SEO Checklist for Small Business Owners

Posted by on Oct 01 2018

It’s easy to forget the the simplest SEO tasks when you’re busy. Search engines can drive a huge amount of traffic to your site, but only if you’re consistent about doing the SEO work.

Here’s a simple checklist reminder for the next time you post on your blog or add a new page to your site. This list doesn’t include overarching SEO techniques for your entire website, but focuses on the everyday tasks when adding new content to a site which is already optimized for SEO.

  • Choose keywords appropriate to the page; don’t simply replicate the website keywords on every page. Ask yourself, “What does my visitor want from this page or blog post?”
  • Title tag
  • Description tag
  • Alt tag for images
  • Image file names
  • Social sharing fields (title, snippet, image)
  • Using your keywords in the headings and sub-headings
  • Keyword in page URL (aka “slug”) (and domain name, if possible)
  • Keywords in text: don’t stuff them in, but having them near each other (“proximity”) helps; put them closer to the top of the page.
  • Links to internal pages
  • Links to external pages (make sure it’s a reputable site)
  • If you’re using WordPress, choose one of the SEO plugins, like Yoast, to make it easier. It gives you easy-to-complete fields for data entry on the tags and snippets, and reminds you if your SEO isn’t strong for that page.
  • If you have a Category or Round Up page that shows popular posts on a specific topic, add the new post/page to that directory for your website.

You can check where you currently rank for your keywords in Google Analytics. It’s the Queries report: Acquisition>Search Console>Queries

Want details? Check out my blog post Getting Your Website Seen on Search Engines.

   

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Website Planning

Phases of Your Business Journey

Posted by on Oct 01 2018

I’d love to be able to tell you that there are set of linear and finite phases that every small business owner goes through while you’re rethinking and redesigning your business model…

…but if I told you that, it would be a lie.

But there are some well known phases that you might go through, sometimes circling back to one you thought you already finished, and skipping others completely. Here is a short list of some of the signposts you’ll encounter on the road to redesigning your business model:

  • I know/feel something needs to change – You find yourself pausing in the middle of the day (or worse, in the middle of the night) and asking, “Is this the business I want? Is there untapped potential in me that’s striving to get out? What’s next for me?” People report feeling restless or frustrated, knowing deep in their heart and mind that the business needs a shake-up, a new way of being in the world.
  • Getting lost in the not-knowingness – This is one of the toughest phases in business redesign, because you have to be okay with not having the solution. Some spiritual teachers call this not-knowingness “the grace of mystery.” Puts a different spin on it, doesn’t it?
  • Finding clarity on goals – If you spend time tapping into your goals for your business, and for yourself personally, you’ll find that it’s easier in the next phases to explore and choose the right business model for you. Is there a particular problem you need to solve? A particular dream you’d like to achieve? Values you’d like to express into the world?
  • Exploring the possibilities – In this idea-generation phase you explore every aspect of your existing business model, looking for places to add, modify and discard. No idea is sacred and no idea is thrown away. Even the craziest of ideas can be a springboard to a new business model. Creativity and innovative thinking are crucial keys during this phase.
  • Making a road map – This is where you design your new business and marketing model, keeping what still fits from your old model and mixing in the new ideas you’ve generated. This is also where you create your transition plan and map out where and when changes will take place, and what resources you’ll need to make it happen.
  • Taking the journey – Implementing your business model changes can happen in a week or it can be a two-year process, depending on how complex the changes are and how many resources you have at your disposal. This is often a journey through the weeds and can be rough going. Why? Because you have to continue to run your existing business (unless you’re independently wealthy!) while creating your new business at the same time. Managing change can feel like a juggling act, and I’ll talk more about it in future posts.

Where are you on the path to rethinking and redesigning your business? I’d love to hear your story, so join me in the comments below!

   

8 comments for now

Category: Rethinking Your Business
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Designing Your Perfect Week

Posted by on Sep 25 2018

I’ve been spending a lot of time this week working on my Perfect Week. Have you ever done this exercise?

perfect week large

You map out what you want to be doing during the week, by category, making sure the high-priority items get on your schedule first. It helps you set priorities and creates more productivity in your days.

Then, in the future, when you need to schedule something, you see how it fits into your “perfect” week instead of letting your schedule get away from you.

Some people balk at the idea of structuring their days so completely. That’s okay — just as long as you’re clear on what you want to accomplish each week and you have a plan in place for getting it all done. And it’s important that you also have a plan for saying “no” to tasks and people who take you off track of your goals.

