Good WordPress SEO starts with good hosting. A web host is any company or network that runs servers, which are computers that your website exists on. A good host will make your site load fast for your visitors, which is a key ranking factor. I personally recommend the hosting company SiteGround, and I have friends who have good experience with InMotion. You can sign up for SiteGround hosting through this affiliate link: Get SiteGround
“SSL” stands for “secure socket layer” and such a certificate encrypts your visitors’ data, protecting it from hackers. This is crucial if you’re collecting email addresses, or credit card info through your online store. Today, web browsers will tell you if a site is secured by an SSL with a padlock icon in the URL box.
Fortunately, SiteGround partners with a non-profit group called Let’s Encrypt to provide free SSL certificates. Let’s Encrypt is available through most other hosts as well. When you have an account with a web host, you can access the control panel page, find the Let’s Encrypt link, and assign an SSL to your site.
After you get your hosting account, you can install WordPress either by clicking the “QuickInstall” link and selecting WordPress as the builder, or there may be a dedicated WordPress link in the control panel. Because WordPress is so ubiquitous among bloggers, web designers, and businesses, most mainstream hosting companies make it easy to set up.
When WordPress is installed on your site, you need a theme and page builder plugin to design the appearance. My favorite themes are Astra, GeneratePress, and Divi. Divi is a paid theme that you buy from Elegant Themes, and has its own proprietary page builder system. Astra and GeneratePress are freely available in the WordPress theme repository, although they have paid versions with advanced features. Astra and GeneratePress let you use any page builder plugin, and I recommend either Beaver Builder or Elementor.
Astra has a handy feature called Astra Starter Sites that lets you upload pre-made websites that utilize Beaver Builder and Elementor. Divi has a massive collection of layout packs that you can upload. The great thing about the pre-made templates in these themes is that they’re completely customizable. You can delete, resize, re-color, and rearrange sections of pages through these builders.
The 2 most important considerations for a theme, in SEO terms, are loading speed and whether it’s mobile friendly. Divi, GeneratePress, and Astra have been tested by many bloggers and web designers, and are trusted for their loading times. These themes and builders use responsive web design, meaning the objects on pages resize and rearrange to fit the screens of mobile devices. This makes them suitable for desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
When you log into WordPress, you’ll enter the Dashboard and see the menu items on the left side. Under “Settings,” there are 2 important sections, “Reading” and “Permalinks.” On the Reading page, make sure the box by “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” is not checked. In Permalinks, select the option “Post Name.” This makes the url of your sub pages and posts include the page and post names, which the search engines prefer to display in search results.
SEO Plugin: Rank Math
Your site needs an SEO plugin. Plugins are applications that extend the functionality of your WordPress site, and there are a few popular and up-and-coming plugins that aid you in search. For many years, Yoast has been the industry standard SEO plugin, but I recommend an exciting new one called Rank Math. Rank Math has probably the most complete feature set in SEO for FREE! Its paid version is still in development as of this writing.
In the left side menu, go to “Plugins,” and click the sub menu “Add New.” You can look up Rank Math in the WordPress Repository and install it on your site. Rank Math will ask you to create a profile on its own developer’s site, then enable you to use its “Setup Wizard.” The first step in the Wizard ist to enter in your site’s name, logo, and other identifiers. I’ll go over the next Setup Wizard steps in the following sections.
Google Search Console
Rank Math will prompt you to create a Google Search Console profile if you don’t have one already. Google Search Console is a Google service that guides you in improving your site’s searchability. In your Google Search Console profile, click on “Add Property” and type in your site’s domain or url. Google Search Console has its own setup sequence that’s cut and dried, and you’ll eventually verify ownership of your site. Rank Math will give you a line of code to paste into Search Console, then Google and your site will match up.
An XML sitemap is a file that you submit to search engines, that tells the engines which pages and posts you want to be found. Rank Math will generate a sitemap for you after you select the settings. You can copy the link code to the sitemap file, and submit it to Google in the Search Console.
