“I need you to do some SEO to my website”

That, and a few other variations of that phrase is usually an indicator to me that someone is clueless about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  I get calls all the time from business owners, graphic designers, even marketing veterans saying similar things.  When I hear this I know the very first thing I need to do is to educate that person on what SEO really is and to set the proper expectations for them.

As someone who conducts SEO campaigns for clients, the best scenario for me is to have a customer who is well educated on SEO. It's part of my job to make sure that they understand what it really is and what impact a successful SEO campaign can have on their business.

One of the first things that I do is to explain what SEO is not.  This is to help clients become realistic in their expectations.

Below are 5 misunderstanding that I try and clear up with clients before we agree to work together.

SEO Is Something You “Do” To Your Website

SEO is not something that you sprinkle on top of a finished website to make it search engine friendly.  Unfortunately, many people (including designers) think that SEO is something of an afterthought, the icing you put on top of a birthday cake before you light the candles.  Wrong.

Thinking about SEO after your website is up and running is like creating your marketing plan and conducting market research after you open your business.  There are over 200 factors when search engines determine rankings for a website on a particular search term.  That means that there are lots of things to plan for when creating a search engine friendly website.

SEO should be a part of your website, planned for from the very beginning.  Can you make a website search engine friendly after the website is live?  Of course you can, but it's going to cost you more time and money to do it after the fact and could even result in a total overhaul of the website.

 

SEO Is The Answer To My Business Prayers

SEO is not a business savior.  If done correctly, it can definitely increase your lead generation and get yourself noticed, but it won't make up for other deficiencies in your business. It should be thought of as a long term marketing strategy rather than the “Hail Mary” pass that many people view it as.

Now with that being said……you should be thinking about and implementing sound SEO practices  from the beginning, just don't think of it as a some kind of miracle cure for your business.  High search engine rankings take patience, time and alot of work.  The people that are successful in it are the ones who understand that it's a long term strategy that will deliver alot of great things later on down the road, whether that's in months or years.  If you need customers fast, run a PPC campaign.

 

A High Search Engine Ranking Equals Cash In The Bank

High search engine rankings for a your key industry search terms will deliver traffic to your website and will get you qualified leads…..it's up to you  to turn them into a customer. Think of SEO the same way you would treat any other marketing campaign….it will generate interest, not customers.  Paying customers will put cash in your bank account, not SEO.

 

SEO Is Free

The only way SEO is free is if you think your time has no monetary value.  Heck, even McDonalds values your time more than that if you work there.  PR is free, but companies spend millions of dollars a year getting that free publicity.

When working with a client I try and convey how much time a solid SEO campaign takes to implement correctly, otherwise they just see SEO as one big thing that gets slapped onto a website.  That doesn't sound like it takes very long to implement when you put it in those terms.  What really happens is hours upon hours of research, analysis, website improvements and ever the ever grinding link building aspects of SEO.

While the actual search engine rankings are free, the hours and hours of work spent getting there aren't.  Whether you run your own SEO campaigns, or pay someone to do it for you, realize that it's alot of time and work to get those “Free” rankings.

SEO Is Something That You Can Do Once

Sometimes people think that SEO is something you can do to your website for a few weeks, and you're set for life.  Wrong.  The search engine landscape is changing all the time, it's even hard for us web marketing professionals to keep up, let alone the average business owner.

If you worked on optimizing your website, got yourself a handful of links, and then stopped, you'll probably find that a year from now alot of what you did would be outdated, ineffective, or even frowned upon by the Google Gods.  Yes, we call them the Google Gods.  It's not always fair for them to change the SEO rules so frequently, but they do and it's their game so we have to play by their rules.  To stay ahead of the SEO curve, you need to have an ongoing plan of building new backlinks, creating fresh content and making tweaks to your website for better optimization.

SEO is alot of work

As you can see, SEO is not as simple and easy as some people make it seem (damn you SEO's who guarantee 1st place Google rankings for a mere $99, a total lie).  A serious SEO plan should be part of a bigger marketing plan for your business and should be seen as a long term strategy as it takes time, alot of work and a little bit of luck from the search engines to really benefit from your SEO investment.

 

Every business, first and foremost, is in the customer service business.

It doesn't matter what you do, what you sell or how you sell it…..if you offer something to someone else, your business is built on how well you treat your customers.  It doesn't matter if you're a one man shop or you have 100 employees, you're level of customer service doesn't need to diminish as you get bigger (unless you're in the telecom industry of course, then you just don't care what your customers think).

