Vanessa Bell Mumbition the Podcast


The Podcast By Mums & Co

Episode 51: How to Make Google Love Your Website

Kate Toon

Founder of Kate Toon

November 15, 2022
Kate Toon is the founder of Kate Toon, the self-described queen of SEO and a true champion of the Australian small business space.

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Kate Toon


Produced & Edited by - Morgan Brown
Interviewers - Carrie Kwan and Lucy Kippist
Guest - Kate Toon

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00:01:10:24 - 00:01:43:06

Carrie Kwan

Without a doubt, today's guest has ambition in bucketloads. Kate Toon is the founder of Kate Toon, the self-described queen of SEO and a true champion of the Australian small business space. Recently we have been delighted to welcome Kate to join our Mums & Co expert program, where she is sharing her very unique blend of expertise, humor and straightforward business advice.

Kate joins us on Mumbition today to share more of her brilliant small business story. Big welcome, Kate.

00:01:43:12 - 00:01:45:24

Kate Toon

Oh, it's so good to be here. Thank you for having me.

00:01:46:00 - 00:01:58:00

Carrie Kwan

Our pleasure. I know many of our community and listeners are familiar with what you do, but some are not as well. So I'd love to invite you to give us your very best 30 elevator pitch.

00:01:58:07 - 00:02:16:24

Kate Toon

Oh, my gosh, such a challenge. Well, I guess I would describe myself as a digital marketing entrepreneur. I don’t love that term, but we're going to have to use it. So I teach businesses how to write better copy, rank better on Google and use digital marketing to improve their business success. Was that okay?

00:02:17:05 - 00:02:26:00

Lucy Kippist

It was amazing. But I am fascinated. I need to ask you, what is your thinking behind entrepreneurs?

00:02:26:05 - 00:02:47:14

Kate Toon

Yeah, I just think it's got a bit of a negative connotation. For many years, I was an SEO consultant and boy, does that have a negative connotation. I think we think of entrepreneurs like lying on Lamborghinis, fanning dollars out of their hands. I just think that's a bit of a misrepresentation in the market, so I like to call myself a misfit entrepreneur because I don't think I tick many of the boxes.

00:02:47:23 - 00:04:05:05

Carrie or Lucy

I love the misfit, you are definitely a wordsmith as well. I think more importantly, it's often that labels haven't worked for us. I think that what we're in the business of doing is if business doesn't suit business owning women, we like to reframe things. I think using your language to reframe it and how you actually perceive it in your own terms is really important.

But the definition of an entrepreneur is essentially someone who's just trying to create a product or service and make it meet a need and make some revenue out of it, making them run it like a business. So I think it can have, and that's probably due to a lot of different reasons for what we think an entrepreneur is. But I think every small business owner, every sole trader that is forging their own path, you are an entrepreneur, misfit or otherwise. We're very excited to have all these people solving problems and creating impact. 

You've been an active voice in the Australian small business space for over a decade. What do you know that you wish you'd known when you started out?

00:04:05:13 - 00:05:04:21

Kate Toon

Oh gosh, that's a goody. Just on the entrepreneur point, when I wrote my book, I realised that all entrepreneur really means is someone that's willing to take risks in business. So I think your definition that it's everybody is pretty fair enough. 

What do I wish I'd known? I think primarily I've just wasted so much time comparing myself to others, and I still do, unfortunately. I had a big crisis of confidence yesterday, so I think it rears its ugly head frequently. I've tried to be like others, I've tried to ape others, I've tried to copy others paths, follow them. It just does not serve me at all. I also, like many of us, do get a bit obsessed with someone else, like, “oh, look what he's doing,” or “look what she's doing,” and just waste hours going down the rabbit hole looking at all their stuff and that time could have been so much better spent investing in my own business. So it's a bit cliche, but I guess it's comparison is the thief of joy and to just get on with your own stuff.

00:05:05:05 - 00:05:24:06

Carrie Kwan

That is a really great reminder. Just to have some sort of awareness of what's going on around you. But you've got your own path to follow and it is that sort of distraction, isn't it? Everyone's always got their own agenda as well. So I think owning your own agenda is a great tip.

00:05:24:17 - 00:05:47:16

Lucy Kippist

I was going to link in to say I know that you said before that you used to be an SEO consultant. I really would love to know, what is it about this seemingly you use the word term, complicated, seemingly complicated of business life that makes you so passionate about it because you do sell it well. So what is it? What is it that I can't see? It's so fascinating.

