.


Todd:  I mean, obviously, content’s important, but the SEO part is, too.  How do you add enough?


Jenny:  Yes.  Gosh, there’s so much wrapped up in that question.  That’s one reason why SEO has gained such a bad rap, because historically, people have — and I say the black hat SEO people, the people that have done things that really probably weren’t so kosher.  It was all about links and building spammy links to websites and doing thing that weren’t content.  The truth is, content is king and Google wants good websites to come up in their rankings, they want to provide people with the best result, and that is the company that has the best copy and the best content, and the best information that’s going to truly help their readers.  So, all these updates that are out there, Panda and Penguin, I really think they’re truly beneficial.  They’re taking the spammers out and the bad companies and the bad copy out, and they’re bringing up the small business owners and the people that truly are trying to help.  And so, if you forget about Panda and you forget about Penguin, and all you do is really try to help your reader or your perspective customer, then that’s what you have to do over and over again.


Todd:  I want to make sure that you did not say don’t worry about SEO, because you’re almost bordering on that. I mean, how true is it?  Can I just forget about it and write good content?


Jenny:  You know what?  The thing is, you can’t forget about SEO because you have to have keywords in mind.  Now, there’s a fine line, some people, all they do is worry about SEO.  All they do is worry about the spiders and Google bots and trying to keep up and chase the latest algorithm.  You can’t do that.  You have to worry about people first, as one of my SEO mentors says, that there’s never going to be a Google bot who’s going to whip out their credit card and buy your product or service.  It’s always going to be a human being back there.  But that said, you have to use the language of your customer, and that’s where we go back to keywords.


There are certain places, of course, you want to place your keywords in the website, but that’s just so Google knows.  Google’s like a toddler, you have to spoon feel them, a smart toddler, but you still have to pick your keywords, put them on the website page, and do it in a manner that’s not going to turn your reader off.  So, it’s a very fine line.  You have to please both Google and your reader.  But if you do it in a smart way with the best intentions of your prospect or your reader or your customer, then you’re going to win out time and time again.


So, the short answer, don’t forget about Google and SEO, but it really all comes back to being helpful and engaging.


Brent:  With all those different types of content, where in the hierarchy does the SEO fall?  When you’re thinking, “I’ve got X customer in mind and I want to target with this piece of content.”  When you’re putting this together, where does SEO fall in the hierarchy of your thought process while developing that content?


Jenny:  Yes, that’s a good question.  Well, customers come to me, they say, “We’re so confused nowadays.  We know what we want to talk about and we know what type of things we want to put out there to push sales, but how can we also balance that with SEO and with what customers are searching for?”


Again, for me, it all starts out with keyword research because when you go to a keyword research tool, a search query is a question, basically.  When someone types in “Atlanta copywriter,” they’re asking a question.  They’re saying, “Who is the best copywriter in Atlanta out there for me?” and your piece of copy has to answer that.  So, when you do write a piece of content, you always want to try to wrap it around a keyword, or you look and see what questions and keywords people are out there looking for and you create content based on that.  Those are proven questions people are typing into Google that you want to be up at the top of Google for, for sure.


So, two things.  One, you know content that you want to put out there.  And second, you look for content ideas that people are asking for and you write content based around those keywords.


Todd:  You used at least twice now the phrase, “Do your keyword research.”  I’m like, okay, I want to sleuth and go forth and do my keyword research.  I don’t know what that means.


Jenny:  Yes.  That’s actually — it’s where a lot of people, they really get stuck around keyword research.  It sounds very daunting.  Thankfully, Google has a free keyword research tool.  If you literally go into Google and type “free Google keyword research tool,” it’ll pop right up.  Keyword research, I talk about it a lot because it literally, it truly is the foundation of your SEO efforts.  People say, “Okay, I did SEO,” or, “I want to do SEO,” but when I say, “Well, what keyword are you trying to rank for?” they can’t give me an answer.  So, true keyword research means you’ve gone to a keyword tool, you’ve verified exactly what it is your market is searching for, you’ve identified that keyword or two, and you’ve put it somewhere on your page.  And then you know, “That’s the keyword I’m trying to rank for.”  When someone goes to Google and they type in that specific keyword, you want to come up in the search engines for that.  That’s the whole point around SEO.  Keywords are the foundation of your SEO strategy and you really have to be very clear about that.  It’s not as complicated as it sounds, but there are certain steps you need to take to do that research.


