Ep. 372: SEO Secrets with Meg Casebolt of Love at First Search

I'm so excited to introduce you to this week's guest on Pep Talks for Side Hustlers, Meg Casebolt of Love at First Search!

Meg Casebolt is the founder of Love At First Search, an agency singularly devoted to helping online businesses get found in search results (like Google, YouTube & iTunes) & turn those new readers into leads, subscribers, and sales. Meg’s clients are entrepreneurs who are too busy changing the world to worry about things like website conversion rates and search traffic … but still want their websites to get found on Google for their brilliance and turn readers. SEO is our vehicle for amplifying female entrepreneurial voices and empowering women to help their families, communities, and the wider world flourish.

Push play to listen to this week's episode, or read the full transcript below!

Connect with Meg:

Shannon Mattern: Welcome to episode 372 of Pep Talks for Side Hustlers. And I am so excited to be joined today by Meg Casebolt from Love at First Search who's here to talk about all things SEO and business and whatever we get into in this conversation today. So Meg, I am so happy to have you here. Can you share a little bit with our listeners about you and what you do?

Meg Casebolt: Sure, I would love to. Thank you so much for having me. So I run Love at First Search, which is a search engine optimization agency. Search engine optimization is basically just a fancy difficult way of saying, getting found on Google, showing up in search results. We work mostly with online entrepreneurs to help them show up in whatever their search engine of choice is. So people think of Google, but also Apple podcasts. So podcasters can show up in search results. YouTubers can show up in that search results, YouTube is the set biggest search engine in the world. Those are kind of my top three search engines. So if you are creating some form of content and you want to show up in those search results, I can help you do that. Or if you just wanna show up and have your ideal client find you, get to your website through a search and then fill out your contact form, or buy some thing from you, or join your email list. I also teach, once they get to your website, what you want them to do. Because traffic is traffic. But if you get the right people coming to your website, it can make a huge difference in the quality of leads that you're getting. And also how much time you have to spend on your marketing. And if your ideal clients are seeking you out, finding you and reaching out to you, you don't have to spend as much time taking selfies on Instagram, unless you want to.

Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh, we're gonna dig into that. cause I'm like, why am I going to create content that's just gonna disappear down a feed?

Meg Casebolt: So much of tat content is literally built to just detonate.

Shannon Mattern: It's just consumed and it goes away.

Meg Casebolt: And you're like, I just spent 45 minutes on a reel that's going to disappear in 24 hours. I could spend 45 minutes on a podcast that will live forever that people can go binge when they find me in 2039, you know? Okay. Maybe podcast won't be a thing then . I am such a firm believer in evergreen work that can have inbound people finding you forever and making sure that everything in your business becomes an asset, not just something that disappears or that gets pushed down a feed and nobody's gonna look at it.

Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh. I wanna dig into your backstory here in just a second. But what you just said when you said "inbound", there is a difference in intent between people who are scrolling social media versus people who are searching a search engine. Total difference in intent of what is behind why they're doing what they're doing.

Meg Casebolt: Yeah. What I say a lot is like people go to social media to be entertained and waste time. And maybe they want to be entertained by the content that you're creating. And maybe that's really fun for you to create an interesting approach to what it is that you do. And if that's something that you love, awesome. Great. I hope your people find you there. But it doesn't have to be the only way that people find you. And I also have a lot of introverts who seek me out because they're like, 'please don't make me dance', please don't make me do a TikTok'. 'I don't want to do a TikTok'. And so many subject matter experts who are say it does not help me get clients as a therapist. It's great to be personable on these channels, but I want people to know that I'm really good at what I do. And that's hard to translate sometimes in an informal environment.

Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh. Oh, so good. Okay. So let's go back, get your time machine. Take me back to the early days of what you were doing before you started this social media or social media? not social media! We just talked about social media! Anti-social media agency, a search engine optimization agency.

Meg Casebolt: So I went and worked at nonprofits for many years after graduating from college. Nonprofits have a very limited budget. And so I was often the only communications person that worked for these organizations. Or like a team of two . And so I had to learn everything. And I think a lot of us came from these places where it's like a small business, we have to wear a lot of hats. So I was doing the email marketing, the donor outreach, the databases, the social media, the website design, all the things. And at one point I was writing a grant and it would've made sense for some of the marketing things in the grant line item for me to put in some graphic design classes for myself. And so that's how I got started as a graphic designer, and kind of some of the web design was figuring out how to make these updates on nonprofit websites.

Meg Casebolt: And some of it was, I took these classes cuz I could make the case in the grant that it was cheaper to train me as an employee than to hire a contractor. And so that was how I got started in design. I don't have a degree in it. I have a degree in political science. I have another degree in community economic development. These are not relevant skill sets but sometimes, you know, you figure it out as you go. And so that was early aughts that this was happening. Let's fast forward to 2014. I'd been working in all of these different nonprofits, small businesses. I get married, get pregnant. Look at the numbers. And I don't know if you guys know this, but nonprofits do not pay a lot of money, turns out. And when you have to pay half of your salary to send your kid to daycare and you're like, do I want to literally take half my take-home pay and hand it to someone else and not see my child?

