If you’re like a lot of other business owners, a large portion of your time and thought goes into solving hiring challenges. Finding the right talent is the issue that never goes away.
A Small Business Trends study done by Guidant Financial and LendingClub found that out of the 2,700 small business owners surveyed, 351 (13%) named recruiting/retention of employees as their top challenge.
Understanding the problem is easy. You know that better employees = better company. Great teams start with great people, and business success hangs on the people you hire.
But it’s the solution that’s harder to distinguish. Your business can’t afford to settle for anything less than A-players, but how do you actually find those those A-players?
Where do you start?
Well, to quote the old adage,
“If you do what everyone else does, you get what everyone else gets.”
So, it’s time to rethink the recruitment and hiring process. It’s time to get serious and develop a strategic approach to consistently finding and hiring the best people.
How do you do that?
How do you single the winners out of the crowd of people just interested in getting a paycheck? How do you keep from repeating the same hiring mistakes you’ve made in the past? How do you find talent and recruit the individuals who can make a real difference in your business?
Here are 9 tips to get you started…
Tip #1 Start with the right attitude.
I’m not totally sold on “The Secret” and all that law of attraction stuff, but I 100% believe that attitude is everything. Having the right attitude may not magically draw top notch employees to you, but having the wrong one will certainly repel them.
So it’s time to take a quick look inward…
Are you holding onto the belief that you’ll never be able to bring A-players into your business because of the industry you’re in? Maybe you do construction or you’re a service business and you believe that the hard-working A-players out there are already running their own businesses, not working for someone else.
Or maybe you, like this fellow on Quora, have written off an entire generation of potential employees because you’ve reached jaded and bitter “Get off my lawn!” old man status.
Tough truth coming your way: The Millennial generation consists of people in their 20s and 30s. So, if you think everyone in that age group is a lazy piece of trash, your company will die with the Baby Boomers.
Plus, it’s just not true that allllll Millennials are B-players, C-players, or worse. What is true is that every generation is essentially the same. There were good and bad apples in the 1920s and there will be good and bad apples in the 2020s.
So don’t make the mistake of putting people into boxes and letting your preconceived ideas and stereotypes prevent you from finding the diamonds in the workforce.
Treat everyone you interview with respect and possibility, and you’ll have much better luck finding the people from every generation worth investing in.
Tip #2 Create clear, non-generic job descriptions.
Okay, this sounds pretty simple and obvious, right? But how many generic job postings have we all seen and created?
We throw in all this industry lingo and write in a utilitarian way that does a great job of telling potential employees, well, not much of anything.
Job descriptions like this are a dime a dozen:
Establishes sales objectives by forecasting and developing annual sales quotas for regions and territories and projecting expected sales volumes and profit for existing and new products.
Implements national sales programs by developing field sales action plans.
Maintains sales volume by tracking changing trends, economic indicators, competitors and supply and demand.
Completes national sales operational requirements by scheduling and assigning employees and following up on work results.
What if instead of this sleep-inducing, generic gobbledygook, we wrote a no-fluff job description to attract exactly the talent we wanted?
What if we gave people a better idea of not just what their day-to-day would look like, but what kind of growth and fulfillment they could expect to experience?
What if we showed them how their job would directly impact their community?
When you go to write a job description, think about all the awful, boring copy your potential hire has already seen. How will yours stand out and make them stop in their tracks? How will yours attract the A-players and repel the C-players? What would you want to read?
Get creative, but keep it clear, so there’s no guessing whether or not they have what it takes to be a good fit for your company and the role you’re hiring for.
Tip #3 Ask better interview questions & dig out the stories.
“The difficulty in identifying qualified candidates is by far the biggest problem small business owners cite. More than half (52 percent) say this is a challenge…”
“Forty-three percent of small business owners say they have difficulty knowing how well job applicants will do once they’re hired.”
Well, that’s a problem, especially considering the time and resources it takes to hire, onboard, and train someone.