00:05:47:16 - 00:07:06:02

Kate Toon

I get what you say and you want to say it's a bit boring? No, I know. So, SEO is search engine optimisation, it is the art of making Google fall in love with your website. 

Did I grow up thinking one day I want to be an SEO expert? No, because Google didn't really exist when I grew up.The Internet didn't exist, I'm that old. Even when I started my business, I was a copywriter and then I began to focus more on SEO, not because I was wildly passionate about it, but because I saw a gap. Then as I progressed, I saw even a bigger gap that there were literally, I'd say, no female SEOs in Australia.

When I started out, there were definitely no people offering SEO courses. In fact I was told that it couldn't be taught, which is ironic because the people who told me that now have their own courses. It was more that I saw a gap in the market and I think a really important thing in business is, you’ve got to work out what your values are and what you stand for, but you've also got to work out what you won't stand for.

There is so much jargon and gobbledygook and this kind of attitude that only super intelligent people could learn it and it's just not true. Most of SEO is common sense. So I felt like it was a bit of a mission for me to break down those myths and that kind of bamboozlement and just make it accessible for normal humans.

00:07:06:09 - 00:07:20:01

Lucy Kippist

Accessible is a great word because I feel like that's really what I feel when I read your comms about it, that is what speaks to me, the accessibility factor. You're right, it's so important and incredible how much it's changed.

00:07:20:08 - 00:08:03:17

Kate Toon

It does change, but it stays the same. The core principles have never really changed. I grappled for a while where I sat in the kind of SEO ecosystem. So yes, I'm no longer a consultant, I have no clients, I don't offer services anymore. I'm just a teacher, or I am a teacher, let's get rid of that ‘just’..

I think my role really is a translator, because there's lots of very smart people out there doing deep level SEO, tests and high level examinations of what works and what doesn't. But they're very bad at explaining it to normal people. I take that technical stuff and I make it easy for regular people to understand but also implement so they don't necessarily have to pay someone super expensive to do it for them.

00:08:04:09 - 00:08:36:19

Lucy Kippist

Yeah, absolutely. Little plug because we are hosting a fantastic workshop for us on exactly that. So I'd urge anyone who that's speaking to, to check us out and take that workshop out too. 

Just changing track a little bit, you're obviously a woman in the small business space here in Australia and you're an advocate, I would say, having followed you for many years. What do you think that we, using a collective term as women, in this small business space do really well? What do you think that we could really get better at?

00:08:37:04 - 00:09:52:23

Kate Toon

Well, I think women are obviously often very sensitive creatures and I think men are, too. I don't like to make sweeping generalisations, but I will for the purposes of this question, I think we're quite sensitive. We're very empathetic. We feel our feels. We bring a lot of emotion into our business. I think that is both our superpower and our kryptonite.

It's a double edged sword, to mix my metaphors. That empathy allows us to really understand our customers and to relate to them in a really warm and engaging way. When someone sends me a customer service email, I'm really quick to kind of think about their situation and get in their shoes and think about how I can help.

I think we do that really, really well. But then on the other side, emotion can really rock our boat as business owners. It can distract us, delay us and derail us as we agonize over how to respond to a situation. Because I think as well, a lot of women are people pleasers, we like to be liked and sometimes that is our undoing.

It makes us break down our own barriers before anybody has even asked us to and bend over backwards to help people when really they're not asking us to. I think it would be emotion and empathy, they can be both great and bad.

00:09:53:13 - 00:10:21:15

Carrie Kwan

Talking of likes and dislikes, I'm often intrigued about how people perceive and manage risk in their business. Some people like doing it and others haven't even thought about it in some ways. 

So we're really interested in sort of diving a little bit deeper into this because I think it's a really important area. Do you have any particular philosophy here? What kind of processes do you use at the moment to protect yourself?

00:10:21:19 - 00:11:29:08

Kate Toon

Oh, I'm super risk averse. I'm a coward. I really work in a very iterative way. I would not invest in something wholeheartedly until I dip my toe in the water. So I will dip my toes in one by one very, very slowly. 

Whenever I put something out to market, I will ask my audience, then I'll make a free version of it, see if I can get 100 people to download that or be involved. Then I'll make a low price paid version. Can I get a hundred people to buy that? Then I'll make the big version. So I'm a very slow A-B tester, iterative approach because often your audience says they want things, because everyone wants everything. But when it comes to handing over their credit card details, the proof is that they actually don't.