The next step in Rank Math Setup is “SEO Tweaks.” It’s fine to keep the default setting, but read the descriptions under each setting to understand what they do. Next is the “Ready” step, from which you can return to your normal WordPress Dashboard, but you can continue on to the “Advanced Options.” The 404 and Redirect steps are related, and you can set it up so Rank Math notifies you when external links to your site are broken. You can have those broken links sent to new pages in the future.
The final Setup Wizard page, titled “Miscellaneous,” includes a very important feature called Rich Snippets. Here you can enable rich snippets on different pages, blog posts, products, and more. Snippets are data about your page structured in a way to easily display in Google Search Results. They’re free in Rank Math, which is a huge reason I want you to use this plugin.
After the Miscellaneous page, you’ll go back to the WordPress dashboard. You can go back to the Rank Math setup wizard any time and make changes.
When you’re writing blog articles and content for your pages (using your chosen theme and page builder,) you need to include words and terms that web surfers are looking for. There are a few free tools that will let you see how many searches different keywords launch, and their levels of competition. There is Google’s own Keyword Planner tool. I’ve been using a browser extension called Keywords Everywhere that shows the same data on Google’s own search results pages. There is also Ubersuggest, developed by SEO and marketing guru Neil Patel and available on his website.
Conducting keyword research will give you ideas for your next blog article, and show you what your competitors are doing well with. You should examine the top ranking pages under different keywords and find gaps in their information- gaps you can fill and rank for yourself! You can go on YouTube and listen to Neil Patel’s advice for finding content ideas with Ubersuggest.
On Page SEO
When Rank Math is installed on your website, a special section appears at the bottom of your page and post editing screens. There are 4 tabs in the Rank Math section, “General,” “Advanced,” “Rich Snippet,” and “Social.”
Under the General tab, you can edit the way your Google Search Result will look. It should say things you think your clients will find relevant. Below the Search Result editor, you can enter the keywords you want the page to rank for. Rank Math lets you use multiple keywords for free, while other SEO plugins save this for their premium versions. Below the keywords box, there are boxes with suggestions to make your page’s or post’s content better. These are helpful if you’re new to writing optimized content, but don’t stress out and try to get a perfect rating. It’s more important to write naturally in a way regular humans can relate to.
Under the Advanced tab, you can check boxes for “robots meta tag” values. These are factors that the search engines “crawl” and know to rank your site for. To keep it simple, check only “Index” box, because the other boxes restrict what Google can crawl. Below the robots meta tags, you can set the “canonical url.” If you have more than one page or website with identical content, this is where you tell Google that this page is what you want to be found. Below this, is the “redirect” section. If you ever change a page’s url, Google or other websites with links to the old url would get an error page. You need to redirect old links to your new url, and you set that url here.
Under the Rich Snippets tag, you can create the snippets for that page. A rich snippet is a markup that makes your content easier to index by the search engines, as well as display relevant data in search results. Rank Math gives us a handy form that makes these snippets and is easy to fill out.
The Social tab is where you set how your page links appear in Facebook and Twitter posts. This makes them easier to share and more enticing to click on.
There’s a debate whether you should allow a comments section in your blog posts. Comments are a sign of audience engagement, which Google favors. Unfortunately, the section is an easy target for spammers. There are so many sketchy marketers, hackers, and bots posting junk that some bloggers don’t bother to curate them, and turn the comments section off. If you do allow comments, use the Akismet plugin. Akismet will automatically curate comments based on your settings. Either use Akismet or don’t allow comments; the risks and rewards are balanced, so no one would judge you on your choice.
Long Form Content: The Longer the Post, the Better
When you write blog articles, the ideal length is between 1200 and 3000 words. Search Engine Journal says, “Average content length for Page 1 results is around 1,900 words, according to a 2016 study. That’s a lot longer than the 200- or 500-word blog posts most writers or webmasters think is ideal.” The point is that the article should be full of resources and valuable information. My free ebook, “Be True, Cut Through,” tells you how to write a sufficiently long article in a timely manner.
Headings (not to be confused with website headers) are text formats that are bolder and larger than regular text, that act as titles for sections of text, and have special value for search engines. Headings help organize your blog posts and pages, which is good for search engines and vision impaired visitors who use screen reader apps to listen to text.