So why are we all so bad at figuring out which candidates are going to be the best fit and excel in the job we’re hiring them for? Maybe because we’re asking the wrong questions and focusing on the wrong things.
Let’s see, which tells you more about a person: a bullet list of skills and accomplishments (aka resume) or a story?
Ding, ding, ding! You guessed it: A story.
Unless you’re interviewing The Most Interesting Man In The World, a resume is about as exciting and enlightening as a teeth cleaning. And the resumes you’re using to judge candidates may not even be accurate.
Cyrus Kennedy, Chief People Officer & Partner at XQ Innovation shared on Quora,
“We conducted a study of 80 clients in various industries and all levels of the corporate ladder: 64% of all applicants were found to blatantly lie about something on their resume.”
Eek. No wonder the interview and hiring process feels a bit like guesswork.
What if instead of just looking at resumes and asking the same boring questions that candidates have well-rehearsed, scripted answers for, we tried something different? What if we asked better questions and paid more attention to what their answers really revealed about their personality, culture fit, and job fit?
Throw out the boring questions and come up with a new list that will dig out the values and traits of the individual, so you can get a better idea of how right or wrong they are for your company.
Look for the stories that will tell you about their initiative, their ability to overcome challenges, their work ethic, their level of humility, the way they treat those with authority over them and those they have authority over…
What you really want is to ask questions that peel back the onion and get to the candidate’s true character. And make sure you’re paying attention to the subtleties of their answers, attitude, and mannerisms, because your customers will pick up on all of those things in a heartbeat.
Here’s a killer question that will tell you so much more about a potential hire than a resume will:
“When was the last time you can remember helping someone in a way you felt really made an impact on their life?”
Here’s why that question is such a win:
There’s no way your potential candidate has prepared for that question, so they’re going to tell you whatever pops into their mind first. That means you’re catching them in an authentic moment and not getting some cookie cutter planned answer.
Because their answer won’t be scripted, you’ll get to see how quick they are on their toes. Can they problem solve and come up with an answer quickly? That may be a good sign they’ll be a good fit for the job.
What they choose to share will tell you a lot about what is important to them. For example, if they answer “Tutoring my niece so she could pass her Chemistry test,” you know that family is important, they’re a patient and effective teacher, they care about the success of others, and they have some chemistry knowledge. No matter what they answer, I guarantee it will be more telling than any scripted answer you get.
Psst. I got this great question from Eric Flathers, a Business Consultant who shared it on Quora.
Tip #4 Know your dealbreakers and have an objective measuring stick.
If you want to avoid hiring mistakes, you can’t just have an “idea” of what you want in a potential hire — you’ve got to know exactly what you’re looking for.
The best way to do this is to come up with a succinct list of qualities that you’d like your new hire to have. You should know these before you ever come into contact with the potential candidate, and they should be broken down into “critical” and “nice to have” categories.
When you take the time to think about what’s a dealbreaker and what isn’t, you’ll be able to measure your new candidates in a systematic way. That way, you’re not getting distracted or hiring based on emotion.
Once you’ve got your list, you’ve got to stick to your guns and measure candidates against your predetermined standards. Too many people rely on their gut instead of using an objective measuring stick to size up the candidate. So keep that list of “critical” and “nice to have” traits and qualities front and center, and use your interview questions to check for those traits and qualities.
It may take some time to come up with your dealbreakers, but how many hours have you wasted training the wrong person for the job? Just think of it as time redirected and energy better spent.
Tip #5 Hire with the things you fire for in mind.
Business owners often hire for experience, technical skills, and interviewing skills. But you know what people fire for? Bad attitude, poor communication skills, bad culture fit, poor customer service, and a lack of various “soft skills.”
So why are soft skills important enough to fire over but not important enough to be a part of the hiring process? Why are technical skills and experience always the dealbreakers instead of attitude?
I get it, it’s easier to test for technical skill than it is to test for soft skills, and technical skills are important. But in pretty much any job under the sun, soft skills are equally important. So, you’ve got to make them a priority during the hiring process.
