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Nathan Prescott

BluMihmShaw Day 1: Some Local Data For Your Dome

By | Data | No Comments

Oops! It appears my commitment to the last Thursday of each month (aka BluMihmShaw Day) escaped me. While I had all the data long ready to go, I spent my week focusing on collecting and correcting the data from an earlier post. Rats!

The data I have for you today is very simple. It’s all about these:
scraped citations

You will remember, the above are properties that Google has scraped, and places on the Google+ Local page -near the bottom. Not long ago I did a <a href="http://www.leanmarketing useful source.ca/lean-top-50-best-local-citation-sources-in-the-usa/” >bit of research, though I am afraid it was a bit backwards.

You see, these properties that Google is scraping are important. I knew that before I did the research. Google, above all other properties, chose to scrape these websites. While I can only make assumptions for the “why”, I knew, based on working in the space long enough, that there was connection between these, and rank. The more the better I was sure. And so, without digging around to see if there was any connection between how many you had and rank, I scraped all the damn properties Google had, and told you which ones, in which markets, and in which cities stuck out most. Because I think they are darn important. Here is the data in case you missed it.

Now, I only realized that this was backwards once Darren Shaw brought it to my attention. Quick note: you will hear me reference Darren a lot because more often than not, before and after publishing/researching any data, I consult him. Between me and you, he’s a local data whisperer. When I brought this previous data to him he said something like “cool, but so what?” I nearly died. I don’t recall how many hours I spent pulling that data, but my heart was broken. He was right though. How does he know these properties mean anything? What proof is there that Google scraping them is a positive thing? None. Eff!

And so, I said to Darren, “I’ll Be Back!! I’m Not Done With You!”

Here’s the proof. Sort of*.

The only way that I could think of that might tell me if Google scraping these things influenced rank at all was: IF on page 1 for any given local term there were more scraped properties than page 2, and page 2 had more than page 3, etc. As it turned out, as I predicted, and anyone with half a brain could have predicted, my assumptions were correct. Here are the numbers:

Page 1: 13,975
Page 2: 12,361
Page 3: 11,703

We scraped Google+ Local listings in 55 cities and 71 industries. If you assume there was 10 listings on each page (we conducted our searches in maps.google.com), and we went back 3 pages then we scraped 117,150 listings. One point was assigned to every property found scraped, for example, in the above picture, that would count at 3 points, which was all be pooled into three totals: page 1, 2 and 3. The totals are as follows:

Now, I said “sort of” above because while this tells us that that listing with more scraped properties tend to have more choice rankings, it does not prove anything. I cannot tell you that if you submit to the properties most commonly found scraped in my previous research, and they get scraped you will rank better. While there is probably some truth, this data does not prove that.

So, I will let you interpret it in whatever way you wish, and do with it what you will.

I however will be making sure that I my clients, at the very least, are all submitted to these properties 😉 But that’s just me.

Am I crazy? Let me know below.

Where do we go from here? Well, my next step is collect some of these properties for our UK and Canadian friends, as I only focused on the US last time. Once those are published, I may do a couple popular niches. Fortunately for me, I have built a tool that collects this data for me, and so gone are the days where we do this manually. With a bit more work, I just may open this to you guys. If you wish you have first dibs, please register to our newsletter, so I can keep ya in the know – I will need a few beta testers!!

Finally, thanks to Phil Rozek’s valuable input, our next BluMihmShaw Day will be about CATEGORIES! Stay tuned!

Case Study: Does Building Links to a Local Listing Help Rank?

By | Case Studies | No Comments

For well over a year now I have been meaning to test this: can the rank of your Google Places (Google+ Local) page be improved, by building links to it. I’ll admit, I had some half ass attempts in 2012 where it seemed like a moved the needle, in fact, Darren Shaw was even crazy enough to include it in his MozCon Slidedeck.

I’ve wondered, why haven’t we heard more about this? It’s been a year+ since it seemed probable that this might work, and few have spoken out on it. Is it possible that everyone but me did a test? Made it work, and now is keeping it to themselves? Jerks!

So, once and for all, I am going to put this sucker to rest.

The Why

  1. Why do I think these things can be ranked? Two reasons: unlike in the past, the Google Places listing is now indexed. Two, most all the data on the page is also indexed. If I didn’t know better, this is starting to sound like a website…check it:
  2. listing url indexed
    listing content indexed
    listing reviews indexed

  3. More or less, I have been using the same ranking techniques for Google Places for 2+ years. I am bored, and it’s time to go back to the drawing board and shake things up.

The Team

Jacob King & Adam Steele

The Hypothesis

Do links built to the Google Places page, increase the page’s ranking in local search results?

The Conditions

We will build links to 4 Google Places pages. 2 pages will be merged, 2 will still be non-merged. Links will be built for anchors that trigger traditional pak and blended. An even amount of links will be built to each page.

The Controls

We will:

  • run a Whitespark citation benchmark for the listing, as well as run the listing through Ahrefs;
  • rank trackers from MicroSiteMasters and Whitespark will be used. The “https://plus.google.com” URL will be tracked;
  • choose a listing that: has no site attached, is not for profit (ie. a high school) and appears dormant;
  • log all links built, so as to compare against Ahrefs 30 days later to make sure we were the only ones promoting the listings;
  • rank track 4 additional listings, with the same makeup as our test subjects, and compare movement against eachother; and
  • choose businesses in the same city. Difference in SERP landscapes might throw things off

Timeline

The study will run for 30 calendar days, after which time, if at least 2/4 listings have positive progress, we may have gained some insight into whether this has any influence.

Final Details

Next steps are picking the listings, the keywords, setting the benchmarks, and getting under way. All of which shouldn’t take too much longer than a day or two Discover More. I figure we will update this post every 10 days, explaining what has been done to date, and any observations we have made.

