005: Applying Linguistics to SEO Content Strategy with Mandy Politi (Office Hours)
We discuss the purpose, benefits, and process of a solid SEO content writing strategy with Mandy Politi, a Senior SEO Strategist at Optidge. Her career journey began as a child in the Greek education system with a strong focus on written content, continued with a degree in linguistics, and has led to a passionate approach to creating ever-evolving content briefs for writers and valuable content for consumers. Get ready for SEO Content Writing 101 in this episode of the Digital Marketing Mentor.
An Optidge “Office Hours” Episode
Our Office Hours episodes are your go-to for details, how-to’s, and advice on specific marketing topics. Whether it’s a discussion on how to approach a new trend or tool, guidance on choosing the right strategy, or our best tips to make your marketing campaigns shine, we’re here to help!
Join our fellow Optidge team members, and sometimes even 1:1 teachings from Danny himself, in these shorter, marketing-focused episodes every few weeks. Get ready to get marketing!
Key Points + Topics
- [1:28] Mandy is Optidge’s Senior SEO Strategist. She grew up in Greece, moved to Scotland to get her Masters degree in Applied Linguistics, and now lives in Mexico City. Her primary education in Greece certainly influenced her decision to go into the field of Search Engine Optimization with a focus on written content.
- [6:52] What does it mean to “write for SEO?” It means to write for the user and ensure what you’re trying to say is easy for the consumer to understand. It’s not about adding keywords. It’s creating something genuinely useful that will provide true value to the user. It’s also about optimizing certain elements to help search engines understand what the page is about and the purpose and value of a given piece of content.
- [8:00] Why is SEO content important? It’s important because the content we generate is intended to serve a purpose. Optimizing for SEO is helping it to best serve this purpose. We optimize the page to satisfy the search intent of the user. Many people optimize hoping they’re going to rank, but that’s the wrong approach. Ranking is the journey, not the destination. We’re optimizing not to rank, but to create something good and useful.
- [11:50] Consider a hypothetical scenario. An orthodontist only supplies invisalign and does not offer traditional braces. Is it okay for them to write content to try and rank for “braces?”
- It’s certainly okay, but you need to do it in a smart way that’s going to be useful for the user. Some people will be searching for braces and don’t know there’s an alternative option. A comparison article would be great here, to show the value of invisalign vs. braces. Don’t try to manipulate user intention.
- [14:40] Mandy’s Process for Writing for SEO
- First, she will go to Google and search the topical keyword phrases and then secondary and tertiary phrases. She tries to understand the search intent behind the terms. She will note the types of content of the top ranking pages and onto page two. Do they have lots of images, video, headers and subheaders, or an elaborate structure?
- Then, she takes all of that information and couples it with the background research and information she has on the topic. Next, She lays out the structure for the content and ensures that it’s easily consumable.
- Finally, it is important to consider the larger environment of the site that will house this content. You need to plan and implement the page structure accordingly and ensure you’re planning and including interlinking to other pages that users might find informative.
- [23:45] For true optimization, you must go back and review the content you’ve published after a month or two. Has the content been indexed? Does it rank for what we originally intended? This helps give an understanding of how our content is being interpreted by search engines. You can’t wait six months or a year to do this. Sometimes you need to add more content to a page. Don’t be afraid to create longer content or put targeted terms below the fold.
- [26:18] Mandy isn’t always writing the content herself. Often she is using other writers, which necessitates content briefs. These include keywords, secondary/tertiary keywords, structure, topical research, content types, and more. Depending on the type of interaction you have with a writer, you can give more or less guidance. If you can’t discuss directly, it’s important to review the content they’ve written and give very specific feedback. You won’t just say to change something, but how and why that change is important. Mandy’s briefs are not static, but customized to the writer and evolve as the writing style and skills evolve. Ultimately this creates better content and saves time and money.
- [34:36] The Greek education system was probably Mandy’s biggest mentor for SEO content. In Greece, every single year of formal education teaches you how to write, why you’ll write a certain way, different structures, what makes content good, and the skill of summarizing content and ideas. Additionally, Mandy herself was an important mentor. She spends a lot of time going through trial and error and teaching herself how to do things and how to reverse engineer what content ranks well and why.
- [38:52] Top 3 Books
- The Ride of a Lifetime – Robert Iger
- Atomic Habits – James Clear
- Don’t Shoot the Dog – Karen Pryor
Guest + Episode Links
Danny Gavin 00:35
Hello everyone, so excited for our show today. Today we’re going to be talking about writing for SEO, writing specifically for search engine optimization. How can you get your website to rank higher, specifically through content and writing? And today we’re going to be talking with Mandy Politi. I’m so excited that she’s here. Is a senior SEO strategist at Optidge. She’s highly skilled in SEO. We’ll talk a little bit about her background but you know, it looks like she like interned, you know, as early as like 2015 2016 started working in around 2018 So she has a lot of wonderful skill and background and it’s really exciting to. Chat with her today. How are you, Mandy?
