Start With A Goal

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Did you know I can help you assess or re-assess your online efforts and make dramatic improvements in the return you are seeing from your investment of time, resources, and money? Yes! In fact it is why I write all the articles… here’s one now.

Goals For Improving Online Performance

What better day could there be to talk about goals than here on the first full day of NFL football?

business goalsSuffice it to say most of us do not simply go out in the morning, get in the car, and start driving. Or, if you are one who uses public transit, you likely do not go to the subway and get on just any train. Generally speaking, we know where we are headed when we leave our homes. Perhaps it is to work, to school, or even to see a friend. Most of the time we know where we are going. In other words, we start with a goal.

For longer trips we have certain segments of our journey planned. On the subway you may know you need to take the M train to Sandler Ave., then change to the L train to Duncan Center. That change point is called a “waypoint”; it’s a method of knowing you are truly on the way, and on schedule, to your final destination.

Why is it, then, that we think it is okay to start a website, a blog, or a business profile in social media with no clearly defined strategy, waypoints, and goal?

Wait a minute, I know what you just thought. You just thought, “But Kenny, I started with a goal. Before I even registered my domain name I knew I wanted to tell people about my services and increase my business because of what I do online.” Continue reading

What Should I Blog About?

It may seem an odd question to some but one of the most frequent questions I answer from people new to their own domain is, “What should I write about?” The question is valid, and deserves a solid answer. In order to properly answer the question, especially for business purposes rather than personal use, it is imperative to know a little more about the business, the site owner, the target audience, and the expect results. With this knowledge in hand it will be much easier to determine a set of topics for the blogger, or site owner to address. Keeping in mind the need for the answers to these questions let’s take a look at how I may advise a client in a coaching session.

What does your business offer to your clients?

Once we know what your business offers we can establish a mile-high view of what you should begin writing about. Other than the obvious, I am a real estate agent, or I am a used auto broker, there are details within your particular niche. In online marketing or search engine marketing we call these “long tails” although I prefer the old school word “highly targeted market segment”. Long tail is an abstract which is supposed to demonstrate the small end of the funnel by using the image of a brontosaurus to draw a parallel. That’s okay, I don’t really get that either.

Using the example of a real estate agent who writes for her own blog let’s look at some tip of the funnel ideas to help draw readership and encourage interaction from the site visitors. First off the term real estate, as of the writing of this article, returns about 1,300,000,000 results. In words that is over one billion search results. If one were looking for a haystack in which to hide a needle this would be an amazing place to begin. Let’s add the name of a mid-sized state like Georgia. By adding the name of the state, Georgia, the search results are trimmed all the way down to 1,200 on Google. However, this is not necessarily the direction we want to go. First we want to make sure that the search volume is high enough to make it worth our time blogging about “real estate in Georgia”.

Proven Results For Writing Powerful Titles Immediately

Title Analyzer Results

Title Analyzer Results

Let’s face it. Most of us are small business operators, advisers or entrepreneurs. We wear many hats – often too many. For the majority of us having our message stick out from the masses is very important and vital to our continued success and growth. Far too often we are forced to work our own miracles and many times that ends with less than desired effects or even abject failure. Failure, as is said, really is not a viable option.

One Solution: Hire a Content Manager

Hire a copy writer or a seasoned content manager. It may not be as pricey as you think and you may also hire one just to review your content and make suggestions. Just about any reliable copy writer with SEO knowledge can quickly craft powerful titles based on your subject matter. Likewise a content manager can scour your writings and come up with titles geared to appeal to both the human reader and the search engine robots and algorithms.

Another Solution: Use A Title Analyzer

There are a few title analyzers available online. The image to the right is from the title analyzer at The Advanced Marketing Institute.  Try it with the actual title of this article “Proven Results For Writing Powerful Titles Immediately“. This one actually compares the words in your title to their secret sauce database and provides a score for reference. I like the idea even though I am not necessarily sold on it because I do not, yet, understand fully what they are evaluating.

It is important for the search engines that your title fit certain parameters and it is important to the human that your title appropriately convey the content of your article or post. Nothing is much more disappointing than seeing a great title which has no relevance to the content. The worst offenders to this, so it seems, are on YouTube.

A free, blue striped background for video or slideshow

I spent a few minutes making this and it is not exactly what I was looking for. If you need a decent background for your Powerpoint or other slide presentation and want something not mass distributed feel free to use this. It is 1280 pixels by 720 pixels so it works great for video as well. It’s yours, free. Take it. Perfect for small business presentations, small business videos or any other purpose.

small business presentation background

With Popularity Comes Responsibility

Don't get found in a Google search for "worst".

Don’t get found in a Google search for “worst”.

And with responsibility popular becomes more likely. Try missing your first couple of speaking engagement invitations where you are to be a speaker. You’ll have much greater difficulty in finding future invitations. Even though [insert star/starlet name here] can get away with it the average business person cannot. It only takes a few mistakes in today’s connected world to do deep and abiding damage to trust levels.

What does this mean to the small business operator?

