Hey there! Welcome to the Marketer Of The Month blog!
We recently interviewed Freelancer of the Month ‘Alanna Brannigan’ for our monthly podcast -‘Marketer of the Month’! We had some amazing insightful conversations with Alanna and here’s what we discussed about –
1. Why copywriting is the backbone of digital marketing
2. How Alanna assisted a travel website in increasing organic traffic by 6000 percent year over year through SEO and content marketing
3. What an SEO audit entails
4. How to get started with Upwork and broaden your presence geographically
5. How blogging can assist in dominating search
6. Guidelines for an effective SEO content writing strategy
About our host:
Michael A. Olson is the podcasting co-host at Outgrow.co. His main area of experience is in international business development, particularly with start-ups either employing advanced technology or some other innovation to gain a competitive edge.
About our guest:
Alanna is the founder of Harvest Moon Marketing and is committed to providing SEO, email, and content marketing services to help ambitious businesses succeed in the digital marketing space.
Achieving Maximum SEO Impact with the Right Content Strategy
Michael A Olson: Hi, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Outgrow’s Marketer of the Month. I’m your host, Michael A Olson. And for this month we’re going to interview Alanna Brannigan, who is a copywriting and SEO (search engine optimization) specialist at Harvest Moon Marketing. Thanks for joining us, Alanna.
Don’t have time to read? No problem, just watch the Podcast!
Or you can just listen to it on Spotify
The Rapid Fire Round!
Michael A Olson: So Alanna we’re going to start with a rapid fire round just to break the ice. You get three passes in case you don’t want to answer the question, you can just say pass and here we go with rapid fire.
Michael A Olson: What item do you feel is worth spending more money on?
Alanna Brannigan: Some good coffee.
Michael A Olson: Okay, what’s the one thing you regret spending money on?
Alanna Brannigan: That’s a tough one. Pass.
Michael A Olson: What movie do you enjoy quoting the most?
Alanna Brannigan: All the tough ones this morning, I think I’m gonna have to pass again.
Michael A Olson: Okay, here’s a good one. If you could be transformed into one animal, which one would you choose?
Alanna Brannigan: I have to say a dolphin. I like to spend time in the water.
Michael A Olson: What’s your favorite Disney character?
Alanna Brannigan: Ariel. So along the same kind of vein there.
Michael A Olson: Now, what are you most looking forward to?
Alanna Brannigan: Most looking forward to? I think I’m looking forward to summer. There’s a lot of fun things coming up.
Michael A Olson: Okay. What is one thing you wish you enjoyed the most?
Alanna Brannigan: Pass.
Michael A Olson: What never fails to make you laugh?
Alanna Brannigan: Do I get one more pass?
Michael A Olson: Okay, alright. Well, how about this? Let’s say we have your 12 year old self here. Would she think that you were cool?
Alanna Brannigan: Oh, definitely!
Michael A Olson: Would you ever skydive?
Alanna Brannigan: I already have.
Michael A Olson: Okay, and it hasn’t frightened you to never do it again.
Alanna Brannigan: I think once is enough.
Michael A Olson: And final rapid-fire question. Have you ever walked out of a movie theater mid-show?
Alanna Brannigan: No. As a Canadian, I think I’m too nice to do that.
Michael A Olson: Alright. Well, thank you for all those rapid-fire answers.
The Big Questions!
Michael A Olson: And now let’s get to some substance here. Along the lines of your specialty, which we’ve mentioned is copywriting and SEO. Let me ask you to compare copywriting with digital marketing for us in terms of how easy it is to get started in those respective fields and in terms of earning potential that they deliver.
Alanna Brannigan: Sure. So I believe copywriting is the backbone of digital marketing, it features in all different marketing channels. And it can help you persuade, excite, build a bond with an audience. But more than that, we use it to drive a desired action. So signing up for an email, purchasing a product or inspiring somebody to get in touch with you. However, it’s also a notoriously undervalued skill. So when you mentioned earning potential, yes I think there’s tremendous earning potential, but it also requires you to stick to your guns and not accept anything less than what you’re worth. And I think that this can be quite difficult sometimes and somebody’s entering the field.
Michael A Olson: Okay. Well, you say it’s undervalued. Some might say that it’s undervalued because sheer text or words are out of fashion in favor of say, video, what would you say to that?
