SEOdamian's Blog

Helping others understand & share about technology, search

Trying to Build a Business with Your Website?

There are a whole variety of purposes for a website. Some are for vanity, others to build community, some just for venting. But more then a few are about trying to build a business. Especially those website builders that are interested in search engine optimization, building a business is a very common site objective. With that in mind, I am often asked where to go to for resources on getting started.

I often start a discussion about ‘How do I start a website?’ with an exploration of what the objectives and priorities are of a website, before going into the how to.

But assuming supporting your business is your primary objective, here are a few key resources I would recommend:

  • High level business plan suggestion –
    Headshot of Guy Kawasaki author of Reality Check

    Guy Kawasaki author of Reality Check

    MS Word Business Plan Template from Guy Kawasaki.

    If you don’t know who Guy is, you should. He is a thought leader in how business should be done in this millennium. Guy started his success at Apple Computer, but along the way has become a successful venture capitalist, and therefore has sat through many many business presentations good and bad.

    I am listening to Guy’s Reality Check (not Reality Bites the movie by Ben Stiller), and the book is a collection of Guy’s blog posts over the years. These blog posts and his book echo so much the experiences of many who have been successful in growing a business and getting capital investment. He has learned what works from the perspective of what it will  get someone to write a check and do a deal.

    This blog post is actually a collection of resources for a Pitch (to ask for investment funding)  framework, business model spreadsheet and business plan tempate. They are templates and suggestions on how to structure your communication with brevity and clarity. The key takeaway I keep sharing is: most people want to know you know your stuff, and then prove that you know by being able to communicate it with succinctness and in format that tells a story to your audience. Fail to speak to your audience and you will fail to get your objectives met.

    His ALLTOP.com is also an interesting tool for trying to keep up on the information firehose in a manageable fashion. I have set it as my homepage.

  • I have mentioned Seth Godin a few times. His writing is light and breezy. His insights are disturbing if you have spent too much time in school. His attitude is sacastic or worse. His effectiveness is stunning. Having proven his ability to practice what he preaches (just read or listen to the stories of his writing and how it has paid his bills very well over the years), he has great authority among many in the know.  His YouTubes are fun to watch as well. But the library or AddAll.com is worth a stop for reading some of his books as well.  I particularly recommend Linchpin
    Linchpin by Seth Godin

    A mindset for new business creation or anyone trying to earn a living

    In spite of his light and fun writing style, I think his ideas are pretty fundamental to the way the new world is. You need to be the best or plan for painful mediocrity needing to adjust to everyone else’s desires not yours. Linchpin tells the story that trying to be 2nd best or worse is hardly worth getting out of bed in the morning. Be the best – 2 ways:

    • Be ‘fortunate’ enough to be the best in a ‘standard’ area of pursuit.
    • Be creative enough to define your niche of being best. The key is you should be able to introduce your self as ‘the best ………’ in a way that everyone you meet knows it is the truth. That may be by geography, or creating a new market segment or reframing an existing segment. It may seem like cheating but it is not it is focusing and niching yourself. If you need to keep slicing your area of pursuit then keep slicing, but be the best.
  • Here is the story of the marketing and passionate niche I was telling a few clients about. http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelellsberg/2012/01/11/the-tim-ferriss-effect/ It demonstrates how the world of broadcast over narrow-casting has passed from an idea to theory finally as absolute law. Our markets are large enough (over 303million in US alone) and flat enough (ship most anywhere in the US 2 day for under 2 pounds, but so much is the speed of Internet) and segmented enough (how many Yahoo groups are there today, how many Meetup groups are there today in your area) that you need to look at business differently. So many business owners keep trying to get the ‘big’ publicity hit and fail to understand that most success comes from targeting the key people you want to connect with. That success from connection individually rather then exposure of many. There are other lessons, and some ideas that will not apply to you (he gets specific so they don’t match everyone everytime) but concepts are important to understand the direction the world is taking.
  • Explore your business using the Business Model Canvas. I have worked with many different start-ups.
    Business Model Generation Book Cover

    A new way to get to the Truth of a business plan

    Along the way, I have built a variety of questionnaires that I found very helpful for all to understand and clarify what the real objective and strategy. I would create long documents as outlines for information gathering and initial interviews. In trying to find the secret sauce of each organization was an effort. What made them unique over the ‘next guy’. Business Model Generation changed my approach after decades.  Having recently found this 1 page tool, I find it naturally replaces my flat mini-book of questions with a single sheet that is far more action oriented, less overwhelming to all involved and more action oriented.

    An online tool for creating similar business model canvas is at Lean Canvas

  • E-Myth Revisited book with author Michael Gerber standing against it

    E-Myth Revisited – The bible on Entrepreneurial success by creating a system to work on your business rather then in your business.

