Should your small business worry about SEO?

If you’ve got a website and are running a small business online, chances are you know at least a little about search engine optimization (SEO). By implementing the following SEO activities, you boost your chances of appearing on the first page of Google or Bing:

  • A keyword strategy
  • Correct header and image tags
  • Internal and external links
  • New content
  • (to name just the essentials)

However, while SEO certainly creates results, it is definitely a long game. Even with all the best practice in place, it can still take, on average, 4-6 months for SEO to start paying off. That involves a lot of hard work either optimizing your pages yourself, or paying for an external agency to do it for you. And in certain sectors, where you’re competing against giants or millions of other small businesses, it can be even harder to stand out.

So, should your small business worry about SEO? The answer: it depends.

What’s your ambition?

First off, before investing time and money into SEO, you need to be clear what your ambition is. SEO is a vital tactic for companies that are aiming to expand and grow their presence online. These companies need to produce lots of content, win backlinks and boost their reputation, and also make it easy for potential customers to find them.

On the other hand, if you aim to treat your company as a ‘lifestyle business’ or simply aim to work as a solopreneur long term, there are likely a number of cheaper, more effective ways to market your brand.

For more growth hacking tips, read our blog on lead gen for small businesses.

Is it the best marketing strategy for what you do?

There’s any number of SEO agencies out there who will promise that SEO is the answer to all your problems and will make you a millionaire. And, this can be true. However, SEO isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. Many companies have successfully marketed themselves without using SEO at all and won countless new customers with anything from paid ads to networking to social media marketing.

In some sectors, more ‘traditional’ marketing tactics will make more sense. Say you’re a masseuse who offers your services to office workers in Seattle. Printing out fliers and dropping them off at the receptions of office buildings in the city will likely pay off way more than trying to get on page one for a search term like ‘Seattle office massage’. The point is, don’t buy into the SEO hype – instead, think about what marketing activities will have an impact on your customers.

Whether you feel SEO is right for your business or not, it’s still worth following basic best practices – these are free and not very time consuming. And, if you decide SEO is right for you later on, you’ll have the foundations in place already. Moz’s beginners guide to SEO is a good starter.

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Len is a tech and business writer who covers small business and startup advice and has appeared in many print and digital publications. He lives in London, UK, where he's also a sub editor on a national newspaper. He loves to travel and has lived in France, Spain, Senegal and Rwanda.

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Guide to striking deals via email

When an email from a new lead lands in your inbox, the way you respond can be critical. The initial negotiations with a potential client, where you find out what they want and what they’re willing to pay can be complicated – especially when the entire conversation happens over email.

Psychological research has found that up to 90% of face-to-face communication is non-verbal, meaning that it’s a lot harder to gauge what a client wants when the only interaction you have with them is written in the body of an email.

Nonetheless, people are increasingly reaching business deals with people and businesses they’ve only spoken to via email messages – and millennials in particular say they prefer contacting clients over emails than phone calls.

If you find email a complicated medium, let’s look at some useful ways you can build rapport over email, which will make more of those promising leads turn into profitable customers.

Striking Deals Over Email

Let’s take a look at some simple steps you can follow to boost the chances that the email conversation will turn into real business:

1. Avoid hitting people with quotes and brochures up front
Unless the lead asks to receive price listings or other material immediately, you should not overwhelm them with this kind of content. Rather, aim to build a conversation and find out what their problems are and what they want you to help them with.

2. Meaningful subject lines will help everyone
An clear email subject line makes it easier for the client to find your email in their inbox – and it also tells them what the email will be about before they open it.

3. Keep the conversation flowing with questions
Don’t expect your leads to write long, detailed messages. It’s not uncommon for emails to be short and to the point – this doesn’t mean there’s a problem, you just need to keep the person’s attention. A simple start is to keep the conversation going by asking them friendly questions which mean they’re more likely to answer.

4. Cut length, boost clarity
Lengthy emails will just confuse potential clients. While you don’t want to appear blunt, you need to make it easy for them to respond to you and your questions. Bullet points or listed questions are easier for them to answer in turn.

5. Close off longer emails by summing up
If you need to write a longer email, aim to sum up the key points of your message at the beginning, and also draw out any specific requests or actions you need the client to complete at the end of the email

Happy emailing

Email can be a powerful tool for closing business deals – but unlike a face to face conversation, misunderstandings are more likely, and you can lose a warm lead with slow or confusing replies. However, just a couple of changes to your emailing style can make a big difference, and turn more leads into customers.

7 Timeless Tips on Advertising from Ogilvy

You’ve probably heard of David Ogilvy and his timeless marketing book “Ogilvy on Advertising”. If you haven’t, I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy here.

I’d like to share with you a few of my favorite nuggets of wisdom that I’ve found in his book and have used for my clients, successfully, and that you can start using today to help your business grow. Let’s jump in…

Speak Visually. Create an infographic with Visme

Marketing Tip Number One:

It pays to give most products an image of quality. A first class ticket.

Marketing Tip Number Two:

Big ideas are what it takes to attract consumers to your product. (Which leads us to…)

Marketing Tip Number Three:

How to recognize a big idea.

Did it make me gasp when I first saw it?
Do I wish I thought of it?
Is it unique?
Does it fit strategy to perfection?
Could it be used for 30 years?

In a recent post I wrote about harnessing the power of mass desire on to your product, I covered why some ads run for 30 days and some run for three decades. You can check it out here.

Marketing Tip Number Four:

Positioning (what it is and what it isn’t)

Positioning is not a buzzword. Simply put, it is “What a product does and who it is for”.

Marketing Tip Number Five:

For local advertising you get [much] better results when you name the city/location in your headline.

Marketing Tip Number Six:

Recall increases by [an average factor of] 28% when you put your headline in quotes.

Marketing Tip Number Seven:

Story Appeal (use it). Add photos that arouse curiosity and entice the prospect to read the copy.

When it comes to marketing your business you have to take a unique approach, because after all, your business is unique and the problems you solve and face will be unique as well.

Copying what others do won’t get you there. Learning principles, tips and “hacks” that are proven effective will help. However, it’s up to you and your team to find the groove that makes your product irresistible to your customers.

These tips can get you some of the way there but don’t look for all the answers on the internet. Use your mind, trust your gut (you understand your business better than anyone else) and rely on the facts that can help you leverage your marketing efforts further.

When you’re creating your next marketing campaign try to remember these tips and this quote from Steve Jobs. I find it both insightful and motivating, I hope you do to!

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
– Steve Jobs