How SEO Can Help Your Small Business Stand Out with Katie Paskorz

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Katie Paskorz from KatydidPGH - Handmade CEO Podcast
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Kiana Jones
Episode 137, How SEO Can Help Your Small Business Stand Out with Katie Paskorz

Kiana: Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Handmade CEO Podcast! I’m so excited to welcome today’s guest, Katie Paskorz from KatydidPGH. Katie is your go-to gal for all things web design, SEO, and website troubleshooting, and I’m so excited to chat with her today. 

And we actually know each other in person, which is really fun! We both live in Pittsburgh and Katie by chance ended up at my booth at a craft show back in the spring and ended up buying one of my handcrafted original painting necklaces from my business Rokita Art. And we started following each other on Instagram and just kind of hit it off. And I thought, how great would it be to have you on the show?

So welcome to the show, Katie! 

Katie: Hello! I’m so excited. This is so much fun.

Kiana: Thanks for being here! 

Katie: Of course. 

Kiana: So, can you first get started by telling me a little bit about your journey to becoming a web designer and SEO specialist? How did that all come about? 

Katie: Sure. Well, I hope you’re ready for some twists and turns because it’s kind of a crazy story!

So I graduated from college in 2009 with a degree in history, smack dab in the middle of the great recession. And I felt really lost. I didn’t necessarily want a job in history or like anything to do with that. But I just needed a job, because I don’t know if you remember, but back then you got kicked off of your parents’ health insurance like six months after you graduated. You know, you had to get health insurance from a job. So I was like, okay, I need to find a job. I need health insurance.

But it took me about six months. The first job I got, I worked at a grocery store, no benefits or anything, but I was like, I need to find a full-time job. So like a year later I finally got a full-time job. I finally got benefits. And it was at a bank. 

And I was like, okay, I guess what I’ll do is I will just throw myself into this career. I will just work at a bank. I will do my best to work my way through the ranks. And this will be it. This will be what I do for the rest of my life. And I was miserable the whole entire time. It ended up not being a good fit for me.

Regardless, I was there for eight years and I was really trying hard. I was really trying hard to work my way up, I was putting myself out there, and I was working really hard. I was trying to come up with procedures and policies, and asking questions, and giving feedback.

I ended up being kind of like an assistant manager in the back office. Still just miserable, but I was helping train employees to use their computer because there had been employees who had been there for like 10 years and they had no idea how to do basic things like copy and paste, or do anything to make their job more efficient.

So I was teaching a lot of people and training a lot of people. But I was coming home just like absolutely miserable every single day. My creative brain was not being used at all. And I was still trying to do my best to become a manager and do a good job.

And I don’t know if other corporate places are like this. Our managers were actually discouraged from giving raises or giving you good yearly reviews because then it would mean that they would have to promote you. And so I was making a lot of lateral moves and just like not making what I wanted to make.

And the whole time, my husband, who’s a software engineer, he said “You need to learn front end development,” which is basically coding so that you can code websites and how websites look to users. And I kept coming up with excuses. I was like, uh, no, I’m not good at math and I’m not smart enough, and I don’t have time. I already dug into this career, but I remember one day something in particular happened at my job that day. And I was just so frustrated. And I was like, if I don’t make a change, I’m just going to be miserable. and my mental health is going to suffer. 

So I was like, okay, I’ll give it a try, you know, whatever. I’ll give anything a try at this point. And so I started taking a web development boot camp online, and it was not easy. It was very difficult, just like I expected. But I was still passing the sections of the class. And what was great was it was so creative. Like, I was able to use that other part of my brain and I was like, oh my gosh, this is what I’ve been missing.

I felt like I could do this. I even got to one section – and if you know anything about front end development, it’s called JavaScript. And it’s notoriously difficult to learn JavaScript because it’s all logic based and all math based. And I failed that section six times.

Kiana: That’s rough!

Katie: I know, I failed it six times, but I finally passed it and I was like, okay, you know what, if I could pass this section, I could do anything. I could make money doing this. Like I CAN do this. So I told my husband, I was like, give me six months and I’ll make money doing this. And agreed. So that’s what I did.

And I started freelancing and then, I started getting more and more clients and I started getting clients easier. And I was like, this is fantastic. I get to be so creative and do this. 

And then eventually I’m like, okay, I want to put the best product out there. I want my client’s websites to be long lasting. I want it to be high converting to make money for them very easily. I want it to be easy to use, so I need to learn SEO, and how to rank on Google for them. I started researching that and quickly found that it was inundated with just so many, for lack of a better term “Bros”. They were trying to teach SEO, but they were doing it in such a complicated way with all this technical industry talk.

