No money, no time and no idea where to start?
It’s tough running your own business, having to divide your time between all the tasks that need completing. I know what it’s like. An endless cycle that leaves you without enough time or money to invest into growing your business.
It’s like a voice inside your head, constantly nagging that you’re not doing enough, that you’re missing out on opportunities. What do you do? You can’t afford to hire someone and you don’t know enough to do it all yourself.
It’s easy to do nothing, put things off and just tell yourself that you’ll eventually be in a better situation where you have the money and time to do what you want. That “one day” can be a lot further away than you think, especially if you haven’t planned how you’re going to get there.
Don’t listen to the voice. There is something you can do about this
The reality is that for many small business owners, that time never comes. But, you know what, you don’t need to worry about it. If you spend a little bit of time every week doing the right things, you’re going to start seeing results and it won’t cost you a penny. That will get you to the point where you can start spending a bit of money to help your business achieve more.
People get confused by SEO. They don’t know where to start. When you don’t know anything about a subject, it can be really hard to figure out who’s genuinely trying to help you and who’s just taking you for a ride. I’m going to give you a crash course in SEO to get you on the right path.
Common Misconceptions about SEO
If you are just starting out and/or you work for yourself, the chances are that unless you provide digital services, SEO is something you probably haven’t spent of time looking into, you just know there’s a lot to it.
People often get confused about the purpose of SEO and how it works, which leads to people getting frustrated and losing faith in the whole system. This might be you, it might not be, all I know is that there are a lot of people out there missing out because they don’t value SEO.
So, I’m going to quickly run through some of things people have said to me about their business and SEO in the past.
SEO Doesn’t Work for Us
Most businesses can get a lot out of SEO. Even if most of the sales come from face to face meetings you can still generate exposure, promote what you’re doing and get more people interested in exploring your products or services.
If SEO hasn’t worked for you in the past there’s a good chance likely because you, or the person you hired, were doing things wrong. You’ve got to just pick yourself up and try again. Anyone that knows what they’re doing will be able to tell you exactly how SEO can help your business and what areas you need to focus on before they even talk about sending the first invoice.
It’s too expensive
SEO doesn’t have to be expensive. Like everything, it can be, but there’s a lot you can do yourself and there are plenty of ways that you can engage with professionals without having to remortgage your home to pay for it.
By focusing on one area at a time, you can do things yourself to get things started. From there, when you’ve had a bit of success you can move on to small SEO projects for as little as £300. The more you invest, the better the chances you’ll have of ranking more highly for more keywords.
My business doesn’t need SEO
Every business, no matter how big or small, no matter what they do, can benefit from investing in SEO and building their online presence. Some businesses may get more value from investing in alternative marketing but it doesn’t change the fact that they could still benefit from having a strong online presence.
Another scenario is where a business is consists of only one person, who usually don’t have a lot of business experience. They don’t think they need SEO because they’ve got it all under control. In reality they’re likely missing out on massive opportunities on a weekly basis. If you remove one person from a business and it falls apart, and growth beyond that one person is never a priority, that’s not a business, it’s a job.
It’s too complicated
It doesn’t matter what the subject is, if you’re given a good set of instructions, you can carry out a task just as well as an expert. That’s all this is about; knowing what you should be doing.
This is all about getting started for small businesses, so you don’t need to spend hours and hours every week listening to podcasts, reading lengthy articles or carrying out SEO tests to succeed. All you need to do is find a good source of information and follow the advice.
Where to start with SEO
When you’ve got zero budget and only a little bit of spare time you need to focus on the quick and easy wins. We’re not looking at two years away, we’re thinking about the next six months and how you can start seeing some success.
Most people tend to jump in at the deep end and hope they’re getting it right. Most people don’t get it right and it takes them about 6 months to figure out.
Don’t try and rush through everything all at once. Take the time to understand what you’re doing and whether it’s helping or hurting your SEO. You don’t want to end up feeling like this guy…
Drowning in questions and desperately trying to figure out what the hell you’re meant to be doing is not where you want to be.
Find out what people are searching for online
What are people actually typing into search engines to find the services or products they need? This is really important because you’ll need to tailor pretty much every new web page and piece of content for your site to the keywords you want to rank highly for.