Popularity, as you may already have calculated, can translate into business transactions. The more people who know your name and trust you to provide their needed product or service the more likely you are to make that sale. Of course you can be popular for all the wrong reasons, too, so keep in mind taking responsibility can avert building the wrong reputation.

Taking responsibility for your words and actions and doing so decisively can avert a great loss of community trust. We all make mistakes, how we respond to those mistakes is what makes the difference. In the Google search graphic for this article I simply searched for “worst restaurants in Atlanta” and those were the first few results. Of course these people could hire me, or someone like me, to help overcome the bad press and spend thousands of dollars (in these particular cases it would be quite costly to overcome) or they could have a pre-planned method for dealing with issues from the beginning.

Prevention beats recovery every time, hands down.

One of the greatest challenges we face as small business owners and independent business professionals is keeping all the balls in the air. If you drop one you’ve got a real need on your hands to get it back in play. The Internet makes it very easy to put way too many balls into play. Working with a social media consultant to help you establish or redirect your online marketing campaign may be in line for you. If you find yourself discovering negative or compromising content (posts, comments, etc) about you or your brand which have gone cold (more than a few days old) you need to take decisive action. Chances are, if you have been at this for very long, you have a dangling page out there somewhere you may have forgotten about and it may have a question or comment which has soured your reputation.

Marketing Advice for the Small Business Owner

Image courtesy of Stewart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stewart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Instead of leaving “small business” undefined let’s take this all the way down to the base: owner/operator, independent business professional, sole proprietors  work from homers, and any other single person business operation. This is no small segment of the United States commerce system either. In 2008 the IRS received 22,614,000 tax returns for non-farm propietorships. While many of these businesses do have employees they are more likely to be single person companies than a corporation.

For the small business with only one person handling all of the decisions on daily operations marketing is just as important as it is for the corporation with thousands of employees. After all if your prospective customers have never heard of you it is going to be quit difficult for them to engage you for your product or service. In this short article we will examine some of the more efficient ways of marketing for those of us who have only ourselves to depend on to manage the job. Of course we will look at DIY as well as outsourced solutions to make this happen without devoting our entire, usually non-existent, budget to the process.

Remember for the sake of this article if you are a single person business when the word “brand” is used that means both your business and your person. For people like real estate agents, artists, insurance agents and others brand = the person. Other terms you may find while researching marketing techniques may seem as though they apply only to large corporations, for example “brand wars”, also apply to the independent business person albeit possibly on a smaller more localized scale. It really doesn’t matter if you are trying to sell lotions, potions and pills to a few hundred local people or soft drinks to billions. Without a recognizable brand, product or service you won’t be selling much of anything.

Secrets of Small Business Success: You Can’t Do Everything

The same spirit that drives us to become independent professionals often is our own worst enemy when it comes to task performance. Our ambition and our recognition “if anything is going to get done I’m going to have to do it myself” leads us to take on important functions we are neither qualified for nor prepared to handle. In the end it may, put some emphasis on may, turn out fine but even then at what cost?

Are you really the super hero you’re trying to be? Probably not but don’t sweat it – you don’t need to be!

My First Audit

Back in 1985 I had my first IRS audit of a business. I had done all of my own bookkeeping and taxes throughout the years and kept my own record. The visit from the agent was not as frightening as I had expected but the follow up was quite intense. In the end it did turn out fine but the very real stress and anxiety I faced as we went through to process was in no way worth the $750 it would have cost me (back then) to have had the part I did done by a professional. From that point on I never did my own.

Tasks Like SEO or Web Content

Or maybe they are not really less crucial but less well know. At that same business I took quotes on having a 4’x32′ sign painted with my logo and some text. The total cost would have been $900 not including installation. Of course I could do it myself and I sat out to prove it. My final cash investment was $230 including installation. How’d the sign look? Well, it wasn’t bad as they say. It also wasn’t the professional, sleek look I wanted for my business.

Things We Never Think of Doing

Most of us never think of installing our own alarm system, doing our own electrical work or building our own office furniture. What is the difference between the two functions I mentioned performing on my own earlier and these? Why not just go ahead and build my own executive chairs? If you answered like I did, “because I can buy one already professionally built that looks and works much better than mine”, you’d be on the thought track I was searching for.

Are You Buying SEO Service or Keywords?

I have realized several times without ever writing it that most people who say they are SEO experts are actually keyword users. Now there is certainly nothing wrong with appropriate use of keywords and, in fact, it is and essential factor in SEO. The problem, if you want to call it so, is many SEO professionals end at keywords. They don’t know how to really break down how a domain, site, page, article, or sentence actually work with or against the algorithms which result in higher ranking on the search engines.

seo marketing image

By Danard Vincente

One big example  I recently encountered was a client who had contacted a “competitor” about doing SEO for their site and the first thing the SEO company suggested was they change their domain name because their domain does not contain their keywords. Really? That’s the best you can do and that’s the punch you lead with? In reality had the client changed their domain name and done so the way the SEO expert suggested they would have tanked and may never have been able to get back their PR5 on Google.

