Remember the good old days of the “Website Under Construction” banners? That is actually how I used to find a lot of clients. I would use my spider to go out and look for “construction.gif” and a short time later have a small business website client ready to go. It was almost like, well – you know, fish in a barrel. Only clients aren’t fish. Clients are people and they have the same personality traits as the rest of us. Heck, you’re a client to someone.
Small business SEO is the realm of snake oil and magic bullets. It’s the place in cyberspace where digital hustlers spread their lore and captivate audiences with stats and stories from around the globe. You will find both the trustworthy provider as well as the ant-lion hustler spewing great gushers of acronyms in volume enough to spin the heads off ten penny nails.
Let’s see – what all did I confuse the search bots with in that paragraph? I got “small business SEO” there at the lead then I hit it with “snake oil” and “magic bullets” in one sentence. I think by the time I got to “ant-lion”, “hustler” and “ten penny nails” the Googlebot probably thought I was using an article spinner. That’s another topic in and of its own but for now let’s get to the pertinent information for the small business online marketer who, let’s face it, needs to be found in search engine searches.
How we got here today, I mean the history of search engines, is important but that’s a little beyond the scope of time I expect you to invest in learning the what and why about small business SEO. Today nothing matters more than Google. That said there are other important tools and systems relative to online search marketing but none of them tops Google. In fact Google dominates the search engine space with 83% of the search engine activity as of May 2012 (resource). The closest “competitor” is Yahoo with 6.5% and Bing is all the way down at 4.15% of total global search share.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization, SEO, is the practice of creating or modifying a website, a webpage and/or the content thereof to be more “search engine friendly” and thus result in more searches displaying your page higher (ie closer to the first result) in the search engine results pages (SERP). As an example if Janet makes wood beads for jewelry she would certainly like for her website link to appear at the top of the search engine results when anyone searches for “wood beads for jewelry” or “wood beads”. It could mean the difference between a few sales and thousands of sales – this, of course, depends on the demand for the product.
Chances are you have thought about it, dreamed about it and even discussed the idea of starting your own business. Congratulations you still believe in the American Dream. There are currently somewhere around 25,000,000 small businesses existing as a legal entity inside the United States of America. I chose the word “existing” instead of “operating” for the simple fact that some of these small businesses never quite get off the ground. I further used the word “legal entity” because there are also thousands, if not millions, of small businesses operating “under the radar”.
Starting a small business is a big decision. Making big decisions requires planning – if you plan to succeed. True enough many, maybe even most, small business owners start out by “just jumping in there” but there are many pains which can easily be avoided just by taking a few breaths and planning.
When considering starting a small business, at least the first one, most people are quite clueless, even in this age of the Internet, about required steps, suggested steps and steps to avoid. Don’t count on this article answering all of those. However, from my 33 years as a small business person having owned and operated nearly a dozen with an array of results, there are some pointers from experience I can share with the average person to possibly make things a little better for you. These tips should apply well to almost any business and will certainly give every reader food for thought on how to start a small business.
Tip One – Passion
If you’re not passionate about what you are thinking of doing then sleep on it until you are passionate or until the idea passes. How many people have gone to a food storage container party or a make-up party on a whim only to leave with hundreds of dollars worth of product samples to go home and start their own business? As an avid yard-saler I can tell you it appears to be a very large statistic. My favorite place to buy those well known kitchen items is at yard sales from people who are selling their demonstration kit for pennies on the dollar. If you haven’t been already planning and strategizing for at least a few weeks I strongly recommend waiting until your emotions level out.
Tip Two – Partners
Be careful about partnerships. I’m not saying don’t enter into a partnership I’m just saying be very careful about them. Once you join a partner in a business you have a relationship which is not too unlike a marriage. Even friends who have been so for many years don’t necessarily make good partners. If you do intent to have a partner then please make it abundantly clear between yourselves what is expected and what is forbidden and do so in legal form. If, for example, one is a money partner and the other is a sweat equity partner the sweater has little right to whine when the funder isn’t required to show up for work – if that is how the agreement reads. No agreement? Expect a world of hurt at some point. It’s called a Partner’s Operating Agreement and it’s court worthy.
Why should you blog?
Blogging is an elective. There is no requirement for blogging just as there is no requirement to eat diet food … unless, of course, you really need to. Likewise with blogging. If you study the statistics for small businesses you will find certain types of businesses do much better as a result of blogging than others. We know, for example, that social media’s highest participatory demographic is females between the ages of 18 and 34 (report link). We also know that companies who blog have 55% higher website traffic than companies who do not blog (report link).
Every legitimate business should have an online presence. If any business has an online presence they should also employ some method of making sure that online presence is seen.
Small Business Blogging
For the small business person the concept of outbound marketing to gain inbound results really is simple: find the highest return for the least investment which pays off the quickest. What some “social media gurus” may try and sell you is that blogging and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are all you need I, who depend on internet marketing clients to buy my pies, disagree in a pretty major way. While these tools certainly should be in virtually every small business marketing strategy they should never be depended on to achieve your fullest results.
Every legitimate business should have an online presence. If any business has an online presence they should also employ some method of making sure that online presence is seen. One advantage of blogging over a simple, static, brochure type site is the frequency at which relevant content can be published. Google prefers new to old and so do readers. If you are in a business like many of my clients who are either in the mortgage business, real estate business or training/public speaking business the content of your business is constantly changing and therefore needs to be reflected in your online information. Blogs are perfectly suited for this by leaving the older copy available in an archive and publishing the most current and accurate information regularly.