The thing is, when it comes to your competition, they can easily copy your ideas, your products, your look and feel…..the one they they can't steal is the relationships you build with your customers.  Many business don't realize that it's the way you treat your customers that makes you different from your competitors.  It doesn't matter if your selling tacos or diamond rings, it's the same concept.

Every business owner should read Dale Carnegie's classic book, “How To Win Friends and Influence People“.  You should also have your employees read it.  Does it have groundbreaking customer service secrets that your competitors don't know about?  Hardly.  It talks about basic human principals like how people love to when you address them by name, how little gestures go a long way with people, and how being polite and courteous can change an angry customer into a loyal one.  All simple concepts that seem to elude most businesses today.

Want to be stand out from your competition?  Instead of thinking of some grand plan to wow them, try treating them like a good friend that just stopped by your house to say hi.

The infographic below, courtesy of Helpscout.net, has some great customer service principals you should check out.  All are backed by research and shows that treating your customers like a friend really does help your bottom line.

10 customer service rules you should live by

 

Most companies today understand the importance of search engine optimization (SEO). These companies know that having a decent page ranking on the search engines can help boost business, and they employ the right tactics in order to increase the success of their SEO.

Though some companies have found success with their SEO strategies, many companies have made the mistake of pulling the plug on their SEO efforts because they’re not seeing the results they want as quickly as they wanted.

While SEO is a great marketing tactic, companies need to understand that it’s not a strategy that can be implemented and achieve success overnight. Too many companies expect SEO to boost their website from Page 11 on Google to Page 1 in the matter of a few days, but that’s simply not possible. If you want to employ an SEO strategy into your business, you need to have patience and learn how to make real expectations.

Understand you’re competing with more than your local competition.

Your newspaper ads, signage and TV ads were only competing against your local competition, which is why you probably were able to find some quick success. With SEO, you’re no longer only competing with local businesses, but you’re now competing with every website, blog and social network implementing SEO, and that’s a much larger group than what you’re used to.

If you just implemented SEO into your marketing strategy, your new efforts are competing against sites that have been implementing SEO for years. You are the newbie, and you need to give your own site time to marinate.

Understand you need good content.

You can’t just throw some words on your website and expect it to boost your rankings. Your SEO will benefit from good content, not any content, so make sure that the content that is being produced is valuable to your users and contains natural keywords. If possible, add videos or images and use links when it makes sense.

 

Understand it needs constant updating.

Some companies think that once they select their keywords and generate good content their SEO efforts are complete, but this is wrong. SEO is a tactic that needs to constantly be monitored and altered to fit the needs of your audience. The same keywords that worked for your business last year are not the same keywords that will work this year. Make sure that you’re constantly monitoring trends and keyword analytics to determine the best efforts for your business.

Understand you want conversions.

If you have the #1 ranking on Google, but you don’t earn any business from it, your SEO tactics are not successful. Some companies focus too much on climbing the rankings and forget why they want to do so. Ultimately, you want to earn business. Yes, traffic to your site is important, but if this traffic isn’t being converted to customers, your SEO has no ROI. Make sure that all of your online marketing efforts are working together in order to give you the best results.

Understand some SEO companies are lying.

Companies fall victim to deceitful SEO companies on a regular basis. Successful SEO campaigns that are done organically take time to show results. If you employ an SEO company that promises to boost your rankings overnight, they’re using deceptive methods, and if caught, your site can get de-indexed from the search engines. Use the old approach—if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

SEO is a great marketing tactic, but it’s important that if you want to implement it into your marketing strategy that you understand the real expectations. This will help keep you on track and knowing the right results to look for.

T. Parker is a marketing professional with a passion for online marketing to read more of his work or download a copy of his most recent book visit www.seomap.com.

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.

I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

App Bistro – If you have a Facebook Fan Page, this is the best spot to find add on apps for you page.  Dozens of free and paid apps are available for you to add to your Facebook page.  Add polls, surveys, contests and dozens of other cool things.  Turn your boring Facebook Fan Page into something fun and interactive for your fans.

Mint – Free web based personal finance software from Intuit.  While it was originally designed for personal use, it's a great application for a small or solo business.  Much, much easier to use than Quickbooks and will do the job just fine with an easy to use interface.

