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Chris Myles [00:00:00]:
And welcome back to the blog revolution. My name is Chris Miles and we have the privilege of speaking with Nina Claperton from she Knows SEO Co. Nina, thanks for being on.
Nina Clapperton [00:01:04]:
Thanks for having me, Chris.
Chris Myles [00:01:06]:
Man, I will be honest, I have been stalking your Twitter for the longest. All right? So if you’re not following Nina on Twitter, just search. I think it’s just Nina Clapperton. Right.
Nina Clapperton [00:01:14]:
It is, yeah. Basically all my socials are just my name because I can’t remember other logins.
Chris Myles [00:01:20]:
Well, at least to me, it’s seemingly a unique enough name to where not a ton of collaboratives are going to pop up on it. Unless you’re into the I forgot that’s.
Nina Clapperton [00:01:31]:
The there’s there’s also, like there’s a Nina Simone people used to try and address me with. But I was like, she is one of the greatest soul singers of all time and I am tone deaf. So let’s distance that. Let’s not sully her name.
Chris Myles [00:01:47]:
Yeah, Google is having a hard time separating the two.
Nina Clapperton [00:01:49]:
Chris Myles [00:01:50]:
Anyways, all right, let’s get to a little background on how you got into SEO. I know you’ve been on Twitter talking about how you just was able to get $114,000 in a single month from your business running blogs. How did you get into this space?
Nina Clapperton [00:02:07]:
It was kind of an accident, to be honest. I was in my last year of uni. I didn’t really know what to do with myself, so I took myself on a gap year through Europe while my whole family was like, go to law school, go to law school. So wrote the LSATs, did all that, got my full scholarship, and then found a $200 flight to New Zealand and moved to New Zealand instead. So people were pretty pissed. But while I was there, I started the blog just to keep track of the year I’d had in Europe, of the experience in New Zealand. I had no idea what I was doing. So literally, I started my website sitting in my dog bed, like my dog’s dog bed with him, with his head in my lap as I started a website. And it was really fun. But I did everything wrong for so long. I did all of those weird Facebook. You like mine, I’ll like yours. You google mine, I’ll google yours. So I managed to get like 5000 page views within my first two months, but they were completely synthetic. Like, the second I would take a day off. I started working for a government organization in New Zealand when I was down there, because I really needed money. I had blown through all of it. And so I started posting every other week. And before that, I’d been able to spend like 80 hours a week in these comment swap things. And then suddenly it was like, oh no, I’m not there. My traffic has plummeted. And I didn’t really understand what traffic even was back then, so I kept kind of puttering through it. I kept convincing myself I would become instagram famous. I didn’t own a camera. Don’t know why I thought that was going to happen. Then it was like, I’m going to do TikTok stuff. And it’s not that I really thought I’d be like, famous, but I thought that that was the way to have success with this because that’s what I was seeing even as I was googling how to do all these things. So I didn’t learn about SEO at all until January 2021, which was like the first time I really heard the term. I bought a course, gave it a shot, and then kind of screwed the pooch myself on it, where I was like, okay, we’re going to do SEO, but we’re just going to watch the keyword section and we’re not going to learn the rest of SEO. So I would write posts on like, a beach packing list, but I had no other content on beaches, so it didn’t matter that that keyword was like green in key search. It was completely irrelevant. My content was all over the place. There was no rhyme or reason. I was mostly writing so that my mom and my 90 year old grandmother would read it. And then to this day, she calls me every week, my grandma, and spell checks my most recent articles and stuff. So it was kind of for her. But she’s definitely not my target audience. And so things just stagnated. And I kept telling myself, there’s just one thing I need to do, and it’ll magically make it better. And it’s definitely not my fault that this isn’t working. But it was. I didn’t have a strategy. Every week I changed from like, okay, this week. Now I’m going to do pinterest. This week I’ll do TikTok. This week I’ll do jump. Rope back when jump rope was a thing, and then it went defunct, and that was unhelpful, so there was no consistency. And after I think it was about five years in that I finally sat myself down, and I was like, okay, my family is messaging me now. You need to figure out your life. What are you going to do with yourself? And I had gone back to law clerking, and so they were like, well, realistically, you should just go to law school, do the thing. And I gave myself a year. I was like, okay. It was kind of spite motivated, to be honest, because I love proving people wrong. It’s one of my favorite things. It’s such a good motivator. I know everyone else is like, all like, oh, I have noble motivations. I’m like, no, I really like proving people wrong. I think it’s so fun. So I was like, actually, I could definitely do this. So in November of 2021, I sat down and just started plotting kind of a path that I might take. I was like, let’s start figuring this out. And then in December, I sat down and got to work. And six months later, I had 50,000 sessions. I got into mediavine. Six weeks later, I had my 1st $10,000 month because I learned you should actually put affiliate links and articles that you have on your website. And I got really good at email marketing, so I started using affiliate links in my emails, and then those performed really well. So from there, yeah, things kind of just took off in a really surprising way because I had always thought blogs can hit like, two k a month, and that’s the most they’ll ever make. And that’s all I had hoped for, to be honest. I was, like, fully prepared to go be a beach hobo in Costa Rica and just have this blog making enough money that I could do some fun stuff on the side. I didn’t know this was a possibility. I didn’t know ten K months were a possibility. I had no idea 100K months were a possibility. So, yeah, it was just such an amazing thing. And then to get to not have to work at the law firm anymore was really exciting.
