Trying to be a SEO marketing content expert? Have you hired a marketing team that is draining your budget? Believe it or not, great marketing starts with understanding what people are searching for. Listen to my interview with Jody Halsted, owner of Ireland Family Vacations who can tell you exactly where her customers are coming from, which marketing efforts are working and which ones are not, and she can help you do the same.
Kate Walker: Hey, it’s Dr. Kate Walker, welcome. I’m talking today to Jodi Halsted, an award-winning travel blogger, podcaster. Jodi, I want to talk about this, but you do so many things and it is very niche-y. But I want you to say it in your own words, what is it that you do?
Jodi Halsted: In my own words, I would say that I deliver Ireland as you imagine. So no matter how you want to visit Ireland, whether it’s on a self-drive tour or you want to get a driver guide or you want to have a little bit of assistance in figuring out what to do, or you want to have somebody come in and plan your trip from beginning to end based on all your interests and hobbies and goals, I’m the person that can help you do that.
I guess I’ve been traveling to and through Ireland solo, as a couple, and as a family, and leading tours for over 20 years now, which just blows my mind. I’ve written a couple books. I have a podcast. My audience is the people who want to go to Ireland and want to have an amazing time. Sooner or later, I’d like to think that’s everybody.
Kate Walker: I think so, too, and I love your voice when you’re doing that. Your face is lighting up. Everything about you is just screaming that this is the thing you need to do and this is the place you need to be. And that’s why I invited you here – I really love your message and other people do, too. I mean, you are very successful. I think you said in one of our last calls, you’re the top, or one of the top providers in this area, and you have won awards, so talk about that a little.
Jodi Halsted: I have won a few awards. My first book, “Planning the Ireland Vacation of Your Dreams” was a bronze award winner for the National Association of Travel Journalists of North America, something like that – it’s a long one. My website, Ireland Family Vacations, has won the first place Mark Twain award, which is the Midwest Travel Journalist Association’s annual award. And my podcast has also won a first-place award in that as well. So, I like to think I know what I’m talking about, and like you said, it’s a passion of mine, it’s what I absolutely love, and a lot of it, I think, is that I was in the right place at the right time and very blessed to kind of see what was coming down the pike as far as travel and the internet.
I’ve been doing freelance travel writing and travel blogging since 2004, so I’m a dinosaur as far as the internet goes and having an internet presence. But I think that what really carries over is just my passion for what I do, the fact that I love Ireland, and that I just love to share it with people. I work one-on-one with people all the time and they’ll be like, “Well, Jodi, we’re out of time,” and I’m like, “No, no, no, just wait a couple more minutes, I’ve got a couple more things to tell you.” So, usually, the clock just kind of goes out the window when I’m talking to people and they want to know what I have to share, and I’m not boring them with travel stories.
Kate Walker: Well, and I’m not inviting you here to talk about Ireland, believe it or not. I’m asking you here because Texas Counselors Creating Badass Businesses have a passion and we need help doing what you’re doing, which is communicating a passion with passion, in a way so that people listening will want to choose us for our services and then we can grow and serve our communities and really improve the status of mental health in Texas, but all over the country. And so I fed you some questions and I want to go to those because they’re very much about the internet, right? Folks, when you watch this, go to the show notes, click on the website, and just look at what Jodi has done as far as making this technology work for her.
How do you increase website traffic?
So number one question: how do you increase website traffic?
Jodi Halsted: My website traffic is almost 100 percent due to really good search engine optimization. I’m going to say that before SEO became a buzzword, it was something that I was really keeping in mind, about what are people going to be looking for and what do I have to share? So I was very lucky in the fact that I knew what I was talking about, and I was very focused in what I was talking about, which really brought my site up in the search. Because as we all know, Google likes an expert, and in lesser cases, being Duck Duck Go and all of those – they like an expert. So the more that you can show them that you know exactly what you’re talking about and you’re not all flighty here, there, and everywhere, the more they’re going to like you.
So the smaller you can niche down is important. Yes, you’re a counselor or a therapist or whatever you want to call yourself. But do you deal with women? Do you deal with men? Do you deal with children? Are you a Christian counselor? Just the more that you can bring it down to a focused level. Do you focus on getting people outside and active? Do you focus on having people work on relaxation? Whatever it is, if you can show your expertise in that, as well as everything else, obviously, but your expertise in that and really tell Google what you’re about and what you want to be known for, it’s going to help you.
SEO Marketing Content Expert
So, now it’s called SEO, search engine optimization. But really, all it boils down to is knowing who you are and making sure everybody else knows who you are.
