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Overcoming Writer’s Block with Automatic Transcription

descriptIf you’re a writer — of books, essays, scripts, blog posts, whatever — you’re familiar with the phenomenon: the blank screen, a looming deadline, and a sinking feeling in your gut that pairs poorly with the jug of coffee you drank earlier.

If you know that rumble all too well: this post is for you. Maybe it’ll help you get out of a rut; at the very least, it’s good for a few minutes of procrastination.

Here’s the core idea: thinking out loud is often less arduous than writing. And it’s now easier than ever to combine the two, thanks to recent advances in speech recognition technology.

Of course, dictation is nothing new — and plenty of writers have taken advantage of it. Carl Sagan’s voluminous output was facilitated by his process of speaking into an audio recorder, to be transcribed later by an assistant (you can listen to some of his dictations in the Library of Congress!) And software like Dragon’s Naturally Speaking has offered automated transcription for people with the patience and budget to pursue it.

But it’s only in the last couple of years that automated transcription has reached a sweet spot — of convenience, affordability and accuracy—that makes it practical to use it more casually. And I’ve found it increasingly useful for generating a sort of proto-first draft: an alternative approach to the painful process of converting the nebulous wisps inside your head into something you can actually work with.

I call this process idea extraction (though these ideas may be more accurately dubbed brain droppings).

Part I: Extraction

Here’s how my process works. Borrow what works for you and forget the rest — and let me know how it goes!

  • Pick a voice recorder. Start talking. Try it with a topic you’ve been chewing on for weeks — or when an idea flits your head. Don’t overthink it. Just start blabbing.
  • The goal is to tug on as many threads as you come across, and to follow them as far as they go. These threads may lead to meandering tangents— and you may discover new ideas along the way.
  • A lot of those new ideas will probably be embarrassingly bad. That’s fine. You’re already talking about the next thing! And unlike with text, your bad ideas aren’t staring you in the face.
  • Consider leaving comments to yourself as you go — e.g. “Maybe that’d work for the intro”. These will come in handy later.
  • For me, these recordings run anywhere from 20–80 minutes. Sometimes they’re much shorter, in quick succession. Whatever works.

Part II: Transcription

Once I’ve finished recording, it’s time to harness ⚡️The Power of Technology⚡️

A little background: over the last couple of years there’s been an explosion of tools related to automatic speech recognition (ASR) thanks to huge steps forward in the underlying technologies.

Here’s how ASR works: you import your audio into the software, the software uses state-of-the-art machine learning to spit back a text transcript a few minutes later. That transcript won’t be perfect—the robots are currently in the ‘Write drunk’ phase of their careers. But for our purposes that’s fine: you just need it to be accurate enough that you can recognize your ideas.

Once you have your text transcript, your next step is up to you: maybe you’re exporting your transcript as a Word doc and revising from there. Maybe you’re firing up your voice recorder again to dictate a more polished take. Maybe only a few words in your audio journey are worth keeping — but that’s fine too. It probably didn’t cost you much (and good news: the price for this tech will continue to fall in the years ahead).

A few more tips:

  • Use a recorder/app that you trust. Losing a recording is painful — and the anxiety of losing another can derail your most exciting creative moments (“I hope this recorder is working. Good, it is… @#*! where was I?”)
  • Audio quality matters when it comes to automatic transcription. If your recording has a lot of background noise or you’re speaking far away from the mic, the accuracy is going to drop. Consider using earbuds (better yet: Airpods) so you can worry less about where you’re holding the recorder.
  • Find a comfortable space. Eventually you may get used to having people overhear your musings, but it’s a lot easier to let your mind “go for a walk” when you’re comfortable in your environment.
  • Speaking of walking: why not go for a stroll? The pains of writing can have just as much to do with being stationary and hunched over. Walking gets your blood flowing — and your ideas too.
  • I have a lot of ideas, good and bad, while I’m thinking out loud and playing music at the same time (in my case, guitar — but I suspect it applies more broadly). There’s something about playing the same four-chord song on auto pilot for the thousandth time that keeps my hands busy and leaves my mind free to wander.

The old ways of doing things — whether it’s with a keyboard or pen — still have their advantages. Putting words to a page can force a sort of linear thinking that is otherwise difficult to maintain. And when it comes to editing, it’s no contest: QWERTY or bust.