Chris Myles [00:07:14]:
Yeah, no, that is quite the story, Nina. Wow. Let’s just break down a little bit of that because there was a couple of things I was jotting down notes while you were speaking. So you left this lucrative or potentially lucrative lawyer gig or job? Because one thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of the people who are very successful with the SEO, a lot of them were former professionals in different instances. And whatnot what do you think that says about a person to the point to where SEO seems to be right up their alley?
Nina Clapperton [00:07:49]:
Well, speaking for law specifically, it’s very analytical. So it’s very much about problem solving, puzzling through it, analyzing situations, and I think SEO is a lot of that, and it’s also not necessarily being afraid of imperfections, which is something that when you’re in the corporate world, you become more comfortable with. Where I think many people who haven’t been in the corporate world and see people in suits, they’re like, oh, it’s so polished, they’re so put together. They’ve got this set, and it’s like, no, there’s like regular screaming matches over the flavor of the creamer in the kitchen and things like that. So I think that’s probably part of it. And I think also just you burn out so quickly in those fields. Like my mom, my dad, my stepdad, my stepdad thick’s wife, they’re all lawyers, so law is easy to me, which sounds I know, like, people always tell me I sound conceited when I say it, and I don’t mean it that way because I don’t enjoy it, but it’s the way my brain works. I’m very attuned to those situations, and I can handle it quite well. And because my dad would bring work home with him and then I would help spell check things when I was a kid. I’ve been reading contracts since I was 13. So for me, spotting those little details, paying attention to things is easy. And I think that those are important things with SEO, is looking at problems from a different perspective, being able to zoom in and zoom out. And I think also just like, it’s more fun to do your own thing. So it’s like kind of a bit of a power trip to some extent. I love it where I’m like, I get to be in control of this. I don’t have someone like, I don’t know, messaging me when I’m in the middle of something and I have to stop to go deal with someone who doesn’t know how to PDF a document or something. I get to not do that now, which is amazing.
Chris Myles [00:09:39]:
Yeah, for sure. Especially with the grind that’s involved with even when it comes to being lawyer, paralegal, whatever, there’s a grind with blogging as well. And if you love the Grind, then I don’t know if you have to have particularly a professional background, but if you like the grind and you can just have a North Star that you’re working towards, and then obviously with SEO, you got to make sure you’re working on the right things in order for that to work out. Because you did mention that you did everything wrong at the very beginning. What would you say would be the biggest light bulb moment that you had that, okay, I need to stop doing this. I need to start doing this?
Nina Clapperton [00:10:18]:
You need to focus on one thing and give it time. So it’s like working out. Like, if you go to the gym once and you think, okay, I’m immediately going to be able to lift 100 pounds, no, probably not. Because if you’ve never lifted anything in your life, that’s not going to work. You need to work your way up to it and give it time. And I think that was the thing I didn’t understand with SEO or with any of these other techniques, is I thought you check a couple of boxes, you do them once, and then it’ll just work. And it’s a long game, for sure. I also wish I’d invested in courses. I know that that’s kind of I don’t know, a standard response, I guess, is like, invest early. But genuinely, I just joined a bunch of Facebook groups, and the problem is you don’t know who’s posting on the other side in those. I think I don’t think people led me astray on purpose. I think that they genuinely, that’s what worked for them. They had two sentences to give me an answer, and so they gave me a two sentence answer, and I did with it what I would. And often that meant veering off track. It also meant that no one was curbing my shiny object syndrome. I think also don’t go for the easy thing. I wanted an easy win, and I don’t think easy wins are sustainable.
Chris Myles [00:11:37]:
No, that makes plenty of sense because a big reason why I started my membership that I have as well is like, because you posted things on YouTube or on Facebook or whatever, and you’re getting an answer from somebody that you hope knows what they’re talking about. And it’s kind of like, AI right. It can give you a super confident answer and be dead wrong and you’re not going to know it. And then now you’re off to the races working on something that’s probably going to end up wasting a whole bunch of your time.
Nina Clapperton [00:12:07]:
Honestly. I think also popular opinion is there’s like mob mentality almost with this stuff where it’s like, okay, just because I see 90% of people doing this thing, that means it’s right, so I’m going to tell other people it’s right. I have my own Facebook group as well, and I don’t answer every question I can’t, but whenever I see misinformation, I’ll just pop up and be like, Actually, that’s incorrect, and then give them the real info. And that helps me produce more content for the blog, for YouTube, for socials. When I see the misinformation and I don’t believe anyone’s doing it malignantly I think it’s just people don’t know what they don’t know. And I definitely was in that camp, too. I mean, we’ve all been just I like to correct it when I see yeah, yeah.
Chris Myles [00:12:55]:
You mentioned know, you have to have something or someone curb your shiny object syndrome. Are you basically a solopreneur?