Heading text have 6 levels of strength, Heading 1 being the most powerful and Heading 6 being the least. You can assign heading levels in WordPress by highlighting the text and selecting the level in the WordPress editor. Page builders have text modules where you can set headings, too.
Heading 1 should be used only once per page or post, as the main title of that page. The other levels are for groups of paragraphs covering a subtopic. Think of them similar to outline subjects, with certain topics placed under other overall topics.
It helps to include your keywords in some of the headings. Rank Math will suggest this, but again, it’s more important that your text reads naturally to humans.
Eliminate Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is when your website’s content is copied elsewhere, on your site or someone else’s. This is a big problem for search engines since they don’t know which copy of the content to rank. It’s also a sign of plagiarism, unless the original source is given credit and linked.
Some duplicate content within your own site is acceptable. This is when you display excerpts of your blog posts on other pages. The team at Yoast wrote a helpful article for finding duplicate content: Yoast- “What is Duplicate Content?”
Backlinks are links from other sites to yours. This is a huge factor in search rankings because it’s a sign of your site’s authority. Backlinks aren’t something you can create yourself because other people have to bestow them. Getting backlinks has more to do with building relationships than anything technical. This is where your brand and reputation come into play. Read my guide to building brand awareness here.
There are strategies for earning backlinks. They include guest posting on other websites; forming networks with related businesses and sharing audiences; utilizing journalism websites like Help A Reporter Out, offering tips to reporters and bloggers (they should give you credit as a source). You can find more strategies in my ebook Be True, Cut Through.
Internal links are links between pages and posts within your own website, and they help Google crawl your site better. Again, we turn to Neil Patel for advice.
Patel’s first rule is to have a lot of content. He says not to worry about an organized hierarchy of pages like other experts recommend, just link pages and articles that logically relate to each other. Second, links should be in the form of “anchor text.” This is just text that plainly describes where the link goes to. Remember your blind visitors and make it easy for them to know through their page reader apps.
Third, don’t include a lot of links to your homepage, “Contact” page, or any top tier page that’s included in your top menu. The menu links should be enough. DO link to other blog posts or less-visited pages. These are called deep links. Neil’s fourth rule is to use links that are natural and provide value to the reader. This is related to the 1st rule. The point here is to keep visitors engaged and on your site.
Fifth, links should be between related pages. It makes no sense to link between a post about credit cards and a post about vintage guitars, unless you’re telling readers how to buy vintage guitars. The sixth rule is to use “follow” links. Follow links are ones that search engines can read. You can set links as no follow if the page content is meant to be exclusive. In general though, follow links help Google crawl your site. The seventh and final rule Patel gives us is to use a reasonable number of internal links. There’s no set rule to how many are enough or too much- just make it useful to the visitor.
As I said in the last section, follow and no follow links signal whether search engines can crawl between pages. In the past, SEO pros and webmasters would make links to other sites no follow. This was a competitive tactic to keep the engines focused on one’s own site. Today, sources like Search Engine Land say no follow external links are just selfish and hurt your site’s SEO. The idea should be to allow the free flow of visitor traffic and Google’s tracking.
Read More Links
“Read More” links are commonly buttons linking to a full blog post or a page dedicated to one topic. These are another example of internal links and will help your rankings. These aren’t mentioned in Neil Patel’s article, but enough people ask about them to make them worth a mention.
Improve Page Load Time
If your web pages take more than 2 seconds to load, visitors are tempted to leave. This is a bad sign to Google. There are ways to improve your site’s load time. The main factor, which I’ve already mentioned, is your host. See my recommendations above. The next most important thing is the size of your images. Image files can be compressed with plugins like WP Smush. I also like the free website TinyPNG.com.
Images are another attack vector for gaining search traffic. Google Image Search is its own category, and if you have a gallery of your business space, portfolio, or pictures of your recent events, you should optimize them.
WordPress includes a section in its Dashboard menu called “Library.” This is where you can upload images (which are compressed, I hope) and assign data to them. You should fill out the boxes on the right side of each image file in the Library screen. Give your images names, captions, tags, and descriptions. Descriptions are a big help to our vision impaired friends, because those are what their screen readers will speak out when the mouse arrow is hovered over images.