If you get this bit wrong, you’ll end up wasting loads of time optimising your site for all the wrong things. It doesn’t matter how great you are at SEO, get this wrong and you’ll never even start the race.
I would start off by creating a list of all the things that you think your customers/clients are typing into search engines to try and find products or services like yours. This doesn’t have to be something you do in isolation; ask friends and family members (only ask people who you think fit the profile of people that buy from you) what they would search for. If you already have people buying from you then try and reach out to them.
I’d recommend starting off by creating a list of all the things you think your customers/clients might be searching for. From there you need to look into using the Keyword Planner tool, which is part of Google Adwords, and Google Trends to help you figure out which keywords you should be focusing on.
This tool allows you to enter a list of keywords, not only will it tell you roughly how many people are searching for it each month but it’ll give you suggestions on other keyword types to explore. It should be pointed out that these results are only based on the paid ads results data, whilst it’s not ideal it still gives you a good idea of what people are and aren’t searching for.
Google Trends is a great tool and it’s really easy to use. What it does is show you the historical data behind any keywords you enter and makes it easy to see which ones are going to be more or less popular in the future.
Think about how many people are currently searching for your chosen keywords and whether Google’s Keyword Tool can help you find others you might not have thought about. Once you’ve made a shortlist, take them to Google Trends and see which ones are increasing or decreasing in popularity.
It’s a simplistic approach but it will get you off to a much better start than just guessing and hoping. Having this information is going to enable you to pick and invest into the right keywords for your business and it doesn’t a thing!
The next question is what do you do with the keywords you’ve chosen?
Enter Content Marketing and Blogging
We’re talking about great content that’s valuable to the people who are most likely to buy into your brand and what you can offer. Blogging, video, social media, infographics, anything that helps people to learn something new, tackle assumptions, overcome challenges, find new tools or discover truths.
By far one of the easiest ways to start improving your traffic is blogging. Our clients are doing it, their clients are doing it, more and more fortune 500 companies are investing greater amounts into this area of marketing and for good reason. Study after study shows that when you blog on a regular basis, properly, people stop seeing you as just a business trying to make money, they are more readily able to see you as a brand that has their best interests at heart.
So why are so many businesses jumping on the blogging bandwagon?
- All you need is knowledge. Knowledge about what you do and how you can help people.
- Blogging can be informal, so most people don’t care too much if youre English isnt so grate, as long as you get the point across.
- It’s free.
- There is an almost unlimited supply of training materials available online to help you learn what you need to do
- When you get into the habit of blogging regularly, you’ve basically just covered half of what you need to get started with social media.
- It gives you a chance to connect with people on a level that would otherwise take up a lot of your time. You can talk about really in depth stuff, or keep light, it’s so flexible.
- It adds so much SEO relevant content and copy to your site, it’s an incredibly great way to boost your search rankings.
I know, I know. Writing is hard and it takes up a lot of time. Right? It doesn’t have to if you get the right structure in place and don’t give up on the first go. It’s a little bit like cooking. Everyone can do it, to a degree, it’s just a case of persevering and learning about what does and doesn’t work.
You wouldn’t expect to be able to recreate a restaurant, or even take-away, meal after one attempt. If you spent some time looking up recipes and trying them out a few times, you’d get it. You’d start seeing results. It’s the same with blogging, just stick at it and you’ll reap the rewards.
Write great content for the people that matter to your business
You know those crap flyers you get through your door, the horrible glossy ones that usually end up going straight in the bin? You can think of that as bad blogging, people getting bored and leaving your website after a couple of minutes.
It doesn’t work that way. At all. Everything you do should be focused exclusively on how you can help the people that spend money and engage with your business. If you understand your customers/clients, make a habit of getting to know them and you already value strong branding then this will be easy for you.
Targeting the wrong people, even with great and highly relevant content will end up with lots of people on your site that have no interest in buying your products or services.
Dig deep and think hard
So, at LA Designs, we have all different sorts of clients. Some big, some small, some rich some poor, some crazy (in a good way), some serious. There’s a lot that separates them, but I know what each of them want.
They focus on making more money and spending less time doing it. They want to know how best to communicate through branding and how to make people aware of what they do. They also want to put processes in place that increase their overall workload capacity.