Nina Clapperton [00:13:03]:
Yeah, it’s just me. And I call my dog my golden retriever, Theo. He’s my branch manager, but he’s got shiny object syndrome worse than I do, so it’s just me. I’ve hired a team this year, and to be honest, I don’t think I’m a team person. I think I’m very much I feel like solo person. Managing people is not something I’m good at, and I’ve had to work really hard at it. And I think it’s an unpopular opinion, but I would much prefer me with AI and then just having an editor edit us and not have to worry about, like in January, I hired 40 writers, and that was a mistake. Not because they weren’t lovely people, they meant really well. I also did it as like a training system, but oh my God. And that was a shiny object thing where I was like, okay, I see other people who the first thing they did is hire writers I wish I never did. Writing is my favorite thing. I should have hired VAS to format it because I hate formatting with a passion. But also, yeah, I saw somebody else doing this training system and I was like, that sounds fun, let’s do it, because I’m basically a golden retriever. And so I just get excited. And then about three weeks in, I was like, oh no, what have you done? So it’s ongoing. We’ve pared down to about twelve people now. But no, it’s just me usually. And so I just use post it notes to keep me grounded where I set a yearly goal. And every month yeah, every month I get four things to work towards that goal, and keeping that, I have a postit note on my laptop at all times of the yearly goal and then another one of the monthly goals. And then I just sit there. When I’m planning these new random shiny object things, I’m like, okay, will this work towards the goal? And I do always give myself one, I don’t know, glittery object to go to once in a while. But I think it’s so important to stick with one thing, and that’s something that I see a lot, too in those Facebook groups or a Twitter or everywhere, is people will see somebody having success with a new thing and they just want to jump on it immediately. And I totally get like I do too. I mean, Jared and Spencer of Niche Pursuits have been talking about the Amazon influencer program. I’m like that’s. Amazing. I have so much random dog stuff around my house. I could do that. And then I’m like, whoa, you barely have time to breathe just doing your own stuff right now. Stop it. So it’s pulling yourself back is important. And if there’s actually room for you in that area, there will be room for you in six months or a year. So give yourself some time.
Chris Myles [00:15:39]:
No, that’s really good. It’s really good because I’m very similar. I do like to jump on things, and it’s cost me in a lot of situations I’ve been part of. Know you mentioned Amazon influencer thing? I’ve been an Amazon influencer whatever that little thing is, for like, years, but never used it. And now all of a sudden everyone’s using it to pop up these things and it’s so easy to do, but it’s still time and labor. Do you mentioned having goals and stuff. What else do you do to curb your shiny object syndrome? Or you and Theo are two peas in the pod over there. What are you doing to try to stay on track outside of just post it notes?
Nina Clapperton [00:16:22]:
I think building in public is a really good thing because then you have other people kind of putting the onus on you. So, like, for this summer, I set myself the goal of 300,000 page views for my main travel site, which is when I started was at about 206,000. So I was like, okay, in two months we’re going to do this, which is kind of insane. I fully admit that I love a lofty goal because I’m also the kind of person that if my goal is like, do at least one blog post a week, if I do the one I’m going to leave, I’m going to be like, hey, checkmark done. So I set kind of 10% uncomfortable goals. So a little bit like just a little bit higher than what I know I could do easily. And so I said that and then immediately got shiny object syndrome and sold keyword research packages, did a couple of other things and then it was like, oh, okay, most of this month is gone now and I haven’t done anything towards this. And then that kicked me in the butt to get back to it. So I think having somebody kind of asking about it once in a while keeps you on track. But also for me, it’s just I don’t know. I think I do have quite a single minded focus sometimes. So I hyper fixate a lot on things and that works really well in my favor. But now that I have multiple sites, a good thing too is that I can oscillate between them. So, okay, two months I focus on this site, two months I focus on the next one. I work in a batch system, so for me, even picking one site at a time to focus on works really well jumping between them. I kind of have to restart my brain for each process. And yeah, I don’t know, I think I’d definitely give in to shiny object syndrome. I mean, my YouTube was a shiny object syndrome for no real reason. Twitter is people always laugh at me because I’ll be like, oh, I don’t have a social strategy. They’re like, yeah, but you’re on all the socials. I’m like, I live alone with my dog. I have no one else to talk to. I genuinely just need social connection with somebody at some point. And even if you have shiny object syndrome, make it productive. I had a random hyper fixation on the weekend and coded some calculators for my website and got 3000 page views within the first day of publishing one. Didn’t know that would happen. Definitely a beneficial hyper fixation, but finding ways to steer yourself towards productivity is helpful. And then, yeah, just write down a list of all the things you want to do and then pick the things that are actually going to move the needle. So, sure, some days I’m like, yeah, it’d be nice to learn how to take photos that aren’t all crooked. I’m not going to do that right now. I don’t have time, and it’s not going to massively change things for me. So I have my dream to do list that if I could clone eight versions of myself, I would do, but it’s just me, so don’t need to do it all.
Chris Myles [00:19:13]:
Well, you got to be smart with it. And I like the idea you had about you want to work on things that bring you to that North Star or whatever so that you can keep working on the exact same thing and staying consistent. And that two months on this and two months. I think that’s gold. I think that’s awesome. So that’s pretty cool. Well, let’s do this. Let’s change gears just a tad. And I want to try to reverse engineer the epic must that you were able to. I know on Twitter they have niche. Site lady has little things. And you went from not being on the list at all to being number one with a little gold star next to it. And I was like, this is awesome. So is that like a portfolio of sites? Is that one site? How is that all adding up?
Nina Clapperton [00:19:55]:
So that’s my portfolio. Initially, I entered with one site because I wanted to. I just like making things hard for myself for some reason. So I entered with my SEO site, and I wanted to grow just it to 100K. So I have five sites, but two mainly are monetized, and those two broke 100K that month, which was surprising. My SEO site did $35,000 on a Friday, which was amazing. So, yeah, things really took off, and it was I don’t know. I never dreamed I could make this kind of money. So I kind of walked around in a daze for three days after it, and I was like, no one pinched me. I’m pretty sure this is a dream, but yeah. So I have five sites. My main one is in Travel. It did have the numbers over here. My main site did $27,648.67. It had 202,000 page views that month. Most of it was affiliates. Then my SEO site had 11,000 page views, and it did $85,506.21. And most of that was from Course Sales. And then I did some coaching services that month as well. Then it was affiliates. Then I have another site in a kind of different destination travel niche. It got 18,000 page views, and it made $102.37. And then my other two sites are not really monetized. They have some Amazon Income. But because it’s the same Amazon account as my first one. I just bundled it into the affiliates of the first one. So, yeah, those are the five sites, and two of them definitely carried most of the weight. Yeah, which was amazing.
