Author Archive | Jacob Paulsen

Cheat Time – Get More Done and Enjoy Your Life

As you have heard repeated over the years, time is the most valuable resource any of us have. I've been told many times that I can't get more of it but that is a lie. I may suck at a lot of things but ask anyone who does any work with me and they will tell you I somehow magically get a lot done in a very little amount of time.

TRUTH: There are a lot of ways to get more time

Money can't buy happiness, but time does make happiness, and money can buy time.

With a few simple tips you can cheat time. I do.

Here Are 8 Ways to Make More Time & Happiness

Playback Control

We all consume media right? TV shows you watch, videos online, and for many of us audio-books. I consume all of these things faster than most people because I speed up playback.

For audio-books I use the Audible app where I can increase playback speed as much as needed. I can listen to most books at 2X speed without any trouble. That is half the time to read the book.

When I watch TV shows or online videos I try to do so in Google Chrome and I use this extension to speed up playback: Video Speed Controller

Trust me, the latest episode of Blacklist is just as good in 25 minutes as it is in 40 minutes. For you binge watchers just imagine getting through an entire season of your favorite show in 2/3 the time!

Outsource Everything

Outsourcing tasks costs money… but it makes time. If you can spend more time doing the things that you are best at then your bottom line revenue should increase exponentially. In order to make the time to do things that make you a lot of money; you need to spend a little money to pay others to do everything else.

RESOURCE: Guide to Outsourcing Stuff Worth Less than My Time

Batch Activities

There are things you probably end up doing every day that waste your time. The process of beginning and ending the task are the same regardless of how much volume there is. For example, consider listening to and returning voicemail. If you check 1 voicemail message per day it might take 5 minutes. Instead if once per week you check voicemail you will have 7 total messages but instead of taking 35 minutes it will take less than 30. (Think I'm crazy to only check voicemail once per week? Resource: Making Voicemail a Tool of Productivity [Script])

What else do you do frequently that could be batched into chunks less frequently? Checking email, processing returns (a big one for me), accounting, making phone calls, home DIY projects, errands, and much more.

Stop Reprocessing

What is reprocessing? Essentially wasting time looking at something multiple times before taking action on it. You probably have emails in your inbox right now that you have read 3+ times and still haven't dealt with. If you can create a process by which you don't give anything your time and attention until you are ready to tackle the task and complete it, delegate it, or delete it; then you will save a ton of reprocessing time.

Exploit Shortcuts and Move Faster

I spend a large amount of my day in front of a computer. A lot of that time is spent typing things. On average I bet I am just hitting keys on my keyboard about 90 minutes a day. I type 95 Words Per Minute (WPM) where the average adult types only 40 WPM. That means my 90 minutes of typing each day would take the average human adult 3+ hours. If you are in front of a computer as often as I you could probably save yourself about 5 hours a week if you invested 30 minutes a week into improving your typing speed.

In addition to just typing faster you can save a ton of time by becoming more expert in software you use. Knowing shortcuts and the best tricks to Outlook, Gmail, PowerPoint, or whatever your daily tools are can have a tremendous effect on your time.

Start Saying No

You have probably heard this before. People will ask you for a lot of things. Start saying no to those things that are less important than your family or whatever thing it is you are trying to make time for.

Bio-Hack & Buy Health

Each year you probably lose several days of productivity outright to being sick. In addition, there are probably many more days each year where you get substantially less done than you should because you don't feel as well as you should.

Time is lost when you aren't performing optimally. This is another instance where some better health related decisions can buy you time. Eating better, exercise and all the other things you already know about can dramatically increase your productivity and limit down time. In addition to the amount of time you “buy” right now, you are also literally adding years to your life which is another amazing consideration of making more time.

Resource: Eliminating the Common Cold From Life

Hack Travel Time

For work or for leisure travel is a part of your life. For some of us it is more frequent a part than for others. Travel is a perfect place to make more time in life in a few different ways.