I would appreciate very much if anyone had something to contribute – a control that we perhaps missed.

Please, for those of you nay sayers out there, PLEASE keep an open mind. This is meant to be a fun experiment – that is all.

I hope you enjoy and I look forward to this.

Update: Just in from local genius Nyagoslav, “you might want to check the rankings of the rest of the business listings, too, because if many of them change at the same time, then it might not be an effect caused by your activity, but rather because of an index update.” Absolutely. Not sure exactly how yet, but I am going to figure something out.

UPDATE August 19th

We are now three weeks into the campaign, and the following has been completed:

  • listings chosen: this was way more difficult than I had anticipated. We had to find listings at a majority of stages, raw to semi optimized, and hardest of all, they needed to be listings no one was going to cry about…ie. I wasn’t going to possibly negatively affect someone’s livelihood. So, we chose 4 listings, all close to home (Vancouver, BC Canada), all of which are out of business, but not marked as such. I have chosen not to share the listings with you yet, as I don’t want anyone messing with them. They must remain solely at our mercy – for now : )
  • keywords chosen: also tricky, I didn’t originally find these listings by searching specific keywords. I searched various queries such as “closed for business vancouver bc” and qualified them from there. Then I had to make sure they ranked for something. We aren’t doing anything more than blast them with links, so I wanted listings that already showed directionality, and just required a push. I didn’t want to have to try and rank something for a term it possibly wasn’t relevant enough, or optimized enough to rank for. Sure, I can do this with an organic listing, but I didn’t need the extra hurdle for this. For some we have to go 20 pages deep, but eventually we found listings that met the criteria.
  • rankings: each listing has been manually benchmarked, while also thrown in Whitespark rank tracker. We had to dump MSM as we forgot that it wouldn’t work beyond page 1 for local rankings. We will be updating rankings periodically. Per Nyago’s suggestion, we have also chosen to track for additional listings, which share similar SERPs with our chosen listings. The “why” is above.
  • link building: it took us a fair bit longer to get all this organized, and as a result, link building was delayed. Jacob began building links on August 8th, and they are of the automated variety. So far, layer 1 has been completed, with other layers/tiers en route. I will cover anchor text and the rest in later updates. Also, I have run an Ahrefs report on each of these listings so as to make sure no one else is building links to these puppies.

Observations

We have been tracking our keywords since the first week of August, and so far see nothing that would suggest what we were doing is having any affect whatsoever. With only tier 1 delivered, and many links remaining to be indexed, I believe it is too early to call it. One notable worth mentioning is that we aren’t seeing many of these links being picked up in Ahrefs for whatever reason. Anyone have any idea why?

Jacob and I plan to get a bit more aggressive all around, and hopefully, in a couple week’s time we see something.

How Do You REALLY Stack Up On @Inboundorg?

By | Lists | No Comments

Inbound.org has no shortage of awesome. I can’t think of a platform that has helped me find more authors, and led me to as much excellent content. Not only is it a fantastic conduit, it has this little thing called community, which provides for some excellent conversation.

Do you know how you, or your blog ranks on Inbound.org?

Before you jump in, this is how I arrived at the following rankings. First, I visited Inbound’s “All Time” list and with a little scraping, a lot of manual mucking around, and a weighting “formula” I put two lists together: “Must Follow Authors” and “Must Follow Blogs.”

The first, “Must Follow Authors” uses two weightings: “top 100 count” and “total comments.” Top 100 count refers to how many posts were found in the top 100 for any single author. We first ranked you based on this. Next, we ranked you based on total (we went 2000 posts deep), comments received to date.

Must Follow Authors

Author
Top 100 Count
Total Comments
Google+
Twitter
Rand Fishkin7120G+Twitter
Jon Cooper5133G+Twitter
Nick Eubanks4101G+Twitter
Peter Attia366G+Twitter
Michael King331G+Twitter
John Doherty2208G+Twitter
Joel K295G+Twitter
AJ Kohn295G+Twitter
Jonathon Colman293G+Twitter
Martin Macdonald287G+Twitter
Aleyda Solis276G+Twitter
Jeremy Rivera252G+Twitter
Dustin Verburg246G+Twitter
Neil Patel229G+Twitter
Dan Shure223G+Twitter
Pratik Dholakiya219G+Twitter
Ian Lurie218G+Twitter
Philip Petrescu217G+Twitter
Wil Reynolds216G+Twitter
Dr Peter J. Meyers213G+Twitter
Anji ISMAIL190G+Twitter
Ryan McLaughlin165G+Twitter
Vinoth Shankaran160G+Twitter
Matthew Woodward156G+Twitter
Dan Petrovic155G+Twitter
Ed Fry139G+Twitter
Tad Chef138Twitter
Gaz Copeland136G+Twitter
seobitch134Twitter
Dieser Artikel134G+
Chris Dyson133G+Twitter
Matt Cutts131G+Twitter
Mark Traphagen129G+Twitter
Alison Parcell126G+Twitter
Eppie Vojt123G+Twitter
James Norquay120G+Twitter
Justin Briggs116G+Twitter
Alaister Low116G+Twitter
Kane Jamison115G+Twitter
Daniel Butler115G+Twitter
Alex Cardinell115G+Twitter
Bill Slawski, Wll Critchlow112G+Bill, Will
Timothy Resnik112G+Twitter
Emma Still111G+Twitter
Ryan Broderick111Twitter
Cyrus Shepard110G+Twitter
Gareth19G+Twitter
Benjamin Estes19G+Twitter
Anthony Shapley18G+Twitter
Mike Ramsey18G+Twitter
Brad Frost17G+Twitter
Hannah Smith17G+Twitter
Paddy Moogan17G+Twitter
Doug Kessler17G+Twitter
Chris Gilchrist16G+Twitter
Cue Blocks16G+Twitter
jonathon colman15G+Twitter
Annie Cushing15G+Twitter
George Freitag14G+Twitter
John Henry Scherck14G+Twitter
Chris Le14G+Twitter
Matthew Brown14G+Twitter
kevin gibbons13G+Twitter
Ron Garrett12G+Twitter
Josh Hansen11G+Twitter
Rob Toledo10G+Twitter
Andrew Shotland0109G+Twitter
Alessio Madeyski056G+Twitter
Bill Sebald051G+Twitter
DholakiyaPratik038G+Twitter
Adam Steele034G+Twitter
Barry Schwartz034G+Twitter
Patrick Hathaway029G+Twitter
Chase Hooley027G+Twitter
Bill Hartzer024G+Twitter
Mitchell Wright024G+Twitter
Richard Falconer023G+Twitter
David Cohen023G+Twitter
Jason Acidre020G+Twitter
Paul May019G+Twitter
Steven Weldler015G+Twitter
Chris Crum015G+Twitter
Russell Jensen015G+Twitter
Dharmesh Shah014G+Twitter
Max Minzer013G+Twitter
Joel Klettke013G+Twitter
Ross Hudgens09G+Twitter
Danny Sullivan09G+Twitter
JOEL RUNYON09G+Twitter
Geir Ellefsen08G+Twitter
Avinash Kaushik07G+Twitter
Rishi Lakhani07G+Twitter
Chris Countey07G+Twitter
Nick Bernard06G+Twitter
Will Oremus06G+Twitter
Reyhan Harmanci06G+Twitter
Jess Sauer06G+Twitter
Nathan Safran06G+Twitter
Gregory Ferenstein05G+Twitter
Brad Lyon05G+Twitter

