Would you consider search engine optimization (SEO) more of a left-brained or right-brained activity? True, modern science has cast doubt on our traditional notions of left-brain and right-brain dynamics, but think of it in these terms: is SEO more of a logical, analytical activity? Or more of a creative, artistic one?
If you’re like most people, whether you’re a seasoned SEO veteran or you’re learning SEO for the first time, you’ve probably come to think of SEO as the former—a left-brained, logical, analytical practice. After all, you probably measure your campaign’s success in terms of numerical outcomes, including your rankings for specific keywords, your domain authority, and your organic traffic. Your process is probably fine-tuned and mechanical in some ways. You scan your site for missing features, tweak it to improve its performance, and publish content at regular intervals. Everything works like a factory.
But if you want to be successful in SEO, you also need a splash of right-brained thinking; you need to be creative and artistic. If you’re a traditionalist, you might flinch at the idea. But the truth is, creativity matters in SEO—and you’ll need to learn how to harness its full power if you want to succeed.
The Benefits of Creativity in SEO
Let’s take a look at the ways that creativity can be a boon to your SEO strategy:
Original content. First, creative thinking allows you to come up with more original ideas for content. You can think of topics that nobody else has considered. You can cover old topics from new perspectives or angles. You can also present your content in new or innovative ways. Even at the ground level, creativity can help you come up with novel phrasing and a unique tone that can set your content apart. If you’re successful, your content will be much more likely to earn shares and links.
Unique keyword targets. One key to SEO success is finding a way to competitively differentiate yourself—usually by targeting a unique selection of keywords. Creativity can help you find the best possible targets, helping you find words and phrases that are appealing to your target audience while still differentiating themselves from the keyword targets of your competitors.
New formats and publication opportunities. With creative thinking, you can also discover new formats and new publication opportunities with more regularity. You’ll be more open-minded and more willing to explore formats like podcasting or video streaming for SEO, and you’ll see otherwise unconsidered publishers as valuable opportunities.
Link building opportunities. Similarly, creative thinking can help you discover link building opportunities that most SEO professionals would miss. For example, if you find broken links on an external site, you can brainstorm a way to fit a link to your site in its place—and come up with a good pitch for the site owner at the same time.
Creative problem solving. SEO comes with a lot of troubleshooting. When your organic traffic declines, when your site speed suddenly slows, or when your rankings get shaken up, you’ll need to think creatively to figure out the root cause of these issues—and come up with a game plan for how to resolve them.
Dynamic responses. Google has a long history of regularly updating its search engine algorithm. While today’s updates tend to be smaller and less noticeable, there’s still a chance that a major algorithm change could compromise your strategy or unexpectedly change your rankings. When this happens, creative thinking can help you stay agile; you can respond dynamically, and adjust your strategy as needed.
How to Be More Creative in SEO
Being creative has a clear advantage in the realm of SEO, but what can you do if you’re not a creatively minded person? Or what if you frequently face mental blocks that preclude you from coming up with new, creative ideas?
Here are some strategies that can help you:
Watch your competitors closely. Keep a close eye on your competitors. What types of content are they writing? What keywords are they targeting? What novel strategies are they using? You might be able to come up with some good ideas this way—just be careful not to copy a competitor’s strategy directly. Use it as a launch point to come up with your own ideas.
Observe SEO tactics in new industries. Companies in the same industry tend to replicate each other’s work, so if you want to deviate from the norm, consider looking at businesses in other industries. How do other types of businesses approach SEO, and what can you learn from them? Can you bring some of their tactics to your contested industry?
Brainstorm with a team. When brainstorming new ideas for content, keyword targets, or other elements of your SEO strategy, consider working with a team of other people. Preferably, these people will be from different backgrounds and will think in different ways. Everyone will see the problem through a different lens, which can help you come up with more unique ideas as a group.