And I was like, no wonder this goes over everyone’s head. There has to be an easier way to teach this. And I know I can definitely make this easier for people to understand, especially people that might not be so tech savvy. so I started doing that too, and that’s kind of where I ended up is I started making guides, SEO guides, and workshops, and, You know, so that’s, that’s what I do now.

And I love it because it takes such a crazy overcomplicated subject and it makes it easy for business owners. And that’s all I wanted to do. 

Kiana: So I think that’s so important, especially because a lot of business owners, you know, they’re really focusing a lot of their time on their product or their service or whatever it is. And it’s so hard when you as a business owner have to be pulled in so many directions of like, oh, I also have to worry about my website and my email marketing. And all of these different working parts. And so having someone to explain it in a really easy way is just so incredibly helpful.

Katie: Yeah. I mean, you work so hard on a product that you’re selling. You want people to be able to find it. And that’s basically what SEO is. It makes your product easy for people to find. 

Kiana: I love that! So I get this question from a lot of makers: Why even bother getting a website if they already have Etsy and/or social media.

Katie: I love this question. I’ve actually been seeing an increase of posts on social media saying you don’t need a website. And I may be biased but I definitely think you need a website. I mean, the first reason is it’s something that you own. So you control what goes on it and how it looks, and it just makes your web presence bigger so people can find you more easily. 

I think more importantly, and what I’ve seen, and I’m not wishing ill will towards anyone, but, I’ve seen a lot of things happen. For instance, whenever you sign up for Etsy or Instagram or TikTok or whatever, you’re agreeing to their terms of service. That means that they can take down your shop any time for violating any of their terms of service, even if you’re not trying to, and even if you’re doing something you don’t think is directly impacting that. What can happen is they have a computer program that goes through accounts to see if users are violating terms of service.

So they have these strict rules, and it’s a computer program following these strict rules. So, for example, I recently posted a video on TikTok and I got a notification that it was taken down because it violated the terms of service. Now, I’m one of those weird people who actually reads the terms of service, like line for line.

So when I got that, I was like, okay, what’s going on? And it said that I was showing illegal goods and services – which I was not on my video. But because the computer program saw something in that video that maybe resembled something in another video that was showing illegal activity, they took it down.

It was just automatically taken down, and I filed for an appeal and everything, but it’s not like you can get a hold of a real human. So, they can just take that off without warning and I know what happens with Etsy is they just shut down your shop.

There’s no warning or anything. And then trying to get a hold of someone is just impossible. And I mean, there are other scenarios, like if your account gets hacked, and you can’t get into your account, that happens a lot. 

Back when I was doing a lot of troubleshooting, I had this client who inherited a business. This was when they had a Facebook shop, and she got locked out of her Facebook shop and couldn’t get back in. And I worked with Facebook for three months trying to get her back in. And that was when I could contact a real person at Facebook. And she never got back into her shop.

So if you have that website, the best case scenario is that you have that backup website if you’re also using Etsy. So in the meantime, you can sell on your website. But worst case scenario, you never get back in to your Etsy shop or social accounts. You know what I mean? So, I think it’s really important to have a website and I don’t want to scare anyone, but it happens.

Kiana: I agree with you wholeheartedly. I’ve heard of these things happening to friends and other makers and it’s so frustrating. Planning for that worst case scenario is actually going to really help in the long run. 

So how can SEO help a small business these days when the online world is just so saturated? I’m thinking specifically of like, you know, I get a lot of questions from soap makers or jewelry makers, they’re like, well, there’s so many other jewelry makers out there, there’s so many other soap makers out there.

So how can SEO help someone stand out online and help a small business, right? 

Katie: So I believe in a local first strategy whenever it comes to SEO. So if you take your market and you shrink it down to your local area, you have more of a chance of showing up in search results. At least in the beginning, you know, and you can want to sell worldwide, that’s great, but if you start locally and optimize locally, so that you’re showing up in  the search results that are like “soap makers near me”, you know, or “soap makers in Pittsburgh,” and you put your efforts into that, eventually that will grow. And once you get on top of that market, you can always expand out.

I think that it’s a lot more efficient and, you know, you want as much bang for your buck. So if you take your market area and you make it smaller, then you can see better results that way. And then eventually, you know, grow outwards. 

Kiana: Okay. That makes a lot of sense. I never thought about that. Thank you! So what are some of the myths that you hear surrounding SEO that are floating around these days? I know you mentioned all the bros. 

