The Illusion of WordPress Websites For Small Business Owners

Lately, I’ve been getting many phone calls from small business owners looking for help with their wordpress websites.  The stories are beginning to sound the same…

1) My web designer created this website for me and I can’t use it.  It’s (fill in the blank) “too difficult” or “takes too much time” or “doesn’t do what I want it to do.”

2) I keep calling my web designer but there’s no answer.  He / She doesn’t call me back.

3) I just added a picture to this page and now the text is all messed up.

4) My wordpress website has a virus (or it got hacked).  What can I do?

5) I’m finding it difficult to find someone who can help me and who is affordable.

6) I can’t customize the theme on my wordpress like I want to.

7) I installed a plugin and my site crashed.  I can’t fix it.

This isn’t the first time I’m hearing these types of complaints.  I’ve heard them for many, many years.  Although I agree that it’s very “alluring” to create your own site and save the money for a web designer and maybe even marketing, the truth is that in the end, small business owners end up spending just as much, if not more, on fixing the problems that their wordpress websites give them.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike WordPress.  This post is being written ON a wordpress website.  I believe that there is definitely a valuable use for these types of sites but my 15 years of experience in this business has shown me that WordPress sites are NOT well suited for businesses.  If you’re relying on your website to bring you business and to help it grow, the best route is a custom designed site.

1) It’s more flexible and customizable.

2) A custom site can load faster because there’s much less code.

3) Custom sites are safer.  Less chance of getting hacked than a WordPress site.

4) The site owner has full control of making changes.  Albeit the designer or webmaster will have to make the changes (unless the business owner knows html coding), at least the owner can actually make the changes.

So, if you’re a small business owner, seriously think about your options between custom sites and wordpress sites.

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Easy Social Media Tips For Small Business Owners

Many small business owners are caught between not having enough time to market their business and not having enough money to hire someone to market their business.  But I’m here to say that if you can be disciplined enough to manage your time you WILL be able to do some of your own online marketing.  Especially when it comes to using social media as a marketing tool.

Here are my tips…

1) You want to be shameless about asking your past, present and new clients to follow you on your social media programs. You want to create a flyer (printed or virtual) with your facebook, twitter, google plus, etc. information and you certainly want to put all your social media programs on your business card, on your receipts, everything that has your name on, everything that you hand out.  Take the extra step and create a step by step list on how your clients can give you reviews, Like you, etc. from each social media program.

2) Make sure all your social media programs are also listed on your website.  I recommend that every small business should have, at the very least, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus.  If you end up making videos you should create your own channel at Youtube and then you would add your Youtube channel to your list of social media programs.  If your target audience includes women then I strongly recommend Pinterest.

3) Create a schedule for yourself. You want to be 2 – 3 months ahead of time.  It’s September 25th as I write this post so that means the holidays are less than 3 months away.  You should be writing about your niche business as it relates to the holidays.  If you can write 2 articles a week and keep yourself 2 – 3 months ahead of time, you’ll give yourself some “space” to write AND you’ll feel in control of the project.

4) One of the very best ways to write (especially if you’re not a writer) is to simply answer questions and give out information.  If you’re REALLY an expert in your field then it will be very easy to do this.  You can certainly begin by writing down the questions and answers that you most often get from your customers.  But to find out what Internet users are searching for, I use a program called Ubersuggest.org

Here’s how I use Ubersuggest…

step one – to get general ideas just type in a phrase (i.e. – tankless water heaters)
step two – to find questions people are searching the answer for type in the phrase and add the words how, what, when, where, do, does, why, if, should, who)
(an example is: how tankless water heaters)
step three – once you have this list of phrases you want to start answering them. You can have long answers, short answers, etc.

6) Use your social media writing to inform your customers, not to sell. Just imagine your customers standing in front of you and write as if you were talking to them. It’s as easy as that.

7) If you find a great video or resource, don’t be afraid to share the link. You want to show that you have authority but you also need to show that know where other sources of information can be found.

8) How to get more followers.
NOTE: DO NOT use any company that claims to give you more followers. Google is cracking down on this so the only real way to increase followers is to do it the right way.

Tip #1 – the more people you follow, the higher the chances are that you will get more followers.

Tip #2 – the more information you put out, the higher the chances are that you will get more followers.

