Reality SEO: WordPress SEO tips with Rachel Amies

Reality SEO: WordPress SEO tips with Rachel Amies
Reading Time: 14 minutes

 

Enriching web dev and copy services with SEO

Hearing great SEO advice is one thing but is it actually doable? 

In my reality SEO episodes, I talk to real humans and get the truth about how they use SEO and digital marketing to improve their businesses.

Like Rachel Amies, a former student of the Recipe For SEO Success Course, a member of the Digital Masterchefs, and a cat-pun enthusiast.

We’ll talk about how Rachel took her web design and digital marketing to the next level with SEO, and the challenges she’s faced along the way.

 

 

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And big thanks to Bronwen GMR from South Africa for their lovely review:

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I’m loving this content. It is beyond helpful, thank you!”

 

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About Rachel Amies

 

Rachel Amies

Rachel Amies is an ex-lawyer who helps law firms and other service-based businesses create pawsome WordPress websites and write purrfect words to boost business and build connection. 

Her up-to-the-minute knowledge and attention to detail will leave you feline fine about your digital marketing.

 

Fun fact: 19-year-old Rachel played trumpet in an orchestra for Nelson Mandela.

 

 

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Transcript

 

Kate Toon:

Hearing great SEO advice is one thing but is it actually doable? In my Reality SEO episodes, I talk to real humans and get the truth about how they use search engine optimization and digital marketing to improve their businesses or the businesses of others like Rachel Amies, a former student of the Recipe for SEO Success course, a member of the Clever Copywriting School and the Digital Master Chefs, and a cat pun enthusiast. We’ll talk about how Rachel took her web design and digital marketing to the next level with SEO and the challenges she faced along the way.

Kate Toon:

Hello, my name is Kate Toon. I’m the Head Chef for the Recipe for SEO Success, an online teaching hub for all things related to search engine optimization and digital marketing. I also wanted to tell you about my ultimate SEO checklist which helps you manage your site and grapple the Google beast. You can check it out in the show notes and it’s entirely free so go and grab that and start on your SEO adventures. But less of my SEO adventures or your SEO adventures, today we’re here to talk about Rachel and her SEO adventures. Hello, Rachel.

Rachel Amies:

Hello.

Kate Toon:

Hello. God, I struggled through that, didn’t I? There’s not enough coffee this morning. I’d like to let the listeners know that while we are recording this podcast, I have a lovely view of Rachel’s cat’s bottom who keeps on joining in, he or she?

Rachel Amies:

He.

Kate Toon:

What’s he called?

Rachel Amies:

Mowgli.

Kate Toon:

Mowgli.

Rachel Amies:

Out of the Jungle Book.

Kate Toon:

Ah. Well, Mowgli’s bottom is part of this podcast so we can’t get that across in an audio fashion but maybe you’ll hear a meow. Let me tell you who Rachel is. She is an ex-lawyer who helps law firms and other service-based businesses create pawsome words at WordPress websites and write perfect words to boost business and build connection.

Kate Toon:

Her up to the minute knowledge and attention to detail will leave you feeling fine, oh my god, about your digital writing. Fun fact, oh, we’ve heard this one before, we need a new fun fact because we already know from the Copy Chats podcast that Rachel has played trumpet for Nelson Mandela. So Rachel, I need a new fun fact.

Rachel Amies:

Ooh.

Kate Toon:

Come on. I know. It’s hard, isn’t it? I saw a meme the other day that said I live in fear of being asked the question tell me something fun about yourself. I mean, as soon as someone says that, it’s like literally you are the least fun person in the world and nothing comes to mind. So, let’s move on. Let’s talk about the funness of SEO. Take me back a few years before you really started your SEO journey and how you felt about search engine optimization.

Rachel Amies:

Well, before my business I don’t think SEO was in my vocabulary at all. I mean, I used Google, I even remember using Ask Jeeves back in the 1990s. Scary thought, I’m showing my age now. But yeah, it never occurred to me back then. And then, when I started my business, I built my own website and I somehow found out about you and that’s where the SEO crept into my vocabulary. Yeah. I thought it might be a bit scary but I was also curious about learning more so that was probably my beginnings for SEO.

Kate Toon:

Yeah. I think if it wasn’t clear from the intro, you’re a bit of a unicorn in that you do both the copy and the web development so that combination of understanding SEO copywriting and understanding SEO for WordPress is quite unique. One of the things I find a lot with WordPress developers is that they often talk a good talk about SEO but all they actually do is install Yoast, don’t even look at the settings and then say, “Yes, I’ve done your SEO.” So talk to me a little bit about WordPress SEO, what are some of the key things you’d like to look at when you’re building an SEO friendly WordPress website?