Alanna Brannigan: I think yeah, again it’s the backbone of digital marketing, there’s always going to be a time and a place to have copywriting. Video will never never fully replace the written word.
Michael A Olson: Even in the multiverse, or maybe you don’t believe in that?
Alanna Brannigan: I’m not there yet. So we’ll see.
Michael A Olson: Okay. Well, in your experience, is it better to focus on one specific area of competence, such as copywriting or to go for a wide niche which includes of course digital marketing or indeed SEO, focusing versus going wide?
Alanna Brannigan: Sure, I am personally of the mind that it’s better to niche down and become an absolute expert in your fields. However, there are some fields that go hand in hand such as copywriting and SEO. As you know, there’s so much competition out there in the world of digital marketing. So I believe if your mission is too broad, you’re going to be lost in the noise of it all. However niching down you know, it can also help you reach more customers and pave the way to become an industry leader. But more than that, I’ve seen a lot of my peers become burnt out when they’re trying to spread themselves too thin. So I think it can be more fulfilling to offer a service that you already know delivers impactful results.
Michael A Olson: So I hear a definite focus and with the side benefit of keeping one in the game longer, avoiding burnout.
Alanna Brannigan: That’s right. And we all want to please our clients getting the absolute best results that we can get them. So I think when you focus, that becomes a lot easier to do.
Michael A Olson: Okay, although we’re always thinking they’re not picking me because I’m too narrow, I should promise to be all things to all men to just get some contracts.
Alanna Brannigan: I think in that case you can always partner with other specialists and go that route as well. But I don’t believe that everybody can do everything. And therefore maybe it’s better to sub it out to somebody that is a specialist.
Michael A Olson: Okay, interesting. Because if I might say we got a word in terms of the broader activity of SEO, that among others, you’ve achieved success with understanding a travel website, and you help them totally boost their traffic by 1000s of percent a year, can you tell us more about what that was all about?
Alanna Brannigan: Sure. So this is a success that I’m really proud of. The Great Ocean Road region is a tourism area in Victoria, Australia. This website was created to promote the area and when they came to me, they were reading a lot of articles, but they weren’t generating any traffic from them yet. So with all new clients, the first step was creating a comprehensive SEO audit of the site. This step is really crucial, it helps you uncover any root causes which might be impacting why the site’s not ranking. And so we can uncover all areas of the site, so there are no surprises down the line. With this project, we took a holistic approach that we looked at, on-page, off-page, and technical SEO of the site, but really what skyrocketed the traffic was the SEO content that we created. So we created a content calendar and became more intentional about what was posted, and how each page interacted with one another.
Michael A Olson: And you’re talking here, you have other employees to work along with you?
Alanna Brannigan: So I do have some partnerships, but this was with me and the website that I was working with.
Michael A Olson: Right. Working together with the customer then, in this case?
Alanna Brannigan: With the client.
Michael A Olson: With the client, the Great Ocean region and the website from Victoria, Australia, you say?
Alanna Brannigan: Yeah.
Michael A Olson: And again you just said that a key item of performance for them was an SEO audit. Now that I’ve never heard of that, but what’s that all about?
Alanna Brannigan: So an SEO audit is diving deep into the website at the beginning of the project. So we look at all the factors which might impact how they’re ranking, why they’re not ranking currently, and what we can do to make them rank.
Michael A Olson: Okay. And again, this was a customer from Victoria, Australia, and you’re Canadian, how did you pick up this gig in the first place?
Alanna Brannigan: So I’ve been really lucky throughout the years with that. The majority of my clients have come through referrals, or through freelancing platforms.
Michael A Olson: Right. And the label I got from you was in particular working with Upwork. Is that just one of many or one of your main fora for trying to get jobs?
Alanna Brannigan: So, yes Upwork is the one freelancing platform that I work with. I actually joined, I think about eight years ago when I was in university. And it’s continued to put me in touch with people that I’ve been able to help them increase their organic traffic.
Michael A Olson: Okay, and not that they’re our sponsor or anything, but I’m hearing an endorsement of the value of Upwork for freelancers and like yourself.
Alanna Brannigan: Yeah, it’s definitely a really great place to start. As you do grow though, I think there are more opportunities outside the platform but I think if you’re just getting started, it’s a really great place to put yourself out there.
