Don’t Leave Business Success To Willpower — Rely On Automation

Don’t Leave Business Success To Willpower — Rely On Automation

Your phone lights up with an alert. It’s a big new lead from your website! This is always an exciting moment, and gives you a nice little afternoon buzz, not unlike that third cup of coffee.

You immediately call the lead and kick off the next steps to turn that lead into another happy customer. But somewhere along the way — usually right after you provide that customer with an estimate and they tell you they need time to think it over — your enthusiasm runs out.

It was so easy and exciting when the lead was brand new. Why is so hard now to follow up and chase after that opportunity? You tell yourself for the 15th time that you should get on the phone  and call them, but hey…another new lead just came in from your website.

Sound familiar? Are you gung-ho when it comes to chasing new leads, but reluctant when it comes to following up with customers? Even when time allows, do you feel resistance towards following up? Well, you’re certainly not the only one.

Many business owners only follow up once, follow up inconsistently, or never follow up at all. But chasing down leads and ignoring customers after the estimate is provided is a big mistake. It’s a waste of marketing dollars and it’s a waste of your time and energy.

After all, you’ve already paid to bring in the leads and spent time and energy providing the estimates. Why leave it at that when as many as eight out of 10 sales are closed after the fourth contact, and your customers may need as many as seven touches before they’re ready to say “Yes?”

You’ve already paid marketing dollars and spent time providing estimates, and you know customers need nurturing (especially when it comes to high dollar decisions). Why don’t you follow up?

Maybe you feel like you’re bothering your customers. Maybe you’re too busy. Maybe you just assume if they’re interested, they’ll reach out to you. Maybe you don’t like hearing the word “No,” or feeling a twinge of rejection. Whatever the reason, it’s time to set yourself up for success and claim the fortune you’re leaving on the table.

Making The Right Action The Easy Action

Following up is kind of like eating healthy: we know it’s good for us, but we tend to avoid or resist it. We start out the new year with the very best intentions, but by February, we’re already back to our old ways and eating whatever’s easiest, not whatever’s healthiest.

We may think, “Well, I’m just not a health nut, so it’s harder for me.” But do people who succeed in maintaining a healthy lifestyle just have greater willpower than the rest of the world? No. They don’t leave success up to willpower.

Willpower is a muscle, and like any muscle it can have moments of weakness. It can get tired and fail us. You can’t rely on willpower alone when you’re making a big lifestyle shift or making a decision to choose the hard, but good thing. If you do, you’ll never permanently make the shift; you’ll revert to whatever’s easiest. Instead, you have to set yourself up for success by making the good action the easier, less painful thing to do.

With health and diet, that means only buying foods that align with your health plan so there aren’t any processed foods or junk foods in your house when your willpower is weak.

It means planning and cooking healthy meals ahead of time, so that meal prep and cleanup is done for the week. When healthy alternatives are easy to grab and ready to go, you’re less likely to let the day’s events and time crunches send you to McDonald’s for a quick bite.

It means taking healthy alternatives with you when you go to an event where you know only hot dogs, chips, nacho cheese, and pizza will be served.

And it means finding new, healthier ways to satisfy cravings. If you crave salt, keep some nuts in your truck. If you have a sweet tooth, keep single serving dark chocolate squares around or stock up on your favorite fruit.

It’s the same with follow-ups and other business tasks that you tend to resist. The trick is to make doing the right thing easy and mindless, so you don’t even have to think about it. And the best way to do that in business is to automate the process.

With a little effort up front, you can create a semi-automatic system to make sure follow-ups are happening consistently in your business. Setting up a system should accomplish the following things:

  • Eliminate the resistance you feel
  • Set the positive action in motion
  • Ensure the tough stuff’s getting done
  • Save you time
  • Increase your marketing ROI
  • Provide the nurturing your customers need to make a decision

If you’d rather not mess with designing the process, tools like Closing Commander™ can do the work for you. Either way, automating follow-ups means you’ll know they are happening, but you won’t have to make yourself do them. They’ll be happening in the background, and the only action you’ll have to take is to add the customer to the system if they don’t say “Yes” or “No” on the spot.

Effective automation of repetitive tasks wipes out the need for willpower and sets you up for success.

Have You Set Yourself Up For Success?

No matter what your goals are for your business or personal life this year, you need to make sure you’ve set yourself up for success. If you’ve stumbled all through the first few months of 2019 and you feel like you’re just not up to the challenge, give yourself a break. Your willpower hasn’t failed you, your systems have.