But for getting those first crucial paragraphs down (and maybe a few keystone ideas to build towards)? Consider talking to yourself. Even if you wind up with a transcript full of nothing but profanity — well, have you ever seen a transcript full of profanity? You could do a lot worse.

This article is originally published by Descript.

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Why Successful Business Owners Need a Background in Marketing (Contribution from Jock Purtle)

The following post comes to us from internet entrepreneur, Jock Purtle, who is founder of Digital Exits, a company specializing in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. This article is based upon his entrepreneurial experience.


 

Why Successful Business Owners need a Background in Marketing

Why Successful Business Owners Need a Background in Marketing

Being successful in the business world means so much more than simply having a great idea. Though you will not get far if you don’t have a unique or innovative idea, there are many other factors that contribute to the success of a business.

Knowing how to market your business is extremely important and can seriously affect how others view your business and the products or services that you provide. Having basic experience or knowledge in the field of marketing before you start your business is a huge asset. This doesn’t need to be a formal degree. It can be a general understanding of marketing fundamentals and an appreciation for the important role they play in growing a successful business.

Business owners who have a background in marketing and who can think like a marketing professional, when needed will have a significant competitive advantage for the following reasons.

Goal Driven – A strong marketing sense will tell you that one of the first things you need to do when starting a business is to have a clear path for where you want to go and have goals that will get you there. If you do this, you will be able to have better control over your business and where you want it to go, rather than going in blind, and not having a plan. Your goals should encompass everything from business development and marketing to human resources and infrastructure.

Vision for the Future – With a marketing mindset, you will be able to create a business that has a vision for the future. There are various ways to ensure the success of your business, but at minimum you must have a long-term marketing strategy in place that will dictate the products and services you provide to your customers, how they’re priced and how they’re promoted.

Knowing the Target Market – Every successful business owner knows how to identify their target market so that they can sell their goods and services to the right people. Identifying your target market will help you when it comes to promoting your business because you will have a highly focused marketing and advertising strategy that will effectively and efficient use your resources.

Depending on what you are selling and who you’re trying to reach, you will market your business in very different ways. For example, if you are running a clothing store that caters to a young, female audience, your social media presence will be highly important. Compare this to a retirement community who needs to reach an older demographic that’s not likely active on social media, and your marketing strategy drastically changes.

Understanding the Competition – Having a clear idea of who your competitors are and how they market their businesses can help you figure out the best way to market your own business. If the strategies that they are using are successful, then you may want to emulate some of their ideas.

However, it’s also important to separate yourself from our competition, making sure you stand out and that your business is memorable. For example, retail giants Kmart and Target are very similar and even sell some of the same products, but the way that they market themselves separates them from each other, and in turn, they attract different clientele. If you can execute a marketing strategy that is different from your competitors’, then you may be able to tap into a part of the market that they don’t normally reach and in turn, increase your overall sales.

Brand Power– Knowing your brand is extremely important when it comes to marketing your business. It has a profound impact on how you connect with your target audience and how they perceive the value and quality of your business.

For example, the WholeFoods brand attracts a very different clientele than people who choose to purchase their groceries at Wal-Mart. Both brands are successful and have become household names, however the fact is they have strategically chosen to establish different brands and as a result appeal to different target markets. Think carefully about how you want people to feel about your business and the goods or services you provide. You must carefully craft a consistent brand to reflect this.

How would you rate you marketing knowledge ad know-how? If you could benefit from stronger marketing skills, consider Upskilled – a company that helps you to study at any level in any field to get the qualifications and skills you need to further yourself in your career. You’re given support from people who have industry experience and knowledge, and you can study from the comfort of your own home.

Upskilled has everything on offer from short courses to Bachelor’s degrees that are suitable for all skill-sets. Upskilled offers a Bachelor of Business (Marketing), that is a valuable enhancement for someone who is looking to learn about business and marketing and how they go hand in hand in today’s economy. Upskilled also offers plenty of other short courses with a business or marketing focus, so no matter where you are in your career, you can expand your knowledge.

Join in the conversation! Do you agree that having a background in marketing in beneficial for business owners? What other qualities create successful business owners? Leave a comment below!

About the author: Founder of Digital Exits, Jock Purtle is an internet entrepreneur who specializes in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. He began investing in websites as a hobby when he was a teenager, but it slowly turned into his full-time job. He works with other entrepreneurs frequently and enjoys sharing his knowledge to help others find similar success working for themselves.