Michael A Olson: Definitely and now you have that foothold in Victoria, Australia, do you have any thoughts about extending through referrals and that sort of thing to broaden your presence in Australia that way?
Alanna Brannigan: I haven’t totally thought about that yet. I’m happy to help clients wherever they are. I think this was a really interesting, great project. But now I like to focus more on service-based businesses, more local service-based businesses.
Michael A Olson: And we didn’t deal with that aspect locally, that’s Canadian or maybe just one province.
Alanna Brannigan: So when I refer to local service-based businesses, I am referring to maybe a Toronto lawyer or a Melbourne tax specialist, something of this nature.
Michael A Olson: Again, we’re talking local, and you’re talking about the Toronto based, but then I noted that you just got in the new Victoria, Australia client a 1000s, miles away. So why is it so local, does it really matter? Shouldn’t the quality of work and your ease and doing it be the same, no matter what location?
Alanna Brannigan: I mean, that’s true. It is the same, the ease of doing it. I suppose it’s just you can get more rapid results, when you are going more local versus when you’re creating content, for example, say nationwide content, then really more local content, you can get results much quicker in my experience.
Michael A Olson: Okay. Wouldn’t it be that also because occasionally clients really insist on a face-to-face meeting?
Alanna Brannigan: No, I think with the rise of remote work, I’ve never really had an influence requesting a face-to-face meeting.
Michael A Olson: You’re right, it’s been three years since the pandemic and why am I even asking that. But it just occurred to me. Okay, it’s quite logical. If I may, I’d like to focus on the aspect of blogging content. And what you can tell us about how blogging can assist in boosting search results.
Alanna Brannigan: Sure, so Google looks at your site as a whole when determining whether or not to rank you on the first page. So when you begin to blog, you’re not only driving traffic to your site, but you’re also becoming an authority in your niche, which in turn, makes it easier for you to rank for your money pages. So the most effective way to do this would be to write in Topic clusters. This means creating content that’s centered around a related topic. So rather than jumping from topic to topic, this strategy would answer all the questions users may have about a specific subject area in your industry niche. So for example, I have a client who’s a law firm that wants to rank for will and estate planning. So push this page up, we answer all the questions in the blog section of the site related to that. So what is estate planning? What is a holographic will? What happens if you die without a will? How do you contest a will? And so on and so forth.
Michael A Olson: Okay, state planning example. Wouldn’t you also agree that part of another key to that is blogging as frequently as possible?
Alanna Brannigan: I don’t think that it would be to blog as frequently as possible. I think that you need to be really intentional about why and how you’re blogging.
Michael A Olson: Okay. Does that mean maybe not frequently, but a schedule that readers can count on or can predict?
Alanna Brannigan: Yeah, I think it’s always helpful to blog. But again, we need to make sure that we are doing it intentionally. So do we have a keyword? Is it around a topic cluster? Is it meeting the best practices? Because if we are blogging with the intention to rank online, we need to be doing it in such a way that it’s real friendly. If it’s not to rank on Google, then that’s a different story about frequency and what you’re reading, word count things like this. But if it’s to dominate in search, then yes we need to be intentional about it.
Michael A Olson: And right if I can focus on that blogging intentionally, it sounds to me that’s maybe what you’re saying is not just phoning it in, not being a phony, but actually writing what you mean and meaning it as you block.
Alanna Brannigan: Yeah, absolutely.
Michael A Olson: Okay. Well, in the same line, are there any other pointers you could provide our audience for a successful content writing strategy in SEO terms?
Alanna Brannigan: Sure. So everything starts with keyword research. Once you have a keyword that you’ve decided you’d like to rank for, then you need to figure out what Google deems worthy of ranking on the first page for that given keyword, not necessarily what you think should be on the first page of Google, this is a big thing to consider. So in order to do this, you need to examine the top search results for your keyword. And once you start looking at this, you’ll begin to see that there’s a lot of similarities between the top major results. So for example, are all the top results ecommerce listings. In that case, if you write an opinion piece, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to rank for that keyword. And the same goes for word count, you want to make sure you’re mirroring the approximate word count for the top search results. Fortunately, there are a lot of tools out there today, which can automatically compile this information for you. One of them that I would really recommend is surfer SEO,
Michael A Olson: Surfer SEO, okay. And again, that’s a tool, among other things, to find out word count, to find out the recommended length for SEO optimization of your blog entries?