The second list, ranks “Must Follow Blogs” and was weighted in a similar manner.

Must Follow Blogs

Top 100
Total Comments
Blog Name
RSS Link
1347134seomoz.orgRSS
63385pointblankseo.comRSS
30832seonick.netRSS
25030cucumbernebula.comRSS
20464jonathoncolman.orgRSS
17021justinbriggs.orgRSS
16715portent.comRSS
16219quicksprout.comRSS
1589seerinteractive.comRSS
12726mattcutts.comRSS
12624tripleseo.comRSS
12348moz.comRSS
12129blindfiveyearold.comRSS
11913distilled.netRSS
11664martinmacdonald.netRSS
10617buzzfeed.comRSS
1067dejanseo.com.auRSS
10524raventools.comRSS
9516stokedseo.co.ukRSS
9113contentharmony.comRSS
798601100111011001010110010101101011.co.ukRSS
794linkbuildingbook.comNo Rss
7811emmastill.comRSS
7418squawk.imRSS
7310mixergy.comRSS
7212smashingmagazine.comRSS
6634shoemoney.comRSS
6310evolvingseo.comRSS
6212seogadget.co.ukRSS
628davidnaylor.co.ukRSS
619seo-doctor.co.ukRSS
605advancedwebranking.comRSS
5990rudebaguette.comRSS
599datadial.netNo Rss
5728stateofsearch.comRSS
5565recalibrate.coRSS
5434andreasaltheimer.wordpress.comRSS
5410blog.iacquire.comRSS
539seandillonsmith.comRSS
5320jamesnorquay.comRSS
5216alaisterlow.comRSS
5210boom-online.co.ukRSS
511electricdialogue.comRSS
5018johnfdoherty.comRSS
5038blog.serps.comRSS
495hitreach.co.ukRSS
4915micrositemasters.comRSS
491wilreynolds.comRSS
4911windmillnetworking.comRSS
494reelseo.comRSS

Should anyone like to see the original data, please reach out, and I will send it along.

Let me know if you have any questions folks.

BluMihmShaw Day: I Will Collect Local Data For You For Free

By | News | No Comments

Just as the title suggests, I want to, at no charge, solve your local SEO quandaries, by collecting data for you.

I have been feeling especially inspired as of late, specifically thanks to a few gentlemen who are and have been killin’ it. All three have given a tremendous amount to our industry, and continue to do so, day in and day out. More specifically, they have been filling in the blanks for us SEOs – especially the Local SEOs among us. They answer the questions before we question  and prove the theories before we theorize. I am talking about the BluMihmShaw (has a nice ring to it actually) trio, better known as, Mike Blumenthal, David Mihm and Darren Shaw.

Collectively, these fellas have made a bit of a data junky out of me, and were the inspiration for my post on citations. As I mentioned in that post, I poured an irrational, silly amount of time into data collection and interpretation, mainly because I didn’t have the know how, nor programmer to develop the software to automate anything. Now I do…and now so do you!

Like anything else, we have ideas, we have questions, and we want to action them. I want to give anyone the opportunity to answer them at no charge. Big or small, if the answer to your question will help us be better SEOs, I am game. Consider this my very small contribution to the community that has given me everything.

Here is an example: I want to figure out, if having more scraped directories on your local listing has any connection to rank. I suspect it does, but I would like to prove it. And so I am running a bot, to scrape occurrences of scraped directories on page 1, 2, 3 and 4 across 70+ niches and 70+ cities. 4900+ queries, and 196,000 listings scraped. If overall, page 1 has more scraped directory occurrences than page 2, and page 2 more than 3 and so on, then I think I have my answer. And so, I would then know that not only do the number of scraped directories play a role, but I would gain further insight into  past research regarding what sort of directories…

So, it will work like this…On the first Monday of every month, I, or you perhaps, will have a hypothesis published here (email it to me beforehand at adam.steele at leanmarketing dot ca). Those interested enough will pick it apart, and if there is validity in your study, I will run it.  The community will be your judge : ) On the final Thursday of the month, we will publish your results. I proclaim this, BluMihmShaw Day!

