Jess Girardi is the Senior Search Strategist at Uproer, an SEM and SEO agency serving eCommerce, technology companies, and nonprofits. They’ve worked with organizations like When I Work, Branch Basics, and Stitch Fix. They’ve been able to achieve up to 200% increases in organic traffic for clients and won the 2020 Search Engine Land “Best Overall SEO Initiative – Small Business” award.
Today Garrett picks Jess’ brain on two topics: rapid content generation and non-profit SEO. If you’re looking for a solid inroads into some good content strategy or want to know more about how to serve your local non-profits, this is the podcast to check out.
- [1:14] Rapid content generation.
- [4:30] Crazy questions people are actually searching for.
- [6:29] Meet the Minnesota Brain Trust.
- [7:45] SEO challenges for nonprofits.
- [9:13] What’s unique about working with nonprofit SEO?
- [10:04] How to volunteer with a local nonprofit.
- [11:10] Why it’s important to clarify your brand mission.
- [13:29] Meet a nonprofit at the top of its SEO game.
- [14:39] Tapping into user-generated content.
- [16:11] Women in the SEO industry.
- [18:33] Jess’ cause.
Rapid Content Generation
Jess first caught Garrett’s eye by talking about “rapid content generation,” or “wild card content,” on Twitter, and so Garrett dove right in by asking her to explain that to our audience.
“It’s all about using Google’s Also Ask features, making sure we’re collecting all the relevant long-tail keywords for top-of-funnel content generation.”
Jess says the ideal type of business for this strategy would be a B2C company that has no blog, or which has minimal top-of-funnel content.
And the benefits of really narrowing in on the also-asked tools?
“Essentially? It’s more time doing, less time planning. It’s a great way to expand your content calendar for months on end. You have a seemingly endless amount of content and a great way to recycle outlines that you’re using, and a great way to get to the heart of what people really want to know.”
Jess does stress that this is a top-of-funnel strategy and doesn’t work as well for conversion content. She also recommends evaluating the content strategy on a quarterly basis.
“Go back and check on what else is ranking.”
Crazy Questions That People Are Searching
Garrett asked if Jess has ever been surprised with the questions that come up when Jess is doing work for clients.
The answer is, “All the time!”
One of Jess’ clients is a dog food client.
“Their concept around the wild card strategy is can dogs eat…or best things to feed my dogs. It’s so interesting. Can dogs eat blueberries? I’ve…never thought about whether dogs can eat blueberries.”
“It really depends on how deep you want to build your content strategy. I think that we generally spend six to seven hours grabbing all of these ideas and then putting them in a spreadsheet as presentable. At the end of the day, we just need to make it as quick and as efficient as possible.”This strategy is built out by branching off different topics, like the spokes of a wheel.
“We’re hoping for a cumulative effect.”
Meet the Minnesota Brain Trust
The Minnesota Brain Trust is a project that Jess recently started with John Smith, the Paid Search Analyst at Uproer.
“We are helping agencies connect with nonprofits in the Twin Cities. The reasoning is that we’re both heavily involved with nonprofit work. We both volunteer for different types, and we know how hard it is to get search professionals to volunteer.
The result is that a lot of these nonprofits don’t have good websites, a good search presence, or a good local presence. That’s just because there’s so much work to be done.
Search professionals look at it and they’re like: I don’t know. Not for me. We’re trying to mediate that to bring value to both parties.”
Most of these nonprofits don’t have money to put into their web presence. And there are plenty of SEOs who want to help out, “but just can’t spare 20 hours a week volunteering.”
SEO Challenges for Nonprofits
One challenge for nonprofits is that SEO is almost never on their radar.
“They kind of think of it like icing on a cake. They know it exists, they think it’s a thing that needs to be done, but it doesn’t really have to be done.”
Jess has gotten adept at helping nonprofits understand they need SEO.
“The way that we try to pitch it is to highlight the advantages of increasing local presence. For a lot of these Minnesota-based nonprofits, it’s all about getting local visibility. We also appeal to the sense of ease and demonstrate, yes, there is an industry out here that’s super active and does want to help in some capacity.”
