By Cliff Tillery, MakeItLoud.net
By now, you’ve probably at least heard the term “search engine optimization” or SEO, right?
You may still think it’s Voodoo magic (it is. Although the only chickens SEO nerds really sacrifice come in the form of a sandwich.)
You might even think your business could use some of these services. In most cases, you’re right. I mean, who doesn’t want their business on page one of the search results? (“No, no, not me! I want my business right there next to Jimmy Hoffa on page 2 and beyond!”)
So, while you may have heard of this marketing tool and understand how important it might be to your business, there are still some things that most nerds won’t tell you about when you’re trying to find the right provider- that is, until now.
This post is going to reveal what’s behind the curtain with the magic of search engine optimization. Moo-ha-ha! (That’s our evil cow laugh!). We really want you to see that all offerings around SEO aren’t the same which can really trap business owners into something they’re paying for that isn’t worth it.
What is SEO, and Why is it Important?
SEO (search engine optimization) is the practice of making your website pleasing to the Search Engine Gods, so that your site earns one of the coveted spots on page one.
How do we do that? Well, it ain’t easy.
It’s like putting a 10,000 piece puzzle together of two polar bears mooning you in a blizzard… without the box as a guide.
Since most people turn to Google for their search results, that’s clearly the 900-pound polar bear we have to make the happiest. Bing is like a little baby polar bear- still important.
Being on the first page of Google serves the following purposes:
● Increasing the visibility of your business.
● Driving targeted traffic to your website. (These people are looking for what you do!)
● Providing more opportunities to gain customers.
● Growing brand awareness.
● Helps establish trust with your business (I mean, you’re ON the FIRST page!)
So, Is SEO Worth It?
We realize that if you ask this question to a company that provides this service, the answer is going to be an unequivocal “YES!!!”, but really, is it?
Yeah, it actually is. Why? Simple, for most businesses, it’s about sales (one way or another), so it’s a statistical fact that the more people that see your business on page one, the more likely they are to click on it and the more the people go through your digital front door, the more likely they are to buy your products or services. In the long run, SEO should pay for itself especially if your average client is in the thousands. Like any marketing element, you want to make sure that the math makes sense.
These are the very basics of SEO.
Before You Consider SEO
Before you consider hiring an SEO company to help you, there’s one very important thing you should know about this marketing element. Your website has to not suck. (Read more on whether your website sucks or not.)
A lot of people in this industry won’t tell you that.
Trying to get an ugly, poorly designed site that hurts your eyes on page one is like trying to fly an aircraft carrier. They just aren’t built for page one. It’s not about my tastes or yours. It’s about what Google wants.
Given that, there are a lot of SEO agencies out there that won’t tell you that your site’s dysfunctional and will gladly take your money. We still see websites that look horrible on your mobile device or don’t have SSL’s (if you don’t know what that is, it’s ok, but yeah, your site should start with “https://domain name.com.”). Learn more about web design.
Worse, they’ll give you the standard line, “It usually takes 3-6 months before we start seeing an increase in rankings” which essentially locks them into a guaranteed income for that amount of time before you start realizing that there’s not going to be any increases.
This kind of thing makes everyone in the industry look bad. There are a lot of people out there who are genuinely trying to do the right thing, but like any industry, there are a few knuckleheads who try to pull this “churn and burn” trick.
Real digital marketers have this crazy thought that if we do right by our clients, they’ll actually KEEP us around to continue to do the right thing by them. This can be a major difference between providers. A key question here is “What is the average time your clients stay with you?” You’re looking for an answer of several “years” here.
So, the takeaway here is: before you hire a reputable SEO company like Make It Loud to get your business more visibility, make sure to ask them whether your website is good enough to actually BE on page one of the search results. We’ve had plenty of people ask us for these services and we have rejected them and told them to invest in a better website before looking at paying marketing elements that drive more traffic to the site.
What Exactly Do You “Do” For SEO?
This is a fair question to ask anyone you are considering hiring to do this work. The answer shouldn’t make you feel like you should’ve played more Scrabble as a kid and learned bigger words.
Far too many SEO nerds speak jargon. The goal here is simple: to sound smarter than their clients. For some, it’s a self-esteem thing. Just as a physician went to school for eons to learn how to save your life, he or she needs to be able to tell you in simple terms what’s wrong with you and how they’re going to fix it. Rather than baffling you with BS, it’s important that your SEO company can explain what they’re going to do in simple terms.
There are well over 200 ranking factors that Google uses to determine if your site deserves to be on page one or not. Even that sentence is misleading (probably on purpose by Google) because there are likely more than 400 elements they use to rank your site.