  1. Don't travel in ways that will kill your energy and reduce your health. No point in getting there early if it is going to take me 12 hours to recover from the trip.
  2. Time in the car or time on the plane can be very productive with a little bit of planning. If you are going to be outside of WiFi then plan in advance tasks that can be worked on and completed without WiFi… or without a computer at all. I often batch my phone calls for days when I know I have some car time.
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I Don’t Have the Problem That You Are Trying To Solve

Products solve problems. If you are a business owner, salesman, or entrepreneur of any kind ask yourself what problem does your product solve?

Understanding the problem is the first step to all marketing. Your customer is in their current state. They have a problem. How does your product solve that problem and get the customer to their desired state? Here are additional thoughts on this marketing approach.

Now, as a consumer you also need to approach product purchasing this way. Using the “what problem” paradigm of shopping has some great benefits. When you see an advertisement for a new product ask yourself… what problem do I have that this will solve?

Here are the core advantages to this “Problem Solving” method of shopping:

  1. You actually get to the root of the issue. Sometimes you might be tempted to buy products that address a symptom of your problem but don't actually address the problem at all. A lot of money and time can be saved if you figure out the actual source of your problem and buy to address it.
  2. Often you will discover you don't have the problem. This happens to me all the time. Fellow business owners will tell me about the latest program or service they are using that has made life so much better. I take one look and say to myself… “This solves a problem that I don't have” and then I move on. Hey don't get me wrong the squatty potty ads are hilarious but I don't have an issue with my bowel movements so I'm good to just laugh at the videos on YouTube and move on in life.
  3. You can make more logical priced based decisions. What is it worth to you to solve that problem. When you really understand the problem you are trying to solve you may more easily understand what you would be willing to solve that problem.

The Answer is Zapier – Solve All Online System Integrations

If you own an online business and you don't have an account with Zapier.com you should fire yourself immediately and hire a web guy who isn't clueless.

What is The Problem We Are Trying to Solve?

Stuff needs to talk to stuff. In order to make your business awesome you have to use a ton of different software solutions…

  • Email Marketing Software
  • CMS Software
  • eCommerce Software
  • Fulfillment Software
  • Google Drive
  • Giveaway Software
  • Social Media
  • Revenue Reporting
  • Affiliate Software
  • Marketplace Sales like eBay, Amazon, etc
  • Helpdesk Software
  • That One Thing That is The Best At Doing That One Thing
  • And On and On….

Companies do exist that claim to have the full suite! Do it all with them and you'll never have to worry about getting all the different systems to play nice together. The issue with those providers is that they suck. Honestly, if they really had the very best and most robust tools in all the categories in which you need tools then they would dominate and we would all flock to their service… BUT how can you be the best at 20 things when there are companies out there dedicated to being the best at just one of those things? You can't.

So, we all end up using a bunch of different services for different things. Sadly these things just don't get along. What if my eCommerce system doesn't have flawless native integration with the Email Marketing system I use? What if my Helpdesk software doesn't work perfectly with my social media profiles?

Zapier is the Answer

Zapier Is the Solution

Zapier is an online middle man. It connects to a large number of other online platforms and allows you to integrate (pass data) between two systems that otherwise don't have native integration.

So if I want to have a spreadsheet of every phone call that I receive at the office I can do that. We use CallRail.com for our phone calls and we use Google Sheets for spreadsheets. So I set up Zapier to connect to CallRail and for every new call that comes in I configure it to populate a specific Google Sheet. Done.

I want to make sure that orders that come into our fulfillment system for a specific product also generate an email to the company that dropships that product? No problem Zapier can manage that.

Use the best systems out there for what you need and then let Zapier do the connecting!

What You Need To Know About Image Copyright Violations – Lawsuits – Angry Letters

Before you ask, yes I own the rights to use this stock image

 

So you have a website and you just got an email or letter in the mail telling you that some fancy sounding law firm is going to take you to court unless you pay a settlement fee for the illegal use of some copyrighted image on your website.

What The CRAP Is This All About And What Are You Supposed To Do???

Why This Is Happening and Is It Legit?

Yeah, its real and it is happening to you. You found some image online and you put it on your website without the permission or necessary license. You probably did some Google Image search and found the perfect thing for your blog post and now you are paying the price for putting it on your site ignorant of the laws that govern image use and copyright.