If your website has malware, Google will blacklist it, so let’s go over WordPress security. This is a major topic all on its own, so I’ll focus on the most important steps in this article. I already told you about SSL certificates, but here are some more common sense measures.
The first safeguard to your WordPress site is protecting your Dashboard login info. When you first install WordPress through your hosting service, you need to select a username and password that is complex. SiteGround does a good job telling you whether a password is strong. The most common hacking technique of WordPress sites is “brute force” attacks. This is where bots automatically fill your login with random words and phrases, trying to guess your login.
The three most popular WordPress security plugins, in my estimation, are Sucuri, WordFence, and IThemes. I personally use IThemes, but the other two are great as well. These plugins can limit the number of login attempts allowed. You can also get plugins to enable two-factor authentication, security questions, and Captcha.
The next main security measure is to update your WordPress theme and plugins regularly. Whenever you log into your Dashboard, check the upper left area for any update notifications. Hackers can find exploits in older versions of your WordPress assets and sneak in through them. The developers of your themes and plugins, and WordPress itself, very often make security patches to prevent this. Updating WordPress is easy- just go to the Updates page and click the button. If you have a Managed WordPress hosting service, this can be done for you automatically. If you have a continuing relationship with your web designer, he or she can do this as part of their ongoing maintenance.
Third, you should have a backup system. If your site is ever hacked, you can have your web host delete it, then restore it with a backup from before the infection. Most hosting companies offer a backup service, but it’s wise to have a separate system as well. You should get the plugin UpDraftPlus and connect it to a 3rd party storage service like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Amazon’s cloud service.
SEO for local business has special requirements in addition to everything I already mentioned.
This is short for, Name, Address, and Phone Number. These should be included in either the header or footer sections of your website. The point is to make this information available on every page of your site. It’s good to add a code to your phone number so visitors can dial it by tapping on it on their smartphones.
Google My Business:
This is one of the most powerful tools in local SEO you can use. If you already have a Gmail account, go to google.com/business and sign in. You’ll need to claim your business and web address, complete the profile with your business name, address, phone number, business hours, photos, business logo, and so on. Complete as many fields in the profile as are relevant. You’ll need to request a verification postcard to arrive in your snail mail to verify you are the owner or admin of this business.
Google My Business will make your business eligible to appear in the Map Pack, which appears in the search results page for businesses in your area. It enables customers and clients to post reviews. Reviews are a huge factor in your rankings in the map pack and search results in general, so offer great service and ask your previous clients for positive comments. Your business’ physical location is especially important in local search for visitors using their mobile devices. Google will likely rank you higher if you’re closer to that searcher’s phone.
As you can see, there’s a lot to do when making your WordPress site search engine ready. I wrote this as a guide to beginners and business owners who work in other industries besides web marketing. I’ve provided several resources through links and affiliate offers. If you would like more personalized assistance, check out my Services page at the link below, then reach out to me. I’m based in Iowa but open to anyone in the United States.
The news broke late in April that Instagram is likely hiding the public “Like” count from posts. The plan is being tested in Canada, in which only users can see how many Instagram likes a post earns from followers. It’s causing an uproar among popular influencers and the companies who sponsor them. This leads us to a discussion of what genuine engagement looks like, and the importance of social proof in business and sales.
What We Know So Far
This article by Later.com summarizes what is known about the program so far. If you’re an Instagram user, you will be able to see how many likes your posts receive, but your followers won’t. Even then, you’ll need to click an additional link under your post to see your likes total.
Mark Zuckerberg himself, CEO of Instagram’s parent company Facebook, has said he wants users to post authentic content without dwelling on the number of likes, which are inauthentic and draw users into a competition; “We want people to be less interested in how many likes a post gets, and focus more on connecting with other people.”
The biggest block of users affected by this change, from a business standpoint, are the “influencers.” Influencers are the ones who build huge followings, then land sponsorships from companies to recommend their products. Almost everyone agrees that the Like count on posts are easy to fake, and don’t fully reflect what followers really feel about them. However, they’re the easiest metric to measure.