That being said, the answer you get to the question above should involve things like:
- Keyword research (words/phrases people search)
- Page Titles (meta tags) and meta descriptions
- Creating and editing good content for your site
- Technical SEO and other things to help improve your page speed
- Schema markup
- Website architecture
- Heading tags
- Foundational backlinks
- Niche and guest post backlinks (high-quality links)
- Linking your site to webmaster tools like Google search console and Google Analytics
- A bunch of other super nerdy-sounding stuff.
So, how much of that stuff is important and will help move your site to page one, and how much of it is fluff?
That’s the $1000/month question, isn’t it? (That’s around the average monthly cost most reputable companies charge for SEO. If they charge less, they do less, so you get what you pay for.)
A Tale Of Two SEO Companies
Look, all marketing is a trip to Vegas. While you’re there, you’re probably going to gamble, and if you gamble, you have a real shot at winning….and losing.
So the goal here is to hedge your bets and at the very least, do some educated gambling.
If we had to, we’d tell you a cautionary tale of two companies that both provide search engine optimization. The reality is that you, as a business owner, can’t naturally assume that just because both companies say they “do” SEO, that they actually do the same thing.
Both can baffle you with jargon that sounds really important but doesn’t move your site up the rankings. For us, the demarcation line that separates the good and the bad SEO firms is content.
The good ones write the necessary content for you. The bad ones make promises like, “we will get your business page one results in a month for the low, low price of $399/month.” Most good SEO nerds wouldn’t turn their laptops on for that much less be able to stay in business with all the work that’s involved.
How SEO is Sold
There are a few ways that SEO is offered to a business owner. Here are the most popular in order:
By Location & Industry: This is where we ask you, “Where do you want the most visibility for your business?” The point here is obvious. If you’re a dentist, people will only drive 5-15 miles to be tortured by a dentist, so having a dental practice in Buford, but showing up in downtown Atlanta makes no sense.
On the other hand, if you’re a roofer, you probably want as much visibility as you can afford to buy because you go to them.
The idea here is that we can focus our efforts to get you more visibility locally (around your business), regionally, or nationally. Obviously, it takes less work to get you ranked in Lawrenceville Georgia than it does in Gwinnett County, Atlanta, Georgia, the South, or nationally. As the pond gets bigger, there are more fish to compete with to get seen on page one.
The industry piece of the pricing equation comes into play when we think about the industry you’re in. This has to do with how competitive your industry is from Google’s perspective. Certain things like anything in competition with Viagra, weight loss, realtors, etc. are brutally competitive- so much so that many SEO nerds will tell you that they don’t even recommend you invest in this marketing element since the market is so saturated.
By Keywords: This approach to pricing can be straightforward, but there can also be some trickery involved. Some agencies will say, we will get you ranked by X number of keywords. Obviously, you would want prior approval of that keyword list so you could make sure these terms/phrases have enough search volume, are relevant to what you do, and can be conversion-friendly.
The potential trickery here is that we could get a dentist ranked for “pink tutu” pretty rapidly, but for most dentists, that phrase wouldn’t lead to more patients.
Some agencies have started experimenting with other models but these are the big ones.
The White Hat/Black Hat Thing
Years ago, people would advertise that they “only do white hat SEO” which was interesting because most people didn’t even know what “black hat SEO” even was.
While the reference is clear, white hat SEO means they only do things that Google considers “good SEO”. The problem is that Google hates SEO because it messes with their precious search results. Given that, Google would say there is no such thing as white hat SEO. When and if Google runs the world, there will only be Google Ads or Pay per click which is still how they earn 90+% of their revenue.
Black hat SEO puts your site at risk for being de-indexed entirely (and that’s just bad). Not only is that a terrible thing to do for your SEO clients, but it’s just dumb. The lawsuits that have been won on that kind of thing include far too many zeros to stay in business. Based on that, you don’t really have to worry about agencies that engage in black hat tactics. It’s like a bank saying “Hey come deposit your money! We promise not to steal it when you do!”
The digital marketing nerds at Make It Loud have been working with SEO for the past 15 years, and their SEO clients have been with them. This company handles the GABB’s SEO.Read More
Financial literacy is the link between ‘money myths’ and proven ‘Money Smart’ facts that you can ‘bank on’ to make access to capital possible.
The SBA Georgia District Office in collaboration with SCORE Georgia is hosting a 7-part financial literacy series for small businesses. The seven courses are designed to help entrepreneurs understand the importance and preparation needed to strengthen and achieve their financial ‘smart’ goals. The series will cover topics including startup financing, cash flow, critical record keeping, exit strategies, and more. Take any combination of courses to help you take your business to the next level.