There are big law firms that do nothing more than work with image services like Getty Images and make a fortune finding people like you and taking you to court. The vast majority of internet publishers (site owners like you) will pay the settlement cost before you deal with court and they know it. You know you can't win the court case because you did in fact violate the copyright so you figure why fight it right?

What Are Your Options?

Do Not Ignore It. This problem is not going to go away and you don't need the legal trouble that will come if you fully ignore it.

If the price is high enough, consider hiring an attorney. If the law firm is asking for ten thousand dollars or more you may want to hire an attorney. You may be surprised by the things that the attorney can do to help you. The attorney can help call their bluff in the threat to take you to court. Does the plaintiff really want to come to your state and make an appearance in court? Your attorney can likely force those kinds of terms and that will likely drop the settlement price and at least save you some money.

That said most of the time the cost of the settlement is too low to justify hiring an attorney. You should probably just pay it and make the problem go away. You can and should always try to negotiate the price. Talk about how you don't have that kind of money but may be able to scrape together 50% of that in cash if they you can come to an arrangement. Use your own language and don't be dishonest as that will only hurt you later should you end up in court.

When you agree to make payment make sure that you get something in writing that makes clear that the payment you are making is considered a full payment and that they agree to not pursue any additional legal actions.

As a final thought in this section, be sure to trace down how you found the image. If you happened to get the image from a website that claimed it was license free and public domain then you may be able to counter-sue that website to recover the damages you incurred having used the image in good faith.

How Do You Prevent This From Happening In the Future?

STOP using images that you don't have the rights to use. When you do a Google Image Search for example you can use the Usage Rights Tool to filter the results by images that are labeled for reuse though be warned that this still may lead you to images that have licensing requirements. For example an image may be labeled for reuse BUT require that you give the image owner credit in someway.

ALWAYS follow the image to it's source website and check that website's terms and conditions. If unsure, use a contact form to ask permission.

Here is a Google Image Search for me… apparently there is an artist somewhere that shares my name?

 

If you are going to have need for a lot of stock images you can always just pay a subscription to Adobe, iStock Photos, Getty Images, or any other service that gives you access to stock images at a subscription rate.

There are a handful of websites out there that provide a decent selection of public domain images you can use. Most of them make their money however by constantly asking you to consider subscribing to their paid service. Despite that they can be helpful… here are some I have bookmarked:

http://www.freeimages.com

https://pixabay.com/

http://www.freestockphotos.biz/

https://pixnio.com/

And don't forget Wikipedia as all images on that site are automatically public domain!

Happy hunting… and please share in the comments below any experiences you have had with this and how it turned out for you.

From 0 to 120,000 Email Subscribers – Interview with SendPulse Podcast

Recently I was privileged to be interviewed by the SendPulse Vice President of Sales Roy Weissman. SendPulse is a forward thinking email provider that runs the podcast in order to share ideas and successes in the email marketing industry.

Here are things Roy and I discuss in this interview:

Why did our company wait roughly 8 years to start doing any email marketing?

What to do if you don't know what to send to your email list?

How to make email an initiative that isn't a burden or has a strong ROI.

How to build your email list.

The major shift in mindset to having a quality list instead of a big list.

How to balance the sending of promotional email with content related email.

How often should you send email to your list?

What we send our subscribers for the first 7 days they are on our list.

How to monetize email if you don't have any products to sell.

Top Hacks For Hiring Amazing Employees

I currently have 8 employees. I have had to hire a total of 11 employees in this current business and many many more in past ventures and jobs.

I used to dread the process. Trying to get applicants and then trying to guess who is the right person based on resumes… No wonder research suggests that odds of finding a good employee are about 50/50 no matter the hiring process or amount of resources dedicated to finding the right applicant.

Truth is, everything has changed for me. I love hiring new people now because I've found the formula that works for me. If you follow the below steps you will save a ton of time and stress while greatly maximizing the chances of finding good people.

Indeed.com Is Magic

Trick number one, use indeed.com. This site is gaining in popularity and is overtaking the monster.coms' that have owned the space for decades.

Indeed allows employers to post jobs for free. There are a large number of upgraded features that cost money but I've never paid for any of them and haven't felt like I was missing anything.