    And of course, there is the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. This is what I (as well as many other authors and thought leaders) consider the bible to entrepreneurial strategy. This book has literally fundamentally changed many business owners lives. But also positively changed the many employees and team members working for the those businesses for the better. It has helped many employees from continually beating their heads against the wall, making everyone’s life better. Understanding why so many businesses fail can be very helpful in creating a strategy to avoid the issue yourself.

    Michael has created a few empires, and a whole series of books based on his E Myth model. I have read most of them (more coming out almost monthly now targeted into specific industries), but I still recommend reading this easy and targeted parable first before an industry specific volume to anchor the story, concepts and framework the deepest. I usually recommend audio format if you are short on time for most business books, but I still have not found an audio version that is as good as his written version.

    What are your favorite business resources? Do you find books the correct format for learning new business models?  Join the conversation below with a your comments and help a fellow business grow.

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January 12, 2012 Posted by | E-Myth, How To, Reference books | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review – Innovation You

Review of Innovation You

Jeff Degraf

I listened to this a week ago on CD in the car, and just now getting around to writing about it.

As I look at the cover, I am trying to remember the 3 takeaways that I had listed to myself as I was finishing up with it and finding it hard to remember.  Seems Innovation You‘s message was not that memorable.

Jeff is very relatable for me, coming from the next state over of Michigan and working with University of Michigan. He does the reading for this book, and I needed the 1st CD to get used to his voice and not feel it grating on my senses.

His stories are very relatable and useful.  Especially the need to pay attention to the weather as a sailor, or anyone in the midwest where a tornado can change the day in a hurry. The analogy is that business and your life can also be changing quickly. However often there are hints of the changing world in advance to let us know that it is time for us to change as well, and now. The challenge is to be in tune with those indicators and learn to read the changes be it weather or business or life.

The  rest of the 6 1/2 hours is spent reminding us that what worked yesterday may be useful today. That in a world where everyone is changing rapidly, there is more then a fair chance that we need to consider a new approach and new methods. The changes may be uncomfortable, but adapting will be more comfortable then not adapting and using old approaches with the new storm on the horizon.

His other big takeaway is the continual reminder that in most endeavors of life, perfection is not expected during a career to be the best (he uses Gretzky and shots on goal as the example), and certainly while learning a new area (even surgeons get to practice before working with live humans). The key is to keep trying and learning from what you attempt. Don’t get hung up in analysis by paralysis but keep attempting and improve from your attempts.

Of course in our incredible world that is continually expanding, it is important to remember to look for worthwhile goals to shot at. Look at what is worth the effort and keep adjusting to the world that is adjusting around you.

Jeff’s book is framed around a quadrant model of different ways people ‘fundementally’ approach life and challenges. He does recognize that many times the best solution is to blend 2 quadrants to come up with the best solution to a challenge. His labels for the quandrants is based on colors. Of course as an audio book, these colors did not map well for the concepts he was referring to. Concequently, much of the ideas were confusing for me as I was trying to visualize, but had not made a clear picture of his model in my mind. His description of the colors and quandrants did not anchor. Perhaps if he had included some key charts to audio book, it might have made a more lasting impression. My copy of the audio book was a library copy, which only included the cover in a library case, so maybe the retail version addresses this.

His website seems to have more tools, but they are all linked to those that got the program as a premium for his PBS special/pledge package. If you did not get the program as PBS pledge it takes a lot of wandering around the site to find out that you need to spend $100 on paypal to get access to other resources. More wandering around the site infers that it includes access to audio, video, iPhone app (no indication of Android version), and perhaps a chart (what I was looking for to see his color map explained). A poor sales job and poor communication job, so I conclude that the resources would probably be poor as well.

Not bad for reminding of the basics. It has a potential idea for modeling that you need to emphasize different modalities for different situations. If the way you solved the problem last time did not work this time, then try a different model (approach or method) using a different mindset/framework. And understand that much of succeeding in today’s world will require changing your framework on an ongoing basis. And success is not just in terms of money or career, but on your values.

two stars of 5.

Have you read Innovation You? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Damian

May 26, 2011 Posted by | How To, Reference books | , , | Leave a comment

Integrating all the tools of Keeping Current – Part 1

There are a wide variety of blogs, sites, magazines, books, podcasts and more for learning and keeping up to date with how to market your online presence. One of the challenges is what to pay attention to, and what to ignore.

With that as a need, I am going to start posting what resources I find helpful and try to point out how I look at them for understanding how best to develop an integrated marketing strategy. These tools may have direct information on what to do, but more often they provide a framework for what not to do (such as Black hat SEO – best case a short term strategy, worst case can kill a business) as well as what creative solutions to look for to improve business.