Following up is just one business task you can automate. Think about the tools and tactics out there that can make it easier for you to succeed, and put them into practice — after all, no one’s willpower is unending. The goal is to work smarter, not harder, and to make the right action, the easy action. Here’s to your success!

The Time Saving Tools & Apps Every Small Business Owner Needs

The Time Saving Tools & Apps Every Small Business Owner Needs

When you’re a kid, it can feel like time is stretched out, never-ending, slow like honey. Especially when you’re grounded or waiting for school to end. But as adults, we don’t have that problem. Time just flies. That’s especially true for business owners, who have the herculean task of getting three days worth of work done in a single 24 hour period.

It would be a lot cooler if we were here to share a time-slowing or stopping secret with you — and if we did, this post would probably go viral — but we’re realists. We know we can’t alter our reality or yours, but we can certainly make use of time-saving tools, tactics, and apps to make it seem like we’re slowing and stretching time. And that’s good enough for us.

So what are some of the best time-saving tools, tactics, and apps for business owners?

Managing your business & your customer data

Running a business is never easy, but with the right CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, it can be easier. Tools like Housecall Pro and Jobber allow you to easily manage your team, send quotes, schedule, send invoices, and get paid. Both also sync with Quickbooks, saving you the extra step of adding the numbers after a job is done. If you’re ready to save hundreds of hours and free up some time, you need a good CRM, so check these guys out.

Keeping your eyes on the numbers

Every growing business needs accounting software that will grow with it. That’s where Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and other similar tools come in. Easily track income and expenses, send estimates, send invoices and accept payments, organize receipts, manage bills, track time, and more. If you’ve been living spreadsheet to spreadsheet, save yourself time and headache by switching to accounting software. Plans are affordable and there’s something for every business, regardless of size.

Managing company files, data, and SOPs, while using a professional company email address

GSuite is Google’s solution to data and storage management, but it also allows you to create multiple “@yourcompany.com” email addresses so any customer-facing employees can send professional looking emails to customers (for example, you@yourcompany.com or sales@yourcompany.com). You can also create group mailing lists, manage mobile devices (even erase data), and store important company documents that your team needs access to on the go.

Communicating with your team

Communication only gets harder with each employee added, but with the right tools, team communication can be simplified. Need to alert your whole team to a change or issue or create specific groups? Even if you’re out on the job and don’t have time to take off your gloves and type it all up, there are ways to get the message out there to everyone you need to communicate with. For text-based communication, there are apps like Slack and GroupMe, and for voice-based communication with the option for text, try Voxer. All three allow you to share photos and videos and communicate with groups or individuals, but Voxer and GroupMe also allow you to share your location, which is a bonus for service area businesses.

Managing HR & benefits

Everyone knows HR can be a real headache, and the more employees you have, the harder things get. But with GoCo, an all-in-one HR platform, it’s easy to manage payroll, time off, benefits, etc. You’ll have all of your employee information in one place, and there’s even a built-in compliance component so you know your butt is covered.

Managing team and personal tasks, lists, and projects

No one wants to micromanage, but every business owner wants to know what’s getting done, when, and by whom. That’s where project management platforms like Trello, Wunderlist, Teamwork, and Monday come in. Trello allows you to create boards, lists, and cards, and is great for visualizing where you are in a process and what’s next. Wunderlist is great for creating and assigning lists and tasks, and setting reminders for yourself or others. You can also add due dates, comments, and tags. With Teamwork, you can create projects, assign and check off tasks, comment, and view workflow by individual, due date, and project. You can also set it up so that email notifications go out to the responsible individual every time a task is assigned to them. Monday is similar, but what makes this great is that you can view things six different ways, so no matter how you prefer to conceptualize projects in your mind, Monday can accommodate.

The best news? All of these platforms are accessible from your phone, desktop, or tablet, so no matter where you are, you can see what’s going on and what needs to be done.

Managing your time

Need to buckle down and spend some time in the office? Wondering how long your day-to-day tasks take? While some of the tools we’ve already listed have time-tracking features, if you’re looking for a tool that does that and that alone, try Pomodoro Tracker, Tomato Timers, Toggl, or TomatoTimer. All of these apps are based on the Pomodoro Technique for productivity, and break down work into intervals with short breaks. Great for hunkering down, focusing, and getting higher-quality work done. Plus, they help you get an idea of how long each task takes, so you can better plan and schedule in the future.

Managing social posts

A lot of business owners hate the social media aspect of business management, but you’ve got to be where people are looking and engage with your customers and potential customers. That means you need to be regularly posting on the social media channels that make sense for your business.