Alanna Brannigan: Yep, so it will analyze all the top results, it will even recommend how many words you should write for a given keyword, also LSI keywords, how many times you should be integrating them, how many headings you should have, how many images you should have. So if you’re new to SEO, and you have a keyword that you want to rank for, I think it’s a really helpful tool to give you the kind of clarity that maybe you don’t have the expertise to find on your own.
Michael A Olson: I’m sorry, you mentioned LSI keywords just now, what are those? What does that mean?
Alanna Brannigan: LSI keywords are Latent Semantic Indexing keywords. So they’re kind of a secondary keyword that you should have integrated throughout your copy. So you know, you’ve got the main keyword or your main phrase, and these are other keywords that are associated with the main keyword.
Michael A Olson: Okay, in which you by your lonesome, would not be likely to think up by yourself but you use these tools to become aware of them.
Alanna Brannigan: That’s right.
Michael A Olson: Okay. Well, that’s the thing about SEO I wanted to ask because many think it’s like a red queen race, like an Alice in Wonderland, where you ‘run, run, run’ to stay in just the same place, mainly because of how everything changes all the time. You know, it’s like a battle of wits. How do you keep track of that to continue to deliver tiptop services to your SEO customers?
Alanna Brannigan: How do I stay competitive?
Michael A Olson: How do you keep track of the ever-changing nature of SEO? As you know, Google itself, by definition, changes all the time to try to get rid of the pesky people that have somehow figured it out temporarily, etc, right?
Alanna Brannigan: Sure, I think definitely, there’s all sorts of resources that you stay on top of. When there’s any sort of algorithm or core updates, but also just making sure that you are trying to create the best content possible, creating the best website possible, the best user experience possible. Always using white hat tactics, never doing shady, spammy things. Because if you find a sort of loophole, when it comes to SEO, that might temporarily help you rank but in the long term, it’s never going to help you rank. So it’s always better to just try to create the best experience on your website.
Michael A Olson: From what you said, I get the impression that the customer itself just needs to just produce the best content that they can with not having to deflect too much for SEO considerations, just lead them to specialists like yourself, who can take care of them and always in an honest way?
Alanna Brannigan: I think definitely the client should partner to create the content, because as I’ve just said, we’ve got to make sure that they have the right keywords, maybe they don’t always know how to find the right keywords that are actually going to rank for their website. There’s a lot of things to consider. Things like the authority of the website, there’s over 200 ranking factors that Google takes into consideration. So yeah, partnering with somebody that will always use white hat tactics is the best way forward.
Michael A Olson: Definitely. No, you just said 200 considerations? So that’s quite a lot to keep track of, you need the specialist for that for sure. Now, the question if you’re familiar with the term marketing technologists?
Alanna Brannigan: Yep.
Michael A Olson: And just comparing definitions here, is it reasonable to assume that a marketer who’s mastered automation, and is stitched together different tools and APIs that would qualify in your eyes as a marketing technologist?
Alanna Brannigan: Good question. Technology is central to digital marketing. So I think this emergence of marketing technologies has no surprise here. In my eyes, marketing technologists should focus on automation, to efficiently manage the overlap between technology and marketing. However, in order for them to be successful, they need to look at their role in regards to the opportunities and challenges which lay at the heart of this integration. So they’re automating with purpose. Everything I believe, even when it comes to automation, can be looked at through the lens of how it’s going to help your clients achieve their ultimate goals.
Michael A Olson: And just that term marketing technologies, how it relates to what you do. Is that what you would call yourself or is that rather someone you would team up with as the demand might be or is the need might be?
Alanna Brannigan: I think this term marketing technologist, it can apply to anybody that there’s an overlap between technology and marketing. So sure, it could apply to an SEO specialist as well because we use a lot of technology when it comes to performing activities for our clients.
Michael A Olson: Okay. So again, it’s what I’m hearing. It’s a label that you might think of applying to yourself, you haven’t done so lately, but it may be in the future?
Alanna Brannigan: That’s right.
Michael A Olson: Okay, a possible new niche to explore.
Michael A Olson: Well, that pretty much exhausted the topics that I have to discuss today. And so Brann, again, copywriting and SEO specialist working at Harvest Moon Marketing. And thank you so much for visiting us today for this podcast, and hope you had fun.
Alanna Brannigan: Thanks so much.