Tip #3 – don’t just put out information on your social media, you also want to engage. So, leave comments, like, share, etc.

In conclusion, it’s all about having a plan and knowing how to use the tools.  Nothing I’ve suggested here costs any money and once you’ve set up your schedule and familiarized yourself with the tools, the process will not take up much time.  So, good luck.

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The Puppet Master Makes Another Demand

So, everyone knows that Google is the king, the “puppet master” and all us SEO folks and businesses across the world are all trying to please the puppet master and his demands.  Well, just a few days ago a new demand came out…

Google is now saying that they eventually want all websites to be “https”  that means that they will be more secure.  So, less chances of your website getting hacked, of any information through your website (emails, forms, etc) getting hacked.  That’s all a good thing but to give an incentive to do this they’re tying it in to their rankings.  So, if your website is “https”  then Google is saying you will get a slight ranking boost.

See what other SEO folks are saying about Google’s new ruling.

What they’re not saying is…

1) whether or not Google is going to be in the business of providing https service.
2) they’re not letting website owners know that obtaining an https is not easy.
3) they’re also not letting website owners know that it’s not cheap and it is a yearly charge.

Personally, I do believe Google will go into the https business, it makes economic sense.  At the same time it does make sense to secure websites that the move to https is a necessity.  But to tie it to rankings?  At this point, I can only roll my eyes and just add another “to do” on the ever growing list of things that must be done to get rankings and traffic to my clients’ websites.

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SEO Is Dead – Sort Of

The phrase “SEO Is Dead” has been around for many years.  Whenever some drastic changes occur in the industry, the proclamation that SEO is out of business comes up.  I know, I’ve been in this crazy industry since 2000.

Recently the phrase is popping up again quite frequently because of the major updates and upsets that Google has been presenting these past couple of years which are really surfacing in the last few months.  So, it’s no surprise to me that I opened Google News yesterday to see another article titled “SEO Is Dead.”  But, always curious, I had to take a few minutes to read it and I thought I’d share the author’s (Andrew Edwards) take on the matter.

1) He is basically saying that SEO may not be the answer for all business websites.  At least not like it used to be.  That aspect is true.  SEO hasn’t been THE ANSWER to website traffic accumulation for some time.  It’s just ONE OF THE ANSWERS.  These days, you can’t do Internet marketing without Social Media, Video, Copywriters and PPC (although PPC may not be necessary) in addition to SEO.

2) I love his sentence… “Really, it’s become more about just building a great site with great (and focused) content.”  I’ve been saying that for so long I’m sick of saying it.  I just told a friend on Saturday that if they wrote some decent content, answered client’s questions every day, their website would do GREAT as far as bringing in traffic and sales.  Yes, of course, the website needs the technical SEO aspects (properly coded, schematic code, meta tags, h1 tags, etc.) but once that is all done, it’s just a matter of writing, writing, writing.

You know, I’m going to clarify that more.  It’s not REALLY just writing.  It’s REALLY about having the information your audience is looking for.

If you’re a plumber your website should have information about money saving tips related to plumbing, information about how to choose the right plumber, information about DIY for small plumbing jobs around the house, etc.

If you’re a preschool your website should have information about how to choose a preschool, what makes a good preschool teacher, how to deal with bully children and their parents, how to help your child make the best of preschool, etc.

INFORMATION!!!!!

3) The author also mentioned that every second 105 people search for SEO on Google  Imagine, every second of every day, 105 people are searching for information related to SEO.  I would imagine the majority of those are people doing SEO, but still.  That’s 6300 searches every single minute, 378,000 every hour.  That’s just amazing!

4) The author believes that the SEO industry is going the way of Megalodon (a very large, 100 foot shark rumored to exist a million years ago).  Personally, I think the way SEO used to be is going that way, but SEO is not dead, it’s just evolving.  Megalodon probably evolved into the sharks we see today, SEO is evolving into it’s next metamorphosis.  What that will eventually look like who knows.

