Our guest for today is Tom Drake, financial analyst and Founder and Editor-in-Chief of MapleMoney, providing tools to help customers create lasting financial freedom. MapleMoney’s mission is to help you learn how to make money, save money, invest money, and spend money wisely.
Tom and the team at MapleMoney believe that anyone can learn to budget and save money properly. By following his advice, you too can grow your money.
“No matter where you are on your financial journey, I’m here to help. See my money progress, read success stories, and learn tips and strategies for more effectively managing your money and reach your goals, so you can live the life you want.” – Tom Drake
Tom’s writing has been featured in Toronto Star, Money Sense, Reader’s Digest, Candian Living, Inc., and Forbes.
This blog isn’t the end of it though. To know more about Tom Drake, listen to the podcast found above and let me know what you think!
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Hey listeners Morse code here today.
I'm with pod hacker. Hello again.
Today we're at HQ of virus on Josh, his computer almost revealed pot hackers identity. So we were cleaning out our systems. And we found that interview Josh do that Mr. Tom drink that link never released for you. Here we
All right, Tom, thank you so much for joining me in the Lair. And I hope you don't mind I'm sure you can still hear him. And you saw like when you when we drove up in the unmarked vans, you saw these drones flying around, I've got a new level of security. Because this this pod hacker group keeps I mean, I swear like every time I look over my shoulder, I feel like they're following me. I hate to be like that guy that's developing that level of paranoia. But let me talk. I mean, when you're talking to the kind of caliber of people that I've been able to talk to, for my top secret project, now I've got you, I like I knew with you coming in, I really needed to pull out all the stops for security, so. So just if you can hear that worrying around upstairs, I'm just going to keep the drones doing their thing. Just to make sure that you and I there's absolutely no way that anyone could spy on us right now. Well, I'm just
glad that your drones I was worried. Someone might be listening in on us.
No, no way. Absolutely not not going to happen. Those guys have fooled me before I just, I just did a fresh sweep for. For bugs. We're good. Okay, so now, here's, here's what I got my notebook here. And again, this is for my top secret project, there's something that you have kind of cracked the code on your well known for. And what I really wanted to do is I wanted to get, like all of your insider baseball stuff on like, how you figured First off, kind of like, you know, a start up, start back, you know, kind of like what you do what you've done, what brought you to this point, you figured out some things, you implemented those things. And it has been absolutely nuts, what it's done for your business and your value in this space. So I'm being kind of nebulous here, because I'm just gonna let you kind of start from start backwards and kind of move forward with you know, what your your big discovery was.
All right. Um, so I started my blog at the time is Canadian finance blog, this was back in 2009. And it started to gain some traction, but but the real thing I noticed is it was picking up search traffic. And it wasn't something I expected at the time, it was certainly my first website. But as it was gaining search traffic, I got more and more interested in how search works. And back then there was a lot of shady ways you could improve your rankings. There were these blog networks that you could pay to, to get links on, there was all sorts of dirty links you could get on different bookmark sites and everything and
all the black hat stuff.
Yeah, yeah. What time there, this just didn't seem to be any repercussions at all. It was it was Yeah, right. As you can get, I didn't do as much. But people were doing like just blog comments just to get links. And even paying people to comment on other blogs like this was sure determined to be worth paying for to get a blog comment link. But in 2011, or 2012, I first I got hit with a manual penalty for for bad incoming links. And then on top of that, in 2012, penguin launched, which hit me with an algorithm penalty on top of that. So it took me a while to clean that up. Thankfully, a lot of these sort of blog networks people are paying into once once paying had a lot of these sites closed down. So that was an easy way to sort of clean up your links, because the the site literally shut right down. So you no longer had links there. And that that cleaned up the link profile a bit. But yeah, it was it was it was bad in those those earlier days where where you just thought you could do anything you wanted. And it was working. And then it wasn't anymore. Once Google started shutting all this down between the manual penalties, and then penguin it, it really changed the landscape and how we do SEO?