Don’t hire the guy with the most experience if he’s got a lousy attitude and thinks most people are idiots. If you do, you’ll waste time and resources on someone who won’t be with you long.
It’s far smarter to hire when the soft skills are there but the hard skills are lacking than it is to hire when the hard skills are there and the soft skills are lacking.
Tip #6 Consider role, team, and culture match equally.
Culture match, team match, and role match are all equally important to the success of your hire, so look for all three! And for the love of God, have higher standards for what a “match made of heaven” is than this girl.
Will your new hire enjoy the work and thrive in the position you’re hiring for, or is there some other position that might make more sense for them?
The reality is: people are built differently and the person that may make the top sales rep may make a terrible project manager. Having the right people onboard and in the right roles is incredibly important.
Ensure the best candidate is chosen for the position by assessing personality and passions, and making sure they’re a good match for the position you’re looking to fill.
Cultural/core values match:
When asked what surprising negative impact hiring a new employee had on her business, one of our clients, Deb Catura of Jack Pixley Sweeps answered,
“When the hire was not working up to company values, it affected morale and added more stress.”
And she’s not alone in that experience…
When you hire someone without considering how they’ll fit with the company culture, other team members, and the core values you have in place, you’re setting yourself and your team up for some rough seas. It’s just not worth it.
So share your core values and culture with the potential new hire, and ask interview questions that will help you assess their alignment and fit with the things you and your company hold dear.
We all want to work with people who make our work life more enjoyable, not less. People who love their jobs, strive to make a difference, and positively impact those they work for and with.
So don’t look at role match alone. Introduce your potential hire to the team and make sure they’re a good fit before you say “Yes.”
Your team will thank you for investing the time and valuable energy into making sure the next hire is a good fit, a productive player, and someone who will be a positive and valuable contributor to the team.
Tip #7 Show potential hires a clear trajectory.
It’s true: Some A-players will go out and start their own business, but not all of them. You can attract A-players to your business and gain their loyalty by showing them a clear trajectory for growth within your business.
“If you have the mindset that you want to train people to the point where they are good enough to go out on their own and you empower your employees, you’re probably going to attract better people.”
Don’t just recruit A-players, keep them by developing them into the future leaders of your business. Help them be successful in their career. Take them down a path and set them up for success by giving them the training they need to succeed in their role.
Deb Catura of Jack Pixley Sweeps does this with her employees. She has a clear path carved out so there’s no guessing whether there’s potential for growth.
Deb shares that all new hires begin work as “helpers” in the Repair Division for several weeks. During this time, they get on the job training under the Training & Development Manager, a senior tech.
There are certain attainable benchmarks that need to be accomplished before practice tests, and while the Training & Development Manager trains and prepares the new hires, he also evaluates for work ethic and common sense. Those that show Chimney Technician strengths move to that part of the business.
Smart! New hires know exactly what to expect and how to get to the next level. No guessing. No trial and error. A-players like to know what is expected and how to advance, so they’ll find this incredibly attractive in a business.
Tip #8 Always be on the lookout for A-players and make your business attractive.
Many companies are trying to create something great, but they have the wrong ingredients. They settle for B- and C-players and don’t start the search for top talent until they’re so desperate for help they’ll settle for anyone.
It makes sense, but it’s a reactionary mindset that can lead to some bad hiring decisions.
Truth is: filling a position starts long before an opening. You need to always be on the lookout for potential A-players, whether you’re actively interviewing or just out and about. You never know where your next new hire will come from.
But you need to make sure that you’re what they’re looking for as well.
That starts with treating your people well. Like hangs out with like, so if you’ve got A-players on your team and you’re treating them right, when you do have an opening, there’s a good chance one of your A-players may know the perfect person for the job.
Deb Catura of Jack Pixley Sweeps shares that,
“Referrals from employees and their friends found us the best hires.”