The Later.com article goes on to say:
“In 2019, brands care more about reach and engagement rate than they do followers, so without the ability to publicly view an influencer’s likes (aka their engagement), it could make it harder to gauge how engaged their community is. Suddenly, a good influencer media kit is now deemed essential.
“Lia Haberman, formerly VP Audience Development at Livestrong, notes that hidden likes could result in a spending shift away from influencer marketing and towards paid advertising on Instagram. ‘This will likely increase the amount of ads as brands look for more exposure and make it difficult for anyone but established influencers to get a foot-hold.’”
In my previous article about Instagram marketing, I emphasized that paid advertising and sponsorships are only beneficial to large companies, and that small businesses and the self-employed are better off using organic reach. I also cautioned, referencing some experts, not to “buy” followers or likes, because such metrics aren’t real and will disappear once you stop paying the companies providing them.
Indeed, when I search for “Instagram likes” in Google, over half of the first page results are for those sketchy firms selling likes. Instagram and Facebook have long wanted to crack down on the practice, and the new change is probably the way they do it.
Reactions from users other than influencers are very positive. Social media has long been blamed for self-esteem problems. From a CNN article: “‘Likes are powerful because they are immediate feedback,’ said Renee Engeln, a psychology professor at Northwestern University. ‘In a way, likes give you the same kind of hit like a gambler gets at a slot machine.'”
Comparison, envy, and insincerity are facts of life on Instagram. Although its content is overwhelmingly positive compared to Facebook and Twitter, it’s easy to feel inadequate looking at someone else’s beautifully presented feed. It’s easy to forget that everyone cherry-picks the best parts of their day, and their best selfies, to share on the network. The rest their everyday lives may be filled with struggle and heartbreak.
Also, without the pressure to compete for likes, users will be free to post more authentic and creative posts. I first heard the news about the hidden likes from YouTuber Roberto Blake. Blake feels that followers’ comments are a much better indicator of a post’s influence. There is much more information in comments than in likes. Influencers can still share their profile analytics with brand sponsors, so they needn’t worry too much about their careers.
Blake also says removing public likes will make it easier for smaller users to break out. Often, if users see that a post has a huge number of likes already, it will gain even more through a bandwagon mentality. It’s too easy for a lucky few influencers to dominate the platform. This opens up a discussion about social proof that I’ll get to later.
“Likes” On Other Platforms
Blake goes on to suggest that YouTube get rid of its own likes display in key sections of its site. When visitors see that a video has a large number of likes and views from the homepage, they judge it to be quality content before actually viewing it. It’s a lazy way to search for content, and punishes newer, smaller channels trying to break out in the same way it happens on Instagram.
Let’s go over likes, as well as reviews on other social media platforms and online marketplaces. As a WordPress user, I see reviews all the time when I’m looking for a new plugin to use. Plugins are made by 3rd party developers and are available in the WordPress Repository. They add functionality to the sites I make for myself and clients.
Plugins in the Repository have scores, written reviews, and numbers showing how many times they’ve already been downloaded. I confess, I’ve sometimes chosen one plugin over another because more people use it, but it’s beneficial to look at the scores and read what other people say about them. Some plugins become runaway hits thanks to word of mouth and the social proof shown in the repository display.
Amazon works in much the same way. It allows for customers to write reviews of products. It’s good marketing to convince initial users to write favorable reviews, which encourages more people to buy that product and tell Amazon’s algorithm to feature higher in the search results, or even the homepage.
How Social Proof Helps Your Business
When you launch a product or service, you need an initial marketing push, then you need early customers and reviewers to say nice things about it. Since the start of 2019, I’ve studied why certain companies become huge while most others struggle. I’ve learned that the successful ones create a feedback loop of satisfied customers, good reviews, increased trust in the brand, more satisfied customers, and on and on.
What Businesses Should Do
With Instagram hiding the public likes from its feed, marketplaces should now reconsider what kind social proof is presented. Whether on Amazon or in YouTube, it doesn’t always benefit the customer to see what’s popular. A product or article should meet customers’ individual needs. I feel Google Search is better at finding relevant content for users. And content is the key. Going back to Roberto Blake’s preference for user comments, we can learn much more about creation from the audience’s words than a binary response such as like or dislike.