That’s all there is to it.

To get the ball rolling, I will post my first bit of research on the first BluMihmShaw Day, at the end of July.

Looking very much forward to everyone’s contributions, and I do hope that together we can give back.

Let me know if you have any questions.

 

 

The Advanced Guide for Citation Audits

By | Guides | No Comments

A citation audit is a thorough analysis and cataloguing of ones citations existing online. It is, in my opinion, one of the first steps in any successful local SEO campaign. As most of you know, if you have an inconsistent citation profile, you will rarely reach your potential. In fact, in some cases it can be campaign ending. And yet, so very many SEOs and SMBs totally miss this step. Is it because they don’t know how to approach it? How to dig deep enough?

The following is a play by play citation audit and fix, as performed by my team, day in and day out. While mostly manual currently, I would highly recommend automating as much of this process as possible, as it is very time consuming.

Disclaimer: please feel free to nab any of this, and add it to your internal processes/client intake.

STEP ONE: Gather Business Data

Let’s assume that you are an agency, and you have recently onboarded a client. One of your first steps should be to pick their brain, and ask the following questions:

  1. What is your business name, including all business names, and variations used over the past 5+ years?
  2. What is your address, including any old addresses and any and all variations used over the past 5+ years.
  3. What is your phone number, including all business phone numbers that may have made their way online…think Realtors office. Also, toll free, tracking, mobile number, etc. Any and all numbers used in the past 5+ years.
  4. What is your website URL, including all satellite/pumper/micro sites? Any other domains you’ve used in the past 5+ years.

STEP TWO: Gather Login Data

Save yourself some work, and ask you client…

  1. Do you have a Yext, Localeze, etc. account? Please provide login details.
  2. Have you a catalogue/list of the directories your business data exists in? Logins?

STEP THREE: Get Yourself a “Local Citation Finder” Account.

Quite easily the finest local SEO tool on the market. Get “Whitespark’d” (a new verb), and put this work horse to use.

  1. Login in to your account, and click “Search by Phone Number” tab.
  2. Fill in the form with the correct info and click the “Search” button.
  3. While your request is being processed, submit other requests for different variations of phone number, address, and business name. Exhaust the different combos.
  4. Once you’ve plugged all your variations in, visit the “Your Search Results” tab.
  5. If you processed multiple requests, open each by clicking “view sources.”
  6. Click “Export CSV (w/ URLs)” and open each file.
  7. Copy all results into one spreadsheet and remove duplicates.
  8. Save sheet.

STEP FOUR: It’s Manual Query Time

Let’s face it, no scraping tool it perfect, and Whitespark is no different. So, because we know even one high authority citation could throw everything off, we must roll up our sleeves and perform some simple search queries.  Let’s use the following fictitious example:

Business Name: ABC Plumbing Company
Address: 123 Main St, Seattle, WA 12345
Phone: (555) 123-1234
Website: http://www.abcplumbingco.com

  1. Open up a spreadsheet, and navigate to Google.com.
  2. Search “ABC Plumbing Company” and then any other variations, or past company names.
  3. You can either collect all the URLs or instances where this data is found, or just the instances where it is incorrect. I recommend the former because I look at this as a future asset. A catalogue of your citations will come in handy down the road if you need to update business data. Clearly I am not the only one to think so, as Darren Shaw of Whitespark has recently added a nifty feature to his Local Citation Finder…go check it out! In a perfect world of course, you would have the login data too!
  4. Along the way, I suggest you make note of any unique, incorrect instances of N, A or P. Variations you hadn’t considered, or versions that are just totally wrong. A typo in a previous submission for example. Seldom is there just one error as directories are some of the most scraped properties on the net. That is, another directory will come along, grab the incorrect data from your incorrect profile, and add it to theirs. The cycle continues, and continues. The older the business, the worse it is.
  5. Do the same for address, phone, and if you are really motivated, URL too. URL is important for two reasons: You may find a citation that allows a URL, but there is none. And two, if you have recently updated your domain (rebranded or some such thing), you will want to make sure the juice doesn’t have to pass through a 301 (assuming you 301d old domain to new one) if you can avoid it. It is also worth mentioning that while NAP is claimed to be the most important (consistency wise) I have read, and strongly believe that it all should match, right down to the hours and payment options (where possible).

    PROTIP: many directories standardize certain data, like phone number and address. For example, they may change (555) 123-1234 into 555-123-1234, and so you need to try variations. One I have found particularly tricky is directories knocking the four digits off a zip like 12345-1234, making it 12345. If you are searching the latter, you may not find the former. Moral of the story, be thorough. Suite (or Ste), West (or W.), 4th (or fourth) are all examples of variations I have seen, not always the directories fault though.

  6. Don’t worry if you are collecting dupes. Use a function like that which exist in Excel for example. Quick and easy.

    PROTIP: Do not visit each URL as you find them to identify is correct or not, just add them to the list and check them out later. It is much faster this way.

  7. Next, if you are using Yext, identify which fall in Yext’s reach, and get those updated via Yext right away. Yext is a beautiful thing. I never really appreciated it until I started working with enterprise. Especially when it comes to updating existing, incorrect data. Be sure to check back with each of these profiles shortly thereafter (about a week), to make sure they we updated, and cross those corrected off your list.
  8. For those directories that you either don’t have logins too, nor are able to update via Yext, or some such thing, your next step will be outreach.

STEP FIVE: Outreach.

It is now time to start fixing those directories that remain incorrect. This is a laborious process, and in my experience, it can take up to 3-4 months to get the majority updated. In some cases in fact, you will never get them totally updated. For example, a directory may no longer be running, or the contact email is no longer being checked. If this is the case, I wouldn’t stress too much as the smaller, less authoritative directories seems to be less of a problem re NAP consistency.