Kate Walker: I like how you said knowing what people are looking for, because you said at the very beginning of our conversation, “I’ve been to Ireland for 20 years, I know the country in and out,” you know what you love, you know what to avoid. So you really know what people are looking for, and so for counselors, we’d have to really drill down beyond this is who I am – we all want to show our vitas and our degrees and our certificates, but it’s really about, what are people searching for, and then providing content for what they’re searching for.
Jodi Halsted: Well, and hiring a counselor is such a personal decision when people are looking for one. I know that my daughter is actually with her counselor right now and when I was looking for her, I knew what I wanted, I knew what I didn’t want for my daughter. Some of it had to do with age, gender, the kind of things that she specialized in. Is she specializing in teenagers? What ages does she work with? Those kinds of things. So the more that you can really tell people who you are, who you work with, and what you’re about, the better it is.
How do you grow more customers?
Kate Walker: Okay, awesome. I like how you say that. So my next question: how do you grow more customers? How would you answer that? I was going to narrow that down a little bit, but I want to hear you just come at that one.
Jodi Halsted: So I have multiple different streams of customers. Obviously, people who come to my website, I consider customers because I work with different businesses as promotion for them, so those are customers. But if we’re talking about one-on-one customers, I’m going to say most of them come to me through two options. They either come to me through my podcast or they come to me through a newsletter, so I get them on my email list after they land on my website. To do that, I offer different levels of freebies, kind of depending on what email list they’re going to end up on. By the end of it, they’re usually on two or three. So it really depends on how they land on my website, how do I get them into my funnel, and then where they come from.
But it all boils down to newsletter, podcast. Those are the two places that I think I am most – I don’t want to say authentic, because I hate that word; it’s become overused. But I think those are the two places that people can really understand who I am, what I’m about, and what I have to offer, as opposed to looking on a social media channel or just anything that is so highly curated that you lose kind of the personality of it in that quest for clicks, or quest for likes, or whatever you want to call it.
Kate Walker: So when you say funnels and you say website, they opt in, these are ways that, I guess, back in the day as a counselor, we’d just buy an ad in the phonebook and be like, yay, I hope they find us! My last name is Walker, so I named my practice Achieve Balance so that I’d get to the top of the phone book. So counselors really have to discover these new things like opt-ins and creating a newsletter. And the podcast, I love, because – I know you don’t like the word authentic, but people “fall in love” with your voice, or people fall in love with the way you tell stories. They develop a relationship with you, and so clicking is just kind of the last step because you’ve already started that relationship.
Jodi Halsted: Exactly. And relationship is a perfect word for it. It’s one of those things where if I send an email and people notice a typo, they don’t hesitate to go, “Jodi, you know what? You kind of left the wrong link in there,” or I noticed one today, actually – I changed a photo out of something, and I forgot to edit a portion of the text. It’s like, oh, that looks stupid, and I got four emails almost immediately saying, “Hey, that’s not the picture that’s below.” Because they know they can email me and I’ll be like, “Yeah, there are too many things going on at once.” But it really is a relationship.
I have people that even though they’ve been to Ireland, they still listen to the podcast, and they’ll send me an email saying, “This one was so fun. The next time I go, we need to make sure I do that.” And so not only does that tell me that they’ve enjoyed getting to know me, but they trust the information I’m giving them. I have so many people who refer me to people that they know that are going to Ireland. It’s like, hey, I’m sending this person to you, so I told them all about you and I know you’re going to help them have a great trip. So yeah, it’s all about relationship at the end of it. At the end of everything, it’s all about relationship, right?
Kate Walker: Absolutely, absolutely. And I wrote it down – trust. You’re putting out this consistent content and they trust you. You’re there, you’re not just going to put out a few things and then disappear for a while. That’s amazing.
How do you know if your marketing is actually working?
Now, one of the things I paid attention to early on when I met you was Jenny would say – and Jenny is our coach, everybody. Jenny would say, “I know Instagram, they’re not your people,” and you would be like, “No, they’re not my people.” And I’m over there going, “How do you know they’re not your people? Hold on.” So you have a way of measuring marketing effectiveness and I’d like you to share a little bit about that with us because that’s just like a foreign language.
Jodi Halsted: And that makes it sound so scientific and like I have some big thing. But I’m just going to say, I spent three months focusing on Instagram and I’m going to preface this by saying it was three months during the pandemic when nobody could travel. But I spent a really solid three months doing all the things on Instagram – these are all the things everybody says you should do. It was such a waste of my time. My account barely moved. If I would have focused, at that time, on updating site content or adding site content instead of Instagram, the growth would have been there. I would have seen it. With Instagram, I didn’t see it. I wasn’t getting more message in instant messaging, I wasn’t getting more follows on Instagram, I wasn’t seeing clicks over to my website.