Read and listen to new sources regularly. Make sure you expose yourself to different types of thinkers on a regular basis, both in the SEO community and outside it. Read lots of books and listen to lots of podcasts; they’ll help open your mind.
Give yourself more breaks (and boredom). We tend to come up with our most creative ideas when we’re bored since our minds get more time and space to generate new concepts. Take more breaks from work, and let your mind wander to come up with bolder ideas.
Get inspired. Finally, find a way to get inspired to do creative thinking. For some people, this means hanging up abstract artwork. For others, it means listening to your favorite music. Find a strategy that works for you.
With more creative thinking, your SEO campaign can achieve better results. Obviously, that doesn’t mean you can afford to neglect the logical and analytical side of your SEO strategy; instead, it means striking a balance between these sides of the equation.
Whether you’re an SEO newbie or a long-time industry vet, podcasts are a great way to keep up with the latest advancements in SEO and digital marketing. If you’re looking for good SEO-related podcasts, check out this list of 25 great ones. I’ve only included podcasts that are still publishing new episodes as of the time of publishing this post. Some of these cover a lot more than SEO, but they all have some aspect of SEO as one of their main topics.
Kate talks with a variety of SEO experts on a range of topics. She also sprinkles in special episodes she calls “Reality SEO,” where she showcases real-life SEO professionals, including behind the scenes look at their jobs and also their lives beyond work. Great content for intermediate to advanced SEO pros. Regular episodes are about 40 minutes long and the reality SEO episodes are about 20 minutes long.
Conversation-style podcast where host Benjamin Shapiro dives deep into a variety of topics around search engine optimization. Beginners can definitely take a lot away from every episode, but it seems to cater to a more savvy audience. Episodes are usually 15-20 minutes long. He often covers the same topic for a whole week to get deep into the topic even with the short podcast format.
Weekly podcast featuring interviews of a variety of marketers to share insider tips on SEO, social media and mobile marketing. Not as focused on SEO as some of the other podcasts on this list, but lots of great insights from smart guests. Most episodes are about 30 minutes long.
SEO tips and other advice from Authority Hacker founders Gael Breton and Mark Webster. They cover a variety of topics including how to create and grow web-based businesses, build traffic to your site, engage your audience and convert visitors into customers. A lot of episodes are under 15 minutes, with some longer, in-depth episodes where they dive deep for up to an hour.
Weekly podcast featuring interviews with a variety of well-known industry experts. Stephan has interviewed some heavy hitters and the content is solid. Topics usually revolve around SEO, ecommerce, and digital marketing. Episodes are about an hour long.
Jesse and Bob share digital marketing strategies and local SEO tactics that service businesses can use to get ahead of the competition. Their focus is on how to optimize a local business and get more customers for businesses with a local presence. Episodes are about 30 minutes long.
In-depth interviews with industry experts. Topics skew more towards SEO agencies and how to scale an SEO service business, but a lot of the insights could be valuable if you’re doing SEO on an affiliate, ecommerce, or some other type of site. Daryl also provides a video version of each podcast episode on his Youtube channel. Episodes are usually over an hour long.
A relative newcomer to the podcasting world, Emily’s podcast is geared towards female entrepreneurs and isn’t limited to SEO tips. She gives bite-sized marketing tips for growing your business. She offers great tips for newbie and less-experienced marketers. Episodes are short (usually under 10 minutes) and action-oriented.
A weekly podcast by Marie Haynes highlighting current news and updates in the search industry. She breaks down the most interesting and important changes that have happened each week in SEO and the world of search, including algorithm updates and rumored updates. She also provides a print version of the news covered in the podcast each week. Episodes are about 50 minutes long.
Unlike most of the podcasts on this list, this one isn’t focused on SEO strategy or tactics. Instead, it’s all about the people of SEO, their stories, and what life is really like as an SEO. Each episode features one of the industry’s best and brightest minds. They share experiences, talk about successes and failures, and share some strategic and tactical tips. Episodes are about an hour and a half long.
A weekly interview-style digital marketing podcast discussing a variety of topics in digital marketing, including SEO, social media, and content marketing. Host Erin Sparks discusses the latest news and trends in the digital marketing industry and interviews some of the top names in the industry. Episodes vary in length.
One of the longer-running podcasts from this list, with over 500 episodes, includes marketing tips and practical advice on how to get the best from digital and search engine marketing. Guests share the latest tools, techniques, and strategies to help you generate online leads, sales and build engagement with your audience. Episodes vary in length from about 15-50 minutes.
This podcast first aired in 2009, so it’s another of the longest-running podcasts on the list. With over 500 episodes in their archives, there’s a lot of great content you can listen to. Some of the episodes feature interviews with other experts, and some episodes are Chris and Matt discussing interesting industry articles or other topics. Episodes are about 40 minutes long.
This podcast is about blogging strategies to grow traffic and monetize a blog. Has a bit of an over-hyped (sales-y) feel to it compared to the rest of the podcasts on this list. Listen to the intro on one of the episodes and you’ll see what I mean. But if you can get past the hype-y feel, he does share a lot of good tips that are good for bloggers and other non-blog websites. His listeners seem to agree — he’s got more reviews on iTunes than another podcast on this list (as of the time of writing he has 527 reviews with an average rating of 4.8). Episodes are about 10 minutes long.
A weekly, interview-style podcast where Mat and Dave interview big players in the industry to get a ton of great insights on a variety of digital marketing topics. Includes actionable advice for business owners to apply the tips learned in each episode. Topics covered include hiring, social media, content marketing, running a business, SEO, PPC, and more. Episodes vary in length, but tend to be about 20-30 minutes long.
With a heavy focus on digital marketing analytics, this is a great podcast for any serious digital marketer. The three hosts usually cover the topic, with occasional special guest experts joining them. The topics aren’t usually SEO-specific, but it’s super helpful to become a more well-rounded, data-focused marketer. Episodes are about an hour long.
The hosts of this podcast offer their first-hand experiences to help listeners better their knowledge and insight on what is going to help your online marketing campaigns. They share learning from their own testing, experiments, and case studies. They also bring in guest experts to join their discussions on a variety of topics surrounding SEO, social media, and paid digital advertising. Episodes are about an hour long.
A weekly digital marketing podcast that combines interviews with global experts together with the latest news, tools, strategies, and techniques to give your digital marketing the edge. Most episodes are 20-30 minutes long.
Weekly, interview-style podcast where host, Laura Morelli, interviews a variety of people behind successful, integrated marketing campaigns, and discusses the latest news, tools, strategies, and techniques that’ll give your digital marketing the edge. Episodes are 20-25 minutes long.
Host Amanda Milligan interviews top marketing experts for discussions on a variety of content-focused topics. You’ll get a wide range of perspectives across a bunch of different areas of marketing, with a clear emphasis on content marketing. Episodes are about 30 minutes long.
Hosted by a few of the OG SEO gurus, the official podcast of Search Engine Journal usually features interviews with other OGs from the SEO expert brain trust. You’ll hear from a lot of the same experts who write for SEJ and speak at all the big SEO Events. They cover a wider array of topics beyond SEO, but it’s all the stuff us search geeks are into (SEO, PPC, social media, content marketing, and digital marketing). Definitely a good podcast to keep up with the latest advancements in SEO strategy. Episodes vary in length from 40 minutes to an hour and a half.
Webcology takes a deeper look at the ecosystem of the internet as it affects webmasters and web marketers from the points of view of hosts Jim Hedger and Dave Davies. Featuring interviews with special guests, Webcology explores a variety of digital marketing and SEO-related topics. Episodes are just under an hour long.
A weekly podcast tackling the search industry’s latest trends and questions all with a touch of humor. A unique and refreshing take on search engine optimization and on the search marketing industry itself. Episodes often include interviews with the greatest minds in the SEO industry. Episodes are a little over an hour long.
