As SEOs we often have our focuses and our biases: our remit is to help improve clients’ visibility in search engines, after all.
However when working with SMEs in particular, you might be their go-to guy/girl for all their online marketing questions – not just SEO. I always try to offer help and advice on other areas if I can – such as social media and UX – but ultimately some things slip through the cracks. This post is an example where giving the client too much a focus can actually be a bad thing… They may perform one task really well, but then struggle to adjust strategy when it matters…
One of my clients has a big focus is on Local SEO: boosting the Map listing. If you Google “[keyword] [location]” keywords then oftentimes a Google Map shows up. And a big factor of that is getting positive Google reviews against the listing. We do pretty well all things considered, especially given that they’re not based in Cardiff city centre and instead operate on the edge of the city.
I did all the right stuff: I told them who was best to contact (happy clients) as well as the optimum time to contact them (just after a project had finished). I gave them an adaptable email template to use, containing info for the clients on how to leave a review and the appropriate links to the listing, etc. Over time, they hit the (ideal) minimum of five reviews and just kept going and going, eventually hitting more than ten 5-star reviews.
In late May I was approached by the team at SEMrush about hosting a webinar, going into more detail about the CR 25 campaign that I ran in January. I’d already given a talk about it at BrightonSEO, but with only 20 minutes available, I left out a lot of useful information surrounding the ‘content blitz’ campaign, where we published 25 blog posts in one month (pretty much one each day during the month). I had toyed with the idea of creating a YouMoz post (and had in fact started to draft one), but when SEMrush approached me about the webinar, I thought that it would be a better way to get across all the info.
The video of the webinar is below, with a transcript below that.
Video Transcript (including slide stills)
Hi, thank you very much for the introduction. I’m Steve Morgan, @steviephil on Twitter, and today I’ll be talking you through a big campaign I ran back in January earlier this year. I actually talked about this campaign at BrightonSEO in April, but I was only given about 20 minutes to talk on-stage and I was only able to talk about a couple of examples of content we did – we had 25 blog posts in one month – and just talk about how much it all cost, so it’s great to have the opportunity… a big thank you to SEMrush for having me. And it’s great to be able to talk about the campaign in more detail and run through more examples than I did when I presented at the conference.
The webinar is split into three sections. I’m going to jump out of the slides a third of the way through and show you real examples of content, because I thought: “why bother showing you slides of examples when I can actually show you the examples on Firefox?” But before that, I’ll talk you through a bit of an introduction to the campaign and how we prepared for it. And then after I’ve shown you examples, I’ll give you some insights into what performed well, what didn’t, what worked well on certain social media networks, and talk you through how much everything cost, which – even though we had 25 posts created and we tried to avoid just having bog-standard, 400-word advice articles – we did lots of varying types of content and we tried to have interactive content as well. We managed to keep the budget very low by sourcing guest blog posts, by using free or cheap WordPress plugins – things like that really. I’ll tell you more as we go along.
Whether you call yourself a freelancer, a solo/independent consultant, a solopreneur or maybe even something else entirely, one of the biggest challenges that we face as one-person bands is the ability to balance our workloads effectively – in particular by keeping the sales pipeline filling up while we’re busy working on other projects.
And I can speak about this from recent personal experience…
I have a confession to make…
I dropped the ball on the sales front earlier this year. After a busy Q4 in 2014 (resulting in December being my most successful month income-wise to date at the time) and a very busy January running CR 25 single-handedly, followed by two large one-off projects in Feb-Mar (which both overran), I was simply too busy to fit sales into the mix.
Then in April: quiet. Well… I had enough to keep me going, but things were a lot quieter than I was used to. It was my quietest period since my first three months in business (way back in the summer of 2013) and therefore in over 18 months. Yikes.
Things have picked up rather nicely since then, but I wanted to take the time to blog about some of the ways that I went about drumming up new business during that quiet spell. And while working on this list of sales tactics for freelancers, I just kept adding more and more ideas to it and ended up with 20 different ways…! For the record though, you might not see some tactics that you’re expecting to see… For example, I don’t condone cold-calling, door-to-door sales or any other type of ‘interruptive’ marketing like that, so that won’t be in the list below. I’m also not keen on freelancer marketplace websites (e.g. PeoplePerHour) – I’m not saying that they don’t work, they’re just not for me, and I’m sure that there are other freelancers who feel the same way.
…So what else can you do?
A slight disclaimer: some of these are probably really obvious, but if fellow freelancers (SEO or otherwise) browse the list, see 2 or 3 points and think to themselves: “damn, why didn’t I think of that?” then that’ll do for me…! 🙂
First things first…
1) Remove any “I’m not available” type messages from your blog/website
If you’re in a position to network and drive leads and enquiries your way, the last thing that you’ll want to do is to put people off with a message on your site that says “I’m unavailable at the moment” or “I’m unavailable until [future date]”… It’s all well and good to have this on the site when you are full-up capacity-wise, but be sure to remove it when you aren’t and when you’re actively seeking work. While this might seem really obvious, it’s crucial that you make sure to remember to remove the message everywhere and anywhere it’s featured: is it on your Contact page / your Hire Me page / site-wide? For me, it was on this very blog’s Hire Me page and my freelance site‘s Contact page, but it could be disasterous if I only remembered to remove it off one of the pages and not the other – so be sure to remember to do it…!