 

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5 Important Decisions for Every Entrepreneur (Contribution from Jock Purtle)

The following post comes to us from internet entrepreneur, Jock Purtle, who is founder of Digital Exits, a company specializing in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. This article is based upon his entrepreneurial experience.


5 Important Decisions for Every Entrepreneur

For many, the hardest decision you will make as an entrepreneur is the first one: the decision to go out on your own. In today’s fiercely competitive marketplace, the idea of running a business can be intimidating, to say the least. But once you get over this hurdle and realize fear and hesitation are the only things standing in the way of you accomplishing your goals, you’re well on your way to entrepreneurial success.

As you likely already know, though, it’s not that simple. Getting started with your own company is like riding a roller coaster in the dark. Each up and down is intense, and it’s hard to know what’s coming next.

To try and make things a little easier, we’ve come up with a list of five decisions that every entrepreneur needs to make early on in the life of their company. By highlighting these, we hope you’ll be able to focus in a little more on what you need to be doing to make your company work so that you can weather the storm as it comes your way, worry a bit less and take one more step towards success.

The decision making will never end, and it will soon turn into your most critical task, but here are some key choices you’ll need to make right off the bat to set your company up for a healthy future.

 1. Your ideal customers

You’d be surprised how many entrepreneurs don’t take the time to clearly define their target audience. Often times, entrepreneurs are so excited about their idea that they don’t stop to think who might want to spend money on it. A good idea is a good idea, and there is likely a business to be built around it, but without clearly defining your target audience, the initial stages of your business will be a real challenge.

The important thing to remember when going through this process is to be as specific as possible. It’s not enough to just say you are hoping to target urban Millennials. Instead, put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer and ask yourself how your product or service might factor into their life. What need are you fulfilling? Or, how are you making their life better or more comfortable?

By answering these questions, you will have a more specific idea as to who you need to be going after and how you are going to reach them. For example, you may find that your audience is men between the ages of 20-35 who live in cities, earn above-average salaries and have an active lifestyle. This is vital information, as it will help determine your marketing and advertising strategies going forward.

Furthermore, once you make this decision, a lot of other decisions will become easier. All you need to do is ask yourself: Is this going to help me reach my target audience? If the answer is yes, proceed. If no, then keep working. Taking the time to be very clear about this part of the business right from the beginning is an essential step to ensuring the success of the company.

2. Management style and company culture

While you as the entrepreneur may be the brains behind the operation, you’re fooling yourself if you think you can pull this off on your own. You are going to need to bring in a good team to help you get off the ground, and then once you do, you are going to need a growth plan. What types of employees are you looking for? Which ones are you trying to avoid?

A big part of this is also your management style. Are you going to run things more top-down? Or do you plan to be more decentralized, delegating certain decisions to those more qualified to make them?

You’ll also want to take a look at yourself as a leader and manager and figure out how to improve. There are plenty of things we do without realizing that affect how employees view us and act towards us, and you really won’t see this until you are in a position of leadership.

Take some time to figure out what you want your company culture to be. You may think of culture as something that develops organically, and to a certain extent it is, but you can have a significant impact on the direction it goes. A lot of companies are adopting a more laid-back approach, offering their employees more and more benefits, such as unlimited vacation time and free coffee of the month subscriptions, as a way of trying to foster engagement and buy-in. This may or may not be the right approach for you, and this is something you’ll want to figure out as soon as possible.

All of these things should be figured out in the beginning because as you grow it will be harder and harder to make time for this type of planning. Spend some time as you are getting started and you’ll find yourself managing growth much better, setting your company up for success in the future.

 3. Exit strategy

When first starting out with a company, the idea of an exit strategy seems far away. But it’s actually very important to consider. Planning out your exit strategy means thinking long-term. It allows you to align resources so that you can move forward at the right time.

An exit strategy can come in the form of an initial public offering (IPO), a sale or a merger, but the thing to remember is that you don’t actually need to implement the strategy. If things are going well, you have every freedom to stay with the business. But plotting out from the beginning how you might exit gets you thinking big picture and this can only help your business.

Plus, having a clearly defined exit strategy plays very well with investors. They want to know how they are going to get their money, and demonstrating to them how this will happen increases your chances of securing the resources you need to get your company off the ground and heading towards prosperity.

 4. Marketing and branding

It’s never too early to start thinking about branding. In today’s competitive marketplace, having a strong brand is going to be what ultimately sets you apart. Much like the decisions you’ll make about company culture, choosing your branding strategy needs to be one of the first things you do.