Mandy Politi 01:19
Good danny. Thanks for the introduction.
Danny Gavin 01:21
Of course. All right, so before we jump into the main topic at hand, let’s learn a little bit more about you. So where did you grow up? If you want to tell us a little bit about where you went to school, that would be awesome.
Mandy Politi 01:35
Originally I’m Greek so I grew up in Greece and I went to school in Athens. Then in 2014 I moved out from Greece and I moved into the UK. I went there to do my masters in applied linguistics of the University of Edinburgh. I stayed there for five years and then the last three years I have been living and working in Mexico.
Danny Gavin 01:56
City amazing. So you’re literally a globetrotter yes I wonder like when you were little growing up in Greece, like, did you ever think like, oh, I’m gonna like live around the world?
Mandy Politi 02:06
No the truth is no. Actually back when I was growing up, it was not really in the cards to move. But then recession came, European crisis came, so it started actually being a part of the ideal route if you wanted to get a better opportunity to study somewhere differently, to get a better skills, to get to know the world. So it became easier to move. Around Europe. And then actually a lot of people of my generation, they moved out from Greece and they moved into the UK or to other European countries to study and now it’s actually the norm. But yeah, me, I would never actually imagine, it’s just happened quite quickly and I would never imagine that I even would end up in Mexico like in the other part of the world.
Danny Gavin 02:47
Yeah, totally random. It’s amazing that you were brave to leave home, you know, it’s a big deal. So I’m sure that’s part of the reason why you’re successful today. So you quickly told us about. Applied linguistics, which is what you were actually studying. So, you know, at first glance when we talk about languages, I mean we can see, you know, we can see a little bit of how it’s connected to writing. But did your education and early experience, did it influence your decision to go into digital marketing?
Mandy Politi 03:16
Totally well, to be honest, the Greek educational system is very specific. We spent 12 years learning how to write, how to develop ideas, how to summarize ideas. We also learn. How to understand content. So this actually puts some put the idea in my head that I would like to do and work to do something around content and work around the written content specifically. And this is how I ended up studying linguistics. Then when I started studying linguistics, it was not really in the cards for me to do a CO for example. I wanted to initially follow an academic growth but then I started studying and I realized that there was a lot of science behind language. To help people understand the written and spoken discourse. Basically my specialization is in discourse analysis, specifically written, and as I started studying I realized that there are so many elements in written text allow us to understand what we are reading and create ideas and conceptualize what we’re reading, although. We don’t realize when we’re reading the text. So it started creating this idea of, OK, how can I use this information to create something that people will actually like. It will get them to engage more or they it will get them to return to me to read more. And slowly I started looking around how you can apply these skills and I came across the CEO and it was along the first site. After that, they decided that i don’t want to do anything else in my life apart from that. And I actually have a lot, I think, a big part of the success of optimizing content. Drugs, it’s that I am being very specific and I’m being very particular on the content that we create so that it’s really nicely optimized for the users and for the search engines.
Danny Gavin 05:03
That is so amazing. And it’s so cool because a lot of people, I think it, you know, especially old SEO was like, ooh, how can I actually go? And, you know, how do I rank content? It’s by taking keywords and putting it 10 times on the page. But obviously what we’re going to learn about today is it’s not that simple. So it’s really, yeah. It’s like understanding what do people want? Do they say, and it sounds like it’s crazy, but like, you would. You know, sometimes people ask me, you know, what’s the best undergraduate degree I should get in order to get into digital marketing. And I often say English, like to learn how to write English and say English. But I think I’m going to change my opinion now. I think it’s going to be a linguistical analysis.
Mandy Politi 05:46
Actually, most people think that the linguistics is about the study of languages in general. It’s not. There is a there’s a lot of subtleties like discourse analysis, which is my specialization, there’s computational linguistics, semantics, pragmatics, social linguistics. So there are a lot of different aspects and I totally recommend it. I think it gives you a really good idea of how people communicate through text. And if you want to go down the route of optimizing content, I think it makes total sense to understand what are these elements that make a text a piece of content to be successful. So it’s it really helps to be honest. Although again to be fair, I think that if you want to work in digital marketing you can. Like I know people that they come from a lot of different disciplines. So yeah, but linguistics is totally, I would, I would totally recommend it.