Chris Myles [00:21:48]:
No, first of all, congratulations. That’s awesome. Really. That’s the dream right there. I can imagine you just walking around like, this did not just happen, did it? How did that make you feel when you first got started? I bet you these sites, when they first got started, barely made a few cents those first few months, perhaps, depending on how you’re doing it. But I’m curious, how did it feel when you saw the trajectory? Because it was like toward three quarters of the month through and you realized, hey, I’m going to just blow by this 100,000. How did it make you feel?
Nina Clapperton [00:22:23]:
I didn’t think I’d get near 100,000, to be honest with you. I’ve been kind of hovering around, like 50, 60 a month. So it was actually really that last week when things took off. And so it was like, okay, in that week, everything changed. And in the last three days, especially when basically I ran not even a sale of the course, I was raising the price of my SEO course and promoted it a little bit. Like, I did think four emails, four posts on Facebook, four posts on Instagram, and that was it. And then I did not expect, like, the last day of any sale is always when more people purchase it, but I thought maybe three people might purchase it rather than whatever. I think 25 people purchased it in that day. No, more than that. I think it was 40 people in a day. It was crazy. And yeah, for that whole weekend, it kind of felt like I went skydiving a few years ago. And after that, you kind of just walk around semi shaking from the adrenaline of it, where you’re just like, oh, my God, I conquered the sky. That’s kind of how it felt. Where I didn’t sleep from the adrenaline for multiple days. Yeah, I felt not like invincible, but just like, I don’t know, kind of superhuman. It was amazing. And then my grandma brought me back down to Earth because I called her and we were talking and I was telling her, and she goes, okay, so you’re going to go back to the law firm now? And I was like, no, definitely not. But I mean, she’s like 90 and Russian and lived through all sorts of wars. So for her, she’s like, stable job. And I was like, stable job. I made more in that month than I made in a year and a half as a law clerk. And it was like 90%. I think it was 93% profit, too, which was amazing.
Chris Myles [00:24:20]:
Oh, God. That’s one thing. Nina, I love the profit margins in this business. It’s insane. Even with all of the craziness that’s going on with Google or SEO and even AI, if the business got cut in half, it’s still a great business model.
Nina Clapperton [00:24:32]:
Yeah. My sister is an architect, and she has to have offices in two different cities. She has to have all these employees. She has to have special trucks for all the samples and stuff. And her profit margins are horrible compared to Japan, probably. Yeah. And even so, they’re still better than most other brick and mortars. But I’ll tell my family, like, oh, yeah, I made this money. They’re like, yeah, well, after taxes, after this, because my family is quite competitive, so we all want to beat each other, I guess. And I’m like, no, actually, this is the amount I made. I’m literally telling you this. And because I’m Canadian. It’s also nice because the US. Dollar is a lot better than our dollar. So I make even more money once it converts. So basically, taxes and expenses in my mind, don’t count because that amount of money will be the amount Canadian left over. So beneficial.
Nina Clapperton [00:26:51]:
The biggest thing is Eeat. And I have always been, even before Google announced Eeat, when it was just eat or whatever, I have always been really in the camp of helping people like SEO is user experience. That’s the best way to think of it. If you think of it like a game, like, okay, I’ve got to turn all the green lights and yoast on. I’ve got to just use it this many times. I don’t care about any of that stuff. To some degree, that all comes second to me. The first thing is helping people and creating really strong content, but also telling them why you’re the person to listen to. Who is this girl? Why should I pay attention to what she has to say? And I find that the swear word adds to it to me, but it’s like, I need to make sure throughout the post, especially in the intro, it’s like, here’s who I am. Here’s why you should listen to me. Here’s my knowledge of this subject. And I think a lot of people steer away from that because they’re like, oh, well, I just visited for two days. Or oh, I just have one website. I’m like, Take the word just out of your vocabulary. You don’t need it. If you’ve done the thing, you’ve done the thing. Like, I lived in Toronto for most of my life. That’s where I grew up. I don’t know a thing about that city. I have no idea. I was an angsty teenager who sat inside and coded websites for my dogs and didn’t go outside and socialize. So someone who’s been there for a week probably actually knows more than I do, because they did the tours, they researched it, they actually paid attention to things. I would 100% trust that person more than I trust myself with those things. And I think a lot of people feel like, especially in industries where we don’t need to have a degree, okay, how do I get the expertise? How do I figure it out? And I’m like, you just do it. You just do the thing, and then you learn as you go. And that’s a big marker. So having that in my content did really well. And then once I learned, like I learned about author schema, I had no idea what that was before, and just adding that my site grew by 45,000 page views in a month earlier this year. So I think author schema is such an easy, quick win that if you’re not using it, you are kind of dumb. Like, you’re just leaving page views on the table. And when you leave page views on the table, you leave money on the table, and that’s not worth it. We should all gather all the money, be like, Scrooge McDuck, and hoard it into a room, and then dive into.