Some of them want to transition from a chaotic working life to something that’s more stable, with less hours, less stress and more reliable sources of income. These are usually the ones that are just starting out, but it can also be owners or managers of a business that’s been going a long time and they’re struggling to modernise.
Our larger clients are all about incremental improvements over time, they know that money invested is money earned and they want to really streamline what they’re doing. A 3% increase in profit means a lot more to a business with a turnover of £500k a year than one with £25k.
Knowing all of this led to the decision of steering our content towards helping people understand how the services we provide can help them best. There’s a lot of confusion around what services they need for a business of their size and type. For example, the SEO, branding or web design needs for a restaurant in Brighton are going to be different to a local political party in Worthing.
Plan the goals you want for your blog
Our goal is to help people figure out what they need to do next in order to help them launch or grow that business; whether it’s through our blog, over the phone or in person. We’re happy to share our knowledge and people love that. So do we because even if they don’t hire us, we get to help them out and maybe one day they’ll come back to us. We’ve had clients come back to us after a year of zero communication, all because they remembered how helpful we were before a contract was ever signed.
Some do hire us because we’ve shown that we can have a positive impact on their business, and that’s great. Blogging is just about doing what you already do, in a different format, that’s more accessible for people to get to – and takes up none of your time once it’s done.
By knowing who your audiences are you can start to figure out what sort of content is going to help them most. A really effective way of blogging is to create a series of blog posts, that either lead on from each other or are linked in other ways.
Think about their pain points, what sort of questions keep popping up in their working lives and what they are trying to achieve.
For example, your business might provide a service that is available in many different forms that vary a lot in price. You could create a series of blog posts that aim to cover each level of service, what type of person or business is going to benefit most each one and a little about the costs involved for each one.
How to start Writing
Different people struggle with different things. Some can write all day, but they may lack the ability to stay on topic and keep things relevant. Others might be struggling to know where to start.
I’m not a good enough writer to help everyone with every kind of issue but I find that it helps me stay focused when I flesh out the structure of a new blog post before diving in and writing it.
I start by trying to define a single problem that we can solve or a pain point we might be able to help clients with. That ultimately forms the basis of the post title. We get people coming to us who don’t think they can afford SEO, so I decided to write this blog post, you can see what I did with the title for this post.
Next, I’ll start listing out the main headings of the post, (these should be your h2 HTML tags), this makes it much easier to figure out exactly what you’re going to write about and in what order.
The next step is to go back through each of those titles and add subtitles, (these are your h3 HTML tags), clearly outlining what you’re going to say and any points that need to be made.
This makes it much easier to stay on track; you won’t be constantly bombarded with ideas on new topics to blog about.
Once that’s done you’re good to start writing! I’d recommend that at least once you should leave your blog post alone and come back to it tomorrow. Sometimes people can become too close to what they’re doing to be objective.
If you’re struggling to get started with blogging, feel free to reach out and get in touch, I’d be more than happy to see if I can help you in some way.
SEO Tips for Online Success
So, there’s blogging and then there’s blogging the right way. You might be able to create a great post, but what’s the point if no one can find it? It’s a bit like building the world’s first 8 star hotel (yeah, who knew. Imagine the bill!) and hiding it underground No one is going to see it, no one is going to ever know about it and no one will ever talk about it. That’s not what you want.
You can get a massive advantage over your competitors because there are still so many small business owners who don’t understand the value of blogging or digital marketing.
Search engines are judging you, always…
Search engines make a judgement about your site based on other sites linking to it and where your site links to, it’s a little bit like how we judge others based on who they’re with. If someone had no friends, or they kept hanging around with criminals, rapists, murderers, Donald Trump, (of course we saved the worst for last), or they didn’t have any friends at all – you’re going to think hang on a minute, something isn’t right here.
Your site has to keep good company, or search engines aren’t going to rank it higher than a competing website with hundreds of links from highly credible and authoritative websites.
Have you always wondered what the hell you were ever going to do with those social media accounts? Well, all of a sudden, you now have a reason to start using them and to begin growing your number of followers.
The more people you share your content with, the more people are going to read, like and share what you’re putting out. The more people that follow your social accounts, the greater your reach is; which will work wonders for your site traffic.