Danny Gavin 06:31
Yeah, I think there’s room for lots of different people, but obviously. You know, having a certain background or certain study can help you know, get into a certain area cool well, I think that’s a really great intro. So I think let’s hop into the topic at hand, which is writing for SEO. O if we can first explain for the audience now what does it mean to write for SEO or optimize SEO in your writing?
Mandy Politi 06:56
At least to me, writing for SEO is writing for the user. It’s writing in a way that provides value to the user and in a way that it’s what you’re trying to say. And the information that you are trying to convey is easy to understand and perspective of the user. So for me. This is optimization of a piece of ground that is not about adding keywords. I think this is actually not the most important part. It’s creating something that is genuinely useful and will generally provide value to the user. And then on a secondary level, optimizing for SEO is helping search engines understand what this page is about, like using keywords and specific structural elements like for example subheadings. But if I had to choose, I would totally choose about the writing for the user, because this is. The main goal of what we’re trying to achieve when we optimize.
Danny Gavin 07:44
Content, I know people usually ask me like, you know, why is writing for SEO so important? But I think, like with your definition, that really writing for SEO is primarily about users, right? That brings a lot of light to it. So you know, so how would you answer that question?
Mandy Politi 08:00
Generate it serves a purpose. We are trying to achieve something, so optimizing it for SCO means that you are making it the best possible version of what you can actually deliver to serve this purpose. So if we’re writing a piece of content, like an informational blog post about anything about tiles, about plumbing, we want somebody to read it and get some value out of it. So the idea is we optimize the piece of content to serve the purpose of satisfying satisfying the search intent of the user who is going to land. On the page, and they’re going to spend their time reading it. So for me, This is why it’s so important to optimize, because we, I think that many people optimize thinking that they’re going to rank. But that’s not the actual, that’s the journey. It’s not the actual destination because you are going to rank. But then what are you trying to achieve? You want to get people in and you want people to stay and you want these people to find your content useful enough to stay on the page and get some value out of it. So for me, if you change the perspective and think that I’m not optimizing to run, but I’m optimizing. To create something that’s really good and is going to be useful for the users, the whole. That’s the value of C That’s why you optimize it. At least that’s how I see it.
Danny Gavin 09:10
Yeah, no, that’s that makes a lot of sense. We understand that’s important to write for SEO, write for users. So what? What are the effects that can come from good SEO and bad SEO? So why don’t we go with the good first? Like what happens when you do it right?
Mandy Politi 09:26
Well, you get more users in. You get your brand known. You get people to interact with your brand and your website. You may increase your sales. You provide value, which is not always at least. Links to sales, but it’s also in terms of providing Information Services, anything that the website sells or what they’re trying to achieve and you’re helping people to associate the brand with a useful hub of information or a place where they can find what they’re looking for be product services or just purely for like informational content cool and then what about bad SEO?
Mandy Politi 10:08
Well, but this year it can be. I perceive it as two different ways. You have like Black Hat SEO, which means that you get people in thinking that they’re going to find something, but then they end finding something else. They get like frustrated and they exit the side straight away. Or you can have body on the terms of your try to optimize, but you don’t do it really well and you end up with an extremely complicated piece of content that is really difficult to actually read. It doesn’t really serve the purpose, it doesn’t answer the user questions. Both have disadvantages of course, mainly in the brand and the website. Because slowly, well if people go in and then they leave, obviously you’re not going to keep your performance you’re not going to stay where you are. And second people are not going to relate identify your brand or website that’s the place to be for what they’re looking for. So it goes both ways. If you’re asking me, I think that both are equally bad like the black cat the practices and also optimizing in a way that it’s not putting like the user in the middle in the center of what you’re doing. So it’s both can actually have. That have been blocked.
Danny Gavin 11:12
Yes, and when you go down the path of Black Hat SEO then you can get penalized by Google. And if you go down the path of it’s just not being so clear, then naturally when Google sees people come to your website and then they go back to Google because they didn’t find that what they wanted, you’re sending those signals and what it’s going to cause is Google is not going to want to put your piece of content, your website on the first page because it doesn’t provide value and pushes you lower. I have a I have an interesting question that I want to share with you. From one of my students. So, you know, we have a scenario where someone who’s like, let’s say an orthodontist, right, someone who helps correct people’s, you know, smiles, their teeth are crooked. And you know, let’s say we see that the term Invisalign. Is searched a lot and visualize is a type of braces that someone wears. But it’s not actual braces right? It’s more of like a retainer and it allows you to correct your teeth even without the metal braces. So the question is let’s say if I am a orthodontist who doesn’t offer braces but I only offer Invisalign, is it wrong to try to rank for the word braces? And then when people come. You tell them braces are really great, but you know what you really want to try out? Invisalign you know, some people might look at it as like a bait and switch, right? Someone’s looking for braces, and now when they come to it, you’re not talking about braces. You’re pushing them to try something else. The other way of looking at it is that’s actually, you know, that’s cool. Like you’re seeing what people are searching for, grabbing that traffic and then pushing them to something else, which you’re honestly feel is better. So I’d love if you could share your opinion on.