Meg Casebolt: It didn't make sense for me. I understand that it can work for other people. It may be that you wanted to stay there for a few years and then go into the side hustle. But that was when my side hustle started. I'd recently gotten married. I designed all my own programs for my wedding and the wedding website and kind of started there. And then started tapping into my networks. And one of my friends from high school had a web design agency. So she hired me as a contract junior designer. And that, as a side hustle, gave me enough stability to be able to quit my full-time job and start pitching myself out to other people, and getting to know the web designers, friends, and then their clients and their friends, and sort of build out that network as a web designer for small businesses and a graphic designer for nonprofits.

Meg Casebolt: So I was contracting with them and doing like, oh, you need the program designed for your gala. I can do that because I had that grant that taught me how to do that. So it was this kind of like I was in that phase of being a freelancer, of doing all the things and trying to figure out who the heck was the best fit for me. But also just like anybody who came my way, I was like, yes, I will take this job. You're gonna give me money to do the things that I like doing? Yeah, that sounds awesome! And as I was building out a lot of websites for entrepreneurs, we would do the logo, the color palette, the visual brand, the copywriting and the frameworks and all of that. We would launch these beautiful sites and then my clients would go, well, that's great, but where are the new clients?

Meg Casebolt: I'm like, hmmm? And so I started teaching myself SEO. And it started, as it does for many of us, with what is this Yost plugin? What do these lights mean? You know, , it all starts from there. And now, seven, eight years later I'm like, oh, that's more pain. Yost can be more complex than it is helpful because we're so focused on getting that green light. But at the time I was like, okay, this is what SEO is. This is where it starts. And I reached out to a couple of my friends who were also designers, I was in a design mastermind, and said, how do you guys balance getting the clients, keeping up with all the software updates and then also doing the SEO optimizing? I don't have enough brain capacity to be really good at all these things.

Meg Casebolt: And they said, well, we can't either. Sometimes we hire out our SEO, but we don't really have a good SEO person that we trust. And I was like, oh, really? that sounds like a blue ocean! And that blue ocean being a space where nobody is really trying to find you, as opposed to a red ocean where people are biting over each other to try to get the same clients. I'm like, great. If I don't have to go get clients, if I could just work for my designer friends and help them with the SEO portions of the web design clients that they already have, then why would I continue to try to do everything? And that's when the niche and the specialization became super clear to me, you know, like a light shining down from heaven.

Meg Casebolt: And I was more interested in it. There was a point where I was like, I really like the visual elements of design. I like the feeling of pulling all of this together. But clients can be so finicky man. . And I certainly don't need to tell you, Shannon, or any of the designers who may be listening to this, but it's like, I can't have your website done by Friday if you don't give me the copy until Thursday! I was tired of the whole thing. And so that's kind of how I got into SEO. It was a non-linear travel from nonprofit communications to, hey, I really like figuring out how to get people to show up in search results. And that became all that I did after a while.

Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh. I love that story. And as you're telling it, I'm like, oh my gosh, that was me! Oh my gosh, that was me! Working in a nonprofit, working in communications, solving business problems with technology. Constantly. Being the one, the go-to person to figure out all that, wearing all the hats and then realizing at the end that I have accumulated so many valuable skills. I didn't realize how valuable they were at the time. But, you know, just that whole 'I can figure out how to do anything'. I can literally figure out how to do anything and how empowering that is.

Meg Casebolt: And knowing that everything is Googleable. Have you seen that pie chart of the amount of things that you know and the amount of things that you know how to Google? And it's like 90% being in business is just figuring out what the heck you're supposed Google.

Shannon Mattern: The craziest thing to me was people thought I was so smart. And I would literally say, "I just Googled it". And they are like, 'but how do you even know what to Google and how do you even know what to believe and what not to believe?' And I'm just like, I just tried it all and then maybe one thing would work. And then the next time I knew what not to try, and just knew what to do first the time next time. And I always said, I just Googled it. But I guess not everybody has the patience and the tenacity to track down the answer.

Meg Casebolt: That's it. There's a level of knowledge. And I don't think of Googling as being a skill, but it is. And I think a big chunk of this, whether you are setting your website up to be found, or figuring out what you need to find, is like taking yourself out of the equation and thinking what is the thing that everyone else would be searching? If I didn't know what I knew, if I was the person that I'm trying to reach or, you know, some other variation of who I am that just doesn't know all the things, what would I look for then? It's empathy. It's tenacity and empathy. Those are the two big things.

Shannon Mattern: And what questions would someone be asking about this that you're answering for them? Because, I mean, I was just literally typed in the questions that I had and I don't even know if I was using the correct terminology. But it would lead me down a path to an answer. And thank goodness for people taking the time to SEO optimize because that helped me so much in being able to develop the level of knowledge and information that I have. I didn't know any of this was going on in the backend back in the day.

Meg Casebolt: Right? It's a good thing Google existed and gave you all this Information.

Shannon Mattern: I had no idea. I'm Googling things. Things were coming up. I didn't realize that anybody was pulling ropes behind the scenes to make sure I was seeing the best. I was clueless about a lot of this stuff back in the early aughts, like you said. . So I love how you identified an opportunity to really kind of go all in on one area, and support your friends, and make it easy for you to run this business.