And she’s certainly not alone. Here at Spark Marketer, we’re one big incestuous friend pool. It seems every hire has come through someone else already on the team.
Now for the big question: To Incentivize Or Not To Incentivize?
Some people may encourage you to incentivize employee referrals, giving employees gift cards or financial rewards for referring people they know, but that’s not really necessary. If you’re doing a great job of providing a healthy and rewarding environment and career for your employees, you shouldn’t need to incentivize them. After all, we all want our friends to be happy, too.
On the flip side, even if you have a financial incentive, if you’re a terrible leader and your employees can’t stand their jobs, they’re not going to tell their friends to join in on the misery.
Okay, aside from employee referrals, where else can you look for potential A-players?
Many people have luck with LinkedIn, Facebook, associations, and even Craigslist. Be open and keep your eyes peeled! Your “dream” employee may even wait on you at dinner this Friday or make your coffee on Saturday morning.
Here are some tips for making your company attractive to the A-player-types you’re hoping to attract:
Celebrate your team on social media and on your website.
Showcase how you’re different in your marketing. Give them a glimpse into what the job’s like and what it’s like to work for you. One great place to do this is on your Now Hiring page. Instead of making it a long boring list of job requirements and tasks, make it entertaining and informative — a “day in the life of _______” kind of thing.
Make your job listing stand out. Think about all the boring out there. If you’re really different, then show them in your job listing!
P.S. Here are some quick tips and insights from Taylor on building a team of A-players and holding onto those winners…
Tip #9 Cut your losses faster.
Take your time when selecting a candidate, but be quick to let them go if it’s not a good fit.
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.
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.
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.
Some other great places to look for questions to answer in your content are:
Quora, Reddit, and forums/threads
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:
What kind of changes could you expect to see to your GMB profile? Some helpful – like COVID posts – and some problematic – like the 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.
One question you’ll definitely want to ask is if a mobile-friendly website is important. If they say “No,” keep looking. 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.
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.
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.
Determining whether or not it makes sense to offer health care to your employees is a big decision, and by no means a one-size-fits-all decision. Obviously no blog post can make the choice for you, but here are some of the perks of offering health care benefits in the workplace:
It’s attractive to those looking for a career. When people are looking for a job, pay is often the most important factor. But the best workers — the ones who are looking for a career — want a place that offers them more. Health care is expensive, and when thinking about where they want to stay and build their career, potential hires want to make sure they’ll have what they need to provide for themselves and their families. Yes, pay rate is still important, but without our health, what good is that extra money? When it comes down to it, if another company is offering a similar pay, health insurance can be the difference between you getting that great employee or someone else getting him or her.
You can lessen the financial worries and stresses of your employees. Even if you can’t cover all costs, providing some help with health costs can really make a difference in the lives of your employees. Things happen — we get sick, we add on to our families, our kids break limbs — and because we have nothing if we don’t have our health, we can’t just save up or wait to take care of ourselves. We won’t get into how broken our health care system is here in the U.S. or how absurd costs are, but it’s important to remember that our health is not a luxury. By providing health insurance to your employees (and their families), you can lessen their financial worries so that, should they ever need to go to the hospital or have emergency surgery, their only concern is getting healthy, not whether or not it can wait or how they’re going to pay for it.
Healthy workers are more productive. When health is poor, it’s all-consuming. Your employees can’t think about how to streamline a process or how to do their jobs better if their head is pounding or they have chronic bronchitis or a serious back injury. But when health is good, it’s not something we even think about. We feel good and we are freed up to focus on getting work done. By providing health insurance to your employees, you can help them maintain better health and get the treatment and medication they need so they can focus on daily life. And healthier, more content workers have less sick days and are always going to be more productive, period.
You may be eligible for tax advantages and credits. While the government doesn’t do a lot to benefit small business owners, it does offer some tax advantages and credits to businesses offering health insurance to employees. For example, you can deduct your employees’ health insurance costs (as well as your own insurance costs), and if you have fewer than 25 employees, you may be eligible for an additional tax credit. Head here to learn more.