User reviews tell us the “how” and “why” of business’ benefits. If you’re having a website built for your small business or your digital product, get some testimonials from previous clients, or ask them to review you on Google or Facebook. There are WordPress plugins that let visitors write reviews right on your own site, or import them from other platforms.
Fighting The 80/20 Rule
There is a lot of talk about income inequality and what to do about it. Political commentators fret over how to increase opportunity for everyone besides the “1%.” The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, says that 80% of wealth is held by 20% of people. That 20% are the ones who stumble on just the right feedback loop to grow their customer base. I don’t agree with wealth redistribution because it’s code for communism, but I do feel that regular folks need a better chance at prosperity. Without the strict number value of likes, and more focus on qualitative comments, we can promote individualism and diversity in the marketplace.
Let’s look at a 6-step process in how to get clients from an accomplished professional. David A. Fields is the author of The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients, as well as a coach who directly helps real-life consultants snag high-paying gigs. His book details the strategy he and his team have developed over the years.
I originally intended to review 3 books in this post, the other two being The Sell by reality T.V. star Fredrik Eklund, and The Only Negotiating Guide You’ll Ever Need by Peter B. Stark and Jane Flaherty. These resources are fun to read, but Eklund’s book is all over the place, with lots of good tips but no overarching strategy. Meanwhile, Stark and Flaherty’s work amounts to 127 pages saying one thing: don’t be a shark, strike deals that are mutually beneficial to you and your customer.
David Fields, however, gives us a much more coherent roadmap. The other 2 books offer ideas in support of his advice (and I’ll mention them throughout this review,) but Fields’ book is where you should go for a solid plan. So let’s start.
Step 1: Think Right-Side Up
The first principle Fields gives us, which he returns to throughout his book, is building the mindset where your prospective clients’ needs come before your own. Clients don’t really hire professionals because the professionals are super great at what they do; they hire them because they solve a problem and are suited to the clients’ own circumstances. Everything from a professional’s marketing, outreach, and value proposition should be oriented toward the client.
Oddly enough, “right-side up thinking” and putting other people before yourself is a confidence booster. Fields observes that lack of confidence comes from focusing on ourselves and seeing our faults up close. When you focus on others, though, your personal shortcomings are less of an issue. And when you’re confident, that’s when your sales efforts are successful.
Step 2: Maximize Impact
Fields says “hunting” for clients is the wrong way to go about it. To find clients is more like fishing- you go where the business is, cast your line, and let clients come to you.
To figure out where to fish, you need to determine your niche. You need to learn which businesses or demographics are most lucrative, find out what their biggest, most pressing problems are, and come up with the right solution. This comes from research in which you ask people what problems they’ve spent money on to fix. Don’t fear your competition, because they’re in niches that are already booming with business. As a professional or consultant, again, you aren’t selling yourself as much as you’re selling solutions, so worry more about delivering. “Most clients don’t want a breakthrough approach. They want a reliable solution,” says one illustration in this section. Selling services is not like selling consumer products!
Once you identify the right clients, problem, and solution, you need a statement or phrase “that succinctly, precisely describes your target and the issue you address.” Fields calls this statement the “Fishing Line,” in keeping with his analogy. It’s not an elevator pitch, because the work of winning clients goes far longer after delivering it. But you can use the fishing line in your networking to get clients’ attention. It should mention the narrowly defined problem and the solution without boring the prospect with the process or reasoning. All that comes later during the relationship-building phases.
Step 3: Build Visibility
Referrals and word-of-mouth are fine up to a point, but marketing is the key to a sustainable career. You should build up your impact in Step 2 before this step so that your marketing efforts will be meaningful. Here, we have some supporting arguments from Fredrik Eklund, who built his real estate career with warm-hearted customer service and a splashy reality show on cable.