Chris Myles [00:29:21]:
Yeah, no, that’s some great stuff, Nina. Especially what you mentioned there with Eat and then just showing that you’ve done a thing right. I used to have a mentor a long time ago and putting together presentations to present to people. And I would say a statement, I’d be one statement into my presentation, and he’d be like, Why? And then I had to go into it. Why? And he would just keep that’s the only thing he would say. But he was just trying to get me to make it airtight as much as you possibly can, because someone in the audience is going to doubt you. And if you can actually prove it, you’re going to end up being ten steps ahead of everyone else who hadn’t. Right now, what’s interesting about what you were mentioning as well, and we’re going to go back on a couple of things, but I deal with a lot of people and you do as well, who are just getting started, and a lot of them are afraid to really put anything about them on the internet. I was answering an email just recently and she was just like, well, I don’t want to put all my stories on there and then just sell a site later and I get it, I understand. But is there a connection that needs to be made with the reader to lift you up off of someone else? Would you agree with that or I mean, I know you probably would based on what you’re saying, but what would you say to someone who is kind of hesitant on really sharing anything about themselves? Is building a persona done? Can you really not do that anymore? Does it still work? What do you think?
Nina Clapperton [00:30:41]:
My question is, who are you afraid of having see it? Because I think that’s the big thing. It’s what I was afraid of for a long time, too. I was afraid of certain family members seeing it and judging it. I was afraid of, I don’t know, my sister. I love my sister, but she is my biggest critic in a ridiculous way. So sometimes she would just be like, okay, well, you mentioned traveling with mom in that post, and that makes you sound like a baby. And I’m like, Well, I traveled with mom in that post, so that is what it is. I was back when I was broke and she paid for us to go to a nice spa. I wouldn’t have been there otherwise, so I’m going to thank her. But so to me, I’m like, you need to get over some of those insecurities. People are not holding on to these facts about you the way you’re holding on to the facts about you. Now, having said that, working in law, I totally get that you need to be careful about what you put online, especially if you’re a family travel blogger or if you have anything related to kids. You definitely want to be careful about how much you share, about respecting their privacy and things like that. So I totally understand that what you can do is just not share faces like that’s allowed for yourself as well. No one knows what you look like necessarily. So if you used a different photo and had your same stories, different photo, different name, but it was your stories, that’s also okay. You just need to be really consistent. Now, I personally would never use a fake persona. I don’t think it would work for me because I have very little filter. I’m not very good at keeping things back. So what you see is what you get. I just say the first thing that comes to my mind half the time. So it would be far too easy for me to forget and for me to just post about me personally. But also everything I’ve created is directly related to something that matters to me. So I like sharing my personal stories. I think it’s quite fun and I would ask people to do a little exercise and think about what’s the worst thing that could happen from putting your name in your face online and then ask yourself why it matters if those things happen. So if you’re worried about someone thinking your picture doesn’t look good, so what? Is that going to change the world? Is that going to lead to World War Three? Probably not. So I think we’re okay. Not everyone’s going to like the way you look. Not everyone’s going to enjoy your content. And that’s fine. I get so many hate messages every day, but I get way more positive messages and you just have to deal with a bit of both. So, yeah, I would caution against it. I think it’s hard to maintain and I think starting a site with the mentality of selling it is quite challenging because before you sell it, you just change the stuff. That’s fine. Like, I have a friend who’s a blog broker and what she advises is start your site and run it for you first, and then when you want to sell it, that’s when you make these changes. That’s when you go through and change out those photos. That’s when you go through and maybe change the persona name or change who is running it. Tons of options there. The only way you can’t do that is if you put your name in the domain name, which is like, my main site has my name in it, so not going to be able to get rid of that and get rid of the traces of Nina in it. But that’s fine by me. I mean, I don’t know that I ever want to sell it. I really like the site.
Chris Myles [00:34:02]:
Yeah, no, that’s good stuff. That’s great advice, too. So I like that a lot. You mentioned specifically, too, going back to the eat thing, arthur schema. A lot of times schema is a scary word because OOH is programming. And I’m curious, how do you input schema on your websites? Are you doing the programming? Are you just using a plugin? How are you adding schema to your sites?
Nina Clapperton [00:34:24]:
I use Rankmath and I use all of their schema. I do not know how to make schema. This is the thing. I love HTML and CSS and I often pretend I know how to use it and then I break everything. And so thank God for a good host who can go in and undo what I’ve broken. And thank God for Chat GPT who is able to fix my mistakes before I put them on my site now, but yeah, in the Rank math plugin, I use FAQ schema as well. Highly recommend. I ran a test and I found that when I used the FAQ Schema, it was 13.7% more likely to rank for a people also ask snippet than a normal FAQ. So highly recommend. But for author Schema, it’s like you literally go into the Rank math settings and turn it on. That’s about it. Then I also go in and I use the Cadence theme and so I have an author box in all of my posts. Again, in customize you just toggle it on, it’s like one little toggle and then inside of your author area, you write a bio. That’s it. So I do the easiest version of these things because I have no idea how to do them usually. Yeah, schema is very new to me and I think it’s cool, but very complex. But I also know some people use Schema pro, I think. And I’ve seen people use chat GPT to make custom schema. I’ve not attempted that yet. I’ve started making calculators and that’s all I know how to do.
Chris Myles [00:35:48]:
Yeah, I saw you posting about the calculators. Is this more for link magnet? Is that for like a link magnet?