Track your site traffic
Speaking of traffic, unless you’re monitoring your traffic, you’re not going to get very far with any of this. Use Google Analytics. It’s free, it’s amazing and you need it in your life.
Using this tool you can start looking at how many people visit your site, you can filter that by daily, weekly and monthly views or even specify your own date range. You’ll be able to see which blog posts are doing receiving the most visitors and start tracking where people are spending the most time on your site.
It’ll even show you how long people are spending on your site, how many pages they view and a lot, lot more.
Make sure each post is at least 1,500 words.
Some people look at total number of words and things like 2k word posts are the best, others say 3k word posts are the best… I don’t believe that word count is ultimately the most important factor to consider.
There’s no magical “best number” for blog posts. It needs to be as long as it needs it to be – just make sure that what you’re writing is concise, doesn’t ramble and provides value. Aim for somewhere in the region of 2,000 – 5,000 words for a good, strong post.
If all of your posts are coming in at 500 – 750 words each then just don’t expect much from your blog. There’s rarely enough scope there to really dig down deep into an issue and help people figure something out.
Use great images
Images are really important when it comes to blogging. What would you rather look at, huge walls of text or a really interesting image? So, especially on social media, people are going to be drawn in by great imagery, which will make them want to read the headline, instead of just scrolling straight past your blog post.
It also helps to keep people engaged whilst they’re reading through longer posts. 3k+ words or more need more images, not only that but . Make sure you’re using alt tags with every image as well – they really help your SEO.
Titles are really important
Titles are a bit like sign posts. Some people never just don’t about them, even though their lives would be a whole lot more difficult if they couldn’t see them.
If people aren’t interested in your title then it’s unlikely people will be clicking on to your post, especially if your blog title isn’t displayed alongside a relevant and high quality image.
Focus your titles around being interesting, attention grabbing and unique, in that order. Study the titles that highly successful bloggers use. Use tools like Portent’s Content Idea Generator or read posts such as rel=”nofollow”>HubSpot’s guide to writing catchy titles to get you on the right track.
Once you’re done you’ve got some ideas, use CoSchedule’s title analyser (I love this tool) to really get you on the right track.
Write down what you started with and compare it against what you ended up with – make a note of the differences. Eventually you won’t need any tools!
Blogging regularly has many benefits. Once you break that barrier of actually hitting your weekly or monthly targets, your blog is going to thrive. It can be hard, so don’t give up.
The more active your pages are, the more likely search engines are going to change how often they visit your site for updates. When you do blog regularly, they’ll be coming back more quickly, so all of the SEO goodness each blog post provides will start affecting your site more quickly.
Do Blogging and SEO Make for Good DIY Projects?
Yes and no. Anyone can put words onto a screen and call it a blog. It’s just another case of do you want to be that business owner frantically rushing around every day trying to complete a million tasks that they only sort of know how to do? Or would you rather have the right people in the right positions doing great work, being the best that they can be and helping you smash your long term business goals?
It doesn’t matter if you’re the owner, an employee or someone is outsourcing to you. If blogging and SEO isn’t part of what you do every day, or you’ve got no experience or real training, then eventually you’re going to struggle to create the positive results you want to see. Everything will take longer too.
By all means, start off doing this yourself, entirely on your own if needs be, there’s loads that you can achieve without paid help. But go into it expecting to delegate this area of work to someone else that knows what they’re doing or you’ll be costing your company dearly in the long run.
Doing everything yourself isn’t a great way to run or grow your business
In over 5 years of running my own business, and helping so many others launch and market their own, I’ve learned that there’s no substitute for a strong a team. You can’t do everything and if you do, you’re stunting the growth of your business.
I know this because I used to think the same way. I used to think that I could do everything, that working with other people would be difficult. I was wrong. And it slowed my business growth as a result – I don’t want that to happen to you.
Blogging and SEO can be responsible for generating anything from hundreds, to hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of opportunities/work/contracts/leads or whatever it is you’re trying to get. That’s a fact. Now, would you rather wait one year or five to get to the higher numbers?
Getting help with blogging doesn’t mean outsourcing the whole lot
Lots of companies offer to blog for you, taking on the entire role. Personally I disagree with that, unless they have a lot of knowledge in the industry they’re writing about. Usually those people cost a lot of money, too much for most small business to justify.