Fields is more conservative in his approach, but no less bold. His “Five Marketing Musts” are writing, public speaking, trade associations, digital presence, and networking. You should utilize at least 2 of these, and do them consistently. This goes along with the Familiarity Principle, which I wrote about in this post. Writing can be done on your blog or guest articles on popular sites. Books are great for visibility. Speaking can be done at association meetings or events you host yourself. Trade Associations are your market to landing speaking gigs or building your writing audience. Digital presence includes your website (check out my YouTube channel for a handy guide to building a site with WordPress here,) blog, social media, podcasts, and webinars. Don’t be shy about paid advertising, either. Google Adwords is a great platform for it.
Step 4: Connect, Connect, Connect
This step is all about building relationships. The saying goes, your network is your net worth. The best source for new relationships is your existing ones. The next best is your marketing, as long as you’re consistent and keep yourself top-of-mind with your target audience. Again, read about the Familiarity Principle. Always remember to put your prospects’ needs first and maintain your relevant solutions.
When building relationships, don’t ask your existing clients for a sale, just introductions. Ask if they know anyone interesting, or high-ranking in their organization. Always follow up. The best advice I got from Eklund’s book is to keep a calendar and follow it faithfully. You should mark down dates and to-do lists in which you regularly say “hi” to your contacts, and ask how things are going. It’s not nagging as long as you put them first! You can send them emails, call them on the phone, send handwritten mail if you’re really affectionate, and visit them in person. By putting them first, you’ll be more confident and likable, and you should routinely give them value like sharing industry news, books, apps, etc. Be a sounding board for their concerns.
After weeks of nurturing your relationships, you’ll determine the right time to sell your services. Fields gives us a phrase called “the Turn,” which I’ve mentioned in an earlier post. It goes something like, “Would you be open to a separate conversation where we talk about your business, and explore whether my firm can help you achieve your goals?” This wording bridges the gap between social communication and transactional communication. It gives your prospect a choice in switching to a business relationship while staying natural.
Step 5: Become the Obvious Choice
Convincing your prospect to hire you depends on you understanding them and their problems, and making sure they know it. The chapters in this Step are full of scripts of a fictional negotiation. But first, Fields tells us the 6 Pillars of Consulting Success. They are “Know,” “Like,” “Trust,” “Need,” “Want,” and “Value.” Trust is the most important of all, and it’s built in the previous Steps.
After you win prospects’ trust and give them The Turn, you’ll have the “Context Discussion.” You’ll cover 6 topics, which are the clients’ Situation, Desired Outcomes, Indicators of the Project’s Success, Perceived Risks and Concerns, Value, and Parameters. Value and Parameters come at the end, and this is where you’ll determine how much to charge for the project. But don’t give price yet, that comes in Step 6. You want the decision maker to agree to the context you determine in this conversation so there are no unpleasant shocks.
Step 6: Propose, Negotiate & Close
This is where I could have talked about Stark and Flaherty’s book, but if you follow the preparations outlined by Fields, negotiating is a lot easier at this point. “Closing isn’t something you do. Closing is the result of everything you’ve already done.” The Context Discussion in Step 5 is the cornerstone of closing deals, where you confirm with the prospect what they’re dealing with and the results you will deliver. You should write a “Context Document” detailing these things before writing a proposal. This can’t be rushed. It will take several drafts of the Context Document before you can set the proposal.
When you do write the proposal, don’t focus on why you’re so great. Instead, reassure the prospect that you’ll achieve their goal. Focus on their outcomes rather than your tasks, reassure them, and offer choices. The choices are when you can introduce money to the discussion. Give the prospect 2 or 3 packages at different prices. The prospect’s reactions to the different fees will help narrow down the right cost. It’s actually in the client’s interest for you to charge a large fee. It gives you the flexibility to work in changing parameters without you having to nag them for more billable hours.
Field’s book is available on Amazon. If you download the Kindle version, you’ll have access to his bonus material, including practice scripts and access to his website.
You can also download my book, Be True, Cut Through at the link below. It’s a short guide to content marketing through blogs, email, SEO, and more. It’s free as a PDF if you sign up for my emails. I want you to have as much digital marketing comprehension as I can muster!
The European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) went into effect May 24th. Its aim is to protect the personal data of European Citizens using the Western world’s biggest websites and apps. These are obviously Facebook, Google, and any services that piggyback on them.
