Ask Steve: Should I Hire This SEO? – Question From A Recruitment Consultant

I get a lot of good questions at live events where I’m speaking and even when just there to network and have a good lunch.

A few of those are going to make it onto the blog, particularly where I’ve sent a detailed reply, with the identifying information redacted of course.

So onto today’s question from a recruitment consultant starting a ‘one person’ operation from scratch with a new website, consisting of a one-page free template from Godaddy.

I’ve just had a pitch/quote from an SEO company to fix my site up, I don’t understand it and don’t know if I should work with them.

It’s always disappointing to see what players in the SEO industry are up to as it rarely is helpful to small business owners, more just firing out quotes and hoping some stick rather than actually helping and, well, even looking at the site properly and offering some initial thoughts before they quote.

Clearly if a business owner hasn’t even put a real site up yet, a report into the technical issues with it aren’t going to be very positive. However solving those doesn’t solve the initial problem.. the client needs a new website, and a strategy for marketing online before they even know whether SEO is the right tool for the job.

A couple of words of warning: Agencies that plaster the ‘Google Partner’ logo all over their SEO quotes and paperwork are at best being sloppy about disclosure, and at worst trying to deceive customers. Google does NOT and has said they probably never will, offer a partnership, endorsement, or other program for SEO. The partner program is purely for pay per click advertisers on Google.

It doesn’t help that Google’s own staff sometimes publish incorrect information on this as part of their PPC sales pages.

So here were my initial thoughts about how to proceed and start to think about the various options ahead.

Buy A Website Template

Your current site is fine as a place-holder and virtual business card for people like me who already know you to check out and interact with. I now, for example, know what types of candidate you’re able to help and could pass any on to you that I met, and so on.

However, for new candidates who don’t know you already, and for larger corporate customers you might want to place customers with you really need something more modern.

I wouldn’t recommend a template if you’re an established business and can afford a designer or need a lot of custom pages, beautiful graphics, and can’t make substantial modifications in-house because you’ll get something way more polished and that you’ll love if you work with a good designer.

But for a one person business it really is the only cost-effective way to go until you find your feet and have a clear vision for your brand.

I recommend Theme Forest for purchasing your template. – http://themeforest.net

There are lots of places you can get free templates, but when it comes to customising them or even just making simple changes yourself, premium templates will give you a lot more options, and save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

Try to pick one that isn’t too fancy (loads quickly, looks nice on mobile etc) and has additional internal pages done that you might need (about, location, blog, staff, testimonials etc).

I recommend you use WordPress (so look in the WordPress section on Theme Forest!) as your site platform as that gives you a word processor type editor and easy ways to customise and edit your own content – something you’ll definitely want in future to save time/money.

Simply Business have a great guide to getting started with WordPress and walks you through it step by step. http://www.simplybusiness.co.uk/microsites/wordpress-for-small-businesses/ They recommend the Yoast SEO plug in (which some people love, some people prefer to do things manually, for you it’ll be an easy way to fill in things like Meta Descriptions, generate a sitemap and so on).

The other reason you’ll want to do all this stuff is that it’ll support your work in future marketing efforts (from paid ads to marketing automation) in ways that you simply won’t be able to achieve with your current limited site.

Basic Local SEO/Marketing

We have a free primer in the non-technical stuff you need to do to ensure your business has a good local presence (shows up when people around your registered location are searching for your business type) on Tech Function magazine. It’s a shortened version of the paid live training that I do and covers a fair bit of ‘local SEO’ strategy.


Advertising, Marketing Automation (E-mail etc)

Once you’ve got the basics right you’ll want to start thinking about how you can reach your target audience whether it’s candidates or hr managers etc. The easiest way is to build up some ideas for ‘stand out’ content that will appeal to them.

You can see a little of that in our free course which is about educating local businesses and then obviously we can connect with ones we think are a good fit with us. You can see a newer one here – http://techfunction.net/what-is-public-relations/ – which we’re using to target business owners and marketing manager who are looking to find out more about what PR is. There are a few subtle CTAs in there at the moment but once it has lots of links and ranks well on Google it will have more ;).

You’ll ideally come up with about 20-30 pieces of content initially and write those up. You can use a mix of linkedin promotion, paid ads on linkedin/facebook etc, e-mail marketing and so on to get them in front of people. Each one will have some kind of call to action that lets you get them ‘into your funnel’ and keep in touch with them (via your e-mail newsletter and marketing automation set up).


Guide to becoming an office manager for senior administrators

— The article itself has basic tips, advice etc and has a ‘content upgrade’ offer where if they give you their e-mail address they get a full 10 page report into career progression from senior admin–> office administrator

— Result: You now have someone on your list in the ‘wants to be office manager’ ‘senior administrator’ tags.

Rinse and repeat for all the different types of target person you need to target and you build up a powerful database pretty quickly.

I do a 2 hour live training 1-1 session on marketing automation for £350 after which:

– you’ll be set up on Mautic (open source/free for small companies marketing automation tool)

– your first campaign will be set up for an example customer time

– you’ll understand how to add future campaigns, customer types

– we’ll have spent time brainstorming and understanding how to brainstorm content ideas

– you’ll understand the various promotional options and how to target the right people on Facebook ads, Linkedin (free and ads)

I hope this is all helpful and gives you more of an idea how you’ll want to go about actually marketing your business online. It’s more than just doing some SEO – many of the above things (sorting out your local listings, building some links etc, writing great content for your target audience, installing and using the Yoast plug in for WordPress) will have a big impact on your search performance, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to growing your business online.