Indeed also has a mobile app that makes it easy for employers to peruse job applicants.

Lastly indeed will optionally auto-notify rejected applicants that they didn't get the job. Awesome!

Job Title Is Everything

The number one thing I'm looking for is someone who really wants to work for me. Not just someone who really wants a job but that truly would rather work for me than anywhere else. So the job posting process is designed to filter out anyone else.

The first step to doing that is to use a job title that says exactly what you actually want… not what society thinks should go on the new employee's business card.

Recently I hired for a customer service rep. The job title used:

“Firearm Enthusiast and Relationship Professional”

Before that my last hire was a mobile app developer. Job title used:

“Firearm Enthusiast and Mobile Developer Extrordinare”

Yes I start all my job postings with Firearm Enthusiast because I want people who are excited to work for me and will be happy to be part of our company's mission. Why beat around that bush?

Have Something Super Valuable

If you want to hire really awesome people you have to offer an opportunity that really good people would consider.

If your pay sucks, your benefits are not existent, and the work environment is not inviting you cannot get good applicants.

We try to pay more than any other company would. We allow everyone to work from home. We don't regulate vacation days or time off. It may not be like working for Google but about half of our employees have taken pay cuts to work for us because of the value of the opportunity.

Ask/Require Cover Letter
Resumes are, in my opinion, not very good at telling me what I actually need to know. Do they really want to work here?

Sure the resume will tell me if they are qualified and if they have experience but it won't give me any sense for their level of desire.

That is why I request a cover letter. I do this at the bottom of the job posting under the job duties and responsibilities. Something to the effect of “If you actually want this job you will include a cover letter talking about your specific passion for firearms and/or the second amendment and that will also prove that you actually read this job posting all the way through.”

With that in place I immediately reject all applicants that don't include a cover letter. Those who do write a cover letter get considered and only then do I glance at resumes.

Do Short Phone Interviews To Narrow Down the Group

If you have followed the above process you are going to have a decent number of good applicants. Do not interview them all!

Instead call the top 10 or so and conduct 5 minute phone interviews. This should make it easy to get it down to a final short list of 5 or less than you can interview.

Ask Them To Ask Questions

My favorite interview question? “What questions do you have for me about the company or opportunity?”

I don't have a simple or magical explanation as to why this works but it does. I always get great insight into the individual when I let them air all questions they have.

Good luck with your next hire!

I’m Nothing Like Daredevil

Daredevil is an awesome Marvel superhero who was blinded as a child by some chemicals. In the process his sense of hearing was enhanced so significantly that it became a sort of radar that allowed him to essentially see even without traditional eyesight. 

At age 15 I lost hearing in my right ear. A nasty ear infection ate out my inner cochlea and at most pitches I'm about 90% deaf in that ear. 

Now, while my vision is very good, better than average, it isn't enhanced to superhero abilities. Instead, like Daredevil, my good ear has become more and more sensitive over the years as if to compensate for my bad ear. 

Now, unless you get the impression that my good ear has Daredevil like powers let me remind you of the title of this personal rant I call a blog post. I'm Nothing like Daredevil. My super power good ear is frankly nothing but a curse. 

It makes any loud environment physically painful to endure. I do not go to concerts. I avoid sporting events, festivals, and any places with big crowds but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

In recent years I've found I can't deal with church singing, movie theater speakers, some shower heads, anything at my children's school auditorium, the average bathroom fan, airplanes, or other things you just wouldn't think Daredevil would have had issues with. 

In addition to my car keys, wallet, and gun I also carry a single ear plug everywhere I go and I will pay a happy premium for good noise cancelling headphones. When I walk into a restaurant I request to be seated at the quietest table, and I've mastered the art of covertly blocking my ear canal with a finger while appearing to be leaning against my arm. I wear protective hearing protection when I mow the lawn or operate a vacuum cleaner. 

What is the point? No point really… Just wanted you to know that despite amazing increased sensitivity in 1 ear I'm nothing like Daredevil.

Drama Credit Card Processing

Look how happy the lady in this stock image is to buy something online!

I've been through my fair share of Credit Card Merchant providers. It's a mess of an industry. If you are new to e-commerce you may be scratching your head in frustration.