Another bit of talk I hear from people who have spoken with someone either before speaking with me or who speak with someone else after speaking with me about Search Engine Optimization is this: They told me I need at least 4% saturation on my keywords but no more than 6%. Okay. If we’re looking at keyword density chances are that’s not an unreasonable range but where are those keywords and how do they flow with the conversation? Are those keywords in the footer in font designed to blend into the background? Are those keywords in the meta keywords tag? (I know, that was snarky.) Or are those keywords in the headings and body text in a natural flow for human readers?

There Is More To Selling Than Social

Or “How To Post Your Way To The Poorhouse”

Image by Cate Sevilla

On at least one occasion in the last few years I have been asked various forms of the questions, “how do I blog to be sure and get sales”, “what can I expect from my efforts on Twitter”, “how does this translate to food for my children”, and so on. The good news is I don’t know. The bad news is “they” don’t either. But in all hopefulness and by careful examination of the data we see it is possible and there are some guidelines to be followed which are more likely to lead to sales success than the poorhouse. I don’t like the poorhouse.

Being named a Reuter’s Top Ten Small Business Expert on Twitter is pretty cool. Translating that little puppy to a paycheck is work. In spite of what everyone may believe I don’t check my PayPal account daily and, surprise, see three or four thousand dollars that popped in there over-night just from me hosting Social Media Edge Radio and writing a few blog posts. In fact until I write some code or create some content the money flow direction is ebbing toward the negative. Chances are that’s not what you have in mind for yourself. You, like I, must sell some widgets or face the piper, er, spouse.

While the social media gurus who tout their wares and charge really small fees, snark, for their workshops and seminars may assure you their oil is the best for snakes you can bet most of their ROI is derived from the attendees. However, and let’s keep fairness in play, most attendees likely found out about the event through … social media. Hey, I do events. I get it. What you need to know, however, is not how to get people to attend your seminars and buy your books or your retweet campaigns, you have widgets for sale. Darned good ones, too! You need to sell those puppies and you need to sell a lot of them every week. You probably suffer from a food and shelter addiction – just guessing.

5 Ways To Anger Website Visitors (and lose them forever)

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

The web has changed a lot since I did my first site for Media Play back in 1994 – which never made use of the afore mentioned (and pictured sample) greeting. In fact I rarely see the sign but what I do see is equally or more disturbing. Many of these are simple to address and cure even if you, heaven forbid, do you own online development.

Five Tips To Drive Away Clients

Small business websites are just as crucial, perhaps more so, to a small business as enterprise sites are to major corporations. For the small business person a website usually handles part of the job of sales clerk, part of the job as communications tool and even part of the job as marketing intern. Converting casual visitors to dedicated clients is generally the goal so wasting their time in the first visit generally means that’s there last visit.

  • Noise that plays automatically – in crude terms people refer to this as ear rape and it’s a great way to have them click away from your site and even say negative things about your site in social media networks. Silent pop-ups, silent auto streaming videos and even silent redirects are all more acceptable to visitors than anything which makes noise when they visit your site. Imagine someone at work trying to sneak a visit to your site or someone in a shared workspace – or a parent who just got their children to sleep. Noise that plays automatically is here at the top of the list because it’s an horrible offense.
  • Broken Links – websites with broken links are generally websites with too many links and no dedicated webmaster. Promising someone a peak at your menu using a broken link generally results in them navigating away never to return. The worst broken link you can have is your “Contact Us” link but any broken link is not a good thing. Trim your links, use a service to scan regularly and have a human person double check at least monthly.
  • No live chat response – and I admit I have been guilty. If you are going to install one of the many “Live Chat Now” services on your small business website be sure to either (a) turn it off when you cannot monitor it or (b) pay someone to monitor it at all times. In addition be lite on the canned responses. For example if the user types in “small business help” as their user name and your system says, “Welcome small business help, what is your question?” then ten seconds later posts “Just one moment small business help I am answering your question”, then ten more seconds “While you’re waiting, small business help, please check our FAQ section” … you get the picture.
  • Past date events and announcements – not too long ago I stumbled on a site which offered a local meeting I was interested in. It was talking about “next week” and giving the date of May 11 and I was interested in going. As I was completing the free RSVP I noticed it was May 11, 2010 and this is 2012. Why is that still on this site? What else on this site will I waste my precious seconds reading?
  • Excerpt marketing – you’ve seen it. You go to your favorite search engine and typed in “price of 10k gold” and clicked on the link which took you to a page that simply has a link to another article about the price of gold. Just a short line designed to capture search engine traffic for page impression purposes. Google is trying to thin these out but they often pop-up, get high in the ranking and trick a lot of people before they are de-indexed. That’s the black hat method but you can also be guilty of it on a small business website by doing the same thing in innocence.

 

Small Business Websites and Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRM)

It is my belief every small business needs a web presence. While brochure sites are easy to build they don’t do much for the prospective client except ask them to pick up the phone or stop in. Contact automation has a powerful place but must be used wisely. Using the big name companies with fees of $30 to $100 per month just to manage a small list of contacts really doesn’t make sense when you can own your own, custom developed CRM for about the same as it costs to subscribe to a major service for a year. You never worry about a customer who forgot they signed up and reports you for spam or how many emails you can send to each contact per month when you own your own Customer Relationship Management System.