Todd:  All right.  We need to take a quick break and then we’ll be back with Jenny Munn, SEO trainer and copywriter.


[Break from 9:57 to 10:48]


Todd:  We’re back with Jenny Munn, SEO trainer and copywriter.


Brent:  Jenny, before the break, you said that SEO has kind of gotten a bad rap.  What are some of the reasons that it’s happening?  I know you said the over-spamming with the links, but can you go in a little more detail on that?


Jenny:  Sure.  Well, I, along with you guys, I’m sure and everybody else out there, I’m sure you’ve gotten an email from SEO experts saying, “Hey, I can get your website to the top of Google.  I can get you 1,000 backlinks and submit your site…”


Todd:  Every day.  Every day I get that.


Jenny:  I get that.  And obviously, these people have never visited my website because I am number one for my keyword, you know what I mean?  So, what are they going to help me with?  But these are people that are spamming us and they give true SEO providers a very bad rap, unfortunately.  So, that’s one reason people are turned off by SEO right now.  They’re very wary of it and it’s kind of got a bad name in the field.  Sometimes I introduce myself as an SEO person.  Sometimes I say I’m a marketer because SEO really — it is marketing.  It’s about getting your content found in Google so people can find it.  But, that’s one reason people stay away from SEO is because they think it’s spammy and scammy.  Truth is, there are a lot of bad providers out there.


Another reason is, again, because people think it’s overly technical.  It’s too technical for them.  HTML coding and title tags and meta descriptions and CSS, and…  All that.  And the truth is, I came from a nontechnical background and I figured out SEO and I did very successful with it, so you don’t have to be technical to succeed in SEO these days.


Next, what we touched on earlier is that Google changes a lot.  SEO changes so rapidly people think that by the time they learn it, it’s going to change again the next week, so what’s the purpose?  And first of all, the point that SEO changes frequently, that’s not true at all and I’m happy to give you guys more information about that.


Todd:  Yeah.  One of the things that we run into, we work with a lot of entrepreneurs and smaller businesses and there’s this strong feeling of do it yourself.  And maybe this is a tough question to ask the SEO expert, can I do it myself?  Can the small businessperson really learn enough about SEO to do a credible job on their own without hiring somebody that’s a professional and really digging down into the guts of it?


Jenny:  Yeah.  You know, that also has been the problem.  Small business owners, they haven’t felt that they could do SEO.  And I myself, I’ve worked through and for SEO agencies that charge $4,000+ a month for SEO services and kind of the word is out there that SEO is too difficult to do yourself.  But again, I started out as a solopreneur, solo business owner, who wanted to learn SEO and I took the time to figure it out.  Now, as small business owners, we either have two things: time or money.  If you don’t have the money, then you have to spend the time trying to figure it out, so you do have to spend a little bit of time and put a little bit of time investment into SEO, but you can absolutely do it yourself.  I did and I know tons of other business owners who have done it themselves and who see success with it for sure.  Even a little bit of investment can go a long way.


Brent:  Jenny, I’m a small business owner.  I’ve come up with a great term for what I’m trying to sell.  I used all the keyword on meta tags, I’ve put it in the titles, I’m not getting any traffic.  It’s a term that I’ve invented.  I’m trying to make it popular, I’m trying to grow it, what am I doing wrong?


Jenny:  Well, I can tell you right now that what you’re doing wrong is something that business owners do every day.  They try to optimize for their own business website name or a brand or something that they’ve invented that they want to rank for.  I see it all day every day.  Customers come to me, people come to me, they say, “Here’s my keyword.”  The problem is, the keyword that you’ve chosen that you’re not getting traffic for is something that nobody would ever, ever put into Google to look for you.  It’s too specific to your company.  They’re looking for something a lot more general.  And so, that’s one thing I say.  Go back, you have to look at a keyword tool to confirm whether or not people are actually out there searching for the word you want to be known for.  And if not, you have to start all over.  But that is probably one of the biggest mistakes I see with SEO, is that people try to rank for the wrong keyword.


Todd:  I want to try to look at the other side of that coin.


Jenny:  Mm-hmm.  Sure.


Todd:  I mean, I get idea, e-rep, Brent, right?  That’s the one — that’s who you were talking about, right?  That’s our term.  And yeah, nobody’s going to look for us with that term.  However, and we’re not alone in this, we’d like to make that band-aid.