So I'm very risk averse. Sometimes that has been my undoing, especially when it comes to spending money in my business. You have to spend, you have to invest to get bigger. I slowed down my own growth because I was scared of that. I'm northern English, we don't like spending money. So that's held me back a little bit, that risk averseness, and now I'm still cautious I would say.

00:11:29:16 - 00:11:48:24

Carrie Kwan

That measured approach is a great risk mitigation strategy. It's managing that risk through knowing what the customer wants. So building a product that the customer wants is a management strategy and doing that sort of test and learn. Putting a little bit of budget somewhere and then going, wow, that works, let’s throw some more budget at it.

00:11:48:24 - 00:12:19:18

Kate Toon

The thing I think in business is, a little bit terrifying is what works one time will not necessarily work again. We often see this with social media, we make a post and it goes viral and we're like, “right, well, let's just replicate that. Let's use similar ingredients in the next post.” No one reacts to it. 

This course was great. You do exactly the same thing for the next course, it flops. So it's really hard. I think the audience is very fickle. What people say they want and what they really want are often dramatically different things.

00:12:19:24 - 00:13:31:18

Carrie Kwan

Yeah, it changes when it actually then comes to the point where we call the willingness to pay. I've given you my feedback and then you kind of switch it on and you've got all those features out and crafted your product, your service based on that. Then it's testing will someone pay for it and how much will they pay for it?

I just want to share a really quick piece of advice that I heard from Mick Liubinskas, he's been one of our amazing experts as well and I call him affectionately,one of the godfathers of Australian entrepreneurship. You can look him up, he's got an amazing track record in doing some amazing stuff in climate science at the moment. But he said, that simple test that you can do is literally once you have your concepts, go out into the streets and see if you can get a customer. Before you've even launched, it seems someone is actually willing to pay for that before you've even built it. You’ve sold them on all the features and say, “Can I take your money?” “How much are you willing to pay for it?” And that will almost validate if you should take the next step.

00:13:32:06 - 00:14:40:12

Kate Toon

Yeah, I love that. I think as well sometimes we worry. As funny as this sounds, it is very counter to most business coaches advice, but we spend a lot of time trying to create things exactly how the customer wants to make them. Often I'm like, “no, I'm going to make what I want to make and then I'm going to make you want it.” That's the other approach, because you can spoon feed what people think they want directly into their mouths, but often what people think they want and what they actually need again, two very different things. 

So I kind of judge every decision I make on three key questions. Do customers want it, roughly? Will it make me money? Because there's a lot of things I could make that wouldn't make me any money, amoney's important. I'm not here because this is my hobby. And then will I enjoy it? That's really important to me that last bit, because otherwise I may as well go and work for the man. Can I get pleasure out of this for years and years, or at least enjoy it enough to keep doing it?

It doesn't have to be delightful every single day and I don’t have to be inspired and enthusiastic and passionate. But can I bear doing it day after day? It's a really important question to ask yourself.

00:14:40:21 - 00:15:03:14

Carrie Kwan

Three very powerful questions there. Now, you work proudly from your very lovely purpose built shed in your backyard. We've seen lots of photos and stories about other aspects of your family and your personal life on social media. But what's an insight into Kate, the business owning woman and mother that we might not have seen yet?

00:15:03:22 - 00:16:09:17

Kate Toon

Oh, gosh, I don't know. I'm pretty transparent. I mean, I'm not sharing photos of my son very often. He's 13 and thinks social media is ridiculous. This whole new generation has no interest in publishing their lives on social media unlike us. So I guess there's just been a bit of a shift in the last couple of years.

I know you have a wonderful community manager, Lucy, and we've known each other for a long time and I guess she will know me as someone that was quite driven and quite ambitious and always trying to come up with new things. I think these days I'm becoming much more quiet, much more woo woo, much more calm in my approach to business. I don't really want to grow anymore. I just want to maintain and if anything, scale down I think that's probably the thing that many people don't realise. 

I think people still think of me as a copywriter. I went to an event the other day and everyone's like, “Oh, this is Kate. She's a copywriter.” It's like, I haven't been a copywriter for five years. So once you create a label, we're talking about labels early on, it's fantastic because we're all desperate to be known for something, but it's very hard to shed those labels once you've got them as well. 

00:16:09:17 - 00:16:26:23

Lucy Kippist

That's such a great point, Kate. I wonder if that's an Australian trait, the labeling. It’s like it’s particular to the Australian business community, where trying to rebrand seems difficult sometimes because people put you in that box that you were in.