I'll first describe some of the common issues I've dealt with then I'll give you the solution.

Sorry, You Need Signatures

Yep, had a provider a few years ago start to hold back 20% of my money in a reserve account because I don't get customer signatures. Have you ever heard of the internet?

Sorry, We Don't Support Your Industry

Yep, I'm in the firearm industry and way too many hipster startups in silicone valley and most of the other moron credit card companies hate guns and anything associated with them. My industry isn't the only one on the no-charge list either.

Sorry, You Need To Connect The Processing Gateway to A Merchant Provider and Then Maintain PCI Compliance With This Other Provider

You would think the government runs this industry with the amount of confusing stuff you have to deal with. It's sometimes like trying to juggle 3 plates at the same time. Forget dropping them I can't even remember which plate does what.

Sorry, You Have To Respond To This Chargeback Via Fax

Sometimes customers don't recognize your company on their card statement or they hate you or you legitimately have been taken advantage of by a con artist who has used a stolen card to buy something on your site. When this happens the Card company sends you the Chargeback paperwork via snail mail and expects you to respond within 2 days explaining why you charged the person's credit card and include proof like signatures (remember it's the internet) and shipping tracking info etc. My last 2 providers gave me 2 days to respond and required I do so via fax. Follow up info about these chargebacks was also send via snail mail. I had spreadsheet just to keep track of this nightmare.

Sorry, You Have To Be Approved By The Underwriting Department

At the point of initial application merchant providers love to pretend they are considering giving you to secret clearance. The application process reminds me of getting a home loan. Recently our company changed company names and I was informed this required submitting a new application for which I was NOT approved.

Sorry, We Don't Work With / Connect With That Software

There are endless shopping cart applications and our company has 4 different systems that capture customer credit card information for purchases. There are only a few credit card gateways that work with ALL of those systems. This question of compatibility is sometimes more complex as a software system may show it works with your provider only to find out some features are not supported with your gateway.

Sorry, Your Charge Activity Has Grown Too Much/Too Fast

Remember these companies make money when you make money so you might think they would send me a bonus gift and lower my rates when my charge volume increases. I had one provider increase my reserve and make me get emails from customers confirming they did indeed authorize charges.

My Solution? Stripe

I opened a Stripe account about a year ago and at first I didn't think it could be legit because they didn't run be through any sort of complex approval process. Despite this we decided to use it for a few of the applications where it was the only option and it worked.

Further there is no question about gateways, merchants, and compliance partners. Its just Stripe.

When we did our company name change I contacted their support… and they changed it. End of story.

They connect with everything because one of their core company “dealios” is an awesome API. My developers LOVE Stripe and apparently every other application dev team does too.

Chargebacks? No more letters in the mail. They send an email and I respond online via an interface!

Life is good again. What are you using? Do you love or hate it?

Has Amazon Ruined eCommerce For Everyone Else?

I operate an eCommerce website. We sell stuff… and while as a consumer I LOVE Amazon I can't help but wonder if, as a business owner, I should hate Amazon.

I'll get specific in a moment but the short story is that Amazon has raised the bar so high that the rest of us almost can't compete. If you are a consumer this is great news…. just get Amazon Prime and always check there first but as you will see below… don't assume Amazon always has the best deal either.

Amazon As A Marketplace Drives the Price Down on EVERYTHING

Imagine a world before Amazon.com. Imagine that there is a product that many different companies choose to stock and sell. As an example lets talk about a book. Before Amazon.com existed you would probably search for that book on Google and click through to about 10 different websites checking prices on each before you ultimately just got tired and bought. Most people will only check 3 sources before making a purchasing decision. All the different websites who sell that book are likely to list it at or near the MSRP price because there isn't a lot of reason to believe that customers are going to do a lot price comparison and even if they do it can't HURT you to be the same price as the next vendor.

Enter Amazon.com: Now consumers are likely to check Amazon first or at least last before making a decision so at least one vendor is going to make sure they list that book for sale on Amazon.com. The other vendors will follow. Now you have a dozen or more vendors that all sell the same book on Amazon.com. Now the vendors are far more likely to recognize the power of undercutting the competition. They all win the eyeball/attention game of getting the customer to look because they are all on Amazon in the same place. The ONLY way they can now compete is to lower price. This of course leads to the proverbial race to the bottom. Who is willing to make the least amount of money on the sale?