As an aside… Some people swear off using these type of messages entirely, which is fair enough (after all, what if a dream enquirer sees it and it puts them off from enquiring?), but @ChrisLDyson of Triple SEO raised a good point that it usually still brings in the more serious enquiries while putting off the “can I just get a quote?” types. Besides, they might not read it anyway and just get in touch regardless.
Right, got that sorted? Good. Onto the next one…
Leveraging existing business relationships
2) Touch base with old clients
If you work with clients directly and you’ve already done work for somebody – maybe on a one-off basis – and you left things on good terms, then it makes sense to touch base and catch up on their current situation. Maybe they’re in need of more of your assistance?
I did some one-off consulting for two companies in the past year and decided to email them asking how things were going. Both of them said that my timing was perfect, that they’d be keen to reconvene things – and I’ve already been to see one of them (the other one is still keen but they’re going to leave it another month or two). Nice and easy.
Obviously this only really works in certain circumstances – for example, if you stopped working with a client because their budget ran out/got cut, or they’ve gone ahead with another supplier, or they’ve brought the service in-house instead, then you may want to give those ones a miss. But think back to all your old clients and get in touch with those who loved what you did for them and might need more of the same.
3) Touch base with your main referral partners (e.g. agencies)
Who usually passes you work? In my case, as an SEO, I get a fair bit of work from web design agencies and PR agencies. Similar to the point above, get in touch with those that you’ve worked with before and find out if any of their clients currently need help with anything.
It’s been a while since I did an interview on SEOno (you can see previous interviews here) – in fact, I don’t really think to do them anymore, however I really wanted to interview Max Minzer about Max Impact (#maximpact) because he’s such a humble and modest guy and I love his shows (since show #40-odd I’ve attended pretty much weekly… in fact, this was my first appearance), plus with the fact that he ran his 100th show not so long ago, the timing couldn’t be better…
Steve Morgan:Hi Max! First things first, please introduce yourself – tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.
Max Minzer: Hey Steve! Thanks for having me!
My name is Max Minzer. I am the owner of ReEngage Consulting – digital marketing consulting service specialising in local search marketing. I view it as business advising and enjoy doing what I do. I also host a weekly digital marketing show called Max Impact, moderate a Local Search community on Google+ and I like meeting and talking to people.
I’m married and have a 3-year-old boy.
Steve:If someone asked you to summarise Max Impact in 30 seconds or less (or a couple of lines!), what would you say?
Max: Max Impact is a digital marketing show where people join video call (and real-time social media discussion) to share ideas to help businesses and marketing consultants grow their business.
Steve:How did you come up with the idea for Max Impact?
Max: I saw Google+ Hangouts On Air (the video broadcast platform) being used effectively in other industries to meet new people and share news, places and ideas. There was nothing like that in the marketing industry at the time. I was using Hangouts for more private conversations already but decided to give it a try as broadcast.
Also, many of us consultants work from home and often miss human-to-human interaction (during work; not that we don’t have lives 😉 ) and the “meet new people” element. It’s incredible that technology allows us to meet people around the world.
Steve:Please talk us through the usual format of a show. What happens on your typical Max Impact episode?
Max: I try to invite people 10-15 minutes before I start the broadcast so we can have an off-the-record chat and – often – meet new people for the first time and get comfortable. I then start the broadcast.
I have a featured guest in most cases and start the episode by introducing and interviewing them about a selected topic. I then become a moderator and have everyone else join the discussion. I let people ask questions, comment, discuss and I also read questions we get on social media.
I loved running CR 25 back in January. Beyond SEO, it gave me the chance to properly flex my content marketing muscles. From guest blog posts to crowdsourced content; from Google Calendar embeds to Google Map embeds; from interactive timelines to infographics; we did a little bit of everything.
We finished off CR 25 with an ‘IT Acronym Quiz’ – a 10-question multiple-choice quiz created using SlickQuiz.
We decided to make the most of the opportunity and also gave away three £25 iTunes vouchers if people posted their results on Twitter.
It was my first attempt at a competition. It went well. Not quite how I’d hoped (as I’ll explain below) but we had a good number of entries and a good, positive response overall.
Here are the three lessons that I learnt.
1) Make sure that your competition’s terms are air-tight
As I said above, I’d never run a competition before – but I knew that you had to have some good set of terms & conditions behind it. I’m sure there are some decent templates out there, but I decided to draw inspiration from real-life examples. I can’t remember all of them, but I do remember that one of them was an iPad giveaway on The Guardian‘s website.
It contained the usual suspects: participants must be UK residents over 18-years-old; it specified the closing date; in order to be eligible, they had to tweet a few particulars, including a link to the quiz and the hashtag; etc. etc. It had a total of 19 clauses.
I even thought that I was being extra-clever: I put in one clause that said that their tweet had to be live by the end of the closing date – just in case they deleted it a couple of days after tweeting it.
…And yet I missed out one (or maybe two) that was hugely important and should’ve been obvious.
A few days into the competition, a friend of mine entered. He asked: “how many times can I enter?”
We didn’t have a clause that said ‘one entry per Twitter user.’ We also didn’t have a clause that said that a person could only enter once, full-stop. In other words, if someone managed more than one Twitter account, technically they could’ve entered more than once – even if we had that previous clause. It wouldn’t have been too much of a problem if we only had one prize to give away (aside from the fact that they would’ve increased their chances of winning that one prize), but we had three prizes – meaning that one person could’ve won two or all three prizes, and we couldn’t really do anything about it as our terms didn’t cover it. Whoops.