00:16:27:07 - 00:17:30:10

Kate Toon

Yeah, I don't know. I mean I think it's a very British thing as well, to be honest. Australia has a lot of British sensibilities. I like to kind of think of myself as Madonna, not actually as Madonna, but also I love personal branding because what I really want is for my customers to kind of connect to me, Kate Toon. 

Not to my brand, not to what service I'm offering, or the course I'm offering this week. But to me, the entity that is me, the blob in my shed so that next week when I decide I want to be a ballet dancer, they're like, “Cool, I'm up for that,” or when I decide I want to open a store selling piglet jumpers, they're like, “Excellent! Well, I loved your courses, so I'll probably love you piglet jumpers.”

So for me, that's why I've really moved into this personal branding space so that I can be multifaceted. I think we want brands to be one thing, but we allow people to have multiple personalities and multiple skills. We don't judge it quite so harshly, so that's why I've moved into this whole personal branding space, because it gives me the freedom to just do whatever I want and hope that people will come on the journey with me.

00:17:30:18 - 00:18:43:14

Carrie Kwan

I just wanted to acknowledge that you mentioned something interesting, which is, I don't necessarily want to grow anymore because I'm comfortable with where I'm at in my idea of success right now. I think that's a really interesting message for a lot of our small business women community, because we are creating these ventures and small businesses to take control of what's important to us.

Sometimes that idea of what a business is and what success is for us might be just to work part time and to have some sort of contribution to our family income. Others might think of exporting and growing it to something big. A lot of people just fall in between, because of capacities, constraints, you might be a sole trader, you might not be able to grow or you might not have the time commitment and perhaps even the funding, funding is another whole area.

I love that message around it's a beautiful place to be in, to say I don't want to grow anymore. I'm really comfortable with where I'm at and that's my idea of success. But also, I want to reinvent myself too.

00:18:43:15 - 00:20:25:12

Kate Toon

I think the whole thing of success is a really interesting point because it used to be about five or six years ago that a lot of male coaches were pushing the six, seven figure entrepreneur. But now female coaches have taken up that stance as well that if you're not earning a certain amount of money in some way, you're not a success.

It kind of pushes us, especially as a lot of women, to burn out because we're already trying to be good mums, be good partners, be thin, be fit, make nice nutritious dinners, there’s a lot of pressure put on women and now this has been lumped on us as well and it’s just daft really. 

Believe me, I have financial goals, I want to be secure. But you get to a point and more money is not satisfying, you want more time. If I could get the time back with my son when he was little, I would pay $1,000,000 for that. But I didn't have that perspective at the time. 

I think as you get older, you start to value different things. I think you really have to switch off from this whole horrible business coach thing of six figures and seven figures because often it's meaningless. It's revenue, it's not profit and people are burning themselves out trying to reach this goal. What for to what ends? A lot of it, I think, is attached to ego.

For me, my definition of success is to have a nice day, to be able to come to my desk, do a bit of work, earn some money, talk to some cool people, and then finish at three and make dinner and watch a bit of Netflix. I don't want to take over the world, you know, I couldn't be bothered.

I think permission to reframe your success metrics is really important. I think that's a mantra that you have at Mums & Co as well. It's like we try to create businesses that work for us, not businesses that drive us into the ground.

00:20:25:17 - 00:21:09:18

Lucy Kippist

100% sensational, you even answered the question I was going to ask you, so you're very intuitive. 100% so well said. I'm standing up, but I'm not. I'm giving you an ovation. 

Kate, thank you so much for joining us on Mumbition today and thank you for your company. If you'd like to find out more about Kate, you can find her on both LinkedIn and Instagram at Kate Toon. If you haven't already, please come and join the thousands of business owning women just like you at mumsandco.com.au. 

Child speaker

What's your favorite place to work when you're not working from your lovely shed?

00:21:09:21 - 00:21:29:04

Kate Toon

I love working in bed. Oh and in the bath! People are horrified by this. So I take my laptop into the bath, balance it on one of those bath tables, and I do a lot of good work in my bath, but I have to be very careful about my webcam. So yeah, I'm not sure that's a child appropriate answer, but there we go!

00:21:29:04 - 00:21:32:14

Lucy Kippist

Are you not worried that that's going to tip into the bath?

00:21:33:04 - 00:21:46:02

Kate Toon

I like to live life on the edge. I'm an entrepreneur, I like to take risks. That's as much of a risk as I take. I'm very practiced at doing it. But yeah, that's me being edgy. That's about as edgy I get.