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

This week in the WordPress Roundup……..

Raven launches Schema Creator WordPress Plugin

Raven launches a WordPress plugin for their recently launched scheme creator.  The plugin will help you to properly format scheme microdata in your pages and posts.  Traditionally adding scheme data was a pain due to WordPress removing the formatting whenever you switched to the visual editor or had to edit a page/post.  This plugin preserves the formatting, saving you alot of time and frustration.

Jetpack 1.7 Adds Custom CSS to the WordPress Dashboard

The latest update for the popular JetPack plugin features CSS editing right from the WP dashboard.  Nice feature that makes it easier to edit CSS files for novices.

The WPLift Guide to Strengthening Login Security in WordPress

A WP guide for better login security for your site.  Features a few different options and plugins you can use to lock down your WordPress site from brute force attacks and other hacking methods.

Get the WordPress Account Switcher Chrome Extension

If you manage multiple WordPress blogs, this Chrome extension will come in handy.  We all know what a pain it can be to have to login and log out of multiple websites.  This extension lets you easilly switch between WordPress sites straight from your Chrome browser.

Plan Your Blog Posts from within WordPress with Notely

Nice little plugin that creates a little note box inside the text editor that lets you leave notes for yourself.  Great for jotting down ideas while creating a post or for leaving reminders or notes if you ever need to edit that post again.

If you want to find even more great WordPress resources, follow us on Twitter!

Have a question about what plugin or theme you should use for your website?  Ask and you shall receive an answer!

 

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This is a guest post by Dan Hawkins of DryLand Business Members Club

For many small businesses one of the most daunting obstacles which must be addressed is organizing the rental and budgeting for the costs of office space. The expenses involved with leasing a suitable premise can easily put a company into a very precarious position – an office in a prestigious location is necessary to appear professional and attract new customers or clients but the rent and all of the associated overheads will sink a business if they don’t see a quick return on investment.

In the past there were few viable alternatives to this dilemma. Some chose to run their business from home in order to cut down costs but in many industries this simply wasn’t an option as it was seen as unprofessional and could scare away potential business, not to mention limiting the company’s ability to expand. However in the past few years rapid advances in technology and changing attitudes towards virtual commerce has begun to alter the nature of modern business drastically.

Modern networking and mobile technology has facilitated the advent of the virtual office ” which allows small businesses to enjoy many of the benefits of a conventional office while saving on many of the associated costs. In its simplest form a virtual office is simply a postal address, usually at a prestigious location, which gives a small business the professional appearance which is expected by their existing and potential clients. These business owners may not actually lease physical office space at this address, electing to operate from home or other less costly premises. This is particularly useful for start-up businesses as it can greatly diminish their costs until they have enough money coming in to consider more permanent office space. It can also be invaluable for international businesses which are looking to expand overseas but don’t want to make any large expenditures on local offices until there is proof of a viable market. Using a virtual office also allows companies to fully utilize outsourcing and free lancers; indeed many virtual companies choose not to have any formal employees at all!

Of course there are more benefits to traditional offices than just their postal address and some virtual offices combine a variety of add-on services in order to replicate as many of these as possible. For example, most virtual offices will provide post and secretarial services, phone answering and more. When it is necessary to meet with clients in person some virtual offices may have luxury meeting and conference rooms for hire on a per-use basis located at their central address. In this way, virtual office members can enjoy most of the advantages of a prestigious office at a fraction of the cost of actually owning or leasing the premises themselves.
The primary drawback of a virtual office is the potential disconnect between various members of the business and its clients. As much as technology has provided an improved platform for communication there are many who still believe that it cannot replace personal interaction – whether between management and staff, colleagues or businesses and their partners or clients. It is also more difficult to monitor employees work and progress, although new software is becoming increasingly proficient at this. As well, it may be more difficult to foster the sense of community, teamwork and company loyalty which many businesses strive for without a physical shared working space.

A second alternative to traditional premises which is growing increasingly popular amongst small businesses is the serviced office. Unfortunately serviced offices have become associated with rather second-rate office space, often for foreign companies who are looking for a temporary office solution for employees who are overseas. However there is now a new style of serviced office which focuses on providing high-end, fully-furnished offices which can often surpass traditional offices in terms of quality. Many serviced offices will often provide various options to accommodate different budgets, from luxurious executive suites down to one man pods. Some contemporary serviced offices are also now blending the concept of furnished office space with that of a private members club, offering m emberships which provide access to luxury lounges and meeting rooms, food and beverage concierge services and more.