“And now”, as Paul Harvey made famous, “the rest of the story.” I get it – you’re a small business owner. You know how to do it better, faster, more efficiently, with a special twist, or any other number of ways to make it “better”. If you did not think one, some or all of these to be true you would not be a small business owner or independent contractor. For you the world offers few challenges you are not willing to take on regardless, or in spite, of your experience in the given field.
Simple: enough to properly convey your message to your readers.
Truthfully that is the answer. However you’re here to read and learn so let me fill in with some words to expand on that statement/idea. There have been many articles written, many discussions held and hundreds if not thousands of sessions dedicated to the topic, “how many words should a blog article be?” We will also need to know if you are seeking this answer from a purely technical sense or from a readability sense because the answers “could” be different.
When blogging nothing is more important than interesting, relevant content for the traffic delivered by the search engine. One would not, for example, like to do a search on “platinum ditanium alloy” and find an article on “organic rabbit farming” – unless of course platinum ditanium alloys (PDA) are used in the organic rabbit farming process. In reality what one would expect to discover would be articles about the creation, use and availability of platinum ditanium alloys. So, keeping this in mind, if you are writing an article or curating a blog about PDA you would generally want to publish content relevant to that topic and not your family trip to Popocatepetl.
How many words should a blog post have?
If you try and find supporting documentation you will be let down by the results. Mostly what you will discover are pontifications and opinions based on personal preferences often stated as absolute facts when, in fact, no such facts are easily found.
- Ken Lyons recommends 500 words. He states it is his recommendation and offers no factual support. (link)
- All-Things-SEO recommends between 300-450 words after stating there is no direct information about this topic. (link)
- Heather Lloyd-Martin recommends 250 words as a rule of thumb then un-recommends it if your article has more or less than 250 words. (link)
- SEO Book appropriately talks about paginating for the purpose of selling more real estate to Google for Ads. (link)
What does Ken recommend?
Ken recommends writing an article that presents your position and opens the question and closes the answer. If you are reviewing a movie make sure the reader has the information they need to capture the spirit of your experience. “I went to a movie and it sucked.” That’s a tweet, not a blog post. Every good article has certain elements which are included either by design or inherent to the conversation of the topic. It also depends on if you are writing for paper publication or search engine marketing. I don’t write for paper so here we go:
- Relevant keywords in the title and headings – if I were writing an article for small business bloggers to answer the question, “how many words should you write?” I would like include that in the title of the article.
- Accurate and relevant content – when someone finds your blog post and it has everything to do with the title chances are greater they will “like”, “share” or comment on your article.
- Good grammar and spelling – believe it or not the search bots only know so much and misspelled words are counted as “different” words. For example aluminum and alminum are not the same word and if someone is searching for aluminum but you spell it alminum you’re pretty much taking yourself out of the equation. Good grammar simply means you’re going to be presenting your content in a universally understood form. “If he was up on the stuff he’d a been already know the cat were not hers.”
Write in your style. Address the topic. Complete your thoughts. Please the reader. Forget the word count.Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
We all know our friend Laura Fitton created a great thing with oneforty but it’s not history. It was consumed into the grander blend of things and then just … disappeared. I loved oneforty. I used oneforty. I had Laura on my talk show to talk about oneforty. I recommended oneforty … okay, enough. We need a list. Thing is there are hundreds of them out there and if you do a search for “twitter tools” you’ll find them.
They will be packed with an endless list of deceased websites …
So, thanks to my new friend, Nick Kellet, here is a list of Twitter tools you control. When you add your tool link to the list others will be drawn to the list and find it there. If it’s a great tool you’ll get the thumbs up. Need I explain farther? Well, here’s the list – add, vote, vituperate but whatever you do – participate!
You bet it can be valuable to record conversations on Skype. But I bet you have search for “recording skype calls”, “skype call recorder” and even “free skype call recorder” before you found this article. According to Steve Ballmer’s CES closing keynote there were over 300 billion minutes of Skype conversations in 2011. It’s fair to say many of those were important business calls or even audio interviews which need to be archived. For my personal use interviews for either Social Media Edge Radio or RETSO Radio are a regular part of my week. Using a Skype call recording application is crucial.
Probably not. Most individuals don’t really need one but when you start hiring others to engage with the public – or just have others representing your brand – it is important to have a well understood policy on how social media is to be used. Here are just a few links to social media policies online you can use to gather information about how to write your own or to make sure the one written for you is up to snuff:
AMA (American Medical Association) - http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/meeting/professionalism-social-media.shtml
Australian Department of Justice - http://www.justice.vic.gov.au/socialmedia
Cuyahoga County Ohio - http://www.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/social-media-policy.aspx
Coca-Cola - http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/socialmedia/
Was your LinkedIn password exposed? https://lastpass.com/linkedin/ - if so come back here to see how to change it.
My password was one of the ones exposed. Fortunately even before I knew this, as soon as I heard there had been a breech, I changed my password. Like many things with LinkedIn it wasn’t as simple as logging in and seeing a link that says, “change password” or “manage login”. No they don’t like to do things that way so I safaried for it and report now back to you.
Changing You Password on LinkedIn
- Log in using your existing password
- In the upper right corner click on your user name
- From the drop down menu select “Settings”
- Near the lower left corner of your screen click on “Account”
- Near the center of your screen, under “Email & Password” click “Change Password”
- In the pop-up type your existing password once followed by your new password twice
- Click the blue “Change password” button
- You’re done.
Use this link once your logged in to get to the right page to change your LinkedIn password on the LinkedIn website https://www.linkedin.com/settings/?trk=hb_acc