February Must Know In Marketing

Every month I’m going to be sharing the latest tips, tricks and must watch or read content that I’m recommending to my networking groups and audiences that attend my speaking gigs.

That way if you miss one, you can keep up to date on what I’m sharing and the latest things you don’t want to miss out on as you look to grow your business. And even if you did attend, I’m sure to go into more depth here on many of them.

Gary Vaynerchuk Vistage Keynote 2015

I did a quick show of hands request at an event I attended last month and asked simply:

We’ve had two keynotes now in the last 4 months focusing on online marketing. One about growing your local presence and search traffic, and one about dominating LinkedIn. How many of you took action and now get a substantial amount of online business?

Two people put their hands up. Then one more hesitantly joined them.


That’s two business people in a group dedicated to attending business growth networking events and presentations from experts in growing online.

Just two took action. Everybody else is marketing like it’s 1999. If there’s anyone who preaches about marketing in the year you’re living in, as well as being extremely motivational to listen to it’s Gary Vaynerchuk. So get stuck into this great keynote, supplemented by some great Q&A at the end (Vistage is all CEOs so the mix of questions for Gary is great). It’ll inform you and get you motivated to actually take some action and move into 2016.

Marketing Automation

Before you roll your eyes and start falling asleep imagining the drones and droids managing your e-mail campaigns and data obsessed marketing interns pouring over spreadsheets, snap out of it! I’m not going to be talking about that.

Marketing automation is pretty cool. I’ll start with a quick story (apologies for the audio glitches, I was between mic’s at the time and really wanted to get this out – we’ll be reshooting soon).

So now you know quickly that marketing automation helps you understand what your customers, e-mail contacts and event attendees actually need and might want from you ahead of them actually telling you.

And you’ve probably guessed that it lets you send them messages automatically too instead of having to call if your list is huge.

You’re wondering why I’m talking about it now, when it’s been around for ages. Well it used to be really quite expensive. So you had to commit to both spending a lot of money and time.

Money for the tool.

Time to build out the content and resources that give you the opportunity to look inside the minds of your potential clients and build relationships with them.

Over the last year or so some amazing Open Source tools like Mautic, and some competing paid tools have brought the basic costs down to similar to just a regular mailing list platform.

Now all you have to do is invest the time, understand your customers, prepare content that engages them, and set up your campaign. It’s finally cheap and effective for small businesses to get into marketing automation, and the ones who move quickly now before it becomes more saturated, will win the most from it.

heart or start twitter

Twitter: Now Spam Will Come With Love

There has been a lot of discussion over the last few days about Twitter’s decision to ditch the favourite * for a like button ♥. Marketers being marketers, of course, have jumped on it with talk of how it impacts engagement, marketers and businesses. The truth is it doesn’t. If someone doesn’t retweet your content, it doesn’t get more reach on Twitter. Simple as that.

If someone hits ‘like’ on something on LinkedIn, users regularly see ‘Steve Brownlie likes this…’ updates in their feed. The equivalent actions on Twitter to a real like is a retweet and to a share is Twitter’s fairly new quoted tweet option for retweets.

Changing the icon and calling it something different just makes a useless button (from a sharing perspective) exactly the same as it was before.

One of the more common uses of the button is to bookmark things to go back to later. If you use the new button for that purpose you are going to be liking all kinds of things, but then I suppose you were favouriting them before (think a journalist favouriting another article about a tragedy they plan to refer to in an upcoming piece) so there’s probably no difference in outward perception.

There are some situations where it could be moderately useful, for example if your audience starts favouriting certain topics that you share and not others, that would be a good clue as to the type of content you might like to build. But wait… you already had that information in the form of retweets ie where they actually liked it enough they wanted other people to see it.

The favourite button is also heavily used in automated spamming and ‘getting attention’ marketing tactics since it generates a notification. Users promoting their wares regularly favourite tweets with certain hashtags or keywords generally to get in front of the original author. It’s beautiful because it doesn’t require you actually do anything like follow or share the person’s content to get their attention. Now, I guess, at least the spam comes with some love not just a star.

Image credit:
GoodHeart Barnstar Hires” by ko:User:관인생략File:Original Barnstar Hires.png + File:Gnome-emblem-favorite.svg. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

SEO’s Meaning Is Defined By Customers, Not Practitioners

My response to http://www.samueljscott.com/2015/08/08/definition-seo/ where Samuel states:

SEO is help­ing search engines to crawl, parse, index, and then dis­play your web­site in organic search results for desired, rel­e­vant key­words and search queries.

I thought I wasn’t going to agree with you, but I do to a point. Everything you say is true – outreach is a form of PR, for example. However a PR person looking just for coverage might approach it entirely differently to an SEO agency. Continue reading

Can Local Customers Find You

Speaking Engagement in Dudley and Saving Your Online Marketing Campaigns

It’s been a busy few months with various trips to the US (Chicago was beautiful, really great to be back in that city after a few years without visiting) and lots of exciting new potential projects lined up over there. I’m back in the UK now and back on the seminar circuit. My next event is speaking at the Dudley and District Business Club about how to adapt to the changing marketplace and advertise and promote your business online. Continue reading