Katie: I first started researching SEO and search engines like Google were in their early stages. And there were so many false statements about how to optimize for SEO floating around, but now there aren’t a lot of myths around because, you know, there’s so much research being done into Google’s algorithm, but a lot of things that I see I would consider non-truths, 

For instance, I see a lot of people thinking they can just optimize for SEO and then be done with it forever. That’s not true. It’s something that you have to kind of work on like every six months or so. Because markets change or, you know, maybe even holidays, especially if you’re a maker on Etsy or somewhere, you know, it’s better to optimize for holidays. The way people search changes.

It’s similar to how there’s such an increase in sales for Dungeons and Dragons merch since the new season of stranger things came out. You know what I mean? Like stuff like that affects the market. So redoing your SEO and just kind of optimizing it for the time is good.

The other thing that I’ve actually been asked to do before that is not good to do, is, why can’t I just put a bunch of keywords on my homepage? And then make them transparent. So no one can see them, but the Google bot can read them. That actually doesn’t work at all, and actually has a negative impact.

So the thing to think about is that the Google algorithm is smart enough to recognize when you’re trying to game the system. So it’s really easy to get penalized for things like that. You know, like the people who are writing and working on the code for the algorithm think of these things, you know, of people trying to game the system.

It’s better to just have good content and do a little bit of research. Plus I feel if you are really committed to your niche, you wanna put good information out there anyway. So why not just do it that way? Don’t be lazy.

Kiana: What are some easy ways that small businesses can get started with a website and SEO or start to improve what they already have in place? 

Katie: So the first thing that I would say is to get a Google business profile. So if you were to go to Google right now and search “soap makers near me”, those are the listings that pop up first.

They’re the ones that have the map and the title mm-hmm and the hours of operation. And you can do that through your Gmail account. You don’t have to have a physical location to set that up. A lot of people think you have to have a physical location, but you don’t.

And then I would start asking for reviews for your business so that they can be on your business profile, because that’s how those are ranked, by the number of reviews and quality of reviews. 

And then the next thing that I would do is try to analyze the copy that you already have either on your website or Etsy and think about what your ideal client is actually searching for. And II see this happen on a lot of websites. Where they have beautiful websites, but their copy, you can tell that they wanted to sound smart. They wanted to sound like they were an expert in their field. So they’re using all kinds of industry jargon, all kinds of expert language. And they probably went and looked up fancy words and added all those in there.

But actually you want all the copy to reflect language that a visitor or client would actually use. 

So someone who’s not an expert in what you do at all, someone who is new to your product or service, what are they searching for and what language are they using? 

Kiana: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense! So, do you have any special offers for our listeners? 

Katie: Yes, I do. So, if you use the code HANDMADE, you can get 50% off either of my guides. 

I have my Five Simple Steps to Improve Your SEO, which is a guide that just gives you really simple, easy, manageable things that you can do for your website right now, that’ll take like less than an hour and you’ll see an instant improvement in your ranking. 

Easy Website Content KatydidPGH - Handmade CEO Podcast

And then I also have a guide called Easy Website Content, and it goes over everything. Your copy, the images, the pages of your website, the call to action, how to make that SEO friendly, and how to make it so that your website converts at a high rate. 

So either of those guides and you can get 50% off. 

Kiana: Awesome. And that’s on your website www.katydidpgh.com? 

Katie: Yes, that’s correct. 

Kiana: Awesome! My last question is, what are your top three favorite books on business?

Katie: Okay. So I have to confess that I don’t read a lot of business books and I haven’t, but that’s okay. I have read, You Are a Badass At Making Money, which I really loved. And it’s kind of like a sassy, no frills guide about your expectations and mental blocks around making money.

And then whenever I was working at the bank, I was reading a lot of leadership books because I was trying to be, you know, proactive in that. And I really liked it’s called Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s all about leadership and making decisions, and how real world leaders make decisions. I really enjoyed that. 

And then I’m actually reading a book right now that I just got for free at my bookstore because it’s an advanced reader’s copy, but I highly recommend it. And it’s called Women Who Lead. And it’s just a bunch of short essays about women who have started companies all over the world, what they do differently, and what you can learn from them. And it’s really just struck that thing in me to be more motivated to change things in my business. I really love that one right now. 

Kiana: Nice! Well, thank you for sharing Katie and thank you for coming on the show! I’m just so happy that you could share these tips with our listeners. I know that, especially some of these tips about being able to get your business found little bit more easily – they’re really, really helpful. So thank you. 

Katie: Thank you for having me!

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