Touted as an introductory course on SEO, this podcast is geared towards beginners, but they do cover a lot of current search engine news, updates, and strategies that will be interesting to more advanced SEOs. Episodes are usually about 35 minutes long.
A recent addition, this podcast offers bite-sized episodes that offer quick tips on a specific SEO topic. Content is focused on specific tactics and seems to be geared more towards a beginner audience. Most episodes are about 10 minutes long.
Bonus: 17 Great Non-SEO Marketing Podcasts Worth Checking Out
These podcasts don’t focus on SEO like the top 25 list, but they offer great content about various marketing topics. Some offer high-level marketing discussions and interviews. Others are more focused on a specific sub-set of marketing. All of them pack a punch with useful tips and ideas to improve your marketing.
Most business owners miss out on a lot of potential business because they don’t choose the right keywords, or worse yet, they don’t put any thought into their keyword strategy at all. Follow these simple steps to find some hidden gem keywords that you’re currently missing.
Before you start, create a system to capture your keyword list. I like to use a Google spreadsheet because it’s easy to share with your team and you can create multiple sheets or tabs if needed. You can start on a whiteboard or notebook, but you’ll quickly want to migrate your list into a digital format that you can easily sort, delete, and copy and paste into other platforms.
Step 1: Brainstorm Keywords
Write out a list of all the keywords you would use to search for a business like yours. Try to put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer and think of how you would search. Your intimate knowledge of your business gives you an inside track on behavior. Think about the words and phrases that people use to describe your product or service.
Be careful not to trust your instincts too much, though. Sometimes you’re too close to it to see some big opportunities that “normal people” are searching for. Get input from employees, friends, and family. Be sure to ask people who aren’t as familiar with your industry to get a balanced view.
Current customers are another great source of keyword ideas. Ask them what keywords they searched to find your business. The sooner you can ask them, the more likely they’ll be to remember the exact search phrases they used to find you.
Step 2: Spy on Competitors
While I recommend that you don’t obsess over your competitors, you can get some good ideas on keywords by watching what your competitors are doing. You can identify which competitors are worth emulating by seeing who shows up in Google searches for your keywords.
Search your top keywords and notice the specific phrases that the top sites include in their page titles and descriptions. Click through and look at page headings and content. Look at their blogs and other content pages to see the topics they are writing about. Look at which companies run ads for your keywords.
Use a competitive keyword tool to see which keywords your competitors are using. These tools give an estimate of how much they are paying per click for specific keywords and their total ad budget. A couple of these tools include SpyFu and SEMrush. Just enter your competitor’s domain name and they’ll show you a list of paid and organic keywords for that site, rank-ordered by popularity.
Step 3: Analyze Your Existing Keyword Flow
An often overlooked source of good keyword ideas is your existing keyword traffic. Unfortunately, Google encrypts most searches, so you can’t get much data on organic keywords from Google Analytics, but it’s worth looking at the referring keyword reports to see if anything shows up (Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Organic Search). Another great Google Analytics report for keyword insights is the landing page report for organic search visitors (Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium > google/organic + secondary dimension: landing page). Even without seeing the exact keywords, the landing pages give you clues about which keywords are driving traffic to your site.
A great source of insight into your organic keywords for any website is Google Search Console. Sign up for an account to see your top keywords along with a bunch of other handy tools for optimizing your organic Google rankings. Look for good keywords that you haven’t already thought of that are showing up as queries in the performance reports.If you’re running any paid keyword ads like Google keyword ads, Bing Ads, the keyword reports from your campaigns can give some good insights into keywords that are popular. If you track conversions from your campaigns, you can focus on the keywords that generate the most leads or sales, rather than just the most traffic.
Step 4: Keyword Research Tools
Once you have a good list of keywords you can start plugging them into keyword tools. The purpose of running your keywords through these tools is to help validate your assumptions about which keyword phrases are most popular. You will also find additional keyword phrases that you didn’t already think of. Google’s Keyword Planner is a great place to start.