Mandy Politi 12:59
That I think you can do it, but in a smart way that again is. It would be useful for the user because, for example, there might be users that they’re looking for braces because they don’t know that there’s another option. There are users who are considering trying something, but they are not really sure what they’re looking for. You can still run for braces. You can create, for example, a piece of content that it’s a comparison about the pros and cons of using one type of smile correction or the other. So I think that you can, but again, if you put the user in the center, you can make it. Like way that is not clickbait and they don’t even way off. I’m telling you that you’re going to find places related content, but when you actually enter you say, OK, yeah, don’t go to the root of down the path of races because it’s really bad. Trying my own solution because again, most users are going to feel deceived or they’re going to feel like, OK now you’re trying to sell me something and that’s not what I came to read here. So I think that you can, but in a way that makes sense without trying to manipulate the results and the user attention. So for example, creating a comparison. Side or creating a when it’s best to use one way or the other solution. I think it it’s that way for example, it does make sense yeah no, I think that’s awesome. So the way, the way I look at it in the way kind of you explained it is it’s OK and if anything it could be a good strategy. But it just depends on how you implement it, right. Is the goal to deceive or is the goal to educate and provide people with options and opportunities? And I think if it’s the latter, then it’s a really good thing to do. So let’s get into a little bit more of like the like, the more the minutia, the details. So like what’s your process, you know, when we talk about writing for SEO? And trying to figure out like what’s going to be best for users. You know, what are the some of the things you do? What are some of the tactics? I know there’s a lot going on. If you were to put like the top three to five things that you kind of do, it would be awesome to.
Mandy Politi 14:56
Share OK, so let’s say that I’m trying to create a blog post around a specific topic and I want to decide. What should I write and how should I write it? First thing I do is I go on Google. I truly believe that not all ever is going to give you as much information as you need to do your job as an SEO and Google itself. So i really like going manually on Google and searching for different keywords. I tried to understand the search intent behind the terms that I am trying to target. I’m trying to understand what’s what comes up and what would the right user that I’m trying to target would look and. How they would expect to find? That’s the first step. The second step is i actually click on other top performing page on the top performing blog posts or other types of pages on the first page of Google and I have a quick look on them. I’m trying to see what kind of content do they have. They have videos. Do they have are like purely blockers? Do they have a lot of images? Do they have like step-by-step guides? Do they have at least 10 different headers and sub headers? Do they have elaborate structures or not? So I’m trying to identify what is it that put this page on the first page of Google? What is the differentiator? I actually didn’t like going on the second page of Google as well. I think you can find a really good insights there. And then after I review the first of the second page of Google, I tried to sit back and I’m trying to think, OK, now I have all this information, how can I create something that has? All the information that everybody else has, but also something more. And how can I create something that is it’s basically better and more useful and more elaborate? I create the structure in like on a document and then after that again I sit back and I say OK now does this structure make sense or is it too much? Am I giving too much information? It’s going to end up being like extremely heavy and difficult for the user to go through. Is it really useful? Is it something that I would personally sit down and read so that’s that would be like the third step and after that I start collecting secondary interchange keywords that can help support the primary keyword? Keywords that are relevant. I also like doing some quick research on these keywords as well to see what comes up because sometimes some of these keywords, especially the secondary, that are also very important. They just tends to bring something completely different up. It’s not directly, it’s not always what you think. So that’s why I like confirming and validating that it’s term that we’re going to use. It’s actually the term that we want to target. So I put all this information and then the last step for me which is very important is I’m trying to position this piece of content on the existing content of the website and on the content that I know I want to create in the future, usually if you have for example a content plan. So for me it’s very important that when we create content it actually serves a purpose within the website like. It falls into a specific cluster, for example of other topics and subtopics. And I always make sure to other recommendations for this internal linking opportunities when I create for example the brief for a piece of content, because in the end of the day somebody who’s going to end up on your page, they are looking for information. Let’s say if it’s a blog post, they will want to read something relevant and the idea is to help them find more relevant information. Stay more on the website gets to know what. Find more stuff basically. So I think that that’s also a very important part that sometimes it’s just forgets to do, but the truth is you need it, you need to add, you need to make sure that your content folds into the entire strategy of what you’re trying to achieve.
Danny Gavin 18:33
That’s an amazing summary. So it sounds like a lot of what you do is manual and manual research, which I think is awesome, right? I know there’s tools out there. Are there any other like any tools that you’d like to use in addition to the manual research?
Mandy Politi 18:50
Well, i use the same brush. I use answer the public. I use a phrase, but I’m taking them with assault with a grain of salt because sometimes, for example, phrase might come and tell you, OK, if you want to run, you need to create the like a piece of corner that has 500 words. But then if you actually check what ranks, it’s 500 words. But it’s really bad content. It doesn’t mean that you have to do the bare minimum, because I think sometimes if you don’t really have this critical thinking of how you want your content to be, you might end up just creating. The bare minimum like the minimum viable product of ranking if you want to call it like that. But then it’s just you still need to go check what you’re trying to compete against. It doesn’t mean anything to write something on 500 words just because all the other ranking URLs like pages they have 400 words. So you by adding 100 words are going to be better and run it in the end of the day again something like thinking do I really want to do something like a little better than anybody else. And this brings me also to another point that we don’t want to create content that. The one month is going to be redundant. I mean I’m not talking about seasonal content or content that it’s specifically tied to a specific gear. But you want content that is going to be useful for a while. So it makes sense to use the data that you find from different platforms and those, but always validated with Google to make sure that your content really answers the questions and it’s going to be there for a while. So that’s it’s not going to just. Drop out of the first phase because somebody else wrote something a little bit better just because they added, for example, a different section yeah and I think your point about taking tools with a grain of salt is so important because especially I feel like a lot of people who start off in SEO and digital marketing in general, like they get these tools, they use them and they think that they’re like the Bible, right. Everything they say is perfect and it’s not true, right. Any tool you use it, it’s like you said, it’s an assistant that helps you. But really it’s the, it’s the person in the driving seat who’s able to take that data and that comes with experience. It’s just something that you have to remember, you know? It’s hard because when you’re first starting off, you know. When you don’t really know, you don’t have experience. You want to rely on the tools a lot. But then you kind of have to realize, OK, like, that’s a great place to start, but that’s only the beginning, and then you have to move from there.
Mandy Politi 21:04
I think that it’s more important now that search intent is also so important. It’s not about the keyword. Like if we were living in a world where just by adding keywords we would rank. Yeah, fair enough, you can use a tool. But when you have things like what? What else is ranking? Is it video? Is it content? Is it page? Is like a block of what is it? Is it anything like who are you competing against? What are the users expecting to see? And then the certain then changes as well. Then you have for example terms that the search intent changes if it’s singular or ruler. So you still need to validate what you are finding, all the data that you get from the tool. So for me, I know that the manual process like sounds really elaborate and that takes a lot of time. In the beginning it does take a lot of time, but I think it really helps you to build this kind of instinct of. How you need to create a piece of content if you want to perform really well, and you can actually learn to do it even faster if you start doing it. And like it’s a it’s a process of trial and error. I did a lot in the beginning, now it’s really it’s faster for me to do it and I think it’s really useful and it has. It has helped me a lot to bring results.
Danny Gavin 22:11
Can we talk a little bit more about that trial and error? Like what are things that you did but then now you’ve realized that, OK, that’s not the way to do it well?