Yeah. And so just I mean, how big. So when these when a penalty comes in, or an algorithm change, like, and let's say someone's doing, like 1000 visitors to their site, like how big could that impact be? Or that penalty be like, what what could it do to their search traffic,
it can almost wipe it out, um, theoretically, a search wise to of course, if you're doing fine on social media, you doing fine with social media, but search traffic can take a big hit, because they might take you maybe your ranking number for a great keyword. And now of a sudden, they bumped you down to the third page, it's not that you're truly D index, which would truly be at zero, but that they've pushed you back so far that you're technically almost almost zero, that's when you get into like, maybe it's still hit the front page for something longer. So it's not that you you get zero, which is d indexing. And it happens in the spam use cases. But just getting pushed off from the front page to page three or worse is, is almost as bad.
And so you know, in terms of like, you're like, what what do you think of all the times that you've noticed, like an impact? Like what's what's the biggest one that you recall? Like where you're like, Oh, my gosh, even work? Did you get one of those? There's like is even worth for me to rebuild this is so bad, or is it?
Yeah, it was kind of the it wasn't so much that it was one time it was it was a few iterations of penguin. Were here I am trying to clean up the site, I have changed my ways I'm ready to I was I was paying for a software called link detox at the time that would basically scan you links and tell you which ones you should be. What's the term? I can't remember it in Google anymore. But there's a way to to disavow it's a disavow file, you can say, I don't want to count these links. So as doing all that, and for a few penguin updates, it just seemed like I kept going down. And yeah, but it was never terrible. I don't, it was certainly less, but it was still better than three years before that, or something like that. So it wasn't it wasn't absolutely the end of traffic. But it was a problem. For sure. And it was a good problem to have, though, because it did make me change. Like if if I had been further along and and really, depending on that traffic for income, it would have been a bigger issue. Like, like right now that the sites built up, it would become more of a problem if all of a sudden that had like if I lost a third or half of my traffic.
Yeah, Yeah, no kidding. All right, good. So just before we get into like some some tactics and strategies, and some some things that you've been able to implement very successfully, current state of, you know, kind of this, you know, social media for inbound links versus SEO. And I think it's foolish for someone to be all in on one camp or the other. But where do you see that kind of both? I'd say attention. It seems like, you know, SEO is all the rage up until, you know, maybe seven years ago, and then everybody was like, SEO, what, you know, it's, you know, all we care about is just building these enormous audiences. And, you know, doing paid traffic, through social and it seems like, you know, that's where a lot of attention has been, but it seems like, you know, what social media trying to, I guess, kind of figuring itself out, Facebook's going under, you know, a lot of changes right now. I think that there is a bit of a renaissance in terms of Wait a minute, you know, let's let's get back to embracing SEO a little bit more. I recognize most people never stop that hug with SEO. But I think in terms of like cash, what everyone's the but we know where all the buzz is, I think,
I think SEO kind of became something that people think they couldn't be part of, between the penguins, and the pandas and all that. And, and just as that was happening, Facebook was getting bigger, and Pinterest was a thing. And I think people saw a quicker return on their time to get those pins out there and get a bunch of page likes at the time on Facebook. So with someone starting out, those two platforms just seem something even Twitter was more useful back then. It seems like something that someone newer to anything online could could kind of take advantage of those social net works easier than they could get into SEO SEO is, especially after you can start building all these these spammy links, SEO became much more of a long game, or where you have to put out that content, you have to target around certain keywords. So I think that's why SEO kind of fell out of favor a little bit. Like I've talked to a lot of bloggers, where they're like, Oh, yeah, I can't do SEO that there's all these established blogs. I can't pass them. But there's there's lots of examples where a new blog can can beat out an old blog.
And and so if you were to give kind of an SEO best practice prescription in like 60 seconds, like for someone a baby brand new blogger, like, Is there any way that you could sum up for Listen, this is the least thing, this is the least you need to know, in terms of, let's say someone who hasn't paid attention to SEO for a couple of years with the latest algorithms, uh, you know, what would you recommend in terms of how to do your pages and posts your content?
Okay, um, for me, my biggest secret is barely a secret because I tell anyone that will listen. But the, the no matter what Google's doing, what algorithms they say they track to 200 different factors. It's sort of a secret that's hiding in plain sight. If you're, if you look at a certain keyword, the top 10 results is what Google wants for that keyword. So you can look at those top 10 posts, you can, you can write a post that covers everything they cover. So post one might cover a and b and post two might cover B and C like it, you just find all the different sub topics and you write a post that becomes inclusive of everything in the top 10, you're not, you're not just trying to include what the first post does, you're trying to have a post that beats out all those 10 because Yours is the most complete, that's really the simplest way of looking at this is Google saying what they want. So just give them a better version of what they want. But by beating all those posts by including everything those posts include,
and and so what would be an executive like so your your website, maple money.com? What would be an example of that on your site? That's good question. Um, something like, if I wanted, one of the posts that have would be the best robo advisors in Canada.