What's Unique About Working with Nonprofit SEO
Jess says working with nonprofits isn’t quite like working with businesses, as one might expect.
“It’s not focusing on a petite technical element type SEO like sitemaps, or even page speed. The focus is clearly articulating a message. Building a site that doesn’t have cannibalization, that focuses around great content strategy, that really helps describe their authority through their events, through their content, all with a huge focus on local.”
How to Volunteer with a Local Nonprofit
Don’t want to hook up with the Minnesota Brain Trust? Want to think a little more locally?
“I would reach out to as many nonprofits as you are interested in. The key to helping nonprofits is to have a deep empathy for the mission they’re trying to get across. There’s no point in saying: Okay, I don’t really care about climate justice (I do), but I’m going to volunteer for this climate thing.
I feel like you really need to empathize and find one that resonates with you because that’s where your motivation is going to come from.”
You can often just contact these organizations.
“Generally everyone is super happy to have volunteers to help.”
Why It's Important to Clarify Your Brand Mission
Mission-focused work is important in general, and getting brands to clarify their mission can make a huge impact on marketing strategies. It’s something that Uproer works hard on.
“A brand’s mission should be the foundation of all its goals, and how it establishes authority in an industry.”
She says it’s okay to be a little cheesy, even!
She points to Patagonia as a good example.
“They have a really deep mission, and it comes across all of their social, on their website, even offline. All their marketing activities.”
She says she likes working for Uproer because they, too, have really worked to clarify their brand mission.
“At Uproer, the biggest draw for me was transparency. The main mission is keeping things simple and transparent for our clients. It’s something that affects all of our slideware, all of our meetings, even our meeting agendas. They are detailed but very clear.”
Many clients don’t start out with a brand mission, and sometimes they really have to put in some work to help companies develop one.
“Smaller companies don’t really have a brand mission thought out yet, so there’s a bit more pulling. The big companies have very nebulous ideas about missions. The sweet spot is right in the middle, where they want to revolutionize women’s health or fight for climate justice. There’s a very specific goal that they’re working towards, and most of the time it comes out in our first or second meeting where we’re just chatting.”
Meet a Nonprofit at the Top of its SEO Game
While Jess admits she’s a bit biased because they’re her clients, she gives a shout-out to CaringBridge.org for the work it’s done with SEO, web development, and user-generated content.
“My colleague Abby was the front-runner for this. She took ideas from Facebook, she took ideas from Twitter, everywhere they had a social presence…and built that into a content strategy. That is: focusing around their mission of providing better information for families and individuals going through medical issues and harder times in their lives.”
Tapping Into User-Generated Content
This led Garrett and Jess to start talking a little bit more about user-generated content.
“I think UGC is the way of the SEO future,” says Jess. “I think nonprofits utilizing UGC are really getting to the heart of the communities they’re servicing. I always recommend it to nonprofits, and to smaller companies too.”
Jess recommends a couple of frameworks for UGC.
“I suggest starting on social and then moving to the comments section.
Once your blog is big enough, ask people for comments. You don’t ask? You don’t receive. I’ve always found that to be true, especially with blogs, so making sure you’re asking people: hey, what do you think of this content? Can it be better?
Another way you can move is through surveys and online question forms. It’s a great way to bring in a UX element as well.”
Women in the SEO Industry
So Garrett asked her: What do you want to see happen over the next few years in terms of the development of our industry and the role women take on in our space?
Here’s how she answered.
“I’m going to take Minnesota as a microcosm because I know the most about it. I don’t know any women who are leading their SEO teams. I want to see a huge shift in that, and I think the best way to do that is to put women on programs like this, to elevate their voices, and to make sure they’re being accounted for. And being an ally, standing up for what is equitable and what is fair.”
What's your right now cause?
Jess would like to call attention to Reclaim the Block, a Minnesota-specific organization that is looking to move funds away from the police department in the area after George Flloyd’s murder in the summer of 2020.