Jenny:  Right.


Todd:  So, I mean, are we hurting ourselves by using that as a keyword and putting links on it and the title tags and all that other stuff?  I mean, is that wasted effort?  How does one go about making that brand, that unique name…


Jenny:  Yes.


Todd:  …something that Google will recognize eventually?


Jenny:  That’s a great question.  I say, first of all, your job with SEO is to use the word that your customers are using.  Once they get to your site, then it’s your job to sell them on using the words that you want to be known for, using e-Rep.  So, once you get the people to your site, then you can try to get that keyword in their mind, e-Rep, and use that definition.  But otherwise, it definitely is a wasted effort if you’re putting in your title tags and your meta description, those are very important real estate, that is where your keyword goes, the word that people know and are trying to search for, not your own proprietary word.


Todd:  It’s just the degree of common sense that I’m hearing, Brent, through this conversation is staggering.


Brent:  It’s leapt out.  Every time I open up her book, it leaps out at me.  Leaps and bounds.  And that’s — yeah.  It’s coming across fantastically.


Jenny:  Oh, I’m so glad.  That’s great.


Todd:  I’ve got to ask you a question.  I was poking around your website and I just happened to randomly come across this title of a blog post I stumbled on, Having a Baby, It’s a Lot Like Learning SEO.  I didn’t get a chance to read it, you’ve got to tell me, what the heck are you talking about?


Jenny:  Absolutely.  Well, having a baby is a lot like learning SEO the same way I liken to that SEO is like tennis.  You can read about tennis all day long, you can watch Wimbledon, tennis can be your favorite thing to watch it or to read about it or to learn.  But unless you get on the court with your racket in hand and try to swing for the tennis balls, you are never going to learn it just by watching or reading about it.  Same with having a baby.  People can tell you all day long, “Get your sleep now.  Oh, you better go take that last trip,” but until you actually have the baby in your arms who’s wailing away, you really have no idea what you’re in for.


The same with SEO.  You can read about it.  You can hear people talk about it.  But until you actually get in there, do your keyword research, try to optimize your website, you’re never going to get any better at it by just reading about it and listening to experts talk.  You actually have to do it.  You have to get out there.


Brent:  Jenny, I’m going to make you change gears real quick.


Jenny:  Sure.


Brent:  Mobile web.  Everybody has a smartphone, everybody’s going there.  I forgot the numbers on it, but it’s astounding how much traffic is expected to be mobile next year.


Jenny:  Yes.


Brent:  When designing your website for SEO and considering mobile, do the qualifications change?


Jenny:  You know, people are still going to use keywords in order to look at something and to find you.  The keywords do change.  People do tend to type shorter things.  Nobody wants to type in a five-, six-word phrase into their phone, so people will type in shorter phrases, but you still want your websites to rank for that.  That’s why it’s really important.  You’re not limited to one or two keywords.  As many website pages or blog posts or articles you have on your website, that’s how many keywords.  You want to choose a different keyword for each page of your website, or each article, each blog posts gets a different keyword.  And that’s where you can go after the mobile user is by targeting the shorter keywords and the shorter content, and the things that mobile users use because you’re right, that is so important going into 2013 and beyond.


Todd:  Can you give us an example of someone that you’ve worked with, say some poor clueless soul that wound up after X-number of months or years just being really, really good at SEO?  Just kind of paint us a picture of a journey somebody might take.


Jenny:  Yes, absolutely.  Well, I can tell you that one of my clients, they came to me and they said, “We have a list of 10 keywords.  Here are the keywords we want to rank for.”


I said, “Okay, these are great keywords.”  I put them into the keyword research tool and I said yes, there really are people searching for these.


They said, “Okay, well why aren’t we ranking?”


I went to their website and they weren’t using the keywords anywhere on their pages.  They hadn’t said, “Keyword A is going to go on the Home page.  Keyword B is going to go on the About page.  Keyword C is going to go on our services page.”  So, they had their keywords, but they weren’t actually using them on their website.  The very first thing you want to do when you have your keywords, you have to have keywords that are practical, that are reasonable, that you can actually envision being used in the copy and the content on your pages.  That’s the very first thing you do is once you’ve got a keyword, they actually have to go on your page.