Now, not only do I include a lot of information, because obviously someone's looking for information on robo advisors. So
you've got that link right up in your menu, too.
Yes, exactly. So it's, it's something that where if someone's looking for something like best robo advisors, they they want a bunch of information about robo advisors first, and then they want to know, what's the best of choices. So instead of instead of trying to just write about one, I cover all of them. With it within Canada, and in my case, yeah, so So trying to be the most complete posts that there's, this is an epic, epic blog post Holy cow. Well, that's the way to do any important one. And there's a lot of SEO gurus out there saying you need to write longer posts, you need to write 1000 words, you need to write 5000 words, it's not about that it's it's, it's going back to what I said, it's about just being the most complete post. Now being the most complete for a certain top 10 ranking might be 2000 words being the most complete for another top 10 ranking might be like 500 words, it's it's not about filling with fluff, just because you're trying to hit a word count. It's just making sure you hit all the topics like like within a post without looking at it right now, I gotta think the robo advisor post probably includes things like, it probably references, fees, and stuff like that, like it's all the questions people would have, when they're coming in on a topic like that. And another way you can even build further is, when you're doing a Google search, you've got those top 10. But down at the bottom of a Google search, there's also sort of related suggestion, keywords, well, the know right keywords to us and keywords when someone's searching normally. But again, Google is telling you what's connected to this post? What's the next question they're going to ask? And then you can kind of include that in your post to truly walk someone through what you know, they're going to ask kind of before they know they're asking it.
So if if you were what Well, let's let's get into something that I think I've heard you talking about in in hushed corners. And that's something that you would figure it out with your site you want to explain, you know, again, we kind of talked about this privately before we decided to come together in in the Lair to kind of cover this, but can you kind of explain this strategy that you'd figured out? So the idea of
content audits? Yeah, yes, um, this has been huge for me, back in 2012. I listened to a talk from Derek Halpern at fin con. And I took something away from it, that was not the point of the talk. But what he was saying was that this idea that you should be promoting more and publishing less, I focused specially on the publishing less the idea, just the idea that I didn't have to do four to five posts a week anymore, I could do one and put more effort on that one. And and then yes, spend spend that extra time promoting. But as I was reducing my content, I started to realize that when you're not constantly feeding this beast of trying to write posts, after post after post, you will start to realize there's no need to duplicate a topic like I, off the top my head, I might have had two or three posts about why you should have an emergency fund, because it was just constantly I need to write a post and this one I'm going to write about. So so when I started to look at it, I realized why instead of having three posts, maybe they're 500 words each, then why not merge them together. And maybe by the time you remove an intro, intro, maybe 1500 words down to 1000 words. Yeah, but so now, and this is before the even the idea of doing the top 10. But but just the idea of merging your topics. So so each post would have covered things, slightly different different sub topics. So So put them all together. And now you've got one, epic Cornerstone post of, of that topic. And the more I started doing this, the more one, I saw an increase for a couple of reasons, I think one, you've got that longer, more complete post. So that's already a win. But secondly, if you had two, three posts, sometimes even more, all of them had their own links to them, different sites, linking to them and everything, start to redirect these old now deleted posts, because you've taken their content already. You you redirect that now you've got all that sort of link equity, pointing out that one post. So now you go at your
at your your your kind of like your top 10 most epic posts. And so you you closed down, yeah, all these other posts, then you you just do a redirect. And
oh my gosh. So it's the idea that you're you're getting a longer more complete post is when one and then when two is is that one post gets more links, which could be the difference, like maybe two of your posts are ranking number 12 and 13? Well, that's great that you've got two posts, ranking number 12, and 13. But if you merge them together, maybe now your ranking on the front page, and you can start working. So it's even on the front page, I would say if you had a post to post ranking eight and nine. And this is common, because what happens is if you're on a, if you have two posts that hit the same page, Google Google bump the second one up with the other one, like you won't find your site in number two and number eight, the bump the the second post up so that the sites are kind of show us. But yeah, even on the front page, I'd still say like if you're a seven and an eight, and you're thinking, well, I got two posts on the front page, why would I want remove that post, but it's like if you can trade in that seven and eight and then get a three or five, it's it's worthwhile just based on how much people click through a down the list of results.