Meg Casebolt: And there was something really appealing to me about how I get to do the part that makes my brain fire, you know? Not bad fire! Fire all cylinders! Not like go set on fire. Some people just set their brain fire. But for me it was like, yeah, I really actually like looking at these spreadsheets and these databases and figuring out how to pull the patterns of this together. And also making my friends more valuable to their clients and increasing the value of their end result. And also giving their clients better results. And that is a win, win, win scenario. It's awesome when you can find that, when it lands in your lap the way that it did for me by just being in relationship with people who were then my service partners.

Shannon Mattern: I love that. And another thing that you said that I think is just a really interesting topic, and for those of you listening that have a website or those of you listening that are designers working for clients, just having a website in and of itself literally is not going to magically create clients for you. And I really do think that people are like, oh, I didn't have it before. Now I have it. People are magically going to find me. I don't have to do anything to make that happen. And if I hired someone to build a website for me, and I'm not getting traffic, it's that person's fault. . And so it's like educating the end user, the client, the DIYer, the person hiring somebody, that there is extra work to be done for an SEO strategy beyond a website design. And also you, as the business owner, are responsible, for doing your marketing and the things that you need to do to create clients. The website is the tool. The SEO is the tool. You, as the business owner, get to implement the tool.

Meg Casebolt: I like to think of it as your website can function as a brochure. So if you are like, I am going to DIY this, and then I'm going to post on social media or go be on podcasts or go to networking events, or join my local BNI group or whatever, and my website can be the validation tool where after somebody sees me, after they know me, after they have my business card in their hand, they can then go to my website site and say, yes, Shannon does know what she's talking about. Look at all this that she has here. It can validate their concerns. Or your website can be a lead generation tool and a sales tool. It doesn't mean that a website that's a brochure is bad. It just wasn't built for lead gen and sales. And that is a choice that you can make. You know, you get to choose how you run your business and how you market yourself and how you get your clients. Some people don't need that traffic.

Shannon Mattern: Right. Right.

Meg Casebolt: But some people want that, and that's a choice,

Shannon Mattern: And also, you can make it a door to Google, right? I kind of think of it as you're either connected or you're not. So depending on how you structure things and how you use them and what kind of content you're creating, you're either opening a door to a whole world that you would've never opened it up to, or you kind of have it closed and camouflaged, and no one is really noticing you as they're walking by.

Meg Casebolt: You can be a secret weapon. . It's okay to be a secret weapon. It's okay to get your clients from word of mouth where the people that you work for think that you're so awesome that they just spread the word about you. They become your super fans and your ambassadors, and you have great affiliate programs for them. And you don't need any more than that. That's fine. But if you want to reach outside of that, then search can be an option for that. You can set up your website in a way that people who are already out there the Shannons and Megs of the early aughts. I don't know what this business thing is but I know I want to do it! We're both doing the, typing frantically thing!

Shannon Mattern: Typing furiously!

Meg Casebolt: Puppet finger typing. There are people who are looking for what you do. They might not know that you exist. So you can choose to try to be the thing that they find, or you can choose to do something else and let your competitors get that traffic. That's fine. But if you want to be the one that shows up in those search results, then you have to think intentionally about what are the things that my clients or my customers want from me. What are the questions that they have? What are the things that they think that are wrong that I can help reeducate them on? What are the concerns that they have? Or the obstacle thoughts that they're like, oh, I could never afford to hire a web designer or, oh, I can't hire a personal trainer until I lose the first 50 pounds.

Meg Casebolt: And it's like, well, no! They could help you with that. right? Like there's a package that you could use. There are a lot of people who will Google and reeducate themselves on what they need from what they find in those search results. So it's not just, you know, I'm a boudoir photographer and I need to find people who are looking for a boudoir photo, and that's it. You can also say a B photography package is really great as an engagement gift, you know? And then when people are looking for engagement gifts, they can be like, oh, that is a really great idea. That would be an awesome gift. You know? You can find these opportunities to tap into what people are already searching for, whether that's an education piece or they're ready to buy from you and they just need to find you. And then your website can do the job of getting that person from cold to filling out your contact form, joining your email list.

Shannon Mattern: Oh, I love it. So what are some of the, I don't know, misconceptions or myths or things that you just wish people knew about SEO as a marketing strategy?

Meg Casebolt: I think there's a misconception that you need to be a certain level of established, or you need to have a certain amount of traffic for SEO to make sense for you. Or that you need to be a certain level of tech savvy also. And I think that all of those are not true. Instead, what would say is you need to be intentional. So if you're selling hammers, I don't know why hammers came to mind. You're probably not gonna rank number one for the term hammer, because home Depot and Lowe's and ACE and Harbor Freight are better known than you. But if you have a 12 inch ball peen hammer with stainless steel frame and you know, and.. Why go with hammers? Let's go with jewelry.