Once you do that, you map and you marry a keyword with a piece of content, then you’ll really start seeing results, and then you can really go further.  Then you can do link building after you do that, but you have to do the foundation of SEO, which is pick a keyword, put it on your site.  That’s worked great for clients.  Again, that’s what most of them did not do, is appropriately use those keywords on their pages.


Brent:  Somebody’s looking to educate themselves on SEO.  They Google SEO.  Ten million searches show up.  How does that person wade through all that and figure out what the best way for themselves to get started is?


Jenny:  Yes.  That’s a great question.  It’s something I see every day.  The problem with SEO is not that there’s a lack of information about that.  Like you said, you Google SEO and a ton of things come up, and that’s the problem, there’s almost too much information out there about SEO.  And so, people get stumped.  It’s too daunting.  They just never get started because they don’t know where to start.  I can tell you that keyword research is the place where you get started.  But after that, you take it step-by-step.  Don’t worry about link building and trying to build a thousand links if you don’t even know what your keywords are yet.  Don’t worry about social media optimization if you haven’t even used your keywords on the page yet.  So, there’s absolutely a process.  You do one, and then you move on.  You do a second one, and then you move on.  But because there’s so much information out there, as people get shiny object syndrome, they’ve started doing their keyword research…


Todd:  I get that.


Jenny:  …and then they’re like, “Oh, wait a minute.  But this article says that I need to go get links,” and then they follow that trail and then they never get back to actually doing their keyword research.  So, that’s the thing.  Don’t get shiny object syndrome out there when doing SEO.  It’s simple, and there’s some great guides.  SEOmoz, they’ve got a great free resource intended for SEO newbies that’s out there.  So, go pick that up.  But again, don’t get distracted by all the information out there.  Do your keyword research.  Do your on-page optimization.  Think about content creation.  And move on from there.  But the foundation is the foundation.  Do the basics and don’t get distracted by everything else out there.


Todd:  Wow.  Great tips.  And Jenny, I hate to say it, the clock is conspiring against us here.  Before we let you get out of here, I want to make sure folks know how to get a hold of you, how to learn more, how to get to your website, etc.  So, how do we get a hold of you to learn more about what you’re doing?


Jenny:  That’s great, yes.  Well, I love any SEO questions.  Please come to me.  Like I said, I’m an SEO blogger and trainer, so I am here to help.  My website is  Google me and come to my website and read my blog or email me and ask me any questions.  Tell me where you are or where you got stuck, because a lot of people, for SEO stuff, they don’t know where to turn to.  They can’t afford to spend $4,000 a month for an agency.  So, come find me and tell me what your SEO problems are and I can try to point you in the direction of how to get started or how to get help.


Todd:  Outstanding.


Brent:  Excellent.


Todd:  Do you feel smarter, Smith?


Brent:  Oh, yeah.  No.  This is a lot to take in, but it was great.


Todd:  The one thing I take away from it more than anything else is just the common sense approach to it.  Put yourself in the shoes of your customer, get the keywords, put them on the page.


Brent:  Yeah.


Jenny:  That’s it.  Absolutely.


Todd:  It’s really straight forward.


Brent:  Yeah.  It’s not as complicated as everyone makes it out to be.


Jenny:  Yes.  Absolutely.


Todd:  Well, again, as I said, the clock’s conspiring against us, so that’s going to wrap this episode.  On behalf of our guest, Jenny Munn, my co-host Brent Smith, I’m Todd Youngblood.  Thanks for listening to Marketing from the Streets.



When they Google, will you be there?  Your prospects and customers are not just searching.  They’re scouring the internet, getting themselves through as much as 80% of their buying process before they have any interest whatever in talking to you.  No strong online presence?  You don’t even get to compete.  To establish and grow that online presence, you need an e-Report: a digital extension of yourself.  That’s where Dreamland Interactive comes in.  Whether it’s establishing your e-Rep for the first time, making it more visible to the search engines, or doing the really challenging work of harvesting great content, Dreamland Interactive e-Rep processes and tools can help.  Learn more about how Dreamland Interactive can shorten your sales cycle at


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Jenny Munn

Jenny is an independent Digital Marketer and SEO Consultant with more than 10 years of experience helping companies and content creators generate brand awareness, traffic, and conversions with SEO. She is a frequent speaker and is on the faculty for the AMA (American Marketing Association) and has taught SEO to thousands of marketers over the past 10 years.
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