But figuring out what you’re going to post on social and making sure it gets scheduled and posted doesn’t have to be super time-consuming. Tools like Canva make it easy to create graphics and find photos for social posts, and Hootsuite and Buffer make scheduling, posting, and analyzing performance/engagement simple and fast. So if you’ve been overwhelmed trying to manage social media in-house, rest assured, there’s help.

Managing trip details and hotel arrangements for conventions, expos, and that dream vacay

The devil’s in the details, and whether you’re trying to keep track of your own travel arrangements or the arrangements of several people from your team, it’s easy to miss something, lose something, and get overwhelmed. Take the stress out of things by using a tool like Tripit. Simply forward all of your booked arrangements to plans@tripit.com and receive a master itinerary that’s accessible from any device. The pro version even allows you to receive real-time flight alerts, locate alternate flights, find out if a better seat is available, get fare refund notifications, share plans, and track rewards. Forget about printing all the details and fumbling through your bag to find the information you need. Keep it all together with Tripit.

Managing your knowledge and growth

As a business owner, it can be hard to find the time to invest in learning and growing as an individual and a leader on top of everything else. And it can also be hard to ask your team to invest in growth when they already have packed schedules. But thanks to podcasts and apps like Audible, it’s easy to learn and grow on the go.

Driving to or from a job? Sitting in traffic? You and your team can make use of this otherwise wasted time by listening to an audiobook or podcast and adding to your knowledge. Now, there are no more excuses for why you didn’t finish that business book. You can even pay for Audible memberships for employees as incentives!

Managing follow-ups and open estimates

While CRMs like Housecall Pro and Jobber can help you send invoices and quotes, you still have to manually take care of the follow-up. That means either setting aside time every week to go through the stack of open estimates, make calls, and send emails, or just hoping that anyone who’s interested will eventually call to schedule. Neither is a very good option, and you could end up leaving some big money on the table if you’re doing things that way.

Closing Commander is a system that automatically follows up with every customer you add up to 7 times, and makes it easy to track opens, responses, and won bids all in one dashboard. The best part? All emails come from and go to your business email address, so nothing looks automated or spammy, and you won’t miss a single message. Save time, close more estimates, and know the follow-up is getting done.

Now Go Forth & Save Time

Well, that about wraps it up! We could, of course, make this list longer, but this is all about time-savings, so why would we? Thanks for sticking it out with us, and let us know in the comments what your favorite time-saving tools and tactics are!

Is Google Unfair Or Do You Just Have To Know How To Play The Game?

Is Google Unfair Or Do You Just Have To Know How To Play The Game?

Google. For the average searcher, it’s a noun, a verb, and a godsend that makes everything in life just a little easier. But for a small business owner, it can be a word that brings on rants and feelings of anxiety, victimization, and anger. After all, It’s Google’s game. Google makes the rules, Google changes the rules, and business owners are often left to figure it out, without much of a rule book.

But the reality is: You gotta play ball somewhere. And if you play with integrity, stay on top of the changes, and anticipate the next move, Google can be a really good thing for your business.

Google Brings The Crowd

According to Statista, Google accounted for about 63% of all search queries in the U.S. in 2018, and that’s just on desktop. Google accounted for 93%+ of all mobile searches last year. That means if you’re not making your business visible on Google, you’re not sticking it to Google, you’re sticking it to yourself.

Whether at home or out and about, people are searching for local businesses on their phones, and apparently 93%+ of them are using Google as their preferred search engine. So, you need to make sure you’re bringing your A game and playing on Google’s field, because Google’s bringing the crowd..

Covering Your Bases

So what does bringing your A game to Google mean? What are some plays that can help you win, even though it’s not a home game for you?

Google My Business profile

Claiming and managing your Google My Business profile is one of the easiest and most important things you can do when you’re playing ball with Google. This is essentially your in-search website, and Google wants it to provide searchers with all the basics, like your phone number, your address (if you have a business people can visit), your hours, the locations you serve, your website URL, and your services.

There are new features coming and going all the time (like Google Posts, Q&A, etc.) so don’t just look at your GMB profile once and leave it at that; get the app and check it regularly to make sure everything’s up-to-date.

Google Posts

Speaking of your GMB profile, you can add Google Posts to that area, including photos and videos. It’s a (currently) free way to easily showcase your work, your employees, and your specials, and put a little extra personality and incentive in front of searchers who are looking at your business, but haven’t yet clicked through to your website. Posts are super easy to do, and if you have the GMB app on your phone, you can literally throw one together on your lunch break.