Nina Clapperton [00:35:55]:
So I actually started developing them for my SEO students because I have this formula I use to determine how lucrative an affiliate keyword is going to be based on the page views, click through rates, and then the conversion rates, and then the affiliate percentage, and then average conversion for that affiliate for your site. So it’s quite a complicated formula and I had like a Google sheet, but people kind of broke it. So I was like, okay, if that’s too complicated, let’s make a calculator where you can’t affect the code. So I made that when I just needed a break from doing something else. And then I was like, hey, let’s put one on the travel site. So that one is currently only for my students. On the SEO site, I made a vacation budget calculator. It’s not pretty, it’s horrendously ugly. I did everything wrong with the SEO for it where I wrote the article with Chat GPT, I wrote the intro. Everything else Chat GPT wrote. And I did not adjust it, which is a no no, adjust your AI. I didn’t put any images, I didn’t point any links to it. So it is an orphan page existing in the ether with this little vacation budget calculator that’s horrendously ugly and it got 3000 page views in a day. It was crazy. And literally like 3 hours after I posted it, the next day came and it was three k. This is the thing is sometimes my hyper fixations and my shiny objects work in my favor. But even that one, when I made the second calculator, I broke the first one on the page. So. Thank God for Chat GBT.
Chris Myles [00:37:28]:
Yeah, using it for some real practical purposes, that’s really awesome. But I like the information. Like, just simply use rank math. I do the exact same thing. I mean, you do have to pay for it rank maths premium to use all of them, but I think it’s totally worth it because of the ease. And like you said, you just click a button for the most part, and you can probably increase your traffic a lot better by getting more trust signals with Google. All right, cool. So we’re still talking about SEO a little bit. Let’s talk a little bit more about your keyword research strategy. I know you have a different wording for instead of zero competition, you like zero volume keywords, right? Is that still working because of AI and everything or what’s going on with that?
Nina Clapperton [00:38:12]:
So the name, I learned it as zero volume keywords. It’s not my name. I hate that name. Instead, I break them down into three types because there are multiple forms of them. Essentially, they’re just keywords that Google hasn’t figured out matter yet, and that keyword research tools really haven’t figured out matter yet. So I love them. I use them constantly. They’re an advanced strategy, but I think they’re actually best used for new sites because one of the points of them is like, there’s no competition, so you can get in there really easily. And since Google grades your site as a whole, I always picture the house from up with the balloons on top. I don’t know why. I don’t just picture balloons, but I picture the full house from up. And it’s like the higher you get, the higher the house is floating. So it kind of doesn’t matter how much traffic they get. If you have all these number one rankings, like all these houses are floating really high up, and then anything that you internal link them to, I picture like, Russell and Doug the dog throwing ropes over the end to grab onto other stuff. Anything they hook onto, it drags them higher. And so that’s how then you can get those higher competition things going too. But on top of that, zero volume keywords are not zero volume. I have many that bring 6000 page views each from two keywords in it. Like not even a bunch of secondary keywords. Their posts that tend to be hyper specific tend not to be as sexy. I guess sometimes they are really basic, sometimes they are kind of dumb. Like, is Canada in Europe? No. Quick answer. No. And so because of that too, people don’t know how to write a post around it. And you kind of have to throw all of the SEO rules out the window because the competition score on Ahrefs or key search or SEMrush doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant. The traffic is irrelevant because we don’t actually know what it’s going to be. The competition might look hard, but because they’re not actually answering the question, it’s not hard. And writing the post, you don’t have competitors to compare yourself to. So it’s kind of going back to Stone Age SEO almost, and just following logic and intuition as to what a good post should be.
Chris Myles [00:40:24]:
Yeah. Now, how do you avoid maybe creating an entire site going nothing but low competition, but then never really ranking for anything major? Or does it matter?
Nina Clapperton [00:40:35]:
I don’t think it matters. And I do think that many of these are bigger than people think. So a big one in travel is like, what is X known for? For whatever that place is. And that is a very helpful keyword. It’s not super niche, it’s not super hard. People just don’t think to do it. They think to do things to do in X. Instead, they’re very similar intents. And so I think it’s important to look at every keyword as, like, a part of a connected unit. No keyword should just exist in a vacuum. You have to look at it like, okay, how do all of these connect for a strategy? And with zero volume keywords, a lot of them will bring a lot of traffic. Like, one of my baby sites got 1000 page views in its first two weeks from 10 volume keyword post. That was like, a weird it was like that debate of how do dogs wear pants? Like, is it the bottom half or the back half? It was basically something along those lines without revealing the exact keyword. And it did really well. It was supposed to have a volume of 100. It brought 1000 immediately. That site had a DA of one. Back then, I did an internal link between my sites because for some reason, I thought, like, again, I like to challenge myself. I was like, It’ll be more pure this way, or something. And it did really well. So I think there’s, like, a misconception that high competition and high volume are the way to go. One of the posts that brought me the most income on my travel blog site had a volume, or like a search volume of 70 and actually got 70 traffic. And that was it. But it brought my highest affiliate commissions. So it’s all about that’s why I like that calculation. I do. Because just because something has 20,000 page views and I don’t know, you might make $2 off each thing that sells, if you can sell more off of the 70, I’d rather do that and get the higher chunk commission. So, for me, that’s how I think of it. And I think, don’t be afraid of low volume because it is so much lower competition. As for AI, some of them, yeah, there was that whole thing that went around SEO, Twitter for a while, where it was like, how many eyes do horses have? And the answer has been wrong for forever, and then someone ruined our fun and actually fixed it. But I think some of those keywords won’t exist anymore. That’s probably true. Some of them are eventually with SGE. We probably won’t see them anymore because Google can answer them if that ever actually fully rolls out. Normal people, not SEOs, do not seem receptive to it. The ones I’ve spoken, most of them are like, they think Chad GPT is the devil. So they’re like never touching it. They also don’t know that it’s free, which is interesting to me. Most people don’t know it’s a free tool. So I think we have a lot of people always ask me, is everything dead because of this now? And I’m like, I don’t know. And I have generalized anxiety disorder. I worry about the air I breathe every day. I’m not going to worry about this too. I have enough in my brain. But I think, yeah, just considering finding those keywords that are more specific. And for me, whatever’s working now, I’m just going to keep doing it till it stops working. And then that’s when I pivot. I don’t think it’s worth it. Like when I had in January 2023, I had my 1st $30,000 month on my travel blog, and the next month I pivoted everything. And then I broke everything. So I went down to from $30,000 to $12,000 that month, which is still a lot of money. I am not saying to be I don’t know. I know some people are going to be like, she’s being like, this is not good money. It’s very good money. But comparatively and literally, I started changing affiliate links. I turned off affiliate boxes. I weirdly redid some structures on my site. I completely changed the emails I send. I did everything so differently for no reason. The other stuff had worked, so why did I change it? And I think it was 100% self sabotage. But I also think it’s like if something is working, just keep doing it. You do not need to pivot. Instead, scale it and then do little side quests, side pivots or something down the line. Once that’s all going, you don’t need to just do the next thing to do the next thing.