Figure out what makes you unique, determine what you want to stand for and do some research to figure out the best way to communicate this to people. Social media is huge for building your brand, and if your target audience uses this medium, you may want to consider hiring an agency or consultant to help you.

In fact, this may be one of the best decisions you make as an entrepreneur. Successful marketing requires a full-time approach, and too many small companies try to do it on their own, only to end up wasting their precious resources without seeing results. It’s your job to do the high-level strategic thinking. Then, bring in some experts to help you execute your plan.

5. Cybersecurity

Here’s one not too many entrepreneurs think about, and it’s a real shame that they don’t. Cybercrime and hacking is the threat of the future, and small businesses are being increasingly targeted. They’re easier to get to, as they don’t always invest in the right protection, but they still possess valuable information. And the damage a hack causes to your reputation is often far too much for any small company to overcome.

Figure out how you’re at risk and what you need to do to protect yourself. Cybersecurity infrastructures can be expensive, and the last thing you want to do is to have to shut down your website or other services so that you can install new security measures. Don’t let cybersecurity become an afterthought. You’ll pay for it down the road.

Final thoughts

From the moment you decided to become an entrepreneur, you essentially converted yourself into a full-time decision maker. As the business grows, you will be faced with increasingly challenging choices, but with experience, you’ll learn what’s best for your business. However, until you reach this point, things can be a bit stressful. Consider these critical decisions every entrepreneur needs to make so that you can start your business heading in the right direction.

Join in the conversation! Among these five decisions an entrepreneur must make, which one do you feel is the most critical?

About the author: Founder of Digital Exits, Jock Purtle is an internet entrepreneur who specializes in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. He began investing in websites as a hobby when he was a teenager, but it slowly turned into his full-time job. He works with other entrepreneurs frequently and enjoys sharing his knowledge to help others find similar success working for themselves.

 

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Motivation Through Appreciation (Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt)

The following post comes to us from Jenny Holt, who left her HR career behind to pursue freelance writing and to spend more time with her young daughters at home. This article is based upon her own entrepreneurial journey and communication expertise.


Motivation Through Appreciation

A study by marketing expert, Brandon Gaille, shows that a massive 71% of American workers are not engaged with, or are actively disengaged from their work. That’s staggering! Furthermore, in a survey undertaken by Westminster College U.S., the top three incentives that employees indicated would inspire performance were primarily a boost in morale, followed by praise and recognition, both of which came ahead of monetary awards. Taking the time to recognize and appreciate the small gestures of your team can go a long way in motivating and retaining employees.

Whether it is a word of encouragement or a focus on praise and recognition, when credit is due, employers need to be committed to and intentional about making these into positive experiences for the employee. From discovering new hidden gem bars and restaurants to mingle at, to taking to the outdoors for water-based activities – all of that could be a great way to help employees feel rewarded but also connected to each other and their local area. After all, effective team building ensures success on the battlefront. Taking the time to organize such events and making the investment in employees will result in a more motivated task force, happier staff and higher productivity.

Management

With one in two employees having left a job before because of poor management or disliking their manager, it seems that employees don’t necessarily quit jobs so much as they quit their bosses.

A failure in leadership can present itself through a lack of honest communication, an inability to clearly instruct or direct, or giving limited or no feedback. The style of leadership can also play a part in employee morale. Autocratic leaders tend to alienate their staff, while democratic leaders are usually more open to employee involvement, allowing them to feel part of the company’s success. This builds morale and improves productivity.

Team Building

Team building activities are an important method for improving morale and cohesion while also acting as a way of acknowledging and rewarding good results. Ultimately, the goal of team building exercises is providing great bonding experiences for co-workers. Activities that require little planning or preparation, such as after work drinks on a Friday, are great as they are a regular fixture to look forward to and give everyone an opportunity to get together and de-stress at the end of a working week.

However, more elaborately planned experiences can also be ideal every so often. Ideas may include volunteering together, encouraging employees to feel proud of their contributions, satisfied and socially responsible whilst also benefiting from the bonding time with colleagues outside the working environment. Field trips, with high adrenaline activities is another idea, combining fun with bonding which will give employees a boost in motivation and encourage them to stay.

A team that works well together accomplishes a better standard of work in a more efficient time frame than if employees worked alone. A lack of teamwork or a team that has broken down can find themselves having to deal with a variety of different problems. For example, office gossip often leads to increased unhappiness and stress level, which can cause a higher absentee rate, resulting in an overall drop in productivity. Creating friendly environments, where employees’ needs are met and where they know that they are valued, are crucial for morale and subsequently, retention.