So Instagram, I wrote it off at that time. And then this past June and July I was in Ireland, first with my family, and then leading a tour, and just because I was busy, I went onto Instagram, I posted once a day, mostly a reel, which is what Instagram really wants right now. And in that month’s time, I didn’t even get a hundred new followers, and that was all in real-time with at least one timeline post, feed post a day, mostly a reel, and three or four stories posted a day. I mean, it just kind of brought it back home: that is not where I’m going to build an audience.
Because during that same time, I had – because I sent out an email to everybody on my email list and I said, “Hey, I’m going to Ireland, here’s what I’m going to be doing. Make sure you follow along!” And a lot of those people were already following me, but I did get a hundred new sign-ups on my “Join Me on a Tour of Ireland” email list. So that grew actually more than the Instagram list. So just showing people, they were already there, they were kind of paying attention, they were getting a little bit of daily feed from me from other things, but they were already on my list, they just upped their participation. So that’s how I know the email list is really a stronger tool for me than the Instagram. That’s really it, it’s just watching where your people come from.
Kate Walker: Well, and you said messages, follows, and clicks to your website – that’s what you’re looking for.
Jodi Halsted: Well, the thing is, if you’re there for a business and not just for fun, if it’s not actually converting to money, what’s the point of being there? Despite what all these people tell you – I mean, I don’t have a TikTok account because maybe it would work, I don’t know, but I don’t enjoy TikTok. And again, if it’s not driving money, of it’s taking time and not driving money, then there’s no point in me being there. Maybe I’m missing out, maybe I’m not, but I think the podcast is the strategy that works, and the newsletter is the strategy that works, and the emails, and until those don’t work, I don’t see a reason to change the strategies, I guess.
Kate Walker: No, this is what counselors need to hear. I know I’ll get a phone call or an email: I need to find somebody to manage my social media. And my first question is, why? What are you doing on social media? And that’s not a get off of social media statement, that’s just, why are you there? What’s it doing for you? How do you measure all of the things you’re talking about, Jodi?
Because if counselors don’t know how to measure effectiveness, it’s costing them. It’s costing time, it’s costing money, and in our case, it opens us up to another bit of liability because it’s another channel we have to pay attention to to see if something wonky is going on over there. So we’ve got to be really choosy. And I love hearing that someone like you, that has a successful business – I’m not on TikTok. My kids won’t let me on TikTok. They’re like, “No mom, they’re too mean.” So I like hearing that we don’t have to do all the things.
Jodi Halsted: Well, I mean, if you just think back not even ten years, how many of all of the things went away? Google Plus. I mean, how many of us remember Google Plus? And that was going to be the next big thing.
Kate Walker: I was wondering about that. That’s still on my WordPress, it’s like, do you want to connect to Google Plus? I’m like, I didn’t even know we still had one.
Jodi Halsted: It’s gone. It’s gone. And I know people who built up huge, huge communities on that, and it’s just gone now. Well, if they didn’t have an email list, it’s really gone. What was the other one, the one that everything disappeared in 24 hours? And I know it’s still there, but I can’t remember the name of it because I was never on it. I don’t know because I wasn’t on it, but teenagers would do it a lot, they would have a streak of them.
Kate Walker: MySpace?
Jodi Halsted: No, this is newer.
Kate Walker: Vine? No.
Jodi Halsted: No, but Vine is gone. How many people up things on Vine?
Kate Walker: SnapChat, SnapChat is still there.
Jodi Halsted: SnapChat is still there, but how many people use it now? And then Clubhouse was a huge thing not that long ago. Do you hear anything about it anymore? Not really. It pays to pay attention to what’s coming up but you don’t have to jump on every single thing because some marketer has been paid to tell you that it’s the next big thing and you have to be there. Because that’s what they’re supposed to do, is get everybody hyped up on it.
Kate Walker: Don’t even get me started on marketers. Okay, so how do you know – well, I think we already kind of answered this – when a marketing strategy isn’t working?
Jodi Halsted: You’re not making any money off of it.
What should counseling marketing content focus on?
Kate Walker: Yeah, no money. Well, okay, we’re getting to the end here. What would you tell a counselor – because I kind of know what I’ve learned from you and you’re one of the reasons I started the podcast because it made sense, this idea of relationship and trust. If you were talking to a new counselor, they want to start their private practice, and not knowing anything other than what you know about an ideal client – and I’m just throwing this fastball at you right now. What would you tell someone new in the counseling business to focus on?