Meg Casebolt: OK. Jewelry is more interesting. Let's see if I do this. You're not gonna show up number one for jewelry. Kay's, and Jared's, and Zales, they already have that. But if you have a specific mother's gemstone ring that has a Sapphire and an Emerald and it's set in rose gold, then you can be found for something that specific. And then you can also have content that's like, here are really unique mother's day gifts that it would be good for a mom with kids under three, right? . By getting really specific about these things you can hone in on the exact right people that are looking for you already, that are searching for something unique. People, who are looking for jewelry, they don't just go Google 'jewelry'. Right? Who would do that? It would be like, I need an engagement ring,

Meg Casebolt: I need a watch. They get more specific right away. So by thinking about it as what is the specific thing that I am selling, you can be able to get people who are much more likely to buy from you than the people who are like, what is jewelry? This metal stuff? I don't know, do you wear it on your legs? You know? You don't want those people. They would waste your time. But if you can get more specific, and the same would be true for a service provider, you don't wanna just be, since I'm talking to you I'll use this, you don't wanna just be like 'web design', 'WordPress'. What is WordPress? Then you have all the people who are like 'wordpress.org?' or 'wordpress.com?' It's too general. It's too loose.

Meg Casebolt: But if you're like, I am a WordPress web designer for museum curators, yeah. The museum curators are gonna be able to find you. And then you're gonna be able to have all the museum curators, and you're gonna find your blue ocean where it's not everyone just talking about WordPress and plugins and blah, blah, blah. It's like, no, these museum curators are gonna be your best clients. And then you can, you know, expand a little bit and be like for galleries and then for painters. And you can kind of grow slowly, being very intentional and specific about what that audience is or what their problem is or what your solution is and starting from there. You don't need, you know, millions and millions of page views every month. You probably just need to start with 10 or 20.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. And you don't necessarily wanna be like, oh, I need to rank number one for WordPress web design. You know, that's going to be a futile effort on your part.

Meg Casebolt: . Exactly. And until you have the capacity to deal with that traffic and to deal with the amount of spam and noise and crap that goes along with having that amount of traffic then, you know, Shannon, maybe you at this point might wanna rank in the first page for WordPress web design for your challenge. But how much do you think you would need to know? How many complete newbies, who have no money, would go searching for that? Just like, what is a website? Right. Who cares?

Shannon Mattern: What are some of your favorite stories from your clients, or people that have come to work with you, in terms of where they were when they first came to you to what's happening for them now?

Meg Casebolt: I think the most satisfying ones for me are the people who get so hyper specific that they're able to turn around and get leads really quickly. So I had somebody that I worked with, Katie, who's a nutritionist, and she didn't quite know how to talk about it. She was like, I'm a functional nutritionist for women. And I'm like, that's really close to where we wanna be. How are you helping them? Which kinds of women? And she's like, I wanna work with women athletes and do, let me see if I can remember this, metabolic efficiency training. And there were much more complex words that I can't remember right now, and can't pronounce, but because she honed down into this area of amateur and professional women athletes, women who run marathons and do CrossFit and they're power lifters, and they have this specific testing tool that they want to use in order to both plan their lifting strategies and plan their meals. And she's able to do this for them. And once she started ranking for metabolic efficiency testing, she just shut down her social media. She started working fewer hours. She raised her prices because the right people were finding her.

Shannon Mattern: That is fascinating.

Meg Casebolt: I know! Similar story, I have a client who helps people escape from soul sucking law jobs. She was a lawyer. She worked in big law. She's like, I really don't wanna do this anymore. I know so many people who don't wanna do this anymore. And so her website is formerlawyer.com. I'm like, God, that's clever . And if you go search alternative careers for lawyers, she shows up number three because she has a podcast about different careers that you can do, even if you have your JD. And then she compiled this into a list of 60 alternative careers that lawyers can do if they want to get out of their soul sucking jobs. . And it converts like crazy for her. And people get on her email list and they join her program to figure out how to exit their big law jobs

Meg Casebolt: but because she's being so specific about the types of law that she has worked in and what people's outcomes are that they want and the opportunities that they have, and the timelines they're talking about. She's not trying to say to people 'I am a legal career coach', right? It's so specific. And then she referred someone else to me who is a legal career coach. And she helps people negotiate for raises within their law firms. And they are different search terms, and different avatars, and different things that they wanna rank for, even though they're both probably technically calling themselves career coach for lawyers. Right? But the outcomes that they're getting are different. So the content that they're creating is different. So the people that they're are being found for are different.

Shannon Mattern: So that's fascinating. And a couple things that were kind of coming to mind as you were saying that is, people get so hung up on what they call themselves. Like, what am I, what am I, what I am I, and how do I describe myself? And basically what you're saying is, call yourself whatever you freaking want. I don't care. But when you're talking about what you do, do it with some specificity because that's how people are going to know that you are for them, or alternatively, that you're not for them, because that's what we want too. We want people to know if we're not for you we don't wanna waste each other's time.

Meg Casebolt: Yes. And I've talked to so many copywriters, and many life coaches who fit into this boat, of saying 'I am a magical wordsmith' or 'I help you transform your life'. And it's like, people don't know how to find these clever names.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah, I'm not sitting on the other end of my computer Googling I need a magical wordsmith. How to hire magical wordsmith. Right? You are never going to.

Meg Casebolt: Words do I put on the page? Right. You might not even know that the word 'copywriter' exists yet. But you're like, who writes words for websites? again with my Kermit the Frog hands. Right. Every time people Google, they just wildly type. But it's knowing that we all hold our identities very precious. And we feel like we want to explain what we do differently. But people who don't know us can't find us if we're not using their words. And Katie was really great at saying metabolic efficiency testing, because she was speaking to a very specific audience who was already familiar with that. She meeting them at their level of knowledge. Whereas there are people who are like, I just wanna help moms feel less stressed.

Meg Casebolt: This is not the point where we start talking about somatic, neurological decision making. Right? This is where you're like' how to feel less stressed'. Meeting your people at the words that they are using and thinking about what is the moment in that person's life where they're looking for some sort of change or they're looking for some sort of information. I'm not just like, oh, every day I'm stressed so every day I'm gonna go to Google and be like, 'I'm stressed today. Yep. Still stressed. What do I do about my stress?' There's that tipping point of' my kid came home from school with yet another field trip for him that I forgot to fill out and he's mad at me and I didn't get dinner on the table in time and I don't even have time to go grocery shopping. And I'm so stressed. I could scream!' What do they search for in that moment? When they're like, I'm done with this, how do I fix this'? We have to figure out what is either the transition point or the reason that they are searching for you and your services right now.

Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh. I'm like, what would they be searching for in that moment?

Meg Casebolt: Yeah. I think about when people are thinking about how to DIY my own website. Are they starting a business? Do they have a website that they've been trying to build, but they're like, 'something's really not working' and they're going, 'should I just go to SquareSpace or should I really be on Wordpress? And what's the price differential?'. And there are so many questions that come up when people are kind of gearing up to go through something like your 5-day Challenge where it's like, 'what hosting service should I use? How do I sync up my email provider'? These are all people who are DIYing right now and struggling with it. And they want someone to just come in and be like, 'boom! Here's your solution!'

Shannon Mattern: Yep. The biggest traffic driver to my 5-Day Website Challenge is a blog post I wrote, How to go from Squarespace to WordPress. Boom. And it's a tutorial just explaining here's how to migrate. Now, that was really popular back in 2017, I think, before Squarespace was as robust as it is today. So it's not bringing as much traffic as it used to. But it was always fascinating to me cuz before I really dug into SEO for myself I was like, I'm too broad how to build a website. I'm not gonna even really bother with SEO right now. I'm gonna do, you know, relationship building and getting in front of other people's audiences.

Meg Casebolt: And Podcasting. You have 370 freaking episodes, you're content creating. Even if you're interviewing people and then you're sharing their information, you can still be found for that. And you can then go in and be like, what are these keywords that are showing up all the time and what else can I create around it? It doesn't always have to be you sitting there and going, what do I think people want from me? If you have been doing something, if you have a website, chances are you're ranking for something and Google will tell you what that is. And then you can either choose whether or not to create more around it.

Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh. I love it. I love it. So, I wanna get back to SEO tips in a little, but I just kind of wanna go back to your business. So you land in the blue ocean of SEO. You start working with your friends and your colleagues in the design space. What does the evolution of your business look like when you land on that?

Meg Casebolt: So I started the business in 2014, had this revelation about SEO in about 2016 or 2017. And just started to talk about it more, but didn't take web design off my website at first. I was just like, I do website and SEO, right? I didn't feel like I needed to do a full 180 degree pivot. It was an addition. I made connections with more web designers and started that way, and started talking about it a little bit on social and creating some content around, basically the same things I'm saying now. And been five years, I'm saying the same stuff. , you know, doing guest posts on other people's blogs, starting to talk about this as part of web design on podcasts, and just including it and integrating it more into my conversations, getting more leads. But staying mostly as a solopreneur for a couple years there and making more money from it because I could charge more because I had more time to work on things because I wasn't trying to get as many clients.

Meg Casebolt: And also I could track the value of the work that I was doing. So, I stayed a solopreneur for about two years in that role. And then people started coming to me and saying, I can't afford to hire you, but I wanna learn this. And when I heard that, I started teaching and created a course in 2018, which I'm still teaching. It's called Attract and Activate about how to get people to find you and then once they get to your website, activate them into whatever your call to action is. And once I started Attract and Activate more of solopreneurs and DIYers started finding me, as opposed to me being just kind of a quiet, secret weapon service provider that had a network of people that I was working with, but not necessarily making a name for myself in that process.

Meg Casebolt: And then after a while I started getting enough leads that I started hiring out a team and figuring what are the things that I still need to be doing versus what are the things that I can train someone else to do as well or better than me. And so I think at this point, the team is probably better at keyword research than I am, which is kind of fun. They'll like run things by me and I'll like, well, you haven't thought of this. And they're like, oh yeah, and this and this and this. And I'm like, oh yeah, that's great. Great idea. Right? So it's really cool to be in that space where I'm still kind of like the face of the brand, but the work that we're doing is no longer dependent on my time. And so I think that shift happened within the past year, feeling less like a consultant and more like an agency owner, and also having people who have been learning from me for so long.

Shannon Mattern: We do life on this podcast. Exactly.

Meg Casebolt: you hear the dog barking now that there's something happening and okay.

Shannon Mattern: We're all not pretending that like we're working from home in like this quiet little bubble where like nothing ever happens.

Meg Casebolt: It was supposed to be. And then the 4-year-old got a cough and got sent home early from school. So my mom's here watching. This is life, right? This is life. And the whole reason I started the business seven years ago was so that way I could have this flexibility and be able to be home with my kids when they're home. And I just wasn't planning on them one being home today.

Shannon Mattern: The show must go on. Right?

Meg Casebolt: Exactly. So now we're at the point where the business is half teaching, or maybe about a third teaching and two thirds 'done for you' services. I work with some larger organizations and some smaller businesses and solopreneurs to figure out what are the things that they want to be found for. And some of them I teach 'em how to do keyword research, and some of them we do it for them and just hand them a plan and go "here" you don't wanna learn how to do this. We'll just tell you what to create. And then you create it and we'll tell you how to improve it. And that kind of iteration of the plan has been so powerful for our agency.

Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh. So I'm just sitting here, like I wanna do that! But this is not what this interview is about about!

Meg Casebolt: Shannon, I can't tell you how many podcast hosts that I have finished the call and they're like, 'so where do we sign?'

Shannon Mattern: Right, exactly. It's like, yes. Podcast guesting as a client getting strategy now

Meg Casebolt: Well, I mean, that's the best part about having a podcast is you just get to ask all the questions for free. It's like you get this person to be a consultant for you and you don't have to pay 'em 500 bucks an hour. They could pay you to be on the podcast, you know?

Shannon Mattern: Right. It's a great platform. Well, I would love to kind of go back to talking about pricing in your early days and different things because one of the things I see with web designers a lot is that they undercharge and they over deliver and they don't value the skills that they bring to the table. And I'm curious as to what your journey was with your pricing, even in your early as a web designer, but then when you started offering SEO services, what did that look like? Did you feel really aligned with your pricing or was that a struggle for you? What did that look like?

Meg Casebolt: I remember the first time I got paid $500. It was like, I am rolling in the money. I can't believe someone just gave me $500 to build a website. Like it was incredible!

Shannon Mattern: Right. It's stealing from them. That's how I would feel. I'd be like, oh my gosh, I totally ripped them off.

Meg Casebolt: You're like, I'm gonna build them the world's best website. I'm gonna spend all my time on it because they paid me $500!

Shannon Mattern: I drop everything when they say 'drop everything'.

Meg Casebolt: So I think that there is that phase of everyone starts by undercharging. And you have to undercharge to recognize how much time you're spending on it. And the sooner you can learn the value of it the better, but you have to step in a lot of puddles and make a lot of mistakes along the way. So, chances are, if you're listening to this, you could double your rates and get better clients.

Shannon Mattern: Yes, yes, yes

Meg Casebolt: . But we started with those $500 websites. I remember when I moved up to $2,000, it felt like world shattering the first time somebody bought one. But then when I started adding in the SEO pieces, the hard part for me wasn't even the pricing, because I could take a look at the packages that I was sliding into and think, okay, I wanna be like a 10 to 20% line item of this package. So the designer that I'm partnering with has already done the price anchoring for me. And so if they say to the client, okay, you're spending $8,000 on a website, or for $10,000 we could do SEO. Then it felt like, oh, well, why wouldn't they just do that? Right? Why wouldn't they just make that shift? So that helped me to have their price anchoring that I could build upon. The hard part for me then was the workflow of I'm walking into other people's businesses and they already have a process in place.

Meg Casebolt: And where are the places where I can support them without feeling like I'm looking over their shoulder or stifling them or showing up too late, and figuring out how I fit into other people's businesses. So usually the first time that people will work with me is the site has already launched and they're like, we have no traffic. What did we do wrong? And so we go in and we look at it and we optimize from there. And then usually the second time a designer works with me it's more like, I just got this new client. How can I work you into the process? And we do a site map plan and figure out what are the keywords for the main pages and what software are we using and how do we wanna structure the PERMA lengths and like a lot of this boring stuff.

Meg Casebolt: And then also if the client is redesigning a website, then we wanna look at what are they already ranking for that we don't wanna lose. And often people come to me because they've redesigned a website and they're like, uh, I suddenly have no traffic anymore. And I'm like, yeah, cause you have moved everything. You broke all your links. You renamed everything. You broke all. Yeah. Google doesn't know where you put anything so they can't continue to send you traffic. When you moved from WordPress to Squarespace and suddenly all your blogs have the word blog in them, and Google lost all of that, you're starting from zero, you know? So sometimes what I help people with is like migrating and making sure that any page that has traffic coming to it doesn't lose that traffic.

Shannon Mattern: Redesigns and migrations cost more, people. This is why .

Meg Casebolt: This is why. Well, redesigns and migrations, if you have existing traffic. If you don't have any traffic and you're redesigning, just scrap it and start from scratch. If you do have some sort of domain, or if you're moving from one domain to another, we wanna make sure that whatever back links you had coming into your website move. There's a lot to consider with this. I don't do that as much for independent business owners, but when I work with designers, I'm like, let's talk migrations. . Let's make sure that you don't get blamed for the things that your client doesn't know.

Shannon Mattern: Yep. Uh, so good. So your pricing shifted to where your are like, okay, I can comfortably be a line item of this person's project and it makes perfect sense. What were some of your other growth challenges that you had, you know, kind of going from solopreneur to agency?

Meg Casebolt: I think one of the biggest things for me was taking myself out of implementation. And that was hard because I had the design skills. I know WordPress, I know Squarespace, I know Shopify. I can easily leap in there and make these changes, but I don't always know the plugins of the developers that built the website the first time. I don't always know the liquid that the developer added to the Shopify page and I just didn't want to break anything. And I did break things when I first started doing this and I'm like, I'll just go on your website and change this. And oh, I minified your JS and everything broke. You know, I don't think that's even the phrase. Do you minify JS? Yeah? Anyway, I installed this thing and it broke everything.

Meg Casebolt: And so trying to still explain to people how strategy was valuable, and to explain to them that it's more expensive to hire me to do the work than to have an assistant who already knows the website do the work. That was a big change. When I was consulting. Now that we're back in an agency model, we're trying to figure out if there are ways that we can implement without, again, breaking things or moving too far outside the brand values. And that's tough. And then also figuring out how to not have everything be bespoke. Especially, if I'm tapping onto someone else's process. You're not gonna pay $5,000 for a web design and $5,000 for a search strategy. That's not doable. And so we came up with two productized services that we work through the same process with every client, for our strategy sessions.

Meg Casebolt: And we have the same structure for the deliverables. And that way it's also much easier to have team members learn the system. And every project is different, but the process can be the same. The pricing can be the same. And so I think for so long when I was doing SEO solo, it was every client was a little different and I would write the proposal. And before I did the proposal, I would have to go in and figure out, okay, this client has 50 pages and this client has 500 pages. How do I price this all differently? And I did so much work to create these bespoke solutions that spent a lot of time on proposals, but they didn't close at the same rate. And so what we do now is we have this productized service where we start almost everybody with a strategy call or a strategy intensive.

Meg Casebolt: And we come up with a plan for them. And then if it makes sense to offer them something, once we know their goals, once we know their strategies, once we know their website and there are clients and their team, then we can say, Hey, do you want quarterly reporting? Do you want another set of plans? Do you want us to go in and change anything? Do you want a dashboard built for you so that way you know what's working? We can have that conversation once we know the client. So instead of creating the proposal on the front end and having a very low close rate, I'm creating a proposal on the back end with very structured options. It's more like a cafeteria menu than it is a custom proposal.

Shannon Mattern: I love that. And I think that that's something that any service provider listening could adapt because it is, it's so much time to go through and figure out exactly what this specific client needs. And I feel like that's almost like a mindset shift too, to be like, I am the consultant. I am the expert. I am the one determining these services and the way this goes and the structure and the flow, instead of like, oh, I know SEO, tell me what you need and I'll do it. Like, I'm gonna tell you what I'm willing to do and what you need.

Meg Casebolt: That's the hugest change I think, leading the conversation instead of taking the lead from somebody else. And I think you guys just got a little bit like, whoa, that sounds really complex. And I'm saying, oh, I just built a productized service with a backend offer. The way that that started for me wasn't like, let me build out this complex process. It was, I started offering what I called Road Mapping Sessions. So instead of writing a proposal for free, I said, let's hop on a call $300, $500 bucks, somewhere in there, and I will map out for you what I think the next steps are on your website. And then if you wanna hire me to do it, awesome. And if you wanna take that and bring it around to other people, almost like a request for proposals, like here's what needs to happen next on my website. You can use that to make an apples to apples comparison of what you want people to do on your website. And so by establishing my credibility and getting paid to essentially write a proposal, it made it so much easier that by the time I sent them the roadmap, they were like, oh yeah, of course I'll do that with you. Yeah, of course. You already know this, you have the plan. But they still felt like they had something coming out of it that some of them went, that's all I need, now I know what to do. Great!

Shannon Mattern: Yeah, I love it. I love it. So I have a few more questions for you, because I could obviously sit here and talk to you all afternoon, cuz that's what we planned to do anyway.

Meg Casebolt: It's my Shannon afternoon. It's true. But we have more people joining us for the next session.

Shannon Mattern: Yes. More people for the next session. If you could just give people your top two or three tips for SEO for their website, leave them with a couple actionable things, what would you have them do?

Meg Casebolt: I would say decide for every page of your website, two things. One, is this page for being discovered or for being trusted.

Shannon Mattern: Ooh, I love that

Meg Casebolt: Because some pages of your site, the how do I move from Squarespace to WordPress? page. That's someone who wants to be discovered. They're looking for that information and you can link them to other pages on your site where you show them that you know what you're talking about. But it's not always the obvious search terms and that's okay. Not every page on your site needs to be SEO optimized. Not every page on your website needs to be found. In the Pareto Principle of 20% of your work produces 80% of your results. Probably only 20% of the pages on your website will get any search traffic. Don't stress about getting your landing pages to show up because they're landing pages. They're intended for people who already know who you are and you're driving them from other places. Instead, allow things to not be search optimized and then create specific search content.