What are your thoughts on the two studies mentioned at the beginning of this article? Do the statistics surprise you or do you feel it’s a growing trends?

Join in the conversation by sharing how your place of employment helps (or doesn’t help) to make employees feel appreciated!

 

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Strategic Communications for Crowdfunding Campaigns(Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt)

The following post comes to us from Jenny Holt, who left her HR career behind to pursue freelance writing and to spend more time with her young daughters at home. This article is based upon her own entrepreneurial journey and communication expertise.


People crowd

Few things are more disappointing in the life of an entrepreneur, than having a brilliant idea that never makes it off the ground. Research shows that 82% of businesses can fail to bring in enough funding to sustain themselves, forcing them to close down because they simply didn’t have the investment they needed for take-off. Crowdfunding, via websites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, have made it far easier to raise money for a startup, yet with the plethora of startups and new businesses competing for the attention of investors, strategic communication strategies are key.

Does a Jack of All Trades Truly Exist?

You may have a brilliant tech idea or invention, yet struggle to find the right way to share your passion for your product or service with others. Telling your story is one of the most important considerations when starting a business or commencing a crowdfunding campaign. You need to let potential investors know the market need you are fulfilling, why you believe your idea is unique or better than what rival businesses are offering, and why you need a specific amount of funds. You will need professional looking imagery, a catchy video, scripts that succinctly cover all the important points and set you apart as a forward-thinking brand. For all these reasons, you should consider investing in a strategic communication specialist.

One of the biggest mistakes companies make is cutting back on marketing costs when their budget is low. It is precisely at this point in time (when you have yet to build brand awareness and a client base) that you need to get word out to your target audience – slick, professional communication is vital if you want to stand out from the rest of crowdfunding campaigns, many of which will also offer interesting ideas and offer to fill existing gaps in the market.

Learning Skills vs Outsourcing

Strategic communications will help you once your crowdfunding business attracts investors  and you take your first steps towards bringing your idea to life. To make it in business, notes Forbes, you need these top seven marketing skills: SEO, HTML, WordPress, video, design, and SQL. If you are a sole proprietor or part of a very small team, how many of these can you realistically master? Outsourcing time-consuming jobs such as SEO, content writing or design, will give you time to leave a personal mark on your website, for instance, by contributing regularly to your blog. A large percentage of crowdfunded campaigns flop because teams lack specialized skills. When calculating the investment amount you need, make sure to include a budget for marketing, design, and other specialized areas you don’t master yourself.

Because the success of a crowdfunding campaign depends on its ability to attract interest and inspire potential investors, strategic communications – with the right content, visuals and style – needs to be a priority. Startup and small business founders should avoid taking on more key roles than they are prepared for, opting to rely on professional communications providers so they can concentrate on their area of expertise: ideas.

Do you agree that strategic communications is critical to the success of a crowdfunding campaign? Do you have a personal experience to share that demonstrates this? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment!

 
 

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How to Be Your Own News Source (Guest Blog by Beth Ann Matkovich)

The following post comes to us from Beth Ann Matkovich, a marketing communications and writing professional from Camp Hill, PA. Please see her complete byline at the end of the article and learn how to connect with Beth Ann!


How to Be Your Own News Source

Let’s face it, not every business or industry has a compelling story to tell.

When markets started turning south in 2008, the president of our firm called a meeting and asked us to brainstorm ways that we could generate income outside of our typical revenue stream. Social media was just coming into popularity, so I suggested that we monetize our intelligence. As the market was falling and things began to move ever slower, I proposed that we share our intelligence with clients and prospects to establish ourselves as industry leaders during the downtime, so that when the recession passed, we would be top of mind when our clients and prospects needed our services.

The Power of Content Marketing

But with no “news” or stories to share, how can companies become their own news outlet? The answer is easy: content marketing. Simply put, content marketing puts you in front of your current and potential clients.

Whether you offer a product or a service, or are a B2B or B2C organization, your knowledge is your product. According to an oral presentation given by Tyler Bouldin, Senior Web Strategy Manager at WebpageFX, the benefits of sharing your knowledge are many:

  • It establishes you and/or your company as a subject matter expert.
  • It establishes you and/or your company as an industry leader.
  • It engages readers and gains followers.
  • It improves retention.
  • It can turn leads into prospects.
  • It fills potential gaps in the sales process.