Amazon Won't Let Me Do Any Ongoing Marketing To Customers

Now, traditionally I wouldn't mind making little to no profit on acquiring a customer because once that customer has completed a transaction with my brand I can build a relationship with content, email, and social media which will eventually lead to additional sales from that customer.

Enter Amazon.com: Amazon is not incentivized to allow me the vendor to have an ongoing relationship with the customer because I might drive them to my own website to purchase more products. Amazon wouldn't like that. So they have policies that prevent me from sending the customer an email with anything other that current transaction related messaging. They also have policies that regulate what I can put into the packaging of the purchased product I ship to the customer.

Amazon's 2-Day Shipping Magic Creates Unrealistic Expectations For Normal Companies

Last week we had a customer place an order on Friday night after business hours. Between Sunday and Monday morning early he left us a voicemail, text message, and an email. Our customer service team doesn't currently work weekends (which it shows on our website next to the contact info) so we didn't get back to him until Monday late morning. At that point he was angry enough to berate us on YouTube and call us out as a SCAM.

Consistently we have customers who place orders on a Friday and wonder where there tracking number is on Sunday. The Amazon.com consumer expects not only for their order to be shipped 2-day delivery but it should be out the door within 12 hours and the app on your phone notifies you when it ships and when it is delivered. While there are a lot of great solutions out there for small businesses like us you need to understand that Amazon's execution in this arena is mind-blowing and not duplicable… which they of course love and their customers do too.

Amazon's Commission Forces Me To Charge More For Amazon Customers

Depending on the product category, Amazon.com will keep about 15% of the product purchase price for any sale. So if I sale a product via Amazon for $100 only $85 will get to my account. For a lot of small businesses operating on small margins this is an extreme challenge. One that could be overcome if it were not for Commodity Issue and Ongoing Marketing Issue referenced above. Given those challenges vendors are crippled and forced to take a hit or get out.

What Does This Mean To The eCommerce Company?

First, it means that exclusivity on products is critical. If you are a company that has products that are your own… meaning you are the manufacturer of the product you have the ability to create the rules to protect your business. Either not allowing dealers to sell your product online or forcing a MAP (Minimum Advertising Price) is SUPER IMPORTANT to prevent the race to the bottom that will otherwise destroy the value of your products and lead your dealers to hate selling your products. If you are selling your own products and don't have to worry about competition you may charge more on Amazon.com for the same product in order to offset the Amazon commission while giving the customer an incentive to buy direct from your own website where you can build a relationship in ongoing communication.

Second, it means you have to more carefully choose what products to stock in your own store. I have vendor's whose products I'm interested in selling on my site but effectively cannot because the products are marked down to cost or close to cost by the vendor or their dealers on Amazon. So while I may think I'm getting a great deal in sourcing the products at 50% below MSRP I may be buying them for about 2% under the Amazon Advertised Cost (AAC). This leads me to walk away from what could have been a great product to sell in my store… but gone are the days that I want my customers to have to overpay for a product in order to buy it from me.

Well Amazon… I love you when I need to buy stuff… but I hate what you do to me as a vendor.

And to you manufacturers of products…. set a MAP and enforce it. It may be the only thing that saves you from long term collapse from the Amazon Effect.

 

Business Owner? Wondering What to Do About SEO?

I was in church and a man came up to me to ask me a business question. My friend is a local business owner and heard from someone that I know a thing or two about internet marketing. He then asked the question that I hate most of all. Why do I hate this question… because it makes me feel the most helpless…

What Do I Do About SEO?

Ask me anything else about internet marketing and I probably have a solid answer for you. I might be wrong and my advice is only as good as my own knowledge and experience but ask me what you should do about SEO and you may get a look on my face that probably communicates something to the effect of: I feel bad admitting this but honestly you are in big trouble. You are opening up a can of worms that you don't understand, that is super important to your business's long term success, but ultimately is going to cause you more frustration and expense than you would ever willingly take on.