Reviews

Even though Google has a bit of a fake review problem, the need for great, authentic reviews hasn’t waned. 86% of people look at a business’s reviews before making the call or visiting the website, and with Google showing the star rating right in your GMB profile or in Maps results, it’s an easy(ish) way to make yourself stand out. So make review generation a routine part of your service, by using tools like BirdEye.

BirdEye saves you time and can help you get more reviews for your business on over 150 different sites. If that sounds like a dream to you, reach out to us. We work closely with BirdEye and can get you set up at an especially sweet price.

Google Ads/PPC

You often hear that it’s a pay-to-play world online these days, and while that’s not your only option, it is a good option. Adding Google Ads to your marketing strategy can help get your business out in front of more eyes, and since Google Ads get favored placement in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), people on mobile don’t even have to scroll down to find you.

Ok, ok, but isn’t it incredibly expensive? It all depends on your market and competition. Google Ads uses a bidding system, so if you have some big competitors and you’re in a super saturated market, it can be hard to compete with those bigger budgets. But that’s not always the case. There are other factors that determine which ads get shown other than just the highest bidder.

If you’re curious about Google Ads and want to see if they might be a financially feasible option for you, give us a call. We can take a look at your market and competition, and figure out if it’s something that would work with your budget.

Google Local Service Ads

Google Local Service Ads are ads that show up even above traditional PPC ads, but they’re not fully rolled out to every market and every industry. They’re also a little bit different from traditional ads.

These feature a “Google Guarantee” badge, and Google has also tested a “booked X times near you” feature. The point of both is to encourage people to feel confident in choosing the business, because they know 1.) Google vouches for the business 2.)  Everyone else is doing it.

While Google Local Service Ads are still relatively new, a lot of people are seeing great results and finding that the average cost-per-click is actually lower than that of Google Ads. But these ads come with additional rules as well, so be sure to get the run down before you get started.

Organic Search Results

While Google Ads and Google Local Service Ads (if they’re rolled out in your vertical and in your area) take up a lot of space on the tops of the SERPs, they’re not the only places people are looking and clicking. In fact, according to the latest BrightLocal Local Services Ads Click Study, organic search results still account for the most clicks, even when Google Local Service Ads are present. In other words, organic still matters.

So how do you make sure your bases are covered here?

  • By making sure you have accurate and consistent listings created for your business on all of the relevant players. That means places like Google, Yelp, Facebook, the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and niche sites related to your industry. If you’re in home services, for example, you may want to have listings on Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, Porch, and similar sites.
  • By making sure your website is well-optimized, mobile-friendly, and filled with relevant content and keywords. Google’s slightly obsessed with E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness), and it will look at things like the quality of the content on the site and the bounce rate of searchers that visit your site to weigh in on that. It’s also important to have authoritative links pointing to your site, especially local links if you’re a local service business. Obviously, you want to get these links naturally, so get involved in your community, sponsor events and local sports teams, and look for link opportunities.

The Highlight Reel

Playing ball with Google may never be as fun as real baseball, but don’t throw down your bat and sit this one out. You can’t afford to. Pair up with a marketing company that watches Google’s every move, has studied every hypothetical playbook, and can signal you when you step up to the plate. With a little help and a little focus, you’ll knock it out of the park, and win on Google’s turf.

SEO: When To Hire & When To Do It Yourself

SEO: When To Hire & When To Do It Yourself

SEO, or search-engine-optimization, is brilliantly simple or surprisingly complex, depending on who you ask. Some people make sweeping promises and guarantee dreamy results, while others won’t make promises at all.

So what’s the deal, who’s right? And who should you trust your SEO to? Should you do it yourself in-house or hire an individual or company to do it for you? To find out, let’s look at what SEO is at its most basic, and what it takes to really do it right.

What Is SEO & Why Is It Important?

What is SEO? SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” and in a sentence, it’s the work that goes into making sure your website and brand will show up in search engine results.

There are a few reasons why SEO should matter to you.

  • Even with Google Local Service Ads, Google Ads, and other paid search options, organic search still garners the most clicks, which means that’s still where people are looking. Without an optimized website, you won’t have much of a chance of showing up in organic search (outside of directory sites).
  • SEO helps establish your business as a credible, trustworthy entity. The more Google trusts your site, the more confident it will be in showing it to those searching for the services or products you offer.
  • A well-optimized website will always provide a better user experience. When searchers find your website to be fast-loading, attractive, useful, easy to navigate, and helpful, Google takes notice, and over time, rewards you for that in search.
  • The world wide web is a BIG place with so much to sift through. Local SEO can help those near you who are looking for the services or products you offer find you faster and with less effort, which means more business for you. If finding your business online is like finding a needle in a haystack, who’s going to bother?