Start with These Key Questions

But before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to create your content, Bouldin notes that it’s important to identify who you want to reach. Is it existing clients? New prospects? Others? After you identify your audience, describe who they are by creating a persona. Are members of your audience men, women, or both? How old are they? Where are they located? What is their education and income level? What are the pain points that you can address or resolve for them?

The last point is critical, as it is the foundation of your content. But let’s take a step back for a moment. Yes, content marketing is intended to ultimately bring in sales. But the purpose of developing content is to inform your audience and share valuable information. By educating your readers, you become a trusted source of information. Content marketing is not a one-way pushy sales pitch.

Have a Clear Focus for your Content

So what should you write about? According to Bouldin, that question can be answered with another question: What do you know about that will interest your readers? Back to square one, right? Wrong. Consider what changes are taking place in your industry and how it impacts your audience—and most of all—how you can help. What do you do or offer that no one else does or that differentiates you from others? What are your clients’ most frequently asked questions?

Plan Ahead

After you’ve identified your topics, create a plan for sharing your content. Creating a content calendar is a helpful way to visualize what content is posted where, and to schedule topics accordingly around other or related topics or events. Having a plan also offers a checklist of sorts to ensure that the work gets done.

Success is in Promotion

So you’ve identified your audience and topics, written your content, and created a plan to share it. Now get out there and promote it! Bouldin notes that if your company or organization doesn’t already have a blog, create one. This is an ideal venue for your content.

Be sure to share and promote your blog on social media. It’s important to keep your audience in mind when considering social media platforms. You likely won’t attract many 55+ business professionals on Snapchat, so make sure your message is appropriate for the platform and its audience.

You can also create an e-newsletter to get your content directly to your audience. Online tools such as MailChimp or Constant Contact are popular platforms that can help you track engagement so that you can see who is opening your newsletter and when, and allow you to adjust send times and content as appropriate. For extra mileage, share your expertise with industry trade publications and blogs.

Measure, Adjust and Refine Your Efforts

If incoming calls and foot traffic don’t show the success of your content marketing efforts, get out your measuring tools. Google analytics can give a good overview of your content’s performance and allow you to drill down into pages, users, engagement, and bounce rates.

Just like any other marketing tactic, content marketing is not a once-and-done deal. After creating and sharing your content, measure your message’s effectiveness and start again. Keeping your message in front of your audience will keep you and your organization ahead of your competition and establish you as a valued news source for your readers.

Have you used content marketing to position your business as an industry leader on a particular topic? What strategies did you find to be most successful? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment!


P Beth Ann McCoy (2)About the Author: Beth Ann McCoy is a marketing communications and writing professional from Camp Hill, PA. She has broad experience with small, non-profit organizations, large international corporations and everything in between. She has written short and long-form content for local and global publications including Harrisburg Magazine, the Central Pennsylvania Business Journal, World Pipelines, and Water and Wastewater International, among others. Beth Ann welcomes new opportunities and can be reached at bmatkovich@hotmail.com.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2017 in Business & Success, Guest Blogger

 

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Common SEO Myths for Local Businesses (Guest Blog by Michael Hayes)

The following post comes to us from Michael Hayes, founder and CEO of Darby Hayes Consulting, a full service Internet Marketing agency based out of NYC.


Common SEO Myths for Local Businesses

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SEO can be a tricky and sensitive subject, both for professional SEO practitioners and for local businesses. Due to the fact that there is no official standard for how to practice SEO, practitioners have to develop their own theories, methodologies and tactics in order to practice effectively. Eventually these theories combine with bits and pieces of Google’s webmaster guidelines to become part of the collective industry “best practices.”

Then, SEO/marketing professionals and business owners will utilize these best practices to attempt to rank their own sites. This can be effective, but one must be careful to not treat these as “gospel.” Recommendations and best practices are not necessarily set in stone. Google (and SEO) is constantly evolving, and as such these best practices will change over time.

Whenever I come across outdated (or simply incorrect) “best practices,” i.e. strategies that don’t align with my practical experience, I make note of it. These are helpful when educating new clients, testing new theories, or performing audits. Today I’ve gone ahead and put together a few of these “myths” in hopes that I might dispel them, and help readers avoid potential and unnecessary pitfalls.

Myth #1: Directories are bad/good

Forgive the lack of clarity on this one. I’ve seen these myths go either way, both condemning directories as terribly evil or touting them as an effective way to drive ranking. The true story lies somewhere in between.