Mandy Politi 22:19
When I started the I remember I was doing all this. Annual process, but I would be very fixated on, for example, using keywords. Then I quickly realized that, for example, the subheader structure was more important than Cortex was more important. Metadata was really important in the beginning. Also, I thought that there was no space for creativity and the personal touch of the writer, but then quickly understood that if you help the writer understand what you’re trying to achieve and how the different elements of a piece of content actually serve a purpose. You can work together to create something that is really good because I don’t think there is a second. And I think that there is content that is really good for the user. So if it’s really well optimized, it’s not even as your content anymore, it’s just really good content for the user. And I think also many writers find it difficult to understand that and they say, OK, so if I write this, yeah, I cannot write creatively or anything. So I started getting this, I started interacting with writers, I starting, I started asking them like what do you think about this piece of content, how we wrote it? Do you think it’s. Really like structured and really specific. Do you think that we should update it a little, we should refresh it to be a little bit more creative to speak to the user. So by doing that I actually understand that it’s not necessary to follow 100 % strict structure if you want to rank and if you want to create good content and something else that I did which I think that sometimes again if you get really busy you forget to do is I actually go back on the on the content that we published. I go back and I monitor, I check, I after a month, two months, I go see is it index. Does it run for the terms that I wanted it to rank? Perhaps it ended up ranking for something else and then I used this inside 3 optimize it. So for me it’s very important when you publish a piece of content, you just that you don’t just let it there to relieve, you go back and you check. And I think that was the most important part because it gave me an understanding of how what I wrote was interpreted by search engines, especially using Google Search console and seeing like do I rank for this term that I wanted to target and if not, you optimize, but you don’t wait until six months or the next. Audits to do so. For me this was a very important part going back and reviewing the performance. And something really useful that I learned from this was, for example, don’t be afraid to create longer content because you think that if for example, you add a section below the fold like below, it’s not going to rank for this specific term. If that content makes sense in the total. And now especially that Google picks up snippets of like from below the fold, that necessarily doesn’t make you necessarily to the top of the page. You can still perform really well for that even if it’s not targeted directly on the data by following a very specific structure. But I learned that by writing longer blog posts and then going back and really fast seeing that OK, Now this performs for this sub topic that I included, although I haven’t targeted on metadata or really early on the text. So how did that happen? And this helped me to generate faster similar content. So I always recommend to go back. I think that was the biggest trial and error of seeing what performs and how I’m going to create. With the right or something that’s going to be very good. And then going back to what was published and reviewing performance after a couple of months just to make sure that it performs for what I wanted to perform and if not to quickly optimize it and not just go and do that after a year yeah and it’s funny because I feel like in the world of like, Google ads and advertising, people are like, optimizing and analyzing all the time. When it comes to like SEO. Like sometimes we just, like, you know, we have our checklist like, OK, did we put the content out? Did we, you know, optimize? Did we add the internal linking? Bam, let’s move on to the next thing yeah and they forget about you know, going back and optimizing and I like if you think about that’s like I think the first part is just like the beginning like the fun is like ooh, what did I actually rank for and what can I do? So i think that’s such an awesome lesson for our listeners. So thank you for bringing that up. So what I want to do is let’s you know I heard you before you mentioned ooh, I write content briefs. So it sounds like Mandy that not all the time are you actually writing the content but you’re kind of like strategizing the content and then handing that off to a writer. You know I often have. People tell me, Danny, do I actually have to write, you know, if to get into SEO? And I tell them no, like you don’t necessarily have to be a writer. You can work with writers. So let’s talk about that a little bit. So you know, when you put together a content brief, you know, which let’s first talk about, like, you know. Well, you’ve already mentioned like what’s inside the content brief. You know, it’s going to talk about the keywords, the secondary keywords, what the structure should be. So when you hand that off to a writer, so you know, how does that go? Are there any challenges with that?
Mandy Politi 26:55
Yeah, totally there are those talents, actually. Depends also if you want to, if you can talk to the right to the writer directly. Or for example, if you are using a writer from a platform, let’s say, and you don’t really have direct communication, which makes it more challenging. I always like to have a chat with the writers, try to solve them, I search screen, I saw them. What I’m trying to achieve with each section, why I’m very specific with the structure, things like that. Let’s go for the more difficult part. What how you can work with the writer that you cannot actually train directly and. We only have the briefs as the means of communication. What I like doing is I try to include as much information as possible in the brief so that the writer doesn’t have to spend a lot of time looking for information or child. Of course they can encourage them to also do their own research, but for me it’s very important that the writers know what are the terms we’re trying to target, what kind of content we are trying to compete with and what we are trying to outperform. And I make it very clear, for example. If all the top ranking pages have 10 steps on doing something, we will never run. If we only have 5, nobody is actually going to go for the five. So it’s for me, it’s very important for the writers to have visibility on what we are trying to outperform. So I always include this information on the brief. And then another thing is trying to. Adding links and making sure that they understand where this content is going to be positioned within the strategy. But then the challenge now comes on how the writer interprets all this information. If they actually use this information, if they understand the instructions and if they actually follow the recommended structure or if they try to make something more generic or let’s say very creative. And then they start missing the point of keeping the sub getters for example, or using relevant and cortex which is very important. So in this case, what I like doing is that I really go through what the writer produced and I provide specific feedback and I make sure my feedback is not just replace this with that. I explained why they have to replace something, what we’re trying to achieve and why it’s important for this specific instruction. Again, in the beginning it takes time and you need to have a right there that is willing to actually spend the time and effort to do it. But bit by bit you start identifying what are the strengths and weaknesses of each writer and you’re trying to build up on there. And then what I learned is 1 bottle at a time. You cannot make somebody write the perfect SU article or the perfect optimized article from the beginning. So you need to go like step by step a little bit by little bit. Then just by providing all these really good feedback and explain them why you are trying to achieve what you want to achieve. I try to adapt my future briefs to that. So every time I focus on a different thing, when I see that they have mastered it, I go ahead to something else. It takes a little bit of time, and it takes also a little bit of time of my time to actually prepare the article, to publish it and to make some changes myself. But after a while you start seeing that the writer actually picks up the way and how they should be doing it, and then they start generating on that’s better and it takes less time for you to prepare it. Like I think for me the best is adapting yourself to the writer instead of expecting the writer to adapt to you. Your Braves show the briefs are not just something static that I sent to everyone. I changed the brief depending on the rider, and that’s why I always this the first time that I’m working with somebody, I’m always paying closer attention to what they produce to make sure that my future briefs are adopted 100 % to them, to leverage their strengths and to help them improve their weaknesses. And that’s in the end helps create better content and save a lot of time and money.