Chris Myles [00:45:04]:
Yeah, no, you’re trying to turn that 30 into 60,000 and then it turned into twelve. I totally get it. I mean, that would make me sick. You always had that famous story about a guy who wanted to create a store so that he can buy unmentionables for his wife. And he created a store and he called it Victoria’s Secret and he sold it before it blew up. And the other guy saw it as more of a marketing thing. And the guy ended up like, I think he took his own life because of it, because of how much he lost because of it. I hate looking at it and being like, man, I could fix this and make that much more. And then you end up breaking the whole thing. So I totally understand that whole basically.
Nina Clapperton [00:45:43]:
It’S like Icarus flying too close to the sun.
Chris Myles [00:45:45]:
Nina Clapperton [00:45:46]:
Yeah, I love Greek mythology, so I go back further, I guess, but yeah, you’re exactly right. And I think also it is human hubris to want more, but I think it’s also, like, to some extent money blocks and guilt. For me, I was just like, it was really easy to make that money, and then I felt kind of guilty about it. I’m like, no, money should be hard. It should be hustle, it should be like, everything. And like this 100K month for the two months before it, I was driving across the US. With my dog, barely logging into my sites. So again, it felt kind of like, okay, well, I just worked for a month, and that’s why I try to remove the word, just because it’s like, no, I worked. And I spent years paying dues to get here and doing all the wrong things. Like, yeah, not having affiliate links, not writing dedicated posts once I made my course, not talking about it because I was like, embarrassed. I was like, what if it doesn’t sell? Well, it’s not going to sell if you don’t talk about it. Come on. Not sharing testimonials because it felt, I don’t know, weird and braggy. Like brag about yourself. You’re epic. Talk about yourself. Talk about your site, talk about your experiences. One of the exercises I get my coaching clients to do is to sit down before they start their blog or before they move on with their blog is write down your ideal person. So your customer avatar. It’s something I learned when I did my master’s in publishing media. We were talking about books and things. I wanted to be an editor for a while, and then I realized that’s a lot of work and not a lot of pay. So in there, it’s like you figure out your person. So like, okay, Shauna, who’s 27, works in ad tech in Ohio. She has, like, a chubby beagle. You break down everything about them, and at the beginning it’s going to probably be two paragraphs, but as you keep writing your blog, it’ll grow, and then you know who you’re writing for the whole time. And then when you’re looking at pain points, when you’re using, like, Jamie If spear framework for intros, it becomes so much easier because you know this person, but then also doing it for yourself. Like, okay, what is my unique selling point? What is different about me versus anyone else online? And why am I qualified to talk about this? And it could just be that a lot of people always say, like, oh, I’m more real. It’s like, well, no, we need more than that. We need why you’re more real. So, okay, you’re not I don’t know. I don’t really know any reasons, but whatever. So it’s just you have to figure out what is different about you. I had a coaching student reveal that she has this amazing master’s in anthropology and I was like, well, why have you never mentioned that on your website? That’s huge. When you’re talking about all of these ancient ruins and all of these different civilizations. If you mention that, people will trust you more and Google will trust you more. So doing things like that, I think are really important. And yeah, feeling confident in yourself with those a it’s.
Chris Myles [00:48:39]:
If no one talks about your business, no one else will. Right? So you do need to mention it. Earlier in this interview, I had mentioned how I have a membership where I teach people how to do this. I did it on purpose. It’s the whole reason. Okay, look, we’re getting close to the end of our time here. I know this is a big subject, but I mean, I might get hurt if I don’t ask you, but link building, what’s your link building strategy? Are you doing it at all? Do you mainly concentrate on content? What are you doing?