SEO is SO MUCH more than just fixing a few meta tags and adding schematic code here and there.  For me, SEO is and has always been a 2 prong process.  First, the website itself has to be “fixed” so that it’s got clean code, it comes up fast, users can find what they need easily and also the search engines need to be able to identify what the website and it’s pages are all about.  Second, the website needs to be updated and altered constantly.  If 300 people come to the product page but only 20 go to an actual product, something is wrong.  If no one is clicking on the “email us” button, something is wrong.  These issues and many more have to be looked at, experimented with and fixed somehow.  This takes months and years.

The factors that I believe will influence how SEO will work today and in the near future…

1) Websites on mobile units.  Whether it’s smart phones or tablets, how websites are viewed and used on mobile units will influence what SEO factors will be important.

2) SEO is about the website, but the future will include many other factors beyond just the website.  At some point in the not to distant future here, we WILL be searching not only on our smart phones and tablets but on our TV’s.  A few years after that we will also be searching on our appliances and vehicles.    It’s the Internet that is drastically changing and with that, we have to consider how websites will be affected.  Will they even still be relevant?  (I’m guessing yes)

3) The quality and volume of information your company is willing to share online does and will continue to have an impact on the traffic and sales that you get from online.  You must work to make your company the source, the hub of information for your field.  Period.

So, what do you think?  Is SEO dead or just turning into something else?

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Know When SEO Is Right For You

I’ve been doing SEO (search engine optimization) since 2000.  So, 14 years in this crazy business has taught me that my services are not for everyone.  Although there are some SEO firms out there who will want you to believe that their magic will help you no matter what.  The truth is that it’s not for everyone.

Here’s a great article titled When Is SEO The Wrong Choice?  Take some time to read it, you’ll be glad you did.

 

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Check Out “If This Then That”

If you’re looking for ways to automate some of your tasks, here’s a GREAT service that’s FREE and will give you that automation.  It’s called ifttt.com (stands for “if this then that”)

Basically, you sign up.  You choose a “recipe” which is essentially the formula that they’ve already created, you set up the permissions and you’re done.

I’m using it for this post here so whenever I publish a new post on my WordPress blog, it is automatically sent to the list that I chose on my Gmail account.  How great is that?

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SEO Will Be Changing More Than You Know

In 2013 Google purchased a company called Nest.  (just one of the companies it purchased in 2013).  The technology that Nest develops and continues to improve is used for “smart homes”.  You know, homes that are equipped with electronic devices, lighting, heating, etc. that are controlled via computer, phone or tablet.  These devices have memories, they are automated, they are connected to a main computer and some are connected online.

In 2014, Apple announced their smart home tool called HomeKit.  It’s supposed to come out in the autumn of 2014 so if you’re an iPhone or iPad user you should be able to get this very soon.

Now, these may look to you like just apps for your smart phones and tablets.  But the impact on SEO and how we “search the internet” will be coming and it will have started with the use of these kinds of apps.

Daniel Cristo wrote a great article and I encourage you to read it.  This post is my take on his article.  He has many good points in there that I won’t go into so I say get a cup of coffee and spend a few moment reading it, you’ll be glad you did.

It’s difficult for us to see that how we search the Internet will change so drastically.  Especially for those of us over 30!  (whew, where did the time go?)  But rest assured that changes are coming and those changes will have an impact on SEO and Internet marketing.  How can they not?

The Future Of Searches and Shopping

A few nights ago my husband and I were watching The Wolverine and (as usual) I wanted to know the end of the movie before it even started.  (I know, it’s weird, what can I say?)  Anyway, the next morning I picked up my phone and the card on Google Now was about a news story on the movie The Wolverine.  I didn’t search for that news story, but Google saw that I made a search for it and they are therefore giving me more.  This happens all the time with the searches that I make.  The point is, Google is “listening” to what I’m doing online.  The future of these “smart appliances” is that they will be “listening” as well.

Right now, it seems that within 1-2 years many of us will have some type of “smart home” app on our phones.  I don’t think that’s out of the question.  A few of us will have appliances that we can connect to as well.  In the article Cristo talks about “smart refrigerators” but there are other appliances currently available as well.

GE has smart ovens.

Whirlpool has smart washers and dryers

Well, you get the idea.

Right now, these appliances are in your home and connected to your phones but at some point, they will be connected to online services and they will then be “listening”.  The example in the article is online grocery services.  Amazon is expanding their Amazon Fresh service and with so many smaller online grocery services currently available throughout the country, it’s just a matter of time before it takes off.  (I know when I lived in Florida I used Publix’s online service and absolutely loved it.  They stopped it after a year I think.  The mistake they made (in my humble opinion) is that they went too big too fast.  But it was an amazing service!!!)