  1. As mentioned, if you have and account with Yext, or have the logins for some of the local directories, take care of that first. I always separate this stuff out from the main catalogue.
  2. Setup an email with your client’s domain. I often set up: directories@myclientdomain.com. Similar to guest blog post outreach, your response/success rate will be much higher if the receiver can see that you are legit. That you aren’t a competitor trying to goof with the competitions citations. Worst case, setup a Gmail like businessname@gmail.com or as close to as possible.
  3. Prepare an outreach template to deliver. Here is one of ours:

    Hi there –
    My name is [insert name], and I am in charge of internet marketing at [insert client business name] – [insert business URL] We have recently gone through a rebrand, and as a result, some of our business data is now outdated. I noticed an inconsistency in your data [insert link to directory profile].
    Unfortunately we no longer have logins for this profile, and thus we were hoping you might be able to update it for us.
    The correct information should read:
    [insert correct data]
    Please let me know once you have made the corrections.
    Thank you in advance!
    [insert name] [insert client business name]

  1. Either use a contact page finding tool like that of LRT or Citation Labs (haven’t personally tried either) or b) manually visit each web page and track one down. If I had more time, I would build one (after researching if one exists) that retrieves the contact form URL, and then submits to it, including answering any Captcha info. Be sure as you are submitting to these that you are making note of which you contacted and when. You might even use Boomerang to help with scheduling follow ups synthroid dosage. Finally, we are currently experimenting using Buzzstream, which looks promising for automating some of this tedious work.
  2. If you cannot find a contact email, or contact form, I would suggest following the these steps in this order to retrieve said info:

a)      Domain Tools. If this doesn’t work, try…

b)      Whorush. If this doesn’t work, try…

c)       Archive.org (checks old data, to see if they ever had contact info on it) If this doesn’t work, try…

d)      Netcomber. Find sites with similar coding (other sites they own) and see if they have contact info on them.

  1. Continue to follow up ever 3-4 days, checking those off your list that have been successfully updated.

PROTIP: Whilst reaching out to all these directories, why not verify those that aren’t?

As previously mentioned, this process generally takes 3-4 months for a medium established company, where a fair amount of NAP inconsistency exists. If you are doing an address change, and don’t have logins, I would bank on it taking this long. Not only that, I would tack on a couple more months for Google to digest the info, and for local rankings to settle. It is not be uncommon for a listing that was previously well ranked to take a tumble during this process, but you will be thankful you did it, as NAP consistency tends to catch up with you at the most inopportune time.

To  be continued…

Inspiration credit goes to Powered by Search.

Why I Hire Business Owners over Employees

By | entrepreneurs | No Comments

I’ll be the first to admit, I am super cost conscious and risk adverse when it comes to staffing – aka, cheap and a wuss. Maybe a bit of a commitment-phobe too. I like to compare hiring business owners, to buying a turnkey company. Instead of hiring the staff, building the processes, etc, you get to skip all that mess, and get to the good stuff.

In my experience, for a number of reasons, I always prefer hiring business owners over employees.

Before I get to the good however, it’s important to understand and expect the “bad.”

Cost

Hiring a business owner, freelancer, or consultant tends to cost you a bit more than an employee. Some might expect the opposite, but if you are hiring talent, you are going to pay decent money – especially if they are successful talent.

Being a business owner is a tough task. Clients will try and push you around, employees will attempt to take advantage, and so you learn to have pretty thick skin. As a result, business owners are more likely to assert themselves more aggressively when it comes to asking for rate increases or in contract terms. Unlike most employees, business owners generally aren’t going to put up with your shit – especially the good ones. They will just walk, and if they really want to stick it to you, go work for your competitors.

Don’t expect to get away with delayed payments. Personally, and I know I can speak for many of my colleagues, we do not put up with late payments. If you are unreasonably late, we stop work. It is a matter of respect. If you don’t respect me enough to pay me on time, or at the VERY LEAST, give me a heads up, I am moving on. In my experience, when a client pays me late, it is not a one-time thing. It will happen again and again.

Loyalty

By far the most annoying (but understandable) part of hiring a business owner is that their business is their priority – not yours. You will always, at best, be priority number two, and for some folks, that just won’t do. Don’t confuse it – you are just another project. If you expect priority all the time, you better pay up, or else you are going to be sorely, often disappointed.

Business owners are more likely to understand your business and the information you give them – which they can use to start competing against you in your niche. Even an iron clad non-compete may not protect you. You are giving these people tremendous access and insight into your business. The risk is undeniable.

If you can stomach this, in return, you will get…

Self-motivation

Maybe I am a poor manager, but if you can’t motivate yourself, we are not going to work out. With every new addition to my employ, is another personality, and another set of issues. I don’t have time or energy to manage all of this. Business owners, generally speaking, have figured out how to motivate themselves and don’t need to be pushed. This is a must have for me.

More to that effect, they are self-starters. If they can’t act without supervision, they will have gone broke long ago. This is true with almost every business owner I have ever hired – except for one. Unless he changes this, I don’t see him ever being a success.

Less Training Time/Fuller Expertise

Business owners tend to be better-rounded. When you hire someone, you generally don’t hire them for a single task – you require some flexibility. Requirements change, and you need to hire people who can pivot/adjust/adapt. I am not suggesting that a developer become an accountant, but if the developer you hired doesn’t have a strong grasp of JQuery, he is going to learn everything he needs to about it so he can implement. You aren’t going to have to invest in training, you aren’t going to have to wait weeks for courses, etc. Business owners will take this into their own hands, and execute.

One of my favorite bits about hiring a business owner is they are a business owner. This is someone that has likely been there done that. They are problem solvers, and excellent people to bounce ideas off. They get the big picture, and will catch things an employee, with a narrower, less experienced view would might miss. They have perspective, and I can’t teach that.

By extension, their employees are yours too. I can hire a single business owner, and with him/her comes a team of trained team members. Well that was easy!

The Obvious Financial Reasons

Sure you may pay a business owner more per hour, but have you considered what other costs come with hiring employees? Benefits, equipment, training, etc. And what if you have to fire them? Severance pay (and sometimes litigation), not to mention the time required to re-hire.

Can you afford to pay an employee who isn’t working at full capacity? If I am paying someone’s salary, they are getting paid regardless of whether there is work or not. I would much prefer to pay for only hours worked –right?

 

As a business owner, especially a new one, there can be so much volatility, and committing to employees is often a hell of a leap. Not having any REAL employees makes you no less of a business, and if in your industry (like mine) you can get away with it, I strongly suggest you do.

Do you think hiring employees is a better call? I’d love to hear your insight in the comments section below.

Do you have Entrepreneur’s Attention Deficit Disorder (EADD)?

By | entrepreneurs | No Comments

I think this a really appropriate post since I have clearly thinned myself out too much as of late. Those of you who most kindly follow my blog, you have probably noticed the posting frequency has gone to hell. Here’s why:

Since day one, I have always had one constant problem – I get distracted. I call it Entrepreneur’s Attention Deficit Disorder (EADD) but it’s also known as Pretty Shiny Thing Syndrome.

This shit is real folks. I am sick, real sick. There is no amount of Ritalin/Adderall/etc. that is going to solve the problem.

Let me explain: I can’t and/or have a very hard time saying no to pretty, shiny things. Ideas, JVs, investments, etc. are my pretty, shiny things. For some it is cars, for others it is purses and clothes. But for me, it’s adding more “work” to my already-overflowing plate.

You’ve read it before…focus, focus, focus. Do one thing well. Jack of all trades, master of none. Johnny do-it-all. Well, it isn’t necessarily that, though perhaps that is the result. It isn’t about trying to be good at multiple things, but rather just doing multiple things. Back when I was dating I used to announce “variety is the spice of life” and that rings true here.

Is this the way I should continue?

The Frustration

Be Able to Take it

I’m never sure which project is going to be the one that blows up. So many times, at the beginning, and during projects, I think, this could be the one. Anyone who knows me has probably gotten caught in one of my rants about a particular project. Right now, I think my agency is right on the cusp of ginormous growth, but tomorrow it could be the small law practice I am putting together. Who knows? I don’t, and it drives me to keep plugging away at them all.

I am young right now, I can handle it. Or so I tell my worried mother who calls me weekly to see if I am getting my ZZZs. I am going to push myself as hard as I possibly can right now because I can. Because I know that eventually I will have dependents, bigger responsibilities and won’t be able to weather all-nighters (I am currently pulling one). As far as I am concerned, I cannot afford to waste a minute of these more capable/productive/irresponsible years of my life.

Of course, with such commitment comes sacrifice. In the first half of your twenties, your friends are partying, out all night, and aren’t generally too concerned about their careers. Eventually my friends caught on, but for the first year it was not easy wishing my friends well as they left for the bar, and then hearing them come in around 4AM (whilst I was building my first agency site), clearly having more fun than I – or so they thought 😉

Regrets

I have a lot of irons in the fire, and it is not uncommon for me to start something, see some initial success, but then allow it to fall to the wayside. Shortly after I revisit, I see that my competitors have moved in, and sealed up the niche. A mass tort lead gen project comes to mind. Frustration doesn’t begin to explain how I feel when this happens. It is an occupational hazard I suppose.

You know that feeling when you come across a great idea, and those occupying the space are executing like shit? You say, “I could do this waaaay better.”  Had I just had a few less of these going on, I could have allocated some resources this way, and maybe made something out of it. Shoulda’, woulda’, coulda’ right? So frustrating!

Realization

Knowing is everything

If I have over-glamorized this, let me stop right now. There is a lot about the above that is downright stupid—that will go against what any intelligent entrepreneur would advise. Believe me; I’ve been told by a lot of them. And there really isn’t much disagreeing. They ain’t wrong. Here’s what they tell me, usually starting with “[you are so fucking cool but] you know Adam…” followed by something about focus.

The truth is, my best gigs, the ones that bring home the locally-sourced, double-smoked, apple-wood bacon, are the ones I have focused on the hardest, and the longest. Knowing this is very valuable. Knowing this, and knowing when to focus on what is even more valuable.

Diversity

I love what I do. Rarely does a day go by (almost 3 years later now) where I am bored. I don’t think a lot of people can say that, and I am pretty damn grateful for it. Sure, those assholes that have only one thing going on will probably outpace me here and there because of their precious focus, but if the cost is being bored, even for a day: fuck it. I will have none of such noise.

Let me tell you one other thing about diversity. Had I not diversified years back, I would have gone belly up in my first year – I am certain of it. Not because of focus, but because this shit is hard, and doesn’t always work. You need to cover your nut, my friends.

However, You’re not Richard Branson

I am reminded of that song/saying “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away.” Entrepreneurship is an addiction, and like gambling, it is terribly easy to get carried away and spend all your monies. You want to own a boutique hotel, a sexy start up, a trendy food cart, and hell, why not put up some seed money too?

While I am severely guilty of this, I remind myself of a few things when temptation comes knocking:

  • A bad investment can ruin your good ones
  • You must be prepared to lose everything you put up
  • Look at the state of your current gigs

How to get your fix

Let’s face it: if you have already started in this path of “destruction”, there is probably no steering you away. So how do you have your cake, and eat it too?

Don’t work!

You want to transition the day-to-day management of these projects onto team members synthroid online. You sir or madam, cannot do it all, and by constantly injecting yourself into every day, tedious BS, you will never have it all.

It’s harder than it sounds, but you need to be constantly asking yourself, “Do I need to be doing this, or can someone else?” As my client roster is grows, I have to ask myself this a lot. I am constantly struggling to keep up. Remember to think of everything you do as a process. Once you’ve gotten good enough at it, start to document the process and hand it off. It is helpful to keep scale in mind – what are the bandwidth limitations of this process? Can it handle a load?

Doing aforementioned will allow you to build a bigger portfolio, and allow you to safely expand whenever required. Better yet, because you are not always so tied up, you are better able to divert more attention to projects during big periods of growth. Ya dig?

Build to sell

Gee-golly is it ever easy to get attached to a project you’ve worked hard on. I still have one looming, that has been long since penalized by Google. It’s totally not legit, and yet I can’t let it go. I can’t let it go because

1)      It never saw its full potential and

2)      It is too dysfunctional, in too many ways, to try and sell.

If, from day one, I maintained the mindset that I would one day sell this puppy, points 1 and 2 would be a non-issue. I would have built a platform that was modestly successful, avoiding penalization, and built in a niche that would be easier to flip in. I let my emotions drive my decisions, and while I still made coin, I could’ve CAHSED IN. I had fun though 😉

If you approach with the mindset to sell (whether you end up selling or not), in my experience, you will almost always build a better product. And if you do decide to sell, you will be in a much better position to do so, and move, as Jay-Z says “on to the next one.”

 Consult

Unlike many of my comrades, I got my taste for “side-hustles” by working with clients – consulting. This later led me into affiliate gigs, lead gen projects, etc. In my case, I grew tired of building everyone else’s businesses. Yah, I am selfless like that.

What I didn’t realize until later on was that in many cases, my clients were paying me to learn, to work in new, exciting niches and to ultimately quench my thirst for variety. I didn’t realize it back then because my portfolio was quite petite and I was growing at a snail’s pace. BUT as we (my agency) grew larger, I was working in niches I hadn’t dreamed of, and countries I didn’t even know existed. I picked up the majority of my “skills” from early consulting gigs. So where possible, I would always recommend keeping an open mind to doing a bit of consulting work.

The Take Home

As far as I am concerned, man/woman was built for this. We were never meant to do 1 thing. The sooner we understand that and get to work, the happier we are all going to be.

You can have your cake, and eat it too.

Know Your Customers Like a Stalker (without being creepy)

By | buyer objections, marketing, sales, Sales and Marketing, tools | No Comments

Knowing your audience inside and out is essential. It’s the key to knowing how to approach them, understanding their problems, and eventually closing the sale.

Some of the greatest products are created by people who had a problem themselves, and worked out a solution. They share so many characteristics with their audience, it’s easy for them to connect with potential buyers, and they go on to sell millions. But we don’t always get to market products and services that we’re intimately familiar with or passionate about.

When I was contracted to rework a landing page targeted towards people in need of international and cross-country vehicle transportation, I knew NOTHING about the market. If I was going to successfully sell this service, I was going to have to get to understand what made people who are in search of such a service tick.

If you are unable to understand and connect with your audience, and if they won’t listen, well, you’re screwed.

Below are a 3 tools that can help you understand your audience, which will help you excel in all areas of your business.

  • Quora – Quora is a social questions and answers that brings people together with similar interests, and covers just about every niche you can think of, and more. Plug your niche, product, company name, or competitor into the search field (registration required), and in most cases it will return a string of different conversations, all with deep insights into what your customers are thinking. Particularly, what concerns and fears they have. Yahoo! Answers is a similar service, but not as well organized.
  • Quantcast Quantcast is my favorite tool out of all these, and although I have no idea how accurate it is, it has yet to steer me wrong. Quantcast won’t provide you with your audience’s deepest most secrets, but it will give you a general idea of who they are. Simply type in the URL of one of the leaders in your industry, and you’ll be presented all kinds of interesting demographic info (age, gender, ethnicity, education, etc), some of which is sampled here:
    quantcast
  • BoardReader – It’s amazing what people will reveal when they’re in their comfort zone. Niche forums are a hotbed for niche product discussion and general banter, both of which can be very useful. The general banter will help you define your tone when talking with your audience, and the benefits of observing product discussion should be pretty obvious (I hope). BoardReader aggregates discussion board content into an easily searched, regularly updated database.

These few online tools will make researching your audience easier than ever before. Don’t be afraid to get involved in the discussion. Can’t find the answer to your question in what’s already being discussed among your customers? Just ask!

Get involved as a peer, not as someone selling something or a creep, and they’ll give you everything you need.

For more posts like this, don’t forget to subscribe via RSS!

The post Know Your Customers Like a Stalker (without being creepy) appeared first on Landing Page Copywriter.

Landing Page Conversion Optimization Checklist: Headlines

By | Landing Pages, Resources | No Comments

This checklist was originally created for a popular Internet Marketing forum in early 2012 and has since received 4000+ views and 150+ positive reviews. Many of the people that have stumbled upon it have let me know that they don’t think it gets the attention it deserves, and I agree.

Over the next couple months I’ll be rereleasing a section of the checklist each week with updated tips and more in-depth explanations of why each item on the checklist will help you increase conversions.

Get notified of new posts by using the form in the sidebar, or subscribe directly using your favorite RSS reader. At the end of the series you’ll be able to download them all together in a printer-friendly pdf.

If you have any questions or would like to debate the validity of a particular point, I encourage you to leave a comment here or in the comments sections of the corresponding post.

Part 1: Getting Started
Part 2: Headlines
Part 3: Call-to-Action
Part 4: Social Proof
Part 5: The Guarantee
Part 6: Lead Generation
Part 7: The Copy
Part 8: Landing Page Design
Part 9: Prelaunch

Headline and Subheadlines

It’s no secret that a strong headline is essential to the success of your campaign. So important that I often spend more time on the headline than I do on all the rest of the copy. Your headline is your only opportunity to draw prospective clients into reading the rest of your pitch, and ultimately take action on your offer, so you better make sure it’s a good one. The following checklist should help.

_____ Is your landing page’s headline relevant to the ad/source they arrived from?

You want to make sure there’s a smooth transition between the ad and your landing page. Don’t entice them with a story about a 34 year old mother of two that lost 40 lbs., and then direct link them to the diet offer. At best they’ll be confused, at worst they’ll feel deceived. Neither are good options.

_____ Does the headline include your product’s primary benefit?

Your headline needs to instantly convey the value to your customer. It can be tempting to try and be witty with your headline, but prospects are interested in what you can do for them, not how well you can spin a web of words. Be clear, focus on value, and guiding your reader through the rest of the copy will be much easier.

_____ Does the headline tie into the first paragraph of the main body of copy?

Most of the hard work is drawing the reader in with your headline. Don’t waste it all by throwing them off at the very beginning with some irrelevant point.

_____ Does your headline arouse curiosity?

Your headline should make it clear that there’s something in it for the reader, but you don’t want to give everything away in your headline. Otherwise there may not be any reason for them to continue on. The key is to balance clarity with a little mystery.

_____ Do your subheadlines help the reader transition between paragraphs/ideas?

Your subheadlines should help the reader flow through your copy, pick up the points that are relevant to them, and keep them moving to your call to action.

_____ Reading through the headline and subheadlines, from start to finish, does the offer/pitch still make sense?

This is very closely tied to the previous point. Many visitors will skim through your landing page, paying attention only to headlines, and largely ignoring the copy in between. This is especially true of long form sales letters. Copy that can be basically understood, with the headlines/subheadlines alone, will help keep skimmers engaged through to the final call-to-action.

The post Landing Page Conversion Optimization Checklist: Headlines appeared first on Landing Page Copywriter.

Landing Page Conversion Optimization Checklist: Getting Started

By | conversion optimization, landing page conversion optimization checklist, Landing Pages, Resources | No Comments

This checklist was originally created for a popular Internet Marketing forum in early 2012 and has since received 4000+ views and 150+ positive reviews. Many of the people that have stumbled upon it have let me know that they don’t think it gets the attention it deserves, and I agree.

Over the next couple months I’ll be rereleasing a section of the checklist each week with updated tips and more in-depth explanations of why each item on the checklist will help you increase conversions.

Get notified of new posts by using the form in the sidebar, or subscribe directly using your favorite RSS reader. At the end of the series you’ll be able to download them all together in a printer-friendly pdf.

If you have any questions or would like to debate the validity of a particular point, I encourage you to leave a comment here or in the comments sections of the corresponding post.

Part 1: Getting Started
Part 2: Headlines
Part 3: Call-to-Action
Part 4: Social Proof
Part 5: The Guarantee
Part 6: Lead Generation
Part 7: The Copy
Part 8: Landing Page Design
Part 9: Prelaunch

Getting Started: Background and Research

Before you jump into creating your landing page, you need to do your homework. In fact, these points are something that should have been taken into consideration long before this point. If you have yet to find answers to these questions, don’t neglect to answer them now, or your business will almost certainly fail.

Write down answers to these questions now and as you piece your landing page together. Check back frequently to make sure your actions are in tune with your objectives, your offer and, most importantly, your audience.

 

_____ Define your audience.

Who are the people that will be receiving your message, what are they like, and what problems do they face? You can shine some light on this question by either analyzing your own traffic, or using a service like Quantcast to see the demographics of authority sites in your niche.

 

_____ Create Personas.

This helps to visualize your customers and get in their heads a little bit more.  Create your personas before you start writing or designing your landing page, so you’re able to better imagine how your various personas will react to your page. I’ve included an example persona for a skin care product below. It seems like a silly exercise, but it works wonders.

“Kelly”
-21 year old
-College student
-Has had bad skin for a long time now, and was teased about it in high school.
-She has desperate for a solution to her skin care problems, but due to tuition costs, can’t afford to pay for expensive skin care systems. Her mother, on the other hand, has money to spend.

 

_____ Define your offer and benefits. 

What exactly will you be offering to visitors of this page? In what specific ways will readers benefit from your offer?

 

_____ Define Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Without going into too much detail, your USP is a brief description of what you have to offer, and why it is better than all your competitor’s. This is probably the most important step, and will be one of the main focuses of your landing page. If you are unable to define your USP, it’s probably a good idea to go back to the product development stage and figure out a way to give your customers something they won’t be able to find anywhere else.

 

_____ Define the goals of your landing page.

At this point you should a deep understanding of what you’d like to accomplish with your landing page. It’s still a good idea to write it down now, so you don’t lose focus once you dive in. Go for the direct sale, offer them something in exchange for their contact info, get them to download your software, or something totally out of the box. Whatever it is, don’t attempt to accomplish it all with a single landing page. With goals in mind, you can define a metric to rate your success by (conversions).

 

_____ Define Your Traffic Sources

If you’ve been able to successfully define all of the above, you’re now in a good position to figure out the best way to drive traffic to your page. The more you can figure out about how you’re going to generate traffic at this early stage in the landing page creation process, the better you’ll be able to cater the copy to your visitors. For example, if you’re able to come up with your Google Adwords ad copy and keywords before you start writing your landing page, you’re able to define expectations and get a better idea of what part of the buying process they’re in.

The post Landing Page Conversion Optimization Checklist: Getting Started appeared first on Landing Page Copywriter.