For me, the structure is necessary; if I leave it up to “I’ll do whichever task I feel like doing in the moment,” I don’t get all my tasks done. 🙂

I created mine in an Excel spreadsheet, but you could use any word processor, or just a paper calendar to map out yours.

Here’s a blank copy of my Excel spreadsheet so you can try this exercise for yourself! (If you don’t have Excel, you can still download the spreadsheet, then open it in a Google Drive spreadsheet.)

Here’s a blank copy in PDF format if you prefer.

I hope you find it helpful…or at least eye-opening.

   

17 comments for now

Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time

7 Tips for Managing Information Overload

Posted by on Sep 20 2018

Do you ever have that disturbing feeling that trying to squeeze one more piece of new information in your brain will render you senseless?

Information overload causes stress and a loss of productivity. We’re so busy gathering information that we never seem to get into action around implementing all these great ideas. And we can’t seem to put our fingers on the important information that we’ve gathered!

Here’s even more bad news: when you take in too much information, according to a Temple University study, you begin to make more errors, and worse, make more bad decisions. Can your business really afford that lack of clear thinking? (Don’t even get me started about how a hyper-connected lifestyle is bad for your physical and emotional health!)

Here are 10 tips for managing information overload so you regain control of your brain, your time and your tasks:

  1. Remember the most important rule: YOU are in charge of your To Do list and YOU are in charge of your calendar and YOU are in charge of how much information you’re willing to receive each day. Don’t set yourself up for information overload by trying to take multiple classes at once, or trying to read more than one book at a time without setting up “assimilate and implement” time. Be selective and base all your decisions on achieving your goals while mirroring your values.
  2. Get things out of your head and on to paper. When you take in a lot of information, your brain naturally tries to process it, to make connections, and apply it to your real life. When you try to keep all that thinking in your brain, you feel muddled, anxious, confused. Doing a brain dump and writing down your ideas, even in a quick list format, will help clear things out.
  3. Take the most recent class you’ve attended or the most recent book you’ve read, and create a Top 3 Action Items list. Don’t create a massive To Do list of every great idea from the class or book. Instead, choose the top three things that you can take action on within a month, and put only those three things on your Action Items list. Once they’re done, you can always go back and choose three more. The point here is two-fold: start implementing what you’ve learned and do it in such a way that you don’t overload yourself.
  4. Make a decision to make a decision. I know, it sounds silly, right? But if ideas and information are running around in your head and you’re not willing to either act on them or let them go, you sabotage yourself and hold yourself in a perpetual state of overload. Stop doing that to yourself. Instead, tell yourself, “Today I will make a decision,” then do it. You’ll feel immediately better.
  5. When you are drowning in information, stop piling on more. It’s okay to stop watching the evening news. It’s okay to stop reading articles or checking social media sites several times a day. Each time you interact with an information delivery system, guess what? More information is shoved in your face. By taking a vacation – even a short one – from any information delivery system, you get immediate relief from information overload.
  6. Use tools like Evernote or One Note to have a central location for storing information. As important as storing information is, retrieving it easily is even more important, which is why I moved from paper notebooks to Evernote for storing notes when taking classes, reading books or perusing articles. Evernote allows you to tag each note with keywords and sort them into folders. Notes are completely searchable, so you can have all the information and ideas you’ve accumulated at your fingertips.
  7. Do you have competing goals? Work on one at a time. For instance, today I wanted to accomplish three things: write this blog post, create my class schedule for the next nine months, and work on a class agenda for a new program I’m designing. All of these things are exciting, and all need to get done and all required research and paying attention to incoming information. But only one of the three had a deadline: writing this blog post. So I put the other things on the back burner, and focused solely on writing this blog post. Once it’s done, I’ll choose ONE of the other two projects to work on next. You have to be willing to let go of some information, even exciting information, so you can focus on your priorities.

I’d love to hear from you: how to you cope with information overload? Are there techniques or software products you use to help you manage absorbing, processing and retrieving information?

   

15 comments for now

Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
Tags: , ,

Nurturing the Not-Ready Customer Through the Buying Cycle

Posted by on Sep 14 2018

We’d all love it if we could close every deal or every sale with a new customer in 30 minutes or less. But that rarely happens. A sales cycle can last up to six months, depending on how much research the potential customer has done before he or she comes to you.

Before customers are ready to sign on the dotted line, they first must go through a well-researched route to purchasing products and services, called the Buying Cycle. You need to nurture these potential clients and help them along this route to ultimately choosing the solution you’re offering them.