So, imagine your online grocery service being alerted that your refrigerator is out of milk.  And let’s say that you have conducted searches for almond milk.  You may start getting messages recommending brands of almond milk for your next grocery delivery.  Maybe even coupons.  Perhaps washing machines will hold large amounts of detergent and they will automatically dispense what’s needed for each wash.  When that container gets low you may get notification that you need more detergent.  Again, based on any previous searches, you can get recommendations for certain brands, coupons, etc.

Your searches will affect future purchases.

And not just searches.  What you watch on TV, on Netflix, maybe even on Roku or Apple TV will also create a database of information about you which can be used by these smart apps to talk to you.  I love SyFy movies, good ones, bad ones, I love them all.  I may start getting notices about Comic Con conventions, a new Star Trek cereal, etc.  I didn’t even search for that stuff but because of my “database” my apps are recommending what they think I will want.

Your TV – The Internet – Shopping

Years ago I read an article about how Google’s plan was to eventually be integrated with TV’s.  Not sure if they’re still working on that but the concept was that TV’s would be equipped in such a way that I could just click on a product in the show I was watching and purchase it.  Well, a simpler version of that has already started.  Target and the show Cougar Town worked together to create ShopCougarTown.com.  Check out this article explaning it.

TV shows are becoming more and more integrated with Twitter and Facebook and like Target, even creating their own sites.  Audiences are voting and participating with the shows they are watching, in live time.  It will get to a point when you won’t need your smartphone with you to interact with your TV.  Your television set will be integrated with that technology.

The Impact On SEO

Right now, the goal of any SEO is to “get the word out” about the website they are marketing.  Whether it’s through search, through social media, email marketing, videos, etc.  There are many ways to do it but the core has always been the search results.  Getting top rankings for keyword phrases the audience is typing in.

But as these trends I mentioned here continue, the act of typing in keyword phrases and searching will decrease more and more.  As these smart appliances and our smart homes learn to read our databases the will simply recommend services and products to us.  And let’s face it, humans are lazy.  It’s so easy to be lazy!  So, the chances that we will take action on these recommendations vs. doing the work ourselves, is pretty high.

When this happens, SEO will no longer be about rankings.  It will be about authority, it will be about product placement and it will be about how interactive the company is.

By “authority” I mean the amount of knowledge on the website.  Have you demonstrated that you are an expert in your field?  The only way to do that online is to have as much information about your field as possible.  The answers to questions users are asking should be on your website.

By “product placement” I mean getting your products on as many visible mediums as possible.  Videos, online publications, tv shows, etc.

By “interactive” I mean social media sharing, online reviews, blog comments, local mentions, etc.

Yes, the times they are changing and they are changing fast!!!  Time to retire!

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Long Tails Win The Sale

John Fox from Huffington’s Post wrote a review on a free ebook The UnFair Advantage Book on Winning the Search Engine Wars by Stephen Mahaney. I read this book years ago when it came out, I’ve read it’s updates and for any business owner, this is an excellent book to help explain what is going on as far as website marketing.

But one quote in the article caught my attention. “The only type of keyword that consistently converts to sales is the last one used before making a purchase.”

I know this to be true, of course but I wanted to see some actual phrases so I did some research on the sites that I am marketing. Here’s what I found….

  • “what is the law in florida about parental alienation”
  • “attorneys who specialize in parent child alienation, cape coral fl”
  • “cheap destin beach wedding packages”
  • “getting married on navarre beach”
  • “drug & alcohol testing mobile service 24 hrs a day for chamblee ga”
  • “hurricane certified front doors”
  • “mission style dining sets”
  • “stackable insert planing/jointing cutter – series 4045″
  • “dealer for guhdo saw blades and cutters”

What The Results Show

So, what I’m seeing from these results is that the keyword phrases that are converting are Long Tail keyword phrases. That means they’re more like sentences than just 1 or 2 keyword phrases. Now just like the article said, it makes sense. Think about it when you do a search, you may start off with a couple of words but as you gather more information you start using longer phrases.