Of all the internet marketing topics SEO is fully in my wheelhouse (currently my greatest endorsed skill on LinkedIn) but even if it is among the things I have the most experience with and among which I've had great success… I would still much rather talk about paid search, display ads, email marketing, or virtually anything else that has some ground of consistent and reliable best practices and immediately measurable results.

SO… next time someone asks me the question, “What Do I Do About SEO?” I'm going to direct them to this blog post. Here is what you need to know:

SEO IS MISSION CRITICAL BECAUSE

Search Engine Optimization is the coveted holy grail of internet marketing because obviously your customers are searching on Google (and other search engines) for your products and services and being among the top of the first page of results will bring you a ton of web traffic and customers forever. Sounds great right? Here is where the problems begin…

WHY IS SEO A HUGE PROBLEM FOR MOST BUSINESS OWNERS

  1. SEO is a long-term marketing plan. Unless your website already has a ton of internet traffic, content, and domain authority (more on this later) you should expect that it is going to take a LONG time to get enough organic traffic from search engines for it to make any substantial dent in your business's bottom line. It takes time.
  2. SEO is a moving target… or at very least its super hard. Search Engines have the job of making sure that customers (searchers) find the very best results for any given search but they have to use code, algorithms, and patterns to determine what makes one website better than another for the end customer/searcher. Marketers spend a lot of money and time trying to optimize websites to those patterns and algorithms used by search engines in order to get to the top of the results. As marketers figure it out, the search engines change it. Its a bit of a game…. until you realize that in order to win you have to care a little less about the algorithm and start just putting out amazing/awesome website content that is actually the best thing the searcher could find/want… and that can be even harder than trying to guess what Google is thinking this month.
  3. SEO is a chicken and egg problem. You need domain authority to get rankings and you need rankings to get domain authority…. (sort of). So, how do you get either? Well a little at a time… inch by inch… fighting for it with content over time. Sound fun?
  4. SEO requires something far more different and expensive than money. Time. Most advertising and marketing is simple. You just give money to a vendor and wait for the clicks, phone calls, or walk-ins. SEO doesn't work that way. If you do it yourself then you have to invest a lot of time. You have to create content and that content has to be awesome. Its consuming and even more challenging when you do it for months on end without knowing if it is working (see number 1). You can always hire someone else…. but…
  5. SEO Outsourced Is Mysterious. If you hire a 3rd party company to help with SEO you have a unique set of challenges. First they will rarely tell you what they are doing. If they told you, you would probably fire them and do it yourself. Second, you are going to spend money for weeks or months without results… and only if they do it right after time you start to see any results at all (see number 1). If they don't do a good job they can do long term damage that you can't even see or understand.

Now that I've thoroughly depressed you…

SO HOW DO YOU GET STARTED WITH SEO?

Here are suggestions that might take the sting out of all this doom and gloom:

Start With Paid Traffic

Your #1 Goal in any online advertising is to optimize your marketing funnel. It doesn't matter how much traffic you can drive if none of that traffic opts in, buys, or contacts you with interest in your service or product. In order for any marketer to optimize the sales/lead funnel they need to drive traffic into it. SEO just can't do that in the beginning. In addition having to pay for advertising will force you or your marketing agency to make the funnel as good as it can be… something you will be grateful for when your SEO work starts to pay off in the future.

Favor Quality Over Quantity

A big evolution of SEO is the move away from content for the sake of content toward content for the sake of a quality user experience. This favors a small business that is low on resources. Don't feel like you have to create a blog and post to it once a week. Instead carefully consider valuable content pieces and spend time and energy making them awesome… even if that means you only put out something once a month or less.

Get Obsessive With User Experience

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer, user, or reader and ask yourself how your website makes it easy (or not) to find the right information, research products, and make buying decisions. How does it look on a mobile phone? What information is missing that would make the customer's experience better?

SEO OVERVIEW CONCLUSION

The objective of this article is to explain the complexity of SEO for the small business owner, while still giving you some clear and simple things you can do to start. This isn't the end-all but it should at least make you feel empowered to start somewhere. Until next time!

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The 3 Ps of Getting Web Traffic

SEO or Paid Traffic? A Conversation About Priorities