These are just some of the tools and resources I am using today. Having ‘learned’ many industries over the decades, I have learned that trade magazines and newspapers were the best way to quickly see what was coming to ‘mainstream’ business, as well as how to read between the lines as to what are the best practices for today.  I am forever thankful for one of my mentors showing me the subscription cards in most trade magazines. I also curse him every time I move, and I am not current, and need to toss my piles. There is so much changing in every industry, and marketing is no different.  The underlying principles are often the same over the decades (ever notice how similar website marketing is to direct mail marketing), but the nuances evolve (7 touches is now 9 or 12 depending on your study and costs).

All of this leads me to ask you – what tools do you use to stay current?

August 14, 2010 Posted by | local marketing, Reference books, SEO tools, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FAQ – Get More Traffic by Saving Yourself Time.

Want to save time and get more traffic to your website?  I recommend answering your visitor’s questions as clearly and completely as you can.  This takes the advice written by Michael Gerber, decades before the Internet was even opened up to the public.

If your website is a part of your business, I highly recommend reading Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited.  It is written partly as a parable to describe the entrepreneurial myth of many small businesses. It is part parable, and part information. Gerber uses the story of Sarah, a struggling business woman, to describe the process of the written steps you need to take to improve your business. Whether your business is large or small, the website needs to have an entrepreneurial spirit.  Therefore, I recommend reading and integrating this classic book that has formed the foundation of the businesses I have started, and the hundreds of  business’ I have consulted for.

If you are trying to get more traffic to your site as easily as possible, I recommend creating or extending your FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section on the site. The idea of the FAQ is to collect all the different questions that customers ask on a repeated basis with answers.  Why does a FAQ get you more traffic? Because when properly designed  these pages will be descriptive of the terms that customers use to look for answers on your site.  These terms will probably be repeated just enough without seeming ‘spammy’. So take the time to write out the questions and answers on separate pages to let users understand your site in the context of the questions your visitors are looking at your site.

It has also been suggested that Timothy Ferriss’ The Four Hour Work Week is another great resource that really explores the idea of defining your business on paper in a way that can ge shared with others. There are some great concepts there and clear steps outlined on how to document your business and create FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions pages.  He has made a whole lot of money on implementing effective (both cost and time) ways of making money on the web following his own advice.

Are you a newer business without the traffic and experience of  knowing the questions your visitors will ask? Time to do some market research.  Larger business’ will pay a decent dollar to go out and see what perspective customers are thinking about. If you cannot afford to pay, it is time to get guerrilla in your approach.  Ask friends, set up a kiosk at a flea market, hang at  coffee shop, go to your kids soccer game and ask what questions do you have. Be ready to collect the questions, and test the answers. Stop by the library and read about market surveys and how to create your tests with as little bias as possible.

I would recommend a FAQ page that has all the questions on one page, then link to each question and answer on a separate page.  On the page, I recommend the following:

  • A clear title that states the site name, short version of the question, and contact info (800 number).
  • A clear description of the site and question in the Description META tag.
  • Keywords META tag related to the question and answer keyword phrases.
  • Question summary
  • Long question
  • Short answer with key phrases in them.
  • Longer answer with key phrases and links to other pages as appropriate to the site or off the site.  This is your chance to really explain and give the background appropriate to understand your site and what you are trying to have each visitor walk away from your site with, knowledge wise.
  • Ideally, ‘breadcrumbs’ to how you got to this page from the home page of your site.
  • Ideally, links to the rest of the site navigation system in text and graphical.
  • Ideally, UGC – User Generated Content where visitors are allowed to comment and ask follow up questions and give responses.
  • Ideally, have short poll questions to begin to truly understand how users view your pages (4 questions at most, ideally only 1).

These steps generally will create content that will allow the search engines to ‘understand’ your site and help rank you well on a variety of search terms. The key is to explain your site from the perspective of someone who does not know anything about your site.  Do not assume your users have much background when they come to this page and ask the question, if for no other reason than this is the case for Google. It does not automatically understand anything and it is up to you to ‘explain’ your questions to the search engines.

Understand that unless you have been writing interactive copy for decades (and the Internet has only been public for 15 years), you will need to continue to learn how your visitors interpret your site. That is OK, and the fun of online marketing.  This will require you to continue to tweak and improve your site. Google actually prefers to see sites that continue to evolve rather than act like the US Constitution (and even that we keep considering changing on a regular basis with admendments).  Remember, it is a lot easier to change a website than it is to change our tax code and laws, and ‘they’ change that with great frequency (usually for the worse, unless you have million dollar lobbyists, but I digress).  Sucks that we have 100 Senators, not to mention the hundreds of Representatives, and they have a whole lot of staff just to work on the wording of our laws.  Are you better than 600 legislatures and thousands of staff in your ability to write your website FAQ pages?  If so, please contact me ASAP, we could make millions together! Otherwise, keep reviewing your questions and answers and keep improving your responses based on your feedback of how well you are communicating.

The key is to put in writing on the site all those amazing visions you have for helping others with your site. It really needs to be written down and not just in your head.

June 8, 2009 Posted by | E-Myth, How To, Reference books, Simple | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments