Using Your Website
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Why Breaking Through Locally Can Be Hard To Do

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jan 13, 2013
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Last November I addressed the issue of how lackluster most of our blogs are when it comes to getting local people to view them. I put up some stats, and I linked to some other articles in that post that I’m not going to link to again; check that one out because it’s different than this one, even though it touches upon the same theme.

Vegetables For Sale - Sacred Valley, Peru
Creative Commons License Theodore Scott via Compfight

Last time I pretty much lamented the situation of breaking through locally. This time I’m going to talk about why it’s harder to do than we think it is. I’m going to do it as kind of a list post, which means my explanations will probably be sort of long. But I’ll try not to make them too long; maybe if I get to 5 I’ll stop. :-)

1. Too little local competition. This one seems strange, but go with me for a moment. If you live in a small community people already probably know who you are. If you’re putting up information on a blog but you’re the only game in town, most people are either going to just drop in or call you on the phone. It’s only when there might be more options when someone actually goes online to find information or businesses.

2. Too much outside competition. Once again, this one might seem strange until you think about what it is you do and if there are lots of other people doing it.

On my SEOX Blog I talked about one of my clients, an accountant, whose site is the highest ranked accounting site locally. While that sounds great, if you look for the major search terms that I’ve worked on for her the site only cracks the top 100 on Google for one of those terms. She beats every other business in town, but all the other businesses that show up aren’t local. They’re national, which means they have the dollars to dominate the local markets in most communities throughout the country, potentially the world. That hardly seems fair but what to do about it?

3. No one really needs what you do locally. That one’s hard to deal with so let’s explore it. Let’s talk about my SEO/social media site and business. I battle national companies for a lot of services and lose pretty badly. But I’m ranked in the top 5 for some things, even at #1. Those things are:

central new york article writing services – Google, Bing & Yahoo #1
central new york blog writing services – Google #2; Bing & Yahoo #1
syracuse article writing services – Google, Bing #4
syracuse blog writing services – Google, Bing #1
syracuse search engine optimization consulting – Bing #5
syracuse search engine optimization consultant – Bing #2
using your website as a marketing tool – Google #2, Bing #1

I’m not even sure where Yahoo’s mind is if Google & Bing have me ranked but it doesn’t really matter. I worked hard on making sure my site was ranked well locally, and for those terms above, out of the 36 I track, I’ve succeeded. Yet, I don’t get any calls or email from anyone. I think there’s only 2 local people who have ever visited it, even after I gave a big presentation locally that garnered a lot of interest… at least on that day.

What this says is that no one locally needs or wants these types of services. The site and the blog get very little traffic in total, even with the blog (averaging 3 1/2 visitors a day) and in the last month there were 10 visits from all of New York state, 6 local visits; that’s kind of pathetic isn’t it? So, sometimes if you can’t break through in the big picture, you can’t break through locally either; that’s kind of depressing, isn’t it?

I’m going to stop at those 3 because I need to ask this question openly; should we care? That one depends on what you do and what your hopes are. I talked to my accounting client to determine if she still wanted me to write content for her this coming year. She said yes because she actually got a couple of clients this year because of both the website (which I created for her last February) and the blog, which, as I said, makes her the highest ranking accounting firm online in this area. People are always looking for accountants, and if they want someone local, they’ll dig deeper to find that person. I’m happy for her because it’ll cost me nothing to do my taxes. :-)

For me, it’s a more difficult question. I’m not going to advertise SEO or social media services anymore because there’s no market for it, and I can use my time otherwise. I’m cutting back on what I write on that blog so the wealth of articles that are there will have to carry the day more than new stuff. I’m also not going to advertise writing services anymore, at least not through that site or blog, since that doesn’t seem to be how people are finding me anyway. And, if I’m not getting national or international business from that site, and it’s getting few visits anyway, why bother with trying to do local business, or at least advertising for it?

This article makes it seem like it’s all about me but it’s not supposed to be. I ask you to put yourself in my place when evaluating what you’ve been doing online and try to make the determination as to whether it’s working for you if you’re local. Having a presence is one thing; that’s always important. But at some point if the benefit isn’t equating to the business, you might have to make some evaluations of it all.

If you’re not trying to get local business then this entire post might not mean much to you unless you extrapolate it into just who you’re hoping to do business with, and how you’re doing with that. It’s not always about business for everyone, but if it is what do you see when you look at what’s happening for you?
 

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Facebook Edgerank, Et Al

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Oct 21, 2012
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Facebook pages; how much fun are they? Truth be told, obviously some people aren’t having much fun at all because they don’t put much new content on it, if they put content on it at all. Two weeks ago I spent some time going through some of the pages I liked to see if they were doing anything, and those that weren’t I “unliked”; you know, when I was a kid that wasn’t even a word. lol

Facebook pages are an odd duck, if you will. We create them because everywhere we’ve gone to talking about them says they can help us with our business. I’m not all that sure, but I do believe that if done right they can at least help give you a presence. But who’s seeing that presence, and what can you do to increase your presence?

There was this article on Jeff Bullas’ blog titled 6 Ways to Increase the Marketing Effectiveness of your Facebook Page, which includes this very cool infographic. It talks a little bit about Edgerank, which is the name of the algorithm Facebook uses to decide just how many people who have liked your page will have the opportunity to see whatever you put on your page. It’s based on a few things; how often those people have come to your site, so they participate in any way, do they ever share, etc. Actually, they use the same algorithm in determining how many of your friends and which friends see your general posts If you’re connected with 1,000 people on Facebook, you can bet that if 100 people ever see any of it you can count yourself lucky, unless you’ve made yourself popular.

Why do they do that? They do it because people share way more long form information on Facebook than they do on Twitter. On Twitter, every person I’m following has the ability to have me see everything they post via a general column. I have the ability to select certain people and put them in segregated columns so I definitely see what certain people post as opposed to everyone, but if I decide to check the general column the skies the limit.

On Facebook people share pictures, blog posts, etc. Some folks write long form prose of some type. If Facebook showed you every single thing that everyone posted, you’d be overwhelmed. Yes, you do have the ability to segregate your audience on Facebook at all, something I’ll cover at another time, but it’s still a lot of stuff.

So now you know why you don’t see everything from all your friends and why everyone doesn’t see everything you put on your Facebook page. How can you improve the odds of getting more people to see your stuff? The link I provided above gives you 6 ways. I talked about more ways in a blog post I did on my SEO blog titled Finding Material For Your Facebook Business Page, which is a pretty good follow up to the link above if I say so myself. The idea is that, at least for your business page, you want to add more content to it so people have more to see, and you want to add more images because it’s been proven that people react better to them, but what if you’re not a bit time photographer, or the images you have don’t quite fit what your business is about?

Now, you might want to know how it’s going for me, since I adopted the process I talk about in my link about 3 weeks ago. I mainly post links from my business site since, well, it’s my Facebook business page. lol I do post a link here and there from this blog, the motivational stuff, but not all that often.

For the full month period before the last 3 weeks Facebook was my 5th best source of traffic, and I only had 21 visits. In the last 3 weeks Facebook has moved up to #3 and I had 55 visits in that time. Not only that but I went from a page duration time of 1 minute and 4 seconds to a whopping 14 minutes and 39 seconds. Why anyone would stay on a page for that long I couldn’t tell you, but what could be happening is that people could be sticking around and looking at other pages. And one more thing; from Facebook it’s a lot of repeat visitors, as the rate of new visitors is only 29%, as opposed to 95% from Google and 79% from Twitter.

Not so shabby I’d say. Anyway, I’ve told you about Edgerank, shared a link to an infographic, and a link to my post about ways of finding things you can add to your Facebook business page to help raise the number of people who come by. What else would you like to know? :-) By the way, if you’d like to see my page look to the left and click on the link that will take you there; always happy to have more likes for that page.
 

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What Will You Do For More Followers?

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jul 30, 2012
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Once again it’s video time. The premise is simple, but I’ll lay it out in words, then let the video take over from there.

Those of you who read this blog know that I’ve talked often about the concept of influence. In my mind, influence brings you so much more than when people have no idea who you are. Influence is money; influence can be power, or at least having enough pull to get things done positively or negatively. When people trust you and see you as an authority, there’s nothing that can stop you, not even those people who inevitably won’t like you just because of who you are.

With that in mind, I ask the question and talk about this concept of just what will you do for more followers. This ponies off a conversation I was having with someone who’d canceled another meeting with me, which led me to ask the question about priorities and people, and a response she gave me that I countered later on. That part’s not in the video, but something else is.

So enjoy the video, think about some things I say, then let me and everyone else know what your opinion is. Go ahead; don’t be shy. :-)


 

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11 Lessons Learned From 11 Years In Business

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jun 24, 2012
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Last year on this date I celebrated my 10th year of working for myself. I love milestones obviously and I thought that was an important one because most people that try to work on their own don’t even make 5 years.


That’s not my desk lol

And yet, that was more of a nostalgic post about me than about anything else, and that’s fine overall. But this year, on this blog (since that post above goes to my business blog) I decided to share some lessons I’ve learned in these 11 years. They’re not all good lessons on the surface, but they all contribute in some fashion to helping others, and still helping myself, to improve in some fashion, whether you work on your own or not. Here we go:

1. Most people really aren’t prepared to do this. When I started my business I hadn’t actually planned on starting it then. I was working up to starting six months later, but circumstances were out of my hands. Still, even if I’d started six months later I wouldn’t have been prepared for what was coming. The book Before You Quit Your Job by Robert Kiyosaki hadn’t been written yet, and I didn’t know what I didn’t know, let alone what I knew. Preparation really is key, and it might have made some decisions I made a lot smarter.

2. Getting comfortable with marketing and sales is going to be crucial. You know the people who make me sick? Those that say “I don’t have to market because I get all my business by referral. Trust me, unless you’re an old salt who was in a particular business for 30 years and everyone knows you you’re going to have to market at some point. And if you’re like me, coming from a non-profit background where we were the only game in town, you’re going to have to learn a lot about it. Man, the mistakes I made, and the mistakes I continue to make would make for a book that some would claim was stranger than fiction.

3. You’re going to have your ego bruised, and it could be crushing. You won’t believe this, but my actual employed working life was about 85% perfect over the course of 18 years. I always got lots of kudos for the work I did and I got along with almost everyone. I knew my stuff cold; no one could tell me I didn’t know how to fix anything, or come up with the correct thing to do.


I wasn’t as sad
as I look here

But on my own? People question you even if they hire you because they don’t want to do what you recommend to them. The first guy who read the first 25% of my book asked me if I’d ever written anything in my life because it was the worst thing he’d ever seen. My first newsletter got so many bad comments, none on the content though, that I almost decided I was never going to publish one.

I worked with a guy in NYC that decided to try to tell people I was the worst consultant he’d ever seen (luckily, his reputation was so bad that people saw that as a good thing). I’ve had people who didn’t know me well hear me say things I didn’t say and not hear things I did say, and I took the blame for it. And even after all these years, all the articles and blogs I have online and the speaking engagements I’ve done, every day I have to start again because there’s still 99.9963% of potential clients who have no idea who I am or what I do.

4. Cash flow is going to be a major problem. My first year of working on my own I only made $7,000; good thing I had great credit and unemployment. My first 3 years were really tough. My next 3 years were awesome. My last 4 years have been fair to middlin’. If I wasn’t a great budgeter and someone who has figured out the hustle when it’s really needed I might be in big trouble now. As it is all big bills are paid except for my mortgage; whew! But none of it would be possible without my wife’s help and her insurance.

5. Time is not your friend. I have never missed a deadline on a project, but I have worked some extreme hours at times. For one project that had to be done for a client in a time zone 10 hours ahead of ours, I had 10 hours of sleep in 3 days because they really needed it. I got paid well for it, but it was a killer. Early on I used to work 20 hours a day; now I’m down to about 10 – 12 hours a day but I kill time here and there for balance, and still only sleep maybe 5 or 6 hours if lucky.

On the other end, I always feel like marketing at 10PM and never during the day; that’s obviously a problem. I’m always at work since I work from home and I’m always working for that next dollar. When cash flow is low there’s not enough time in the day to look for contracts, work on contracts, and eat.

6. Staying healthy in general stops being a priority. I mentioned eating as an issue, but there are other things we need to take care of. In the summer I tend to walk a lot. In the winter I usually did nothing, and since I sit at the computer almost all day and all night it was affecting my health. I ended up joining a gym so I’d take care of some of those issues when it gets cold, and I continue walking in the summer. I’ve had to schedule my time during the day to take a break and eat, otherwise I’d miss it.

I’ve had to schedule when I take medication and when to brush my teeth, otherwise I won’t do it. I need to schedule when to work out. And now, at least once an hour, I get up from my desk and walk to the kitchen and back because it’s the longest distance from my office, 65 steps. And I’ve lost 20 pounds, and still working on it; have to work on making health a priority.


My first girlfriend;
my wife’s still jealous

7. The good times aren’t constant but when they’re good, they’re great. How great are they? There’s absolutely no pressure when the good times come. I bought two cars with a check and no financing. I went to lots of conferences. I ate lunch out every day. I paid someone else to try some marketing for me. And I budgeted because I knew there would need to be some balance; thank goodness for that foresight.

8. The freedom is amazing. You know, even through the bad times and the pressure, there’s a freedom that’s unparallelled. You might work a lot of hours but you know that at the end of it you’re the one benefiting from it, along with those you’re doing work for, not some employer who could care less about you and your needs. If you get into the right career your income is dependent upon your efforts. You can make as much or as little as possible. You can pick your own hours to work. You can pretty much do anything you want to as long as you have the money to do it.

9. You learn that you really can’t do it all alone. There’s a lot of stuff I know and can do, and for the first 3 years in business I did it all. At a certain point though I realized I needed some help in different ways. I hired an accountant and that took a major load off my mind. I contacted others in my field of expertise who knew others and helped spread my name around, and I started getting some contract work from people I’d have never met otherwise.

I learned that sometimes advice you give to others is advice someone then has to give back to you when your mind has gone astray. I joined associations of people who do what I do and understand the issues of being an independent consultant because they know how to offer support. And I’ve learned how to work in collaboration with others for some projects, because even a little piece of something big is still pretty nice.

10. You need to be really judgmental in working with others. I’ve done fairly well in this regard but I have some horror stories as well. I got taken advantage of by a guy who paid me almost nothing to do 2 4-hour training sessions on a topic where I was the only one who could have done it because I hadn’t yet learned how to price my services better. I worked with another company doing some work where I never got any feedback on how to do it their way until I didn’t do it their way, and it was 7 months of frustration; if you can’t communicate with others you’re doomed to fail.

I’ve had people offer me things early on that sounded like they’d be a good deal, only to figure out they were trying to take advantage of me and trying to use me to sell their products and not sell myself, without being paid for it. And I’ve had people who agreed to pay me for things that never paid me, people trying to trick me by saying they were going to pay me that ended up being a scam, and people who told me one thing without being able to follow through in one way or another.

It can happen in the other direction as well though. You might be so cautious that you miss out on what would have been a great opportunity. I’m normally a good judge of character, and learned that desperation, or lack thereof, should never be considered when looking into potential opportunities or liabilities. I have a friend who saw an opportunity that looked really good because he knew the person who presented it to him and thus signed up, only to learn later on that person wasn’t actually the one running things and the person who was running things was unethical.

In general, if the Spidey senses tingle even a little bit, learn more, learn a lot more, then make an informed decision. But always trust your senses.


Why my moral base is strong

11. The majority of people will treat you as you treat them, so make sure your moral base is strong. Y’all know I’m not religious, so in my mind religion and morality are two different things. If you’ve been following this blog even six months you know my morals are based on three principles: loyalty, honesty and trustworthiness. I could add two more, but they’re in longer form: be as nice as possible as often as possible, and if you can’t be nice, be accurate so no one can accuse you of not thinking straight.

If you try to do right by people it comes back to you. If you try to help others it comes back to you. If you show loyalty to others it comes back to you, even if not from the same people. Be open, but don’t be a victim. Be wise and sharing but don’t give it all away. Think of yourself first (this includes your family), protect yourself first, ALWAYS, no matter what anyone else says, and then think of others and what they need; I think 51% to 49% is a good ratio. In business, as in life, you can’t help anyone if your life isn’t secure first.

Yes, this was long, but so is 11 years in business for a sole proprietor. If even one person learns something from this post that will help them make better decisions down the road, I’ll be happy; of course, I’d love thousands of people to read it anyway. :-) But our dreams and goals are for us and no one else; keep pushing forward, keep trying, and try never to see yourself as a failure; as I always say, tomorrow is another chance to start again.
 

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Are We Right To Fear “Too Big”

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on May 31, 2012
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In the last few weeks the names Facebook and Google have come up a lot in conversations around the world. To many it’s for different reasons; to me, it’s for the same exact reason. Yes, it’s time for a minor rant.


by Henri Bergius via Flickr

People have been talking about Facebook for two things; going public and having their stock price not meet expectations, and of course for the privacy issue. For Google, it’s been their Penguin and Panda updates and a changing of SEO rules that have been standard for many years, rules they actually gave to us to follow.

However, what it boils down to in the end is our distrust for entities that have gotten too big, so big that they affect our lives even if we’re not a part of them. For instance, it’s my belief that every person in the U.S. is on either Google or Facebook, whether they know it or not. Either they have voluntarily “outed” themselves to establish a presence online or someone else has outed them. My grandmother never looked at a computer in her life, yet before I mentioned her when she got sick I could look up her name and find at least cursory information on her.

Why do we fear “too big” and should we? I tend to believe we should. After all, “too big” is what’s responsible for us being in the financial mess we’ve been in for the last 6 years, and trust me it’s been 6 years. The mega-banks were responsible for the housing crisis, and those same banks, along with many mega-international banks, were responsible for so many countries having their countries credit ratings drop and have some of those countries go into default.

In some countries Microsoft and Google are considered a monopoly. In this country, AT&T was broken up decades ago because they pretty much monopolized telecommunications, and they’re slowly working their way back into that same position. And have you wondered why so few cable companies control more than 95% of our cable access? Is there anyone in the country that actually has more than one cable choice in their area?

When companies get too big, they tell us it’s in our benefit because they can offer us services to make our lives easier. What we find in reality is that we pay more money for things and that they decide how to control our lives. Without Google being such a big deal, do you really think our traffic would have fallen do drastically over the past year? After all, there are other search engines; does a Google change in algorithms change how they work? And has anyone else noticed that at the same time the initial changes went through that Google reduced the amount they pay on your Adsense account per click?

There has never been a single company that’s grown big that’s benefited anyone. The auto industry needs to have multiple car makers so prices stay relatively low. We need multiple gas stations to help keep gas prices low. We need multiple mobile phone operators to help keep those prices low and offer choices when it comes to the services we want to avail ourselves of. We need multiple airlines so that they’ll compete for our business, even if the government is doing what it can to make air travel unpalatable.

Think about this; why don’t we trust our government, the people we elect to represent us? Because they’re too big, to the point where the majority of people that get elected have no idea what most of us go through because they haven’t been “us” in years, if ever. That goes for all branches of government, even some local town governments, which in my mind we don’t really need because it just means there are more levels of government to deal with and everyone passing the buck when we have specific issues we need addressed.

Unfortunately, I’d have to agree that we do have to worry about “too big”. I’d also have to say that there’s not much we can do about it either. Big government stinks, but look at what the Tea Party has done to it as a small group of politicians. Big cable stinks but look at all the services they can offer as opposed to the other companies that can offer some comparable channels, but nothing like what the big boys can. There aren’t a lot of options when it comes to operating systems for either computers or cellphones, and usually only the one option in a community for landlines.

Ah, but we do have some online options don’t we? There are other search engines, and if we stop catering to Google as much they’ll come around and start treating us fairly. You don’t have to use Facebook, as there are new networking opportunities coming up every day. You don’t have to use Twitter and based on figures an overwhelming number of people who sign up aren’t using it. If there’s the one place all of us really have options, it’s online. Sure, the big boys offer things we can’t get anywhere else as far as completeness goes, but there are multiple companies that offer at least pieces of things we want.

In other words, there are always choices online, and when we start thinking that one company has too much leeway over us we can choose someone else and help them grow. or create something yourself and become the player you were always meant to be.

Just stay humble; otherwise, we’ll have to think about leaving you as well. :-)
 

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