Danny Gavin 30:39
Yeah, so that’s fascinating. So it basically means that even when you create an amazing brief. With all the instructions with the everything. But naturally when you deal with writers like they interpret it in different ways and they sometimes don’t even look at it, you know. So I guess it’s like it’s just part of the game right. Just like you know if you deal with artists right they might be think outside the box and you know interpret things in different ways naturally. It sounds like you know when you’re outsourcing your SEO content to a writer be prepared for even with the brief you’re going to have to train them and patient. And like you said i love how you go in and actually a you know, adapt the brief moving forward on what they’re good at, what they’re not. But it sounds an amazing process but I think what it also shows. Is if you’re just a writer and like someone says, hey writer, can you please write an article about, you know, this topic and rank for SEO? Like these days it’s not enough. Like look how much time and effort goes into producing a piece of content and really all the background information and making sure it’s fascinating and it really shows the value, right? When you have a good SEO strategist and writing team, you know that’s what’s necessary. But when you get together you can create amazing results.
Mandy Politi 31:57
I think that the we, as your people, we spend a lot of time auditing our websites, reviewing existing content, making lists of this is what we’re going to optimize. This is what we’re going to consolidate. Then we create new content calendars. We do all of that, and then we tend to forget that the most important part is the actual part of the writing that all of all of the things that we have so nicely put into a nice Excel document we have shared with the client, we have shared with our teammates are awesome. But if you don’t have a good writer to actually. Write it and implement it and consolidated the content, keeping the unique information but also adding something new. All the strategy is just going to fail like it’s not going to work because in the end of the day the writer who is going to take the massive responsibility of producing and implementing what you envision for this specific piece of content, for example, you want to consolidate. So it’s really interesting that we often take it for granted that we will have the right person to actually do it, but that’s not the case. You have to work hard to teach somebody to do it. And that’s why I think it’s really important to spend time to do very specific personalized briefs to the rider. And what I always like to say to them is. I when you finish writing these articles sit back and think would this piece of content would be something that you would actually need like would you spend your time reading in that. I think this is it’s a very it’s like a revelation for them. They’re like actually I don’t think that I would spend time reading like let me rewrite it. So it’s always useful to try to have this kind of relationship with the writer and if you cannot try to at least adapt the briefs and I think from this is something that I learned for example recently that. You can still get really good results with the writer who has no clue about this. You’re writing just by doing online briefs and just adapting them to this specific person to make sure that you’re going to pull the strength out of what they can achieve. And again, that’s a whole mindset of don’t try to go for perfection from the beginning, just try to get something better over time. And this helps to save more time and money, again faster. And it helps produce better results for what you’re trying to achieve, your strategy, but also for your clients.
Danny Gavin 34:06
I love it. And you know, obviously our podcast is about mentorship. And I think you’ve brought up such a important point when it comes to mentorship that you know it’s not one size fits all. You might have a plan, you might have a process, you might have a way of teaching people. But honestly every individual is different and you have to look at who that person is and see what’s the best way for them to learn and to understand, you know. So whether it’s with writers, whether it’s with your employees, with other people like it’s there regarding mentor, like. Who has been your biggest mentor in learning to write for SEO or just SEO in general?
Mandy Politi 34:42
The Greek educational system. No, it’s true because it doesn’t like increase. I think in other countries as well. You have like the 12 years of formal education and you can choose after a while if you want to go down the road of classical studies or physics or mathematics or stuff like that. But no matter what kind of path you want to follow, we do spend every single year of formal education learning how to write. How to understand how to develop and how to summarize ideas. Summarizing is I think is the most difficult. It’s even more difficult than developing. So I actually learned that from there. I like we actually learned how to write, why we need to write the specific way, the different what makes a piece of content good. Like we actually spent a lot of all of our years in formal education learning how to do that. And then the second biggest mentor is I think is myself, because I was really into the trial and error, and I spent a lot of time trying to teach myself how to do it well. Like I went out on Google, I typed terms, I saw what was coming up, I analyzed it. So yeah, I think I learned from all my teachers back in Greece and from myself that I actually had the passion to sit down and spend a lot of time trying to reverse engineer what ranks and why in terms of content.