In other words, SEO can help or hurt your business.

Ok, so SEO matters. But is it something you have to outsource or is it something you can do yourself?

Doing SEO Yourself: What’s Involved & What Are The Biggest Considerations & Challenges?

If you’re considering doing your SEO yourself in-house, keep in mind that time is going to be the biggest challenge. Unfortunately, SEO isn’t a once and done thing; it’s something that requires ongoing attention and ongoing effort. There are monthly, bi-monthly, and sometimes daily tasks that need to be done — and on top of the work, you need to stay up-to-date on any Google, Yelp, Bing, etc. changes to algorithms and rules.

Not only will you need to know when the changes occurred, but you’ll need to fully understand what those changes mean for you and if/how they’ll impact your business. This usually means a lot of reading, so you’ll want to subscribe to daily newsletters from search engine digests, and possibly spend hours watching Google hangouts with John Mueller.

As you probably already know, Google and other big players aren’t always transparent about what they’re doing or why, so it’s also a good idea to spend some time reading about what other people in the industry are noticing and predicting, so you’re not completely taken by surprise when big changes hit, new features pop up, or old favorites disappear.

Having other eyes on the landscape can be really helpful, especially when you’re doing it yourself. After all, you only have so many hours in the day!

You’ll also likely need to invest in tools to help and to save you some time. There are all kinds of tools out there, like keyword research tools and rank trackers, some paid, some free. We’ll share some tools with you as they relate to the tasks we’re tackling below.

First Things First

Before you can really dive into some of the ongoing SEO work, you have to start with the basics: a website. If you don’t have a website, you don’t have anything to really show up in search results, aside from listings and citations on niche sites and directory sites.

We recommend starting with a website before creating listings and citations, because you’ll want to include your website URL on the listing sites/directory sites, and if you don’t have a website yet, you’ll have to go back in and add that later. Start by creating a well-optimized, mobile-friendly website, and save yourself a step.

Alright, on to some website basics. Your website needs to:

  • Be well-designed, user-friendly, and easy to navigate.
  • Look good on mobile, desktop, and tablet devices.
  • Include your services, phone number, address (if applicable), and the location you’re optimizing for.
  • Include internal links that make navigating the site easy and show Google what pages are most important.
  • Have high-quality, optimized images.
  • Have optimized headings, title tags, and meta descriptions.
  • Include relevant Schema markup.
  • Include content that contains the keywords you want to rank for and is informative and helpful.

Content Tips:

When writing your website, be sure to avoid what’s known as “thin” content or “duplicate” content.  

  • Duplicate content is content that’s unoriginal. You may have taken it from another website or publication or from another page on your own website.
  • Thin content is content that doesn’t really say anything worthwhile and isn’t worthy of a page on your website. If you only have one or two sentences on a page, that’s probably going to be marked as “thin” content.

Make sure the content on every single page of your website is unique and that every single page provides value and serves a purpose. While there aren’t direct “penalties” for duplicate or thin content, both can negatively impact your rankings because of how Google handles them.

For example, with duplicate content, Google will try to determine what the original source is (or what URL has the most authority), and will show that one in search results, but not all the others. The reason for this is that the algorithm doesn’t want to show the same results multiple times. So if you’ve taken content from a bigger, more authoritative site, that site will show up in search, not yours. And if you’ve taken content from one of your other site pages, only one of those pages will likely show up in search for that query.

If your website content is deemed “thin,” Google will know your site isn’t likely to provide much value or be what searchers are looking for, and won’t show it as a top search result. Likewise, you’ll have a lower chance of showing up for specific keywords, because you’ll have so little content and keywords on your site.

Speaking of content and keywords, how do you identify what keywords to include on your site and what content you need? Well, listening to your customers and how they talk about their needs as they relate to your services is a good place to start. You can also use tools.

  • When it comes to keyword research, one of our favorite free tools is Answer the Public, but there are also others, like the Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush.
  • For content analysis, you can use Google Search Console or Google Analytics to look at page metrics. Are pages underperforming? You may need to add some more content or optimize the content you have.
  • When looking for questions to answer in the content of your website, take advantage of autocomplete. If you don’t have a tool like Rank Tracker, which shows you autocomplete keyword results for big players like Google, Bing, and Amazon, you can always do it the old fashioned (free) way. Just open up your browser, go to Google, Bing, Amazon, etc., type in a keyword, and see what pops up.