Now, what tools are you using to identify and help guide your decisions on this?
The simplest solution is simply having your Google Analytics, you can you can export that to Excel, and then almost always a post one post is going to be the traffic winner. So using the emergency fund example, if you have three posts, and you filter down to see those three, almost certainly one post is going to be like 90% of the traffic, there's always, almost always the weaker post. So it becomes very obvious. So what I would do is just off of that alone, that the post with the traffic is the one you keep, you don't need to change the world RL You don't have to title. So you're just taking the the additional topics from the other two posts, the additional sub topics kind of thing and putting them into that post to build it up a little bit. You could equally do this just the idea of improving a post, maybe you don't have a second or third post, you could still look at a post and say I want this to rank better. So I'm going to make sure it's more complete I and write something from scratch. But if you have these other posts, then that's where you start you you merge them together, and then delete them once they're merged so that you have that one post hrs is software that I would highly recommend. But it's not cheap. I think the cheapest plan about this. Yeah, it's $100. The reason I like that one is it'll show you your keywords, where analytics doesn't really do that anymore. You can kind of see keywords through search console, and Google which is a free tool, which also have just like analytics, but interest just it shortens the time for me the the expenses as well worth it. And in my case, because it's a it's just something where the shortcut it gives you is
the shortcut it gives you makes it so much faster, where you can see like, you can literally click top pages and see what your top pages are what that what the top keyword is on that page, because one page might rank for 1000 keywords. So right, its top top page, but also the top keyword. So if someone has a smaller blog, and you know, they've got maybe just like 10 articles, you know, obviously, I don't know that in an audit, like, you know, for example. So, savings Angel, we've got thousands of articles, you know, clearly there's some opportunity there. And we've identified our top 10 articles, and we update them and we promote them. And I don't know that we've done a lot of redirecting not performing posts. A to them, though, I think that's pretty clever. But still, I'm like for my influence, for example. You know, we don't have I mean, we do a lot of stuff on social. But I'd say like, I'm just kind of looking at my analytics right now. You know, it's just pretty small stuff. For us right now. I mean, we're, our blog is not a really, really big, it hasn't been historically a big part of what we do. We've kind of been trying to play out more directly in front of our audience. So I don't know what so if you were me, what would you do at this point.
So without my influence, I'm looking at it right now and hrs
one of your top pages, but with loads of room to grow is is how to get verified on Twitter.
So this is a keyword get verified on Twitter. As of right now, your ranking number eight for it. With with a few, even internal links, this isn't about getting spammy links from other places, even internally, I'd be linking to that post kind of anytime you talked about Twitter verification, just to help build some just internal links, even just to emphasize the fact that that that post is 100%, about getting verified on Twitter. Literally, just do a Google search of site colon, your domain, and then the key word after so you, you can mix it up a little like just get verified on Twitter, Twitter verification, and just see where in your site, you mentioned that and make sure you've linked to that page.
So So for example, if I have other blog posts that talk about Twitter, I might include a little block there saying See also there's or just hyperlink the word Twitter and then cross link to that post.
Yeah, technically any link would work. I prefer that it mentions the verification part as well, just just so yeah, just say you're emphasizing that fact that it's just it's one of those ways of telling Google that and you're passing the link juice, this is called over to that that URL, that one on my influence jumps out as the the the biggest potential gain. It's a it's a key word that that 2800 people search for every month. Interesting. But being number 18, you're not really getting found. So So yeah, step one would be get to the front page. And, and sometimes it's pretty easy. For any site to at least get to the front page, like just with a little bit of effort, like you're trying to get that notice. Maybe you could go on guest or do guest posts or go on podcasts where you can and talk about how to get verified and then yeah, it's, uh, yeah, that would be the one that sticks out the most to me. I see. I see other keywords where it might be press kit examples as 1400 monthly searches, which is great. But right now you're ranking number 72. So on the seventh page. Alright. So now granted, when you're seven, ranking number 72, it's probably very easy to get up to 20 or something like that like that. There's just so much fast fluctuation between that. Yeah, so it's something you can look at two is, Where was that? Yeah. So you have a creative press kit page. And press kit examples is the key word I would go after on in that case. Hmm. So and this is why like a dress like I can I can pull up a page, and very quickly see top page, the top keyword of that page, Ryan, the search volume and your position. And so there's other ones where some of your top traffic pages, there's one about public relations attorney search traffic at least. But it's 100 searches a month. So it's not a lot your ranking number eight for public relations attorney, which sounds like a decent keyword, but at 100 searches a month, it's probably not worth that much effort. Yeah, still, it's still better to be on the front page, by all means.