Directories have a very touchy history in SEO:

  • Like “Web 2.0s,” directories allow people to inject links to their website. This was abused in pre-penguin world.
  • Thousands of nonsense directories began being published, allowing people to list their website for free or for a small charge.
  • Legitimate directories still exist, and are still useful to users. They are usually manually curated and have other uses besides being link farms. Sites like HomeAdvisor, ThomasNet and Best of the Web come to mind.

So what are directories good for? Which directories to consider? Let’s have a look:

  • Do *not* inject anchor text meant to manipulate keyword rankings. Even if it is effective at first, it leaves you open to penalties and will likely need to be cleaned up via disavow or link removal requests later on.
    • Stick with “naked URL” (http://www.example.com), or Brand Name (“ACME Anvils”), and you’ll be fine.
  • Niche directories are great, if you can find them. Industrial manufacturer? Go for ThomasNet. Home service provider? Go for HomeAdvisor. Most niche directories will be hyper-local (City government sites, local chamber of commerce, etc). These are awesome for local businesses.
  • Stick with high authority and avoid the junky, fly-by-nighters. Directories with a DA50+ are probably fine.

Myth #2: SEO is all about “great content”

This section will allow me to flex my tactical SEO muscles while also taking shots at super “white-hat” SEOs that I’ve grown to hate over my nearly 10 years in the business. First, let me explain the history…

Google is trying to reward content that gets naturally popular on the web. This “popularity” is generally about backlinks. Backlinks naturally occur when content is “great” enough to warrant important websites mentioning and linking to it.

This is great and all, but “publish and hope for the best” is not a strategy. If you like blogging, go for it, but I wouldn’t set any expectations for natural backlinks (although you might get lucky). I certainly wouldn’t pay someone any significant sum to do this, not without a specific and detailed promotion plan.

This leads me to my next point. Great content is great, but it’s nothing without promotion. Things don’t go viral on their own, even though it might seem like it after the fact. The truth of the matter is that SEO takes active participation in generating links and exposure. Content is only the beginning.

I’ll go easy on the white-hats for a minute and say that proper outreach to influencers, well crafted and very high quality content can go a long way in furthering SEO efforts. However “publish and pray” is a far cry from this.

Myth #3: Landing Pages Need to be 1000+ Words

I love this myth because it speaks to a much larger problem that effects any blanket “best practice.” The truth of the matter is that landing pages *might* need to be 1000+ words. They might actually need to be 2000+ words. Or they could very well be 500 or less words. It depends entirely on the target keywords.

There is a fun saying that goes, “Google is dumb, but it isn’t stupid.” What this paradoxical saying is trying to get across is that basic SEO is straightforward (domain name + content + keywords + links), but trying to finagle these elements too much won’t get you anywhere.

Just because you need some content on the homepage for a local plumber, doesn’t mean that adding 2000+ words about the intricacies of pipe inspections will make your site rank any higher.

How do you know what word count is appropriate? Simple: take a look at the SERP (search engine result page) for your target keyword. Let’s have a look at one.

Doing a quick search for “Plumber San Antonio,” a very popular local service keyword, we see that local businesses make up 6 out of 10 results on Google’s first page (we’ve removed national sites like HomeAdvisor and Yelp).

See the word counts for these sites below:

san-antonio-plumber-rankings

While we see some instances of 1000+, upwards of 1700 words, the bulk are less than 1000. We even see a site ranking #7 with only 266 words on the page.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is only one keyword and not necessarily typical of your niche. The key takeaway here is to not blindly follow generic recommendations on word count. Sure, more relevant information for your customer the better, but jamming an article at the bottom of the page is a waste of time and a poor user experience.

Conclusion

I hope this has been a fun read and at least a little bit enlightening. Strangely enough, if you take one thing away from this article, it’s that you shouldn’t take any blog post (including this one) as gospel. Trying things out for yourself, see what works, and always keep an open mind, and you’ll go far in any industry (not just SEO).

What myth did you find most surprising? Do you have an SEO question for Michael? Leave a comment below!

mike-hayes

Michael Hayes is the Founder and CEO of Darby Hayes Consulting, a full service Internet Marketing agency based out of NYC.  He can be contacted at mike (at) darbyhayesconsulting.com.  Stay in touch with Darby Hayes Consulting at their Facebook Page.

 
 

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