Meg Casebolt: Once you are starting to think about that search content, or figure out what you already have that is search content, make sure that they have different intents. So it's called search intent, which is every page on your website can get found for something totally different. So if you have a homepage and an about page and a services page, thinking about if I want someone to land on the about page, what would I say on that page, either in the SEO title or in the copy of the text, to get them there instead of the homepage, instead of the services page, knowing that every page on your website can be found for something totally different. And if you get so caught up in, I need to be found for web designer and I'm just gonna put web designer on every page of my site, Google doesn't know which page is the right page.

Meg Casebolt: So it'll probably just send all of your traffic to your homepage, which is fine. But also then you're not utilizing all of those other assets that you've created to give people an idea of what else you can do, what else you can be found for, what other problems you can solve. So once you figure out which of the pages on your site are the searchable pages, come up with a different search term for each of those. And you might be able to come up with that off the top of your head. You might just know it, or there are dozens, hundreds, of keyword research tools that you can use to start this process and figure out what are the exact phrases that people are using. I have a blog post out. I'll share with you to put in the show notes, it's called 30 Free SEO Keyword Research Tools. All free.

Meg Casebolt: So if this is something you're just getting started with and you're like, I don't know which to start with. Honestly, the first one I tell people to start with is Google. Go to Google and see who's showing up for what you think you wanna show up for. Do you fit in there? No? Okay. Let's see what else you might search for. And it's the same way that Shannon and I did at the very beginning. We would search for something and be like, nope, that's not it. How do I need to change what I search for? Or what can I see in the related search terms or the autocompletes or the 'people also asked' that are a little bit closer to what I think people would want from me. And then you can start to integrate that into the copy of your website and you know, the alt text of your images and all those different places.

Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh. Love it. So I wish we had another hour cause I have so many more questions for you, but....

Meg Casebolt: I'm happy to come back for Part 2!

Shannon Mattern: It's the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Yes.

Meg Casebolt: So y'all, if you're listening to this and you have more questions, send him to Shannon. She'll have me back for part two in 2022. It's all fine.

Shannon Mattern: Exactly. So the final question that I ask everybody that comes on the show is what belief about yourself did you have to change to get where you are today?

Meg Casebolt: Um, so many, so many. I think the biggest one was that I think I had to lean into my nerdiness. You know? And when you are tech savvy, there's a certain amount of, uh, you don't wanna acknowledge that because you there's this fear of being too intense or too unapproachable or too awkward. And so I think I minimized it for a while because I wanted to be seen as friendly and I wanted to be seen as kind and generous. And I think it didn't let me step into being a subject matter expert. And so maybe it's less about the nerdiness and more about confidence in my own expertise. And that imposter complex that's always nagging in the back of all of our heads, and just like being like, you know what? I do know this and I do a really good job and deserve to get paid for it, and my ideal clients will recognize the value that I bring. And if they don't recognize that, they're not my ideal clients and it's not my problem. right? And it sounds it's cocky, but you have to be a little bit cocky in order to be able to convince other people to give you money.

Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh. I love it. I could not agree more. I mean, it really is like stepping into the confidence of I know what I'm talking about. I know my stuff and I can help you. Here's how. Let's work together.

Meg Casebolt: If you're feeling a lack of confidence, go Google what you want to show up for and look at their websites. Chances are you know more than a lot of them and they have just done the work that you haven't done yet. And that can be a boost of like pshaw! I would never explain it that way. I would never say that. That's not even true. And I think also Search For Me can be a little bit righteous, like, I do not want to see Tony Robbins showing up here. I want my client to show up there, right? I wanna boost my clients so that they get ahead of these other people who aren't what I want people to find. I wanna replace this information of the internet with my clients. Right. And so I think also there's a little bit of a mission driven component to it. You kind of have to think about not just I'm this expert and I'm awesome, but the work that I'm doing is making an impact. And the people that I'm working with, I'm being of service to them, but they're also getting something out of it too.

Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh. Perfect place to wrap up this episode. Can you tell everyone where they can go to learn more about you, where they can go to learn more about search, how they can get connected and really start learning and implementing and getting found by people?

Meg Casebolt: Of course. So obviously go to my website loveatfirstsearch.com. It's all there. I have information about if you're a web designer or a copywriter or some sort of service provider, and you wanna talk about a partnership where my team can help you with strategy for your clients. I have an ongoing course and membership for people who want to teach themselves how to do SEO, and be able to come up with a podcast or blog or video content strategy. I have a beginner course where if you're just setting up your website and you wanna be able to do it right, or you've already set up your website and you just want the foundations in place, you can get that. Or I have a free guide that you can check out. And I also create YouTube videos all the time, cuz that's the second biggest search engine. So I'm on there. So you can get there for my website too. Or, the show notes.

Shannon Mattern: Yes. Awesome. So everyone, I will link everything up in the show notes. Meg, thank you so much for being here. Really, really appreciate it. And I'm looking forward to sharing this episode out with everyone and being on your podcast and it's the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

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