Financial Management will be covered in the next training course on Tuesday, May 4.
Financial Management May 4, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST
This module provides an overview of business financial management theory and terminology, and is designed to help you ‘understand how sound financial management can benefit your business. Closed captioning available in the following languages: Afrikaans (South African), Chinese, Creole Haiti, French, Korean, Spanish
To view the complete list of courses and to register, visit https://content.govdelivery.
Finalizing a deal is usually a complex process with lots of room for error, misunderstandings, miscalculations, and good old-fashioned wild cards. That’s why it is critical to carefully think through the deal process well in advance. In this article, we’ll explore the top ten steps you can take to avoid wrecking a good deal.
- Confidentiality – Topping our “how not to wreck a deal list” is confidentiality. Everyone involved in the deal MUST take steps to avoid a breach. Experienced business brokers are experts at maintaining confidentiality.
- Flexibility – Inflexibility can absolutely destroy a deal. You shouldn’t go into a deal expecting to have all of your terms met.
- Be Open to Negotiations – Sellers are used to being their own bosses, but when it comes to successfully selling a business, no factor is quite as important as a willingness to negotiate.
- Advance Preparation – Sellers should have several years of well-prepared records and legal and accounting documents on hand. You can be 100% certain that any serious buyer will want to see your records and take a look at your financials.
- A Reasonable Selling Price – An inflated price will decrease the number of buyers that take a serious look at a business. Additionally, an unreasonable price may make a seller look uninformed. Business brokers and M&A advisors are experts at handling valuations. One of the single best ways to boost your chances of finalizing a sale is to establish a fair and justifiable price for your business.
- Maintain Operations – Far too often sellers lose track of the day-to-day operations once their business goes on the market It is absolutely vital that sellers continue operating their business as though it may never sell. It can take months or years to sell a business. The last thing any seller wants is for their business to lose value when they are in the process of trying to sell.
- Keep up the Momentum – A lack of momentum can kill a deal. Working with a business broker or M&A advisor is an easy way to make sure you maintain momentum throughout the process.
- Consider Your Buyer’s Needs – Serious buyers will need a variety of information from sellers in order to obtain financing. You can expect buyers to need appraisals of assets, information on environmental regulations, and more. Sellers should have this kind of key information ready and waiting.
- Encourage Competition – In general, it is a good idea to create a competitive situation – one in which prospective buyers know that there is more than one interested party. Brokerage industry professionals understand the delicacies of presenting this information.
- Seller Participation – Finally, sellers must stay involved in the entire process, and that includes being willing to help buyers during the transition. Showing a willingness to help during the transition period will help to foster goodwill and trust.
There are many reasons why a deal could potentially fall apart. You may not be able to control every single variable, but by following the ten key tips outlined in this article, you will be well on your way to increasing your chances of successfully completing a deal.
The post The Top Ten Ways to Avoid Wrecking a Deal appeared first on Deal Studio – Automate, accelerate and elevate your deal making.
Economic relief prioritized for underserved communities
WASHINGTON – SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman has announced key details on application requirements, eligibility, and a program guide for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RFF). The restaurant industry has been among the hardest-hit sectors during the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help bring jobs back and revive the industry, the American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Joe Biden, established the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA will administer the funds to the hardest-hit small restaurants.
“Today, we are starting the process to help restaurants and bars across the country devastated by the pandemic, and this is our message: Help is here. With the launch of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, we’re prioritizing funding to the hardest-hit small businesses – irreplaceable gathering places in our neighborhoods and communities that need a lifeline now to get back on their feet,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman on April 17, 2021. “And, thanks to clear directives from Congress, we’re rolling out this program to make sure that these businesses can meet payroll, purchase supplies, and get what they need in place to transition to today’s COVID-restricted marketplace.”
Administrator Guzman emphasized, “We’re also focused on ensuring that the RRF program’s application process is streamlined and free of burdensome, bureaucratic hurdles – while still maintaining robust oversight. Under my leadership, the SBA aims to be as entrepreneurial as the entrepreneurs we serve – and that means meeting every small business where they are, and giving them the support they need to recover, rebuild and thrive.”
Under this announcement, details on application requirements, eligibility, and a program guide are now available in English at www.sba.gov/restaurants or in Spanish at www.sba.gov/restaurantes.
Ahead of the application launch and over the next two weeks, the SBA will establish a seven-day pilot period for the RRF application portal and conduct extensive outreach and training. The pilot period will be used to address technical issues ahead of the public launch. Participants in this pilot will be randomly selected from existing PPP borrowers in priority groups for RRF and will not receive funds until the application portal is open to the public.