Google-Autofill-Why-Is-My-Fireplace

  • One great thing about Google is that they also have a PAA  “People also ask” section, which allows you to easily identify questions related to your search query, so you can answer those questions in your content as well.PAA - Google-People-Also-Ask-Screenshot

Some other great places to look for questions to answer in your content are:

  • Quora, Reddit, and forums/threads
  • YouTube
  • Blogs
  • FB groups

Once you have your website live and optimized, and you’re sure it’s properly indexed and crawl-able, you’ll want to create citations for your company across the web. Essentially what that means is that you want to make sure that your company name, address, and phone number (NAP) are listed on industry specific sites, directory sites (like Yelp), and other relevant places where customers might be searching. You’ll also want to create, claim, and optimize your Google My Business listing.

Tip: Make sure that you’re consistent every time you add your NAP, because consistency helps build Google’s confidence in the accuracy of your information. The more confident they are, the more likely they’ll be to put that information in front of searchers.

Ongoing Tasks To Schedule

If you’ve made it this far, way to go! But remember, SEO doesn’t end with creating a website and adding your NAP where relevant. It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it thing. Your website and NAP are only part of the equation, and there’s still work to be done.

So what are some tasks you’ll need to make time for on a bi-monthly or monthly basis if you do SEO in-house? While this list is by no means comprehensive, it’s a good start:

Check your GMB (Google My Business) profile for any updates, improvements, or changes.

Your GMB profile is what shows up on the right hand side of search results when someone searches for your business in Google. Here’s what our GMB profile looks like in search results:

Spark-Marketer-Google-My-Business-Profile-Screenshot

What kind of changes could you expect to see to your GMB profile? Recently, there was a bug that allowed competitors to go in and change the open date of a business to a date in the future. By doing this, these individuals effectively had the business’s GMB listing completely removed from search results.

If you aren’t regularly checking on your GMB listing, you might not even realize that your GMB listing is missing, because Google doesn’t send notifications of these changes. And that could potentially mean A LOT of lost business.

Do rank checks and look for any changes.

Rankings aren’t everything, but you do need to know where/if you’re showing up in search results. It’s important to do this on a regular basis because rankings can change.

Did you suddenly drop from position 2 to position 11 in organic search results? It’s time to do some investigative work. What’s changed? Was it something on your website or was it something Google or a competitor did? What do you need to do to see your rankings improve? It may take some time to figure out the answer to this, but it’s well worth it! And while you’re investigating, remember that rankings can vary depending on the location of the searcher, as well as other factors, so don’t think it’s something that’s always the same for everyone.

Tool tip: You can track your rankings by searching for your business in Google using incognito mode. You may also want to invest in SEO tools from BrightLocal, which allow you to track rankings, audit citations, and do a whole host of other necessary tasks.

Do analytics checks.

Who’s coming to your site? How are they finding you? Have there been any recent spikes or drops in traffic? What caused it?

A big drop in traffic could be caused by a number of different things. When you notice big changes, it’s important to take the time to dig deep and figure out what’s behind the drop. Knowing will allow you to react faster and make any changes you need to make before there’s a significant impact on your business.

But analytics checks don’t just alert you to bad news! Did you have a big spike in traffic after posting a new blog post? Great! Now you know what types of content and topics are bringing you the most traffic, so you can create more content like that. But if you never take the time to look at the analytics, you’ll never know these things!

Tool tip: Google Analytics is a great tool to use for this task.

Check & update plugins.

If you have plugins on your website, like Yoast (a social plugin), you’ll need to regularly check them for any updates, issues, or improvements. Too many plugins/outdated plugins can slow down your site and cause issues, so it’s important that this be a routine check. The best way to do this is to log in to your website. WordPress and other platforms like it will normally alert you if updates are needed.

Do backlink checks.

Backlinks are links that are coming to your site from another website, and these can have a positive or negative impact on your rankings. High-quality links can improve your authority and give you a bit of a rankings boost, but not all links are good links to have. If you’re being linked to by spammy sites, those low-quality links may do you more harm than good. You’ll want to have any questionably links removed so Google doesn’t think you’re crap, just because the sites linking to you are.

Tool tip: For backlink checks, there are helpful tools out there like Majestic, Search Console, and SEO Spyglass.

Do page speed checks.

When a website takes longer than 3 seconds to load, most of us just hit the convenient back arrow and find a different website that won’t waste our time. Does that mean your website needs to be lightning fast? Probably not, because most aren’t. But you do need to make sure it’s not unbearably slow.