This is the tool that Google uses to sell its keyword ads. Since Google gets 90+ percent of all of the billions of searches every day, they have a decent database of search behavior. Other keyword research tools you might try are Wordstream, Moz, and Ahrefs, as well as the two mentioned above for competitive analysis: SEMrush and SpyFu.
Google also offers some good keyword ideas through their search suggestions that show up at the bottom of each search results page, and the autocomplete suggestions right in the search box. Those suggestions are based on actual searches, so make note of those and add any relevant ones to your list of potential terms to target. Google Trends can also give good insights into localized keyword search popularity and related search phrases.
How and Where to Use Your Keywords
Once you’ve done your keyword research and prioritized the words and phrases you want to show up for, you need to know where to use your selected keywords. There are several different ways to use keywords, and your approach for each will be a little different, depending on how keywords are used in each application.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – SEO refers to organic placement in search engine results. Include your top 1-3 most relevant keyword phrases in the HTML page title for each page of your site. Include keywords where appropriate in the page headings and within the body text. Include local qualifiers to give your site the best chance of showing up for localized searches if your business has a local service area. Resist the temptation to stuff too many keywords in these areas. Always think quality over quantity. And don’t worry about using the exact phrase throughout the entire page. Google is getting good about recognizing different phrases with the same meaning. If you use the same words every time, you limit your reach for all the different variations, and you could trigger spam filters with Google for having a website that is “over-optimized.” Note: it’s not necessary to include a list of your keywords in the meta keywords tag since meta keywords are completely ignored by Google.
Paid Search Ads – If you’ve got an ad budget, keyword ads are a great way to get targeted keyword traffic to your site. The ads are typically bought through an auction-based system where you set your maximum bid price, which is the highest price you are willing to pay for clicks on your ad. Because pricing is completely market-driven, you’ll pay more for clicks if you have a lot of competitors bidding on the same keywords, and you can get clicks for cheap in less-competitive industries. The nice thing about paid search ads is that you can control how much you spend, and you can turn entire ad groups or specific keywords on and off at will. The main drawback of course is that you’re paying for every single click, so if those clicks don’t convert to paying customers, you could give Google a whole lot of money for a whole lot of nothing in return.
Local Listings – The main local listing to focus on is your Google My Business (GMB) listing. There are hundreds of other local directories and citations that include a business description along with your basic business info such as name, address, and phone number. Don’t go nuts and stuff a bunch of keywords into your company name or description, but be sure to include relevant keywords where appropriate. When possible, pick categories for your business that include your target keywords.
Content Strategy – Your keyword research should also guide your content marketing strategy. Whether you’re creating blog posts, checklists, ebooks, videos, or other formats, create content that people are searching for. Explore keywords that tap into different stages of the buying process. Look for questions people are searching where you can provide an answer or solution. The more value you provide through your content, the better it will perform in search, which builds more trust with your audience.
Your keyword strategy will evolve as you see what works and what doesn’t work. Keep an eye on which keywords are driving the most traffic and leads. Repeat this keyword analysis process periodically to find new keyword opportunities as they emerge.
Search engine optimization has been a thing for over 20 years, and most companies incorporate at least some type of SEO in their marketing strategies. However, SEO continues to be a pretty specialized field, with very few college degrees focused on the practice, and no widely accepted industry certifications.
Whether you want to become the world’s greatest SEO guru or you just want to learn enough to be dangerous, there are numerous places to start your journey learning more about SEO. The purpose of this post is to point you in the right direction to get started. You’ll find numerous other blog posts and other resources to help you learn the ins and outs of search engine optimization.
The best way to learn SEO is to start doing it for your own website. If you don’t have control over a website, you can start a side business or hobby website to give you a platform where you can experiment. If you’d rather hire a pro, fill out our consultant request form to find an SEO consultant.