Rachel Amies:

Some of the things like making sure that there’s an appropriate page title and meta description. I love the Yoast SEO plugin. I also make sure I use appropriate permalinks and make good use of the headers so your H1s, H2s and so forth. Yeah. So-

Kate Toon:

There’s a lot to cover. There’s a lot to extrapolate just out of that. So titles and matters, again, big problem I see is that often when a website gets built, the copywriter doesn’t provide those and it’s often left to the WordPress developer to make it up and it’s not really their job to make it up because obviously, it’s so crucial that you work in some kind of focus keyword and you make it clickworthy and that can be hard to do if you’re not in charge of the copy. But luckily, you are, you get that double sword so you write it and you put it in. You mentioned permalink which seems such a simple thing but explain to the listeners what you mean when you say you make sure that the permalinks are correct. What do you mean by that?

Rachel Amies:

Well, so you’ve got your main domain name which tends to be people’s homepage and then, when they add their belt page and service pages or product pages having the bit after the back slash, having that worded appropriately, not using underscores, and things like that.

Kate Toon:

Yeah. Obviously, the big problem with WordPress is it defaults to, especially with blog posts, months and dates folder structure so changing a permalink so that they actually include the keywords of your blog article and also making decisions about whether you want to keep the category sub folder in a WooCommerce shop or the category folder in a blog post. These are things that if you don’t understand the impacts of them, they can have a big issue.

Kate Toon:

I see lots of people coming on the SEO Recipe course and their permalinks weren’t changed and now, they have to go back through and possibly change them and then redirect them and then they’re going to lose a bit of their authority, no matter how well they do it. There’s always a bit of a dip, isn’t there? The other classic I love on WordPress is that dreaded box. I can’t remember where it is. It’s somewhere in general settings, maybe reading, where it says discourage search engines from searching this website.

Rachel Amies:

I was surprised to see how many designers actually check it. A year or two ago, I had a local business email me and she says, “Oh, my website used to appear in Google but now it isn’t,” so when I had a look in the back end, somebody had checked that box.

Kate Toon:

Mm.

Rachel Amies:

And then, I was like, unchecked it, saved it, and a week or two later, she started appearing again in the search results but-

Kate Toon:

Yeah. It’s terrifying. By the way, I don’t know if you can hear a dog howling like a wild wolf in the background but I’d just like to acknowledge that in case you were frightened. It’s not where you are, it’s where I am. Yeah. I think there are some… Talking frightening things, there were a lot of frightening things that are done on WordPress sites, that’s one of them. I think I had someone who came on the course who’d been happily blogging away for a solid year without realising that box was checked. But also, again, some people don’t instal any kind of SEO plugin. I’m a fan of Yoast as well. And so, they don’t have a really properly put together site map or robots.txt file which are super important for crawling as well. So these are all things to think about. What are some of your other favourite plugins that you like to use on WordPress sites for things like backups and security and stuff like that?

Rachel Amies:

So for backups, I use UpdraftPlus just the free version and the advantage of that is you can actually save your website to somewhere external from WordPress or your website hosting so you can save it to Google Drive or OneDrive or whatever suites so that’s one of them. Yeah. I see quite a few sites when I do audits that don’t have a backup in there. For security, I tend to use WordPress Wordfence and that’s pretty much the only plugin that I recommend getting the paid version as that adds the two-factor authentication. Yeah. So those two plus Yoast are probably my three go to plugins to begin with.

Kate Toon:

Yeah. I think that’s right. And then, you scale up depending on what the requirements are whether they want to have a shop or a director or a membership or whatever. I think the other thing that’s often a problem is that people will just install plugins to do everything. And so, you go into sites and I’m sure this has happened to you before and you go and there’s 69 plugins and half of them are deactivated, some of them haven’t been updated for three or four years, and you ask the business owner, “What do each of these do?” and they’re like, “I have no idea,” so I think that can be a big problem, right?

Rachel Amies:

Yeah, definitely. It can affect the site speed but also what I say with the plugins is people will have two versions of the same thing so they might have Ninja Forms and Gravity Forms. It’s like you don’t really need both.