Jodi Halsted: Number one, relationships. I think we’ve kind of beaten that one into the ground. Relationships matter. The stronger the relationship that you can build – you know, it’s like a tree with deep roots, they’re always stronger. So really focus on those relationships. If you’re going to try something new, be it a social media channel, a podcast, an email list – well, first of all, make an email list. I mean, just period, end of discussion.
Kate Walker: Did everybody hear that?
Jodi Halsted: Make an email list. Because like we said, Google Plus had huge communities on it, and then it just shut down. Anytime you create something on another platform, they can take it away at any time. I know people who have had Instagram accounts just close down. I mean, no reason behind it. One person said they had their Facebook page taken away because they were also an administrator on another page that got shut down. So nothing the had done, nothing in regards to their personal Facebook page, but because they were an administrator on another one that got taken down.
So it’s kind of like building your house on rented land. If they decide to take that land, your house goes too. So all that to say, start an email list. Do not buy people to put on that email list, but start an email list, even if you’re just sending out an email once a month that says, hey, what did you do this month? This month I discovered that I really don’t like pumpkin spice. There’s a topic that will get people talking, right? Even if it’s just a little conversational, how did your month go? Here’s how mine went.
Counselors, you’re probably working in a small area. Maybe you partner with someone in your area. Maybe it’s a pumpkin patch in October. It’s like, hey, all of my people can visit this pumpkin patch for this much money instead of this cost. So think about the ways you can not only promote yourself but maybe get some partnerships, and people will start talking about hey, my counselor gave me this discount, here. And maybe you don’t do that. But anyway, build an email list, number one.
But when you decide to start another output, focus on one thing at a time. Don’t try to do all the things. So figure out what thing makes the most sense to you and to the people that you want to work with. So if your demographic is – I’m going to say 45 and older, TikTok probably isn’t the place. I mean, I know there are people those ages on TikTok, but it probably really isn’t the place. So kind of figure out what those people like. Now, if you’re working with student athletes, TikTok might be the best place for you because they’ve got all these competitions and teamwork and sportsmanship. I mean, all of those things are probably the stuff that counselors really would focus on with that demographic. So that might not be a good place for you. But know where your people are congregating and focus on that, one thing at a time, not all the things.
Kate Walker: I love that. And folks, we’re not talking about clients, so this isn’t a HIPAA thing. We’re talking about potential clients. This is the public – these are the folks that you’re attracting into your practice, so that’s your community. Once you get them into your practice, then they can see the paperwork where you’re not going to communicate through social media, you’re not going to communicate through this particular email anything personal, etcetera, etcetera. That’s another podcast and we can talk about that. But this is about how to grab the folks who want to come see you anyway, who need to come see you anyway. You’re just becoming findable and relatable, right?
Jodi Halsted: Right, exactly: findable and relatable. Good grammar.
Kate Walker: Well, thank you Jodi, this was really useful. I know these things scare counselors, like email lists and social media, and I love it that you say that we don’t have to do all the things. And if our ultimate goal is to build a relationship and trust, then we can pick a few key things and measure the effectiveness of doing it.
Jodi Halsted: Well, and then if they don’t work, you move onto the next one. Nothing says that you have to start a podcast and stay with it. I have a podcast that I did one season of. I actually won an award for it this last year, actually last month I won an award for a one-season podcast. But right now, it’s not my focus. It’s on a whole different topic. Nobody says that you have to stay with it if it doesn’t work, just be willing to give it a try and actually try. Don’t do it for a month and say, “Well, that didn’t work,” because a month isn’t long enough – three months minimum. You really have to put everything into it, you can’t – can I say half-ass it?
Kate Walker: Yes, you can. We’re badass, and sometimes we’re half-ass, truth be told.
Jodi Halsted: So don’t do it halfway. If you’re going to do it, really commit.
Kate Walker: I like that. Alright, thank you Jodi, so much, for sharing your knowledge with us. And I tell folks, we’ve got to cross-pollinate, we have to learn from other industries. Like I said, you’re the first person who ever told me I don’t have to do Instagram, and I felt very empowered by that.
Jodi Halsted: Well, I love talking about it. The only thing I can talk about as much as Ireland is building a business. I’m just going to say, I have no background in it whatsoever, no college background, no nothing. It’s all self-taught, so I like to share what I know.
Kate Walker: Awesome. Tell us again your website and the name of your podcast.
Jodi Halsted: Sure. The podcast is called Traveling in Ireland, you can find it on any podcast app including Apple, Spotify, Amazon, Android, Stitcher, all the places. And the website is www.IrelandFamilyVacations.com.
Kate Walker: Excellent, thank you very much.
Jodi Halsted: Thank you.