Right. Right. Right. Sure.
Yeah, these hundred visits kind of add up over time.
Yeah, I think I've gotten 11. I'm looking at my at my analytics right now. Like, I've gotten 11 visits to that page over the past 30 days. So not huge, not Yeah,
so that holds up pretty, pretty strongly then like if, if you're getting well granted, there's going to be more versions of the keyword than this. But still, if you're getting that many views when the top keyword gets 100 searches that that's that's probably pretty in line for ranking number eight for that keyword.
Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. That's really cool. So let me ask you another question. So let's say you're a business owner. And and this actually my final question, Oh, my gosh, the drone don't sound happy out there. Okay, Tom, last question. And then I need to get I know, I need to get you out of here. And so if you're a business owner, and you're like, geez, you know, it sounds like I probably should be taking this seriously. How would you recommend someone hire some SEO help?
That's a tough question. There's, there's a lot of SEO services out there that I would not trust. Um, they, they'll say they can get you links. But one of the the shady practices that's still going on is what's called a private blog network. So they own this, this group of sites that they kind of keep hidden from Google as best they can, they don't put Google Analytics on it, they don't have all these sites under the same host or the same domain registration. So bit, because these exist and they're out there, it makes me very unsure of hiring any SEO companies, because they could be doing this when they say they're going to get you 10 links 20 links a month, it's, it's, it's kind of a problem. One of the services I like that you offer is the idea that, that you can reach out to press right, you'll get real links. And it's not, it's not sort of these potentially shady links you can get in, in these private blog networks. So I kind of like the the idea of sort of going after legit links. Now, there's SEO companies that will do this, where they just call it outreach, that they're not guaranteeing an amount of links, but they're going to try to get you links, you're paying them instead to to reach out to these bloggers, really something anyone could do themselves, but they do it on mass, they might reach out to 1000 bloggers, and try to get you links that way. So there, there's legit way, but it's hard to verify these companies, a lot of those search companies that I truly respect, charged, like $10,000 a month. Yeah, so it's not really for a beginner blogger. Um, I think, I think truly, most beginner bloggers should just start with the basics have have Yost installed,
talk to other bloggers in your niche, like do guest posts for each other, that there's there's a lot of sorta just on the ground ways that they can build up their SEO on their own, I cast getting doing podcast interviews, and now they're really, really great way we do to you, we do a lot of those as well for our clients. And it's, I think it's, it's about as organic as you can get in terms of like, what I think what Google likes to see, you know, there's press mentioned high domain authority websites, podcast interview, podcasters, almost always going to link to your website. So you know, as long as you can bring the value, bring the goods, I'm a big fan of that. And I'd say, you know, someone would just real quick, and we gotta get you out of here. So hiring somebody to run a site through a traps and just say, look, here's like 10 recommendations of things you should do over the next 6090 days. I'm sure you could find someone that could give you that sort of service, maybe just on like up work or Fiverr something
I know Fiverr? Will, there are gigs out there where they'll sort of not so much recommendations, but they'll at least kind of give you an ultra report. Yeah, you might get to see see, like I said, like that top pages report. So you can see, these are my top pages in order according to hrs guess based on your rankings, top pages in order of traffic and what the top keyword is, that would go a long way. Another example or Another possibility is hrs has a trial. Instead of paying $100 a month, you could pay $7 for seven weeks. And you can do a lot of damage in seven days. week as possible and and pull all your competitors keywords and where they're getting their links and, and all the information about your own site. You can kind of put that all together and just dump so much data over that seven days and then decide if it's something you want to keep going with.
Awesome. All right. Oh, shoot. All right, Tom, we got to get you out of here.
I hope you enjoyed that listener. I sure did. I like the part where Josh wasn't filling our systems with viruses and pop ups. Well, you didn't do it on purpose. Well listeners if you'd like that then please subscribe to the podcast. And if you want more ways to spy on Josh then check out my influence on Morse code and iPod hacker