Kate Toon:

They can compete with each other. I’ve seen people who have All In One SEO and Yoast or they have a plugin that’s generating a site map and Yoast and that can cause plugins and issues and duplicate code so definitely something to work about. But let’s get back to the SEO and when you started learning SEO which obviously has been essential to your copywriting business and your WordPress business, what were some of the things that surprised you? You mentioned that you thought it was a bit scary when you actually started digging in, was it as scary as you thought it would be?

Rachel Amies:

No. No, it wasn’t. Yeah. I was pleasantly surprised about how easy it was especially when it’s explained in plain English, it makes it easier to learn so that was one thing. I think the other thing is I didn’t realise how many components there were to it. When I first found out about it, I thought it was mainly to do with the content on the front end of the website and that’s only just one part of the jigsaw puzzle but yeah. So yeah, mainly the not scary thing.

Kate Toon:

Yeah.

Rachel Amies:

I don’t think it was.

Kate Toon:

Yeah. You’ve mentioned the puzzle there, I like to think of it as a Trivial Pursuit pie. Do you remember those little pies in Trivial Pursuit? I think I’m a bit old. I shouldn’t be using that as my reference. Often, as a copywriter, someone will come along and ask you to write some copy, any blog posts, or they want their site optimised and one of the biggest issues there is if you are not also doing some kind of audit on the site to assess the things we’ve talked about, site speed, callability, responsiveness, call web vitals, you can write all the copy that you want but it’s not going to make much difference. I guess for you, has that been helpful to you that you can say to the client, “Yes, I can do a copy but would you also like me to have a quick look through your website and see what I can fix?”

Rachel Amies:

Yes. So I do do that because I do WordPress health checks as well so I do offer that as an add-on and I also, when I send out proposals, I offer, “Well, would you like me to review the site after it’s gone live?” especially if it’s a new website or if the client’s moving from Wix over to WordPress and things like that.

Kate Toon:

Yeah. It’s a big drama. So let’s talk about that, site migrations, they’re an absolute nightmare. Moving from platform to platform is essentially, people call it a migration, but really you’re starting all over again especially if you’re moving from Wix, there’s not a lot you can carry across. Shopify to WordPress, it’s a completely different platform. What are some of the things people should consider when they’re moving from one platform to another?

Rachel Amies:

I think one thing is realising that you are essentially rebuilding the site from scratch even if you still have the same content and the same images, there’s a lot more involved than what some people seem to realise. I think the other thing is keeping their current site live while the new one is being built because, well, just because you’re getting the new site doesn’t mean you don’t want new inquiries coming in and stuff like that.

Kate Toon:

Yeah. I mean, you’ve got to think about the when you’re going to switch over and maybe be building your new site on some staging server and then doing the flip over. A lot of the issues I see is that people do not draw down all their URLs and then they create this new site, the URLs don’t match up so there’s dozens of 404 errors. So having that kind of redirect strategy set up and trying to keep the URL integrity as much as you can and then I think people forget the miscellaneous stuff like double checking that your Google search console code is still working and your GA4 is still working and your pixels are all in the right spot. It’s a big undertaking. Yeah. I’m not a fan of doing migrations because you know that I started out as a WordPress developer way back when.

Kate Toon:

I built all my own sites. Obviously, they’re being rebuilt several times but I think it’s great to have that skill set. I mean, even if you… We talked about this on the Copy Pod and I asked you if you had to kill one of your darlings, which would you kill? You did say WordPress. You said you’d keep with the copy and you’d leave the WordPress but I do think that having that understanding of how websites work totally changes the way you write copy because you’re writing it with the site in mind. Have you found that? Like it’s made you a better copywriter building sites.

Rachel Amies:

Yes, definitely. Because I have that understanding of the site structures and permalinks and just that, I suppose, the creative side of me likes to visualise what the copy would look like in my head while I’m writing it.

Kate Toon:

Yeah. You are almost thinking… I mean, I work in Divi. I know a lot of people don’t like Divi, whatever. Let’s not have the Divi argument. But when I’m writing content for a page, I’ll be thinking about the type of module I’m going to use, is this going to be an accordion? Is this going to be this? Is it going to be on the left hand side of the page or the right? Do I need some breaker copy to give visual space on the page? I think that’s why it’s really great to try and build your own site. For anyone listening, we do have a build your own SEO friendly WordPress course, I’ll include that in the links. It usually takes people about six hours, I’d be interested in your opinion on this Rachel, six hours to get the basics up.

Kate Toon:

By that, I mean you’ve bought your domain, you’ve bought your hosting, you’ve installed WordPress and your plugins, you’ve worked up a coming soon page or maybe a homepage and maybe a little bit of copy, maybe a contact form, as you said, we like a bit of Gravity Forms for that. Is it perfect? No, but then you can start to tinker and I think what puts a lot of people off is they just think that WordPress is too much of a learning curve. They’re like, “Oh, but Wix is so easy. I can just drag and drop,” but my opinion is that WordPress is worth the effort. I mean, I’m assuming you’re going to agree with me. What do you think?

Rachel Amies:

Oh, definitely. I think it is worth the effort and it’s got… Well, I can do a whole talk on why I prefer WordPress over Wix and so forth but I think for some people, if you are able to use a computer and you’re able to learn your software, then you can learn WordPress. You just need to set a little bit of time aside each day or whatever and actually persevere and there’s a plenty of… One of the advantages of WordPress is that there are so many resources out there that-

Kate Toon:

Help you.

Rachel Amies:

If you get stuck, you can find it.

Kate Toon:

Yeah. As a business owner, I think what’s comforting about that as well is in the olden days, back when I started in web development, everyone had custom content management systems. So if you wanted to leave the agency you’re working with you are pretty much understanding that you’re going to have to throw your website away and start again because they owned that CMS. What I like about WordPress is that pretty much everyone knows it. People get into camps about, “Oh, you only work with Beaver Builder.” “I only work with Divi and I will not…” “I like UpdraftPlus,” and, “I like BackupBuddy,” but generally it’s pretty interchangeable and people can work on multiple platforms. So I mean, you’re a web copy beast and now, you offer several SEO services, you do SEO audits, you do WordPress audits, you do maintenance, you do all kinds of things. How has SEO changed your business for you and for your clients?

Rachel Amies:

Well, for me, it’s allowed me to tinker off my site and improve my keyword rankings and domain authority. And then, being able to offer more so incorporate my SEO knowledge into my copywriting and WordPress services and I even ended up extending some of my services as well which incorporate more of the SEO side of things as well.

Kate Toon:

Yeah. So it’s become a new income stream for you and-

Rachel Amies:

Definitely.

Kate Toon:

I just think for those listening, if you are not somebody that wants to learn this stuff, it’s really important that you interrogate your developer about their level of understanding with SEO. What courses have they taken? What efforts are they going to make your site SEO friendly? If they can’t give you easy answers or they avoid the question or try and bamboozle you with jargon, have a little think about that.

Kate Toon:

Because if you are confident in your skill set, you’re happy to say, “Well, I’m going to fix your permalinks. I’m going to install these plugins.” It’s not secret juju, it’s standard stuff. But I often see as well people being upsold SEO packages and then to my horror, I look in and all that means is they’ve added title tags and as I said, installed Yoast but not looked at the settings.

Kate Toon:

Look, Rachel, it’s always good to talk to you some great tips there but if you could provide the listeners with one tip about SEO for them to think about and move forward with, it can be a WordPress tip, it can be a copy tip, it can be a life tip, what would your one SEO tip be for the listeners?

Rachel Amies:

I think on the copy side of things, keep your copy original because you’re still writing for humans. So Google can get you to the first page and people will click through but if your content doesn’t relate to your reader, then what’s the point?

Kate Toon:

Ah, that’s one of my favourite tips. I always say SEO gets people to your front door but you’ve got to drag them through and make them convert. I was on a site the other day, one of my poor students actually had received some really bad advice to just write super long copy and shove as many keywords in it as possible. The copy, I was reading it and the copy kind of made sense. They were the right words. There were nouns and adjectives, they just weren’t in the right order and it just felt repetitive and I felt confused.

Kate Toon:

It’s like, “Well, well done. Maybe this copy… Because we know that even though we’re not supposed to keyword stuff, sometimes it still works. So great, you’ve got to a ranking spot and you got the click through but now, they’re just going to leave because the copy’s so dreadful.” I love that. You have to combine the love of the Google beast with the love of the humans and it can be an art. It’s an art and it’s a science but it’s definitely learnable. So thank you very much, Rachel, let everyone know where they can find more about you.

Rachel Amies:

My business name is Crazy Cat Copy so my website’s crazycatcopy.com.au. I’m also findable on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Wix-

Kate Toon:

The works, the works. Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. It’s been fab. Thank you, Rachel.

Rachel Amies:

Thank you.