Because serviced offices generally come fully-furnished and have an all-inclusive monthly lease, small businesses can save a lot of money on the many overheads which add up when renting a conventional office. Contracts tend to be more flexible and for shorter periods of time, allowing businesses which are in their initial phase of growth to resize or change premises if need be. On the other hand, these short leases also allow the owner of the serviced office to increase rents without much warning if they think that they can find replacement tenants that are willing and able to pay a higher rent.

In serviced offices small businesses may have to share communal space but the advantage of this is the networking opportunities and most good providers will run regular events to promote this. Most serviced offices will also have meeting and conference rooms for hire on per use basis, allowing members to gain the benefits of these expensive facilities without having to pay the annual costs for maintaining a room which will often sit empty in a conventional office.
As a small business owner office space will likely be one of your most costly expenses however there are now alternatives which should be carefully explored. Changing attitudes towards the way businesses are run, combined with new technology which is has been specifically designed to replace and even surpass the advantages gained from working in a traditional office is opening up new office options for many small business owners.

Dan Hawkins is head of PR and digital marketing at Dryland Business Members Club, a London based company specializing in a Serviced and Virtual office space.

If you're a small business or service professional and you're not doing Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, you're missing out on tons of qualified leads waiting to do business with you.

There are many reasons why small businesses don't do PPC advertising.  Maybe an SEO firm they work with discourages them from doing it, telling them it's a rip off having to pay for traffic.  Maybe they've tried it before, and either found it too confusing or nearly lost their shirts, and their wallets trying to figure out how to make it work.

Google Adwords is by far the largest PPC platform on the web, though there are others, like Microsoft Ad Center that also offer PPC marketing.  PPC marketing can be very confusing, you can mainly thank Google for creating such a complicated platform, though they are trying to make things easier for small businesses with better education and outreach efforts targeted directly to local businesses.

If you're currently not making PPC advertising a part of your online marketing mix, here are 5 reasons why you should seriously consider it.

PPC Advertising Puts You On Page One Of The Search Results Immediately

While everyone wants to rank at the top of the organic search engine rankings, it takes alot of time and work to get there. There is limited real estate for the top positions, and despite your best efforts, you may never get there.  If you're a new business or an existing one just getting started online, PPC marketing can get you in front of highly targeted customers in a matter of minutes.  Organic rankings on the other hand, usually take months, even years (if at all) to start ranking at the top of the search engines.  While there are several factors involved when it comes to ranking high in the PPC results, it's quite easy to rank on page one for your PPC ads, as long as you're budget allows it.

PPC Advertising Compliments Your SEO Efforts

If you're currently ranking at the top of the organic results for your “money” keyword, why should you pay for another top listing in the PPC results?  In a study conducted by Google on the effects PPC ads have on organic rankings, the study determined that 89% of PPC ads that were clicked, would NOT have been replaced by organic clicks for those same results.

If you have low organic rankings, PPC marketing is a no brainer, but even with high rankings, PPC marketing still is a perfect compliment to your organic ranking results.  Also, a study conducted by WordStream revealed that people conducting searches with high commercial intent (they really want to buy something), PPC ads outperformed organic lsitings by a margin of 2 to 1.  It makes sense, organic results often have a mix of products, research and educational content…while the PPC ads are only product/service ads directed specifically for the search term entered.  Highly targeted.

PPC Advertising Gives You Lots Of Great Market Data

If you are using analytics software on your website (you better be!), you'll know that the data is so detailed that it's scary.  If you can understand the data, you can make some really important marketing and business decisions based on it. Thinking of opening up your business to a new city?  Before you start the buildout, run some PPC ads and see how people are respond to your business.  Same with launching new products and services, run some test campaigns and get hard data on how the public receives it.  A hundred bucks on a test PPC campaign will give you better market data than spending thousands hiring a research firm.  The great thing with PPC is that you can test any keyword, term or product, regardless of how you're ranking organically.

PPC Advertising Beats Traditional Advertising….By a Longshot

When's the last time you ran a newspaper ad and were told to only pay them if you start receiving alot of calls from the ad.  Fat chance.  Same goes for direct mail, radio, TV, and every other form of traditional advertising.  You're taking a leap of faith when you hand over a check to these companies, hoping the hype they've been pushing on you is true.