Studies show that 79% of website visitors aren’t ready to buy. They’re somewhere else in the buying cycle. They may not even be aware of the scope of their problem, and may simply be in the early stages of researching a possible solution.

But just because they’re not ready to buy doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity for you as a business owner. If you continue to educate them and nurture those leads – wherever they are in the buying cycle – you’ll be at the top of their minds when they’re ready to buy.

The Buying Cycle

The typical buying cycle goes from having an awareness that there is a problem to evaluating the possible solutions, choosing one and implementing it. And it ends, hopefully, with a long-term, meaningful relationship with a customer.

A more detailed explanation of the buying cycle:

  1. Acknowledging there’s a problem they need to solve. Something is broken – either a physical product, like their washing machine, or a process in their business – and they need to fix it.
  2. Making a decision to fix this problem. They can’t do it themselves, so they need outside help.
  3. Determining exactly what results they want. What’s their end goal? What outcome or results do they want after purchasing and implementing a solution?
  4. Gathering basic information. They’re searching for companies that can help them, and often doing this research online. Perhaps they’re asking friends or other business owners who’ve had similar problems about their solutions.
  5. Identifying possible solutions or vendors that will give the result or results that they want.
  6. Comparing those solutions or vendors.
  7. Selecting a vendor/product.
  8. Negotiating the deal.
  9. Making a purchase decision. This can mean either signing a contract or making a direct purchase.
  10. Implementing the solution. Your relationship doesn’t end with the purchase. Now you have to help them use your product or service wisely to get full results.
  11. Forging an ongoing relationship. This allows for repeat business from the same customer and ensures ongoing customer satisfaction and word-of-mouth referrals.

Recognizing where your customer is in this buying cycle is key. When a customer first makes contact with you, have a set of questions ready that help determine where he or she is. “Tell me about your situation?” “Have you looked at other solutions?” Their answers to these questions can help determine whether they’re still early in the buying cycle, or if they’re close to making a decision.

Pick Marketing Techniques Based on Buying Cycle

Choose different marketing techniques for each phase of the buying cycle. For instance:

  • A well-designed website can help customers early on in the buying cycle by allowing them to gather information.
  • A free whitepaper outlining possible solutions and comparing them helps mid-way through the buying cycle.
  • An email campaign helps prospective customers through the pre-purchase process, and later forges an ongoing, repeat-buying relationship near the end of the buying cycle.

Having content for each stage tells your customer, “We’re ready when you are.” If they’re early in the buying cycle, back off and let them explore, but be available to answer questions. If they want to discuss possibly buying from you, be available for a phone or in-person meeting, and have marketing material ready to help them make a choice from among your offerings.

By being aware of the different stages in the buying process, and thinking about what questions your customer are asking at each stage of the cycle, you can provide a prospective customer with the appropriate marketing technique at the right time.

   

8 comments for now

Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing

Warming Cues to Make Your Prospective Customers Feel Welcome

Posted by on Sep 10 2018

I know you’ve heard it a thousand times: make your prospective customer feel welcome and safe while they’re learning about your products and services, and they’ll buy from you.

But when you actually see this in action, it’s a miracle to behold.

One afternoon, with several hours to spare before I had to appear at a speaking engagement in New York City, I wandered into Macy’s Herald Square. It’s one of the busiest department stores in New York, and it didn’t help that it was pouring rain and everyone wanted to get inside to dry off a bit.

So how does Macy’s welcome its customers? With the most brilliant — and inexpensive — solution that can be handed out at the door on a rainy day: Umbrella Bags. A very nice man in a very nice business suit stood at the door for hours, offering people plastic bags (with the Macy’s logo on it, naturally!) so that they could tuck their wet umbrellas away while they shopped.

You might think this is no big deal, but if you’ve ever shopped in a crowded store, trying to figure out what to do with your web umbrella is a real distraction.

Macy’s made every person who walked through the door feel welcomed and cared for. Net result: less distracted people who could focus on buying.

Now apply this to your business:

  • If you have an office or a place where you meet customers, how welcoming is it? What color is the decor? Do you see to their basic and common needs, like bathrooms, water, etc.?
  • If your business has a website, do you give them the information they’re looking for, in a simple and speedy way? Are your text, graphics and colors friendly and welcoming?
  • When you answer the phone or connect via video conference, how is your voice modulated? Do you act rushed or do you relax into the conversation and create a great environment?
  • When you answer emails, what’s the tone of reply coming off your keyboard?

Make your customers feel welcomed and cared for, and they’ll return again and again.

   

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

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