Following the pilot, the application portal will be opened to the public. The official application launch date will be announced at a later date. For the first 21 days that the program is open, the SBA will prioritize reviewing applications from small businesses owned by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Following the 21-day period, all eligible applicants are encouraged to submit applications.
The groundwork for this announcement is the result of a comprehensive effort to reach out to diverse stakeholders in order to understand the needs and barriers restaurants face in accessing emergency relief aid.
“Local restaurants and bars are being served very good news today,” said Erika Polmar, Executive Director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition. “These guidelines were crafted by the SBA after conversations with independent restaurant and bar operators across the country. We are grateful to the SBA for their hard work to make this process as accessible as possible in a short period of time. It is clear the SBA and the Biden Administration care deeply about ensuring businesses struggling the most can quickly and effectively use this relief program, and we look forward to continued conversations and collaboration to ensure this fund works as intended for the independent restaurant and bar community.”
Community business leaders from underserved communities also welcomed RRF assistance as much-needed economic relief and are working with their broad membership bases to navigate the grant application process.
“In addition to historically having less operating liquidity and revenue than almost any other small business demographic, Black-owned restaurants received significantly less stimulus funding during the COVID-19 pandemic, heightening challenges and leading to disproportionate closures,” said Ron Busby, Sr., president and CEO, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. “The USBC believes this initiative and collaboration with the SBA will bring needed resources and relief to these often underserved businesses to aid in stabilization, recovery and ultimately, strengthen our economy.”
In addition to restaurant groups and leading advocacy groups for underserved business communities, the SBA has engaged national and state trade associations, and other small business stakeholders in recent weeks to understand their concerns about relief programs.
“Small and independent craft breweries are vibrant community gathering places that can be found in nearly every congressional district in the U.S. and contribute to manufacturing, hospitality, retail, tourism, and agricultural industries,” said Bob Pease, president and CEO, Brewers Association. “We are pleased to work with the SBA to promote the Restaurant Revitalization Fund landing page and its available resources, and assist the breweries hit hardest by COVID-19 secure much needed additional relief to help them survive the pandemic and prepare for the restart of the economy.”
At all levels, the SBA will continue engaging with stakeholder communities to inform and design delivery of financial assistance programs. As the SBA builds and prepares to roll out the program, this dedicated SBA website is the best source for up-to-date information for eligible restaurants interested in the RRF.
About the U.S. Small Business Administration
The U.S. Small Business Administration helps power the American dream of business ownership. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov.Read More
Just as people will form judgments and ideas about you as a person based on first impressions, the same holds true for your company. It is always best to put your “best foot forward,” and this is true whether we’re talking about your personal life or your business. Periodically, every company should step back and evaluate its initial point of communication with customers and clients.
In today’s digitally interconnected world, it is critical that customers and clients feel as though they are not just being listened to but are being heard. Emails must be responded to promptly. This is true regardless of whether the email is from a customer requesting more information about your goods or services, or if it’s a message with a question or complaint. If your company is unresponsive, this fact can quickly spread on social media.
Of course, customers and clients still pick up their phones and make calls. While many people’s first impressions of your business are increasingly likely to be via your website, the phone call experience is still important. When callers reach your business, it is vital that they receive a professional and warm reception. Whether the point of contact is a live person or a message, the experience should be a trouble-free and low stress experience.
Far too many businesses overlook this variable, but you can be quite certain that not all of their competitors do. Your navigation system should be easy to navigate. If possible, there should be an option to talk to an operator so that callers don’t get lost within frustrating phone labyrinth filled with dead ends. Callers might not remember a positive phone experience, but you can bet that they will remember a stressful one.
When a team member greets a caller, the response should be pleasant and should include some version of “How may I help you?” Every operator should know company basics, such as your times of operation and the key names of your personnel. They should also demonstrate a willingness to help. Your team members should understand that their job depends on the success of the company and that they are on the frontlines of maintaining a positive business-customer relationship. Professionalism is a must, and team members should never lose sight of this fact.
Finally, your key management executives should invest the time to experience your company’s sphere of communication. What is it like to call your company and interact with team members? What improvements could be made?
In this very digital era, it is important to remember that there is still no replacement for human interaction. When a caller reaches out to your company for information or assistance, it is best to use technology judiciously. Try to opt for the human touch when possible. While the person answering the phones at your business might not be the highest paid person on your payroll, always remember that their job is an essential part of your company’s image.