Danny Gavin 36:03
Seo is something that is changing all the time. So how do you? Personally stay up to date with SEO changes and do you have any favorite resources?
Mandy Politi 36:12
All types of new letters. I really like the most new letter. I like the Solis newsletter. I’m young. My inbox is always full of any kind of newsletter that is related to Co, I think. I think. I think that’s something that is really important. If you want to stay on top, you cannot really stay on top of everything because things change every single day, but it’s important to set aside. Sometime during the day or at the end of the day to at least stay like five ten minutes or eat something. Even if it’s one article. I think most people just think that I’m going to do it on the weekend or I’m going to read everything on the weekend. It’s not possible. Just if you try to do like a small bits on a daily basis, I think that’s the best.
Danny Gavin 36:55
I feel like I speak about this on every episode. But yeah, I mean, you know, ideally, I like, I know for my for my teammates, I like them to block out like twenty thirty minutes every day on their calendar to actually go and read the SEO news and the digital marketing. Because that’s how you pretty much stay up to date. But I’m a big newsletter fan as well, right? That’s how I know everything and Twitter. But we’ll see what happens with Twitter. What trends or changes do you see coming in SEO? Do you see anything that’s changed or you feel like kind of where we’re at right now, it’s going to pretty much stay the same for a little bit?
Mandy Politi 37:28
Very good question. I wish I could predict to be honest. I think that it’s always going to be about creating better content and it’s I think that Google will always come up with something new that you have to include and something different that you have to do if you want to do what they want us to do. Like when we optimize to create really good content that will help users find what they’re looking for. And I think search is changing in a very interested in a very interesting way in terms of how users now. Live Google for example, if they want to look for local things to do, like for example for a restaurant, before you would go on Google and you would look for like Italian restaurant near me. Now you probably are going to find something on Google, but then you’re immediately going to go on Instagram to check like the pictures and the food and what they serve and if it’s like has a good vibe. So I think it’s interesting how search is going to change to now accommodate complements or are they going to get users backed on interacting and using results from Google instead of going on an external platform. I think this is really interesting to see where it’s going to go.
Danny Gavin 38:32
Yeah, but I think we can all agree that things do change yes but yeah, so the soul is the same, but sometimes, you know what, the outside or the clothing, like you said, what’s going to be the type of content that Google wants in the future. But in the end of the day it’s really about the users cool so before we end, I would love to know. I know, I believe you’re a big reader and would love to know what are your top three books you know, that you’re reading now or just in general that you like to recommend?
Mandy Politi 39:02
The first is the right of a lifetime by Robert Egger. He was the CEO of Walt Disney for 15 years. It’s one of the best books I have read in a while. I really like the part about how you shouldn’t go after perfectionism, but just try to deliver something that is not just good enough. So it’s really going after perfectionism, but it puts it into a different frame and a different perspective. So it helps you to actually deliver something better and faster. The second book is atomic habits by James Clear, which is about how to form good habits and stop doing bad habits. I think it’s really interesting because it again for focuses more on. Instead of going for example what we usually say, I’m going to go on a diet on Monday for example. It’s not like that or I don’t. I’m trying to improve how many times I’m working out during the week. It’s just how you can start with smaller steps, choosing your battles and trying to put it into realistic goals. And the third, the third book is don’t shoot the dog by Karen Pryor, which is about positive reinforcement if you want to get the best out of your pets, but also it actually has applications in. Colleagues, family, friends, it’s a really good way of how you can use positive reinforcement to get the best out of everybody. And it actually helps a lot to understand the psychology of it, how people, how pets behave and how you can with a positive attitude and with positive reinforcement you can actually achieve better results. So these are the three books that I actually read. I really like that. I highly recommend everybody to read.
Danny Gavin 40:40
I love those choices. I feel like they like speak you. Like if you were to be like, what are, you know what’s Mandy’s Looks like what represents her brand. Like it’s so on brand for you, bandy. I love it. Yes, well, thank you so much. Today was so awesome as such an informative conversation. Learned so much and your passion really shines through. We’re very lucky adopted to have you and I hope many others learn from you quickly. If people want to get in touch with you. What’s the best way?
Danny Gavin 41:14
Mandy Politi on linkedIn wonderful. All right. Mandy, thank you so much and hope to speak to you again soon.
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