Nina Clapperton [00:49:11]:
So. I love Link building. I am of the opinion it is so important, and I think anyone who says you can have success without it is honest to some extent, but they’re not being fully honest. You can have success, but it’ll take a lot longer. And I am an impatient woman. I want things immediately. I want everything ASAP. I grew up in the fast food era, clearly, so for me, it’s like, okay, I could get this to rank, it could take a while. Then once it’s in the number one spot, it could attract links. I want certainty. I’m also a control freak, so, like, for me, I do tons of guest posts. I think guest posting is the best option. So I have done link swaps, even though I know they’re against Google’s terms of service. Technically, any form of manual link building is against Google’s terms of service any way that you attract links. So, like, even me being here today and getting a link back to my site, technically Google’s mad. And I’m like, calm down, Google. You’re fine. How many times do you say that things are going to be away and then they’re not? Let’s be real, we’re all gaslighting each other a little bit here. So what I found is I did a test between link swapping, collab posts and guest posts, and guest posting had the highest ROI. Even though it definitely seems like it takes more time, when you compare the amount of time it takes to organize the other two, the amount like, I was writing twice as many words for collab posts to get the same amount of impact as one guest post. And so even though a lot of people are like, okay, writing 200 words for a collab submission is great, I’m like, yeah, but if I have to write 4000 words total for the impact of a 2000 word guest post, is it actually great? Not really. So I’m a big fan of guest posting. I think guest post outreach is amazing. One of the weird stints that I did when I was trying to be insta or TikTok famous or whatever was I decided I was going to be a travel journalist for like two weeks for no reason. Admittedly that one, I was probably getting like I was living in my sister’s basement during the pandemic, so I think I had just gone stir crazy. I think that was a genuine fever dream. But I started doing a ton of outreach and I wrote my first novel as well when I was like eleven. And I sent that to people. It was terrible. I got so many rejection letters because they did not know I was eleven, so they were brutal. And so because of that, I’m not afraid of criticism. So the worst thing someone’s going to do is say no or ghost you. Who cares? Write the outreach, ask for the guest post and talk about how it’s going to help them. Do not talk about how it helps you. If someone writes me and says, I need a guest post, I’m like, and I need you to go away because that doesn’t help me. If you can focus on the way it helps them. Ultimately everyone is selfish 100%. Even when I’m writing blog posts, I think about my user is a woman in Starbucks with a kid hanging off her arm, her dog’s barking outside. She’s trying to get something to go to work, but she’s researching a trip because she’s like, I hate everything and I just need to get out of here. She’s so busy, so many stimuli are happening. I have like 5% of her attention and I need to help her as much as I can, make it as easy as possible for that 5% to be benefited. And the same thing happens with guest posting. These people get hundreds of emails, make yours stand out, show how it helps them, do the keyword research for them and go, I mean, that’s all you have to do. I haven’t fully released the case study yet. It’s something that’s coming soon, but I did a case study comparing haro links to guest posts as well, and guest posts did way better so far anyway. I’m letting it go for another month. I like to wait like four to six months after running tests to see the long term effects, which is why those baby sites are languishing, because I keep throwing tests at them and then not touching them. But yeah, getting a harrow link from a DA 90 to your home page from a toilet cleaning company doesn’t really help your travel authority and it doesn’t help those specific posts. So especially with affiliates, affiliate posts need backlinks intensely. So do the outreach, get the links and then yeah, the calculator I built has some link building potential. I didn’t even realize that till afterwards. I was actually thinking of using it as like. A freebie opt in instead. So tons of options there. I think the age of infographics is slightly gone for travel. I don’t think we use them a lot in travel anymore, but I think in other niches they can work really well. So finding what works for you and then just test. I love running tests. I think they’re so fun. They’re so interesting. And just analyzing the data and give yourself a while. Give yourself at least, I would say three months ideally, but at least one month for these things. And same for testing. Which affiliate companies work best for you? I could tell you, okay, this one converts best for me. Means nothing to you because I had other people tell me, oh, this one converts best for me. And I’m like, Cool, your site’s all about Ethiopia, and mine is not. So we’re going to have very different affiliates.
Chris Myles [00:54:25]:
Yeah, no, that’s awesome. Yeah. Reaching out to the right people as well. Do you just Google some key phrases, look for some sites, and then say, okay, I’m going to reach out to you. I’m going to reach out to you? And how do you know whether or not to backlink to your home domain or to an individual article?
Nina Clapperton [00:54:45]:
Chris Myles [00:59:56]:
Nina Clapperton [01:00:17]:
But that’s a whole nother yeah, same.
Chris Myles [01:00:20]:
But regardless, no, that’s a great strategy to go into and try to get some guest posts because if you have a website that’s already accepting guest posts, you don’t have to convince them you will, but you won’t have to convince them as hard if it’s like a stone cold email. But that’s awesome. I know we’ve gone a couple of minutes over. Where can people keep up with you, Nina?
Nina Clapperton [01:00:41]:
Yeah, I’m kind of all over the place, so the best place is probably she Knowseo Co, which is my website. You can also find me at she Knows SEO on YouTube or at Nina Clapperton on Instagram and Twitter. Or you can join my free Facebook group, SEO for Travel Bloggers, which is actually for everybody. But I initially only started it for Travel Bloggers, but yeah, those are where you could find me. I send really cool emails every Tuesday, and if you want to join my list, you can get a free content audit checklist, which is actually a twelve page ebook because I’m bad at naming things.
Chris Myles [01:01:16]:
That’s awesome. So look, we’ll be sure to link all of those places in the show notes as well. Go follow her, especially her Twitter. I’m a fan of SEO Twitter now. I just recently jumped on it, and I’ve already had a couple of tweets go viral, which is cool.
Nina Clapperton [01:01:29]:
So I’ll take it that’s a good place. Highly recommend, I think. Also it’s probably the most advanced area for SEO. People don’t hold back there, which is really nice.
Chris Myles [01:01:36]:
Yeah, you got to keep it in. Well, look, there’s a lot of things I wish you could have gotten into. Maybe you can do that for a future episode later. But no, some really great information. Thanks so much for being on Nina, and I’ll see you around.
Nina Clapperton [01:01:49]:
Thanks for having me.