So should you offer health care to your team? That’s a decision only you can make, but we hope we’ve given you something to think about during the consideration phase.
It’s surprising how many small business owners seem to “fall into” owning a business, with no real vision or direction – just the desire to work for themselves. While this is great motivation, it’s only going to get you halfway.
You see, being a small business owner takes a lot of quick thinking, and in those hot potato moments, you have to have the vision and foresight to make decisions that are smart for your business in the long-term, not just the short-term. And that means you have to have vision and direction.
Do you find yourself making reactive decisions without giving much thought to how those decisions will affect the future of your business? If you’re in it for the long-haul, why are you making short-sighted decisions? It’s time to nip those behaviors in the bud, and it starts with awareness.
7 Short-Sighted Decisions You May Be Making
Here are some short-sighted decisions you may be making…
#1 Sending an email blast to all customers without an up-to-date subscription list.
Email is still one of the best customer touch methods, but only if you use it sensibly. Do you keep an updated email list or are you sending out emails and campaigns to anyone and everyone you’ve ever collected an email address from? Make sure you’re sending emails to those who do business with you and want to do business with you; otherwise, you may end up being flagged as spam.
While we’re on the topic of email, be thoughtful about email frequency. Sending too many emails is a sure-fire way to frustrate customers and lead them to hit the “Unsubscribe” button – especially if they never subscribed in the first place, they simply gave you their email address six years ago.
#2 Hiring for a quick fix.
Hiring can be a time-consuming and frustrating process, and sometimes you need someone to fill the void fast. But rushing a hire or hiring for a quick fix will only hurt you in the long run. When hiring, take your time and think about whether or not the individual is truly a good fit, not just for the job, but for the company and the culture. Hiring right may take more time and thought, but it’s well worth it and will save you tons of time and frustration in the long run.
#3 Skimping on training.
Regardless of whether you’ve hired a team with or without the experience to get the job done, you absolutely need to invest in training. So many business owners think of training as a time and money suck, but in reality, it’s just the opposite. Putting aside time and resources for staff training will ensure that your team does things the right way the first time, preventing time loss, money loss, and customer loss due to mistakes and waste.
#4 Not taking the time to write out SOPs and develop systems.
This one goes hand-in-hand with training. If you take the time to make SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for tasks that take place within your business, you won’t have to stop everything to walk someone through the process or stop and do it yourself. You’d be amazed at how much time and stress you’ll save yourself by putting these processes and documents into place.
#5 Using cheap or subpar equipment, supplies, and trucks.
Running a business takes a lot of money, no doubt, but if you want to save yourself money and stress in the long run, you’ll invest in quality equipment and supplies. Think about it, if tools are constantly breaking, your techs can’t do the work that’s being asked of them. If your trucks are constantly breaking down, you’re forking over cash for towing services, missing service calls, and disappointing customers. And whether your techs can get to the job or not, you’re paying them for their time. So invest in quality tools and vehicles – your business depends on it!
#6 Being disorganized.
If you aren’t organizing your warehouse space and trucks properly, you’re wasting a lot of time both prior to the job and on the job. Take the time to really think about your space and your trucks and organize them in a way that makes sense. Whether that means making grab bags for each type of service you provide, or simply reorganizing the layout of your trucks, it’s well worth the effort. An organized warehouse and an organized truck means less time wasted each day – and heck, it’s such a game changer that getting organized may even allow your techs to squeeze in an extra service.
#7 Responding defensively to negative reviews online.
It’s natural to be frustrated by negative reviews, but are you responding in a way that helps or hurts your business in the long run? Many business owners fire back at dissatisfied customers, which not only ruins their chances of turning that customer into a happy customer, but it also discourages potential customers who read that response from working with the company in the future.