The websites that you find with those longer phrases are the ones who are more likely to get your business. Of course, if you consistently find the same website that comes up for short and long phrases, multiple phrases well the normal reaction is that you will tend to trust that website more.

What Does This Mean For The Website Owners?

What all this boils down to is that you must have information on your website. Tons and tons and tons of information. It’s literally impossible to have too much information on your site. Imagine writing down, in a list, all the possible keyword phrases and combinations that anyone in the world would use to find your website. I’m sure you would agree that the list would include thousands and thousands of phrases. You want to make sure that your website will be found for as many of those phrases as possible.

So, when your seo marketer asks you to spend some money on copywriters or begs you to write some content for the website, don’t ignore him/her. They’re just looking out for you and your business.

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Schedules, Discipline and SEO

Google has been keeping us on our toes for the last 12 months or so, changing so many page-speed-optimizationestablished ranking procedures that frankly, I’m not even sure what works anymore. Well, sort of.

I was having lunch with a friend yesterday (who happens to also work on SEO) and we were discussing these changes and how they impact our daily seo lives. My comment was that every few months I had to change how I practice SEO. Not so drastically that it seems like a new profession but enough that it affects the amount of time spent on each client.

An Experiment I’m Still Figuring Out

Last year a new client came to me wanting to be found for the phrase “destin beach weddings”. Her website was well established, her business was well established but her site needed major SEO work. So, we did that. We recreated the website in clean code making sure it was easy to follow for it’s users. We set up the meta tags, did the keyword research, added lsi phrases, placed schematic codes and h1, h2 tags where needed, etc. You get the idea, we did the “usual” stuff.

We then began going through submissions to citations and of course, social media.

After 6 months, although there was more traffic to the site, I could not move the website from it’s 3rd page position for the phrase “destin beach weddings”. The content wasn’t keyword stuffed, it wasn’t “unnatural”, there weren’t any major flaws that I could see.

What Changed

So, I finally gave up on targeting the client’s phrase. I thought, let me target a larger phrase and at the very least, help the client to get more traffic and more sales. So, I changed the focus of the home page from “destin beach weddings” to “florida beach wedding packages”.

A week later, I received an email from my client so ecstatic that she was #2 on Google for “destin beach weddings”. WTF? (excuse my language but please understand my frustration).

This website page does not come up for the new phrase in the top 10 pages of search results (SERPS).

What did I do?

1) I altered the content so that the new phrase was in the meta tags and in just one h1 tag.
2) I abandoned focusing on a keyword phrase and just slightly altered the content so the page would have information that I thought the user would need.
3) I did use LSI keywords but did not bang my head against the wall trying to fit them in.
4) We started adding new pages to the site, one at a time. Nothing fancy, just some “how to” information in the form of articles.

That’s it.

Can We Target Keyword Phrases?

As I said at the beginning of this article, the changes for SEO practice are coming fast and furious and I don’t pretend to even believe that what I think I know today will work next month. But, it does seem to me that we cannot target specific keyword phrases on website pages. Instead, we simply must write pages as informative as possible and keep on writing. Monitor the phrases these pages are bringing in and keep on writing some more.

What do you think? Write me at esther@eckweb.com. I’d love to know what I may be missing here.

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Content and Small Business Websites

Ask any SEO webmaster what the #1 problem they have and they will tell you “Getting content from my clients.”  If you’re a client of an SEO firm you will probably agree simply because you know how many times you’ve gotten requests from your webmaster for new or changed content.

I recently took an excellent advanced SEO course from Search Engine News and as a bonus I have access to their FastTrack Membership program which gives me access to the experts at Search Engine News.  I submitted a question concerning the issue of content and the difficulty in getting this content from small business owners.  We all know by now that Google’s latest algorithm updates have all to do with content.  Quality content.  Usable content.  Unique content.  These are words that rend small business owners frozen to the point they prefer no action to any action.

The response to my question from the expert at SEN was to write for the client, have the client polish it or use an outsource firm to polish it, add graphics and submit.  She went on to add, “But in the end, if you can’t get the site owner to buy-in, then long-term they don’t have much chance.”

There’s no doubt any longer.  If you aren’t willing to pay for or do the copywriting work, then you may have to come to the realization that your website will not work for you.

 

 

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