But there is a solution
Instead of outsourcing it all and simply praying that what they come back with isn’t terrible, (who doesn’t love that feeling..!?), work with people that know what they’re doing and can make life easier for you.
Writing for your blog is one thing, optimising it and turning a good post into a great piece of content that’s easy for people to find is something else entirely and can take up a hell of a lot of time. That time would simply be better spent on doing what you do best for your business.
Here’s what can be done to make your life easier and reduce the time you need to spend on marketing, SEO and writing:
- Content Strategy. Planning out multiple blog posts, or a whole series, and creating strong, effective, SEO friendly titles for each one.
- Looking at how new blog posts can connect to the rest of your site and link out to others for the best impact on SEO.
- Gaining access to better photography and imagery libraries as well as having someone else take care of adding photos and images to each blog post.
- Making sure that the blog area on your website and every post are designed, structured and laid out in the best way for both users and SEO.
- Working with you to improve grammar and sentence structure to ensure that all of your posts are easy to read for as many people as possible.
- General advice and tips on a regular basis to help you/your team improve over time.
This is the kind of relationship that will turn painful five hour tasks into enjoyable two hour tasks.
Being Serious About Starting a Blog Doesn’t Need to Cost a Fortune
When you are starting out with nothing, you do not need to be spending money. Of course it helps, and it’ll certainly speed things up, but you do not need to spend money.
People will tell you the opposite, usually the same ones trying to sell their half arsed SEO services.
Anyone telling you that you’ve gotta spend money, that it’s so technical you’ll never get your head round it all, especially if they look like this guy… Tell them where to go.
All you need to know is the basics behind what’s going to improve your SEO and what’s going to harm it so that you can avoid making mistakes. Just remember that – I see enough people getting taken advantage of with “magical SEO solutions” that never work. I don’t want that to happen to you.
That said, there’s only so far you can go with all of this before you should start working with someone who knows what they’re doing, unless of course you want to give up your position as the boss and become a full time blogger or marketer.
There are lots of little things that you can get help with when it comes to blogging, which is going to save you a ton of time both short term and long term. And because you’re not hiring someone to do every part of it, you’re going to save a lot of money.
For small business owners, working with someone is definitely going to be your best option, let’s take a look at what makes up blogging and which bits you can get help with.
Three key elements of successful blogging
Successful blogging is made up of three main areas. If you efforts fall short in any one of these then you’re going to end up being disappointed with the results you achieve – if any.
Strategy – Knowing who your blog needs to target in order to generate the best results for your business. This isn’t just about knowing that, for example, many of your customers are busy people. It’s about knowing that these busy people are all desperately looking for advice on how to delegate effectively within their industry or niche and find the right people to help their business grow. That’s actionable information that helps you the best direction to steer your blog in.
That’s the start, then it’s all about generating ideas, turning those ideas into series of blog posts and how to effectively link them all up.
Knowledge – You can’t blog if you don’t have any valuable information to share. It’s as simple as that, you have to become an authority in whatever industry, market or niche you operate in. You’ve got to write in a way that gives people what they’re looking for, quickly.
Most people have things they can blog about, but they either don’t recognise the value of the information they know or struggle to find a way to put it into a blog post that’s going to be well received. Having a second opinion from an outside perspective is really going to help some people.
Seo & Marketing Expertise – This is all the nitty gritty optimisation of your blog posts and general content marketing efforts. From meta data, alt tags and keyword usage to promotion, blogging & SEO best practices and guidance on writing techniques best suited to your audience, there’s a lot to learn here.
Need help getting your blog off the ground?
We can help you get your blog off the ground
It all goes back to not outsourcing the whole thing and just paying for what you need. Writing can be really enjoyable, but not when you’re spending hours coming up with title ideas, constantly second guessing every other paragraph you write and can’t figure out why more people aren’t visiting your site.
We can help you with two of the three key elements above, strategy and SEO. But we can’t do it all, you need to input your knowledge into this otherwise it’s not going to work. The way I see it is that you’re the one driving, we’re just the passengers pointing out things you might not have seen or been able to think about whilst focusing on directly what’s in front of you.
If you think this is something you’d be interested in, give us a call or send an email. We can have a chat and see if this is the right direction for you and your business – if it’s not, we’ll be the first to tell you.