CNN reports that less than a day into the law’s enforcement, multiple tech giants have been sued by government agencies:
The complaint against Facebook was filed with Austrian data regulators, Google with French regulators, WhatsApp with German regulators and Instagram with Belgian regulators as soon as the law went into effect at midnight.
It’s tempting to think these governments are trying to cash in, but rumors of clandestine data harvesting go back to the early days of the Obama presidency. It goes that Google, Facebook, et al, collect metadata about their users through their websites and apps. They then sell it to politicians and corporations for targeted marketing.
Ostensibly, small to medium-sized businesses have little reason to fear GDPR, but it doesn’t hurt to be ready. A great, snarky post in thedesignspace.co blog lists the ways to be fined under the law. They amount to common sense, good business practices to ignore (or follow- the post is being funny.)
4th, 5th, and 6th, if you annoy them enough with your spam, they users can ask you directly to stop. If you ignore this for 30 days, they can report you to their country’s ICO. The 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th steps to getting fined amount to the ignoring the ICO’s requests for you to stop. Governments make huge tech companies their first priority, so if you’re a smaller business, you have a longer grace period.
The best advice I can give is to be respectful of your customers and sales leads. This is good customer service in any case. Next, if you utilize any online services including web hosting and email marketing, look up their blogs for any GDPR news. They should be up front in how they protect their clients. It’s sad that it’s come to government legislation being necessary, but honesty is the best route to sustainability in business.
Here is another set of YouTube videos by the experts. I typed “consulting business marketing” and watched the top three results.
I feel consulting is an important business to be in, because any paid profession can market itself as consulting. Marketing gurus and life coaches are obvious examples, but earlier this year I wondered whether Realtors can market themselves as such, since they have knowledge of the local markets. They shouldn’t focus on selling properties so much as selling solutions to buyers and sellers. Personal trainers, attorneys, internet marketers, personal shoppers, and more, can earn money by supplying information, not just doing the traditional work of their vocations.
Whatever your solo/freelance/professional business is, listen to these successful consultants and think how their tips can help you land customers. The basic steps are, figuring out what people’s problems are, devising a solution, and securing the project. These three videos differ on how to close the deal, so decide for yourself which strategy fits your lifestyle best.
“CovetedConsultant” first discusses what free content to offer first. He says don’t think of “how much” you’re giving, but offer value to get the prospect “unstuck.” The prospect has a problem, you have a solution. Instead of giving free information, you should find out if you meet their unique needs.
Then he advises to pare down your services to a few common recurring client requests. He uses the analogy of a favorite restaurant where someone orders the same meal every time they come. The restaurant doesn’t need to offer everything else.
You land clients by applying a system: Advertise in a common publication or network -> Ad leads to a client survey/application -> Client enters a follow-up sequence where they’re reminded of your value. CovetedConsultant stresses that the website isn’t as important as the system. I would argue that a website can facilitate that system.
Brad Costanzo has a 7 step process for finding and securing clients:
Know Who You’re Helping
Know How You’re Helping
Find Out Where The Clients Are
Attract Clients With Value
Help Client For Free First (Content, Blog, EBook, Etc.)
Call/Interview, Find Whether Client Fits Criteria
Offer More Help For $$$
This can be done in many different fields. Don’t sell your time for dollars, sell based on the value of your knowledge. You don’t need a website at first, but it will help automate the process as your business grows.
Ameer Rosic lays out a simplified 3 step process to landing clients, with supporting details in his speech:
Find the problems
Solve the problems
Close. This step entails vigorous follow-up. He says, in the Internet Age, one needs about “27 touch points.” He makes the important point that even though your prospective client may not want your help today, they might need it in the future.
Curating other people’s content is an easy way to fill up your own blog. Just be sure to give credit to the original source. Here, the host of YouTube channel Deadbeat Super Affiliate shares 10 free website traffic sources. His particular aim is affiliate marketing, but you can still benefit if your website has a different purpose. You need awareness of your business.
His 10 traffic sources are:
FaceBook Fan Pages and Groups
Snapchat and Instagram
He goes into more detail in the video, so feel free to watch when you have 10 minutes.