It doesn’t matter how great your website is if no one stays long enough to see it. So perform regular page speed checks. If your site takes too long to load, you may need to optimize your images, get rid of some plugins, or otherwise lighten the load.

Tool tip: To keep an eye on page speed, use the Google Page Speed Insight Tool or webpagetest.org.

Create & schedule blog posts.

Blog posts are a great way to educate your customers, answer their questions, and improve your chances of showing up in search results for the topics surrounding your product or service. Why? Because it increases the keywords you rank for. But, like everything else, creating and scheduling blog posts takes time.

There are differing opinions on how frequently you should post on your website’s blog, but the most important thing to remember is to be consistent. If you can post once a month consistently, then do that. If you can post more frequently, do that. Just make sure your blog posts are valuable and not just thin-content that Google will quickly identify as pointless.

And, once you’ve published your new blog post, make sure to promote it a little. For example, you may want to share it on your company’s Facebook page or LinkedIn page to get it out in front of your audience.

Tool tip: Tools like HooteSuite and Buffer can make it easy to share your new blog posts to your social media profiles.

Check and respond to reviews.

Just about everyone in every age group is looking at your reviews to see what others are saying and how you’re responding. So you need to keep a close eye on your Google, Yelp, and Facebook reviews.

When negative reviews come in, you need to respond to them, and try to take those conversations offline so you can make things right. When positive reviews come in, you need to respond to those, too, and let your customers know you appreciate their business and the time they took to leave you a review. You should be set up to get notifications when a review is left, so this shouldn’t be as tricky to stay on top of as some other ongoing tasks may be.

That’s not everything, but if you can do all that, you’ll be doing alright. But what if you don’t have the time or resources to commit to doing SEO yourself?

Hiring Someone To Do Your SEO: What To Consider, What To Look For & What To Avoid

Ok, so maybe you’re leaning towards hiring someone. First things first: should you hire a company or a person?

Well, remember all the time and effort that can be required on an ongoing basis. Ask yourself, “Is that something one person can handle, especially if they have other clients?” Sometimes it’s better to go with a company because they have more eyes on the landscape, more tools, and more time and resources to dedicate to your SEO success. But that doesn’t mean all companies are a good choice.

Some will assign you an account manager who has more than 100 clients and can’t possibly give you much attention. In that case, how is hiring a company any better for you than hiring an individual? Well, it’s not. So take the time to consider the time involved and the client load of the individual or company account manager before making a decision.

What else should you do when vetting an SEO vendor?

Ask them questions.

You may feel like you don’t have the technical knowledge to really ask the right questions, but there are some simple ones that should help you determine if the SEO vendor you’re looking at is up to snuff.

  1. One question you’ll definitely want to ask is if a mobile-friendly website is important. If they say “No,” keep looking. It’s 2019 and more than half of all searches are done on mobile devices. If an SEO vendor doesn’t think having a mobile-friendly website that performs well is important, they don’t know what they’re talking about.
  2. If the company will be creating a website for you and buying a domain name on your behalf, ask them if you’ll have full ownership of that site and the domain name, even if your relationship with them ends. The last thing you want is to lose your website and your domain just because you decide that the SEO company that built your website isn’t a good long-term fit.
  3. Another question to ask is what they do for their customers. They should be able to provide you with something more than general statements. Any SEO worth their weight has actionable items and tasks they perform on behalf of their clients in order to really move the needle. If you ask and they can’t really answer you or don’t make any sense, they’re probably not the company for you.

Psst. Steer clear of any companies making promises or guarantees about results or time frames. They’re lying to you. And definitely avoid anyone who buys reviews or links.

Do some research.

When looking for an SEO vendor, take some time to vet them the way your customers vet you.

  • Look at their website. Is it HTTPS? The move from HTTP to HTTPS has been an important message from Google for years, so if an SEO vendor you’re looking at hasn’t made the move, they’re not on their A game. Look for someone else.
  • Take a look at their reviews. A company will always put themselves in the best light, but if you want an idea of what they’re really like to work with, look at what others are saying. Head to Google or Facebook and see what you can find. What are recurrent themes? Do people praise their communication? Do people warn against working with them because they lock them into contracts that are nearly impossible to get out of? Sift through the reviews and see what you can find.
  • Are they local? By local, we don’t mean near you, we mean in the country you work in. Why does locality matter? Because you need your SEO team to be there when you need them, and if they’re 12 hours ahead of you, that could be a problem. But don’t get so obsessed with locality that you’ll only hire someone in your city. There may be companies that are an hour ahead or an hour behind you, but will provide you with far better service than the ones nearest your business.
  • Are they quoting a significantly lower price than everyone else? Price will always be a factor when you’re outsourcing work, because you only have so much money to dedicate to things like SEO. But for the sake of your business, don’t go out and find the cheapest company you can find. You usually get what you pay for. If someone is quoting far less than everyone else, there’s usually a good reason.