With PPC marketing, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad and goes to your website.  You can have thousands of impressions in the search results, but you only pay when someone takes action on your ad.  Even better than that, when someone clicks on your ad, you'll be able to see:

  • Where that person is located
  • What words they typed into the search box that triggered your ad
  • How much time they spent on your site
  • What pages they visited on your site
  • What type of device they were using (mobile, tablet, laptop)
  • And alot more……

You can't even get close to that kind of detailed data with other forms of advertising.  This type of data helps you to become much more efficient with your advertising dollars.  So….what kind of results are you getting from that 1/8 of a page newspaper ad you run every week?

Your Customers Are All Online!

When's the last time you picked up the Yellow Page book?  I mean, besides picking it up from your front stoop to place it in the recycling bin.  Unless your customer demographic is people over 70, the vast majority of your customers are spending most of their time online.  The first thing people do when they are thinking about buying something is to perform a search…..to find out more about a product, get reviews, and find the best price.  If you're not even at the stadium, how do you expect to play the game?

 

So there you have it…..5 really good reasons why you should be doing PPC advertising for your business.  The nice thing about PPC advertising is that you can set your daily/monthly budget in advance and not have to worry about going over it. Did you also know that you can start it for as little as a dollar a day?  Thant's alot cheaper than a newspaper ad.

Have questions about PPC advertising or just want to give me a virtual “High Five”?  Contact me here.

per·sist·ence – 

  1. Firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.
  2. The continued or prolonged existence of something.
It's easy to get fired up about a great business idea, an opportunity that just “fell in your lap”, or that eureka moment  that stuck you 3 o'clock in the morning on your way to the bathroom.  Everyone's felt it in one form or another, that burning feeling that your life is about to change.

 

What a great feeling that is, the moment all of the stars align, and the world makes perfect sense.  Wouldn't it be great to keep that feeling forever?    That burning desire to make progress, to move forward, to change.  Sadly, that fire doesn't last forever, it burns, flickers and sometimes goes out during the course of your businesses life.  At least for 99.9% of us business owners.

 

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
– Calvin Coolidge

 

When you first started your business, the hours went by like minutes, you wished time would slow down so you could implement all of your wonderful ideas, you couldn't sleep at night because you felt like a kid that knows they are going to Disney World in the morning.

 

You could say that enthusiasm is the key to a successful business, but sometimes it's hard to keep up the enthusiasm when your train falls off the rails.  What's left when you're key employee abruptly quits, you discover that you don't have enough money to pay your employees AND the rent this month.  What left to keep you going?

 

It's persistence.

 

What makes most great entrepreneurs who they are is that fact they they refused to quit after any sane person would have packed their bags and called it a day.

 

Butterfly quote-proverb-the small business playbook
Most of us hate losing, we hate failure….we hate to be wrong.  A little bit of pushback, a few barriers thrown in our path……and we quit.  Why do we quit?  Because it's usually easier than pushing forward, pushing forward to potentially more failure.  If you look at the biography of any great leader or businessman, you'll usually find one thing in common.  They were all met with failures, sometimes lots of them……but they didn't quit.

 

Money, education, geography or social status plays no role in finding a common link to successful people.  The one thing you do find in common is that they kept pressing on, despite repeated setbacks and temporary failures.  They didn't give up.  Only a few will keep doing it when the situation looks bleak, when those around you are telling you to quite, when you're almost out of money.

 

The ability to keep moving forward after the startup party is over is crucial if you want to have a successful business.  Any seasoned business owner will tell you a story, in one form or another, of how, just when they thought it was all over for them, they held on a little longer……..and then it happened.  A sign of life.  An opportunity that was waiting just around the corner.  And then it all changed, slowly at first, but a noticeable change.  They got that feeling that the worst was over, that they made it past the point where most people would have given up.  They persevered.

 

It's not always a happy ending.  There are plenty of businesses that should have closed, probably long before they actually did.  But for an entrepreneur, you always have that feeling that you're on to something, if you can just hang on a little longer, you'll realize your dream.  Sometimes you just need some persistence to see it through.

 

 

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.

I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Appointlet – Let your clients and customers book appointments on your website with this free tool.  Integrates with Gmail calendar, is easy to use, and best of all….it's free.

Fan Page Mobilizer – This Facebook app lets you create a mobile application for your fan page.  No coding skills required, works with iOS.

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here