Instead of firing back, when your business receives negative feedback, take a step back and look for anything you can learn and apply. Is there something you need to improve upon as a company? No matter what, whether the complaint is valid or not, respond professionally and take the conversation offline. Responding defensively or attacking the customer will only hurt your business.
Whether you fell into the business or you intentionally set out to start your own company, taking the time to think of your long-term goals and the steps needed to get you there will maximize your enjoyment as a business owner and your profits. So think long-term, not short-term!
We’ve all see them: the employees on total auto-pilot. They may be physically present, but mentally, they’re dead to the world. For the guys out in the field, there may be no shortage of variety, but it’s a different story where the concrete meets the carpet.
What can you do to make sure your team is engaged and not going through the motions like a team of zombies? Here are 4 tips…
#1 Offer A Little Variety
Working in the same place and same position for 8 hours straight can leave you in a stupor, especially if you’re performing a familiar task. One way to combat the autopilot mindset is to offer your employees a little variety. Maybe that means getting everyone Veridesks (you’d be amazed at what a little shift in posture and a little boost in blood flow can do for your mental and physical well-being) or letting them bring the pups to work.
A little change in scenery can go a long way, too. Some of your employees may need a desk setting to get work done, while others may think of a desk as a creativity-paralyzing prison. Not everyone on your team will work best in the same environment, so why not offer options?
At Spark Marketer, there are different workstations for those that can’t stand the thought of being at a desk the entire day. We have a conference room for group projects or trainings; a couch and cozy chair lounge with a lot of natural lighting; and a little café type area for those in need of some peace and quiet. Of course, we also offer the option to work remotely some days. The point is: sometimes just getting up or moving to a different space can help you shake off the zombies and give you a fresh mind and a fresh approach to your workday.
#2 Take Time To Meet & Engage Every Day
Are you stimulating and engaging your employees every day? Are you reminding them of how important they are and how impactful their hard work is? Daily meetings are great for this! Simply meeting as a team each day for a few short minutes can help keep your employees from turning into zombies from 9-5, by bringing everyone together and directing everyone’s focus. You can also utilize these meetings to clear up any misunderstandings, patch up any communication breakdowns, and bring problems to light so they can be addressed.
Several of our employees work remotely full-time, but everyone checks in on Slack by 10 AM. During these check-ins, we each go over what’s on our plate for the day, with the goal of keeping us focused on our daily tasks and aware of other goings on within the company. Verbalizing these things helps keep us realistic about our daily to-do list and our productivity, and reminds us that each of us plays an important role in serving our customers and keeping our company going. Having a clear focus and a sense of purpose as you start your day will definitely help keep you out of the zombie-zone.
#3 Change Up Tasks
One major reason for zombies in the workplace is that we oftentimes end up doing the same repetitive or familiar tasks, day in and day out. Mindfully structuring your day can help break up monotony and give you the change you need to keep your mind fresh.
Even if your employees each have one major task, there are ways to switch things up. For example, as the primary content creator, I primarily write. But when I feel the zombie brain coming on while I’m working on one writing assignment, I can always switch over to another writing or editing task. If that’s not working, there’s always reading to do, podcasts to listen to, or other “input” things I can work on. Taking a little breather allows me to go back to the previous project with a fresh perspective. How can you and your employees switch up or plan your days to prevent burnout and monotony?
#4 Ask Your Employees What They’re Passionate About
It’s hard to be an apathetic zombie when you’re working on something you’re passionate about. Are your employees in roles that allow them to use their passions and strengths? When your employees are in roles that engage them mentally, they’ll be switched on at work instead of shutting down. And that means you’ll have a zombie-free workplace.
How do you know if your employees are in the right roles for their passions and strengths? Sometimes simply asking your employees what they enjoy about their jobs and tasks can give you an idea as to whether or not they are in the right positions or should be moved to another.
Is your workplace filled with zombies? Zombies quickly make more zombies, so act quickly! Use these 4 tips to breathe some fresh air into your team and watch the productivity and morale skyrocket!