And lastly, trust your gut.

Your SEO vendor should be a partner that really helps you achieve your business goals faster and with greater ease. But working with the wrong company can be incredibly frustrating, costly, and wasteful. Take some time to feel it out and get to know them a little. If what they’re saying sounds too good to be true, they seem sleazy, or you just get a bad feeling about working with them, keep looking. In this case, you’re better off waiting for the right fit than hiring the wrong one.

Are we a match made in heaven? Check out our reviews and schedule a call with Chris. He’s a nice guy and he won’t try to convince you we’re right for you if we’re not.

5 Tips For Coming Up With Blog Post Topics When You’re All Out Of Ideas

5 Tips For Coming Up With Blog Post Topics When You’re All Out Of Ideas

If you’re like a lot of other business owners, you know that blogging can be good for business, but you hate trying to come up with topics. Trust me, I know the feeling. Sometimes, it feels like there’s nothing else to talk about. After all, “There’s nothing new under the sun,” right?

But there are some tried and true ways to get inspiration and come up with topics when you feel like the well has dried up. Here are some of my personal favorites:

#1 Listen to your customers.

One of the very best ways to come up with blog post topics is to listen to your customers. What are they saying? What do they ask about, again and again? What issues are they dealing with?

Here at Spark Marketer, we have a weekly chat where we share what our clients have been asking about or talking about, as well as any issues that have come up throughout the week.

Every topic and issue gets added to a spreadsheet that we can all access, add to, and pull from, which is great because it reveals themes and provides insight to those of us who don’t get to have regular conversations with clients.

Knowing what our clients are dealing with, asking about, and talking about, enables me to write (hopefully) helpful content that’s relevant to what they’re going through. So, yes, it’s altruistic. But, the bonus is, it provides me with a wealth of blog post ideas. It’s how I came up with this one!

Don’t ignore the wealth of ideas in the conversations you have with your customers. After all, they’re the very people you should be writing for!

#2 Use Google autofill & “people also ask.”

Google makes it kind of easy for you to “listen in” using autofill and “people also ask” in search results. All you have to do is start typing in a word or sentence, say, “Why is my fireplace,” for example, and see what autofill comes up with. There, you’ll find out how people are finishing that sentence and just what people are asking.

When you type a question into Google and press enter, you’ll also notice that Google shows a few related questions in the search results, under the title “People also ask.” This is great for finding related topics to write about or other questions to answer within that same blog post. It’s like a free look inside the minds of those searching for topics, services, and products you deal with. Creepy, but helpful.

#3 Check out Answer the Public.

Answer the Public is a pretty great tool that allows you to type a keyword or topic into a search bar and come out on the other side with a whole host of related questions people are asking on the web. It’s a great way of expanding your ideas when all you have in mind is a general topic or keyword. Plus, the guy on the home page is pretty entertaining, in a judgmental kind of way.

Here’s an example of how the questions are organized. The results below are for the keyword “fireplace.” Check it out.

#4 Spy on Quora.

If you can get past the fact that people ask some of the dumbest questions possible on Quora, you’ll find that it’s sometimes a good way to see what good questions are being asked about a particular topic. It’s also a great way to see what kinds of answers people are getting, so you know what misinformation and misconceptions to address in your blog posts. You can choose topics that interest you and Quora will send you emails when related questions are asked, or you can just go to Quora and start looking around. But brace yourself. Like I said, some of the questions are ludicrous, and you’ll spend a few minutes just wondering how these people have made it this far in life.

#5 Keep your eyes and ears open.

A lot of times, topics will come to mind and inspiration will strike in the strangest of places, so keep your eyes and ears open. If you’re a local service business, as painful as it can be sometimes, watch the local news. Are there reports of consumer fraud in your industry? Maybe you need to do a post on what to look for when hiring a company that provides the services you offer. Are there certain products you use to do your job that provide a better value for the homeowner? Maybe it’s time to showcase those in a blog post. Maintain a curious mind, keep your eyes and ears open, and you’ll come up with ideas. The more accustomed you get to thinking outside the box, the easier it will be to find inspiration.

Well, I hope you find these helpful. Now that I’ve shared some of my favorites, I’d love to know how you come up with blog post ideas. Let me know in the comments!