How to Land Almost Any Job on Upwork

How to Land Almost Any Job on Upwork

For the past decade, I have consistently been one of the highest grossing freelance writers on Upwork (formerly Elance and oDesk), the largest freelance job site around. In four of those years, I was the #1 individual in the world for the writing category, and I can only describe those times as a true snowball effect.  I literally went from being slow in the spring of 2004 to having more work than I could ever possibly handle by that summer.  Then in 2005, I had an entire team of writers working with me and countless invitations bombarding my inbox every single day.

In fact, when Elance was transforming over to Upwork, I was the very first freelancer on the entire paltform that they reached out to for feedback.  It may sound silly but I’ve always worn that interaction like a badge of honor.  I can tell you firsthand that the talented people behind the scenes at Upwork really care about you and their clients.

Of course, I’m not saying all of that to brag- I just want to illustrate that I am incredibly good at landing jobs on Upwork.  With some luck, I’ll teach you here today how to replicate my success.  Fair warning though- this isn’t a “get rich quick” or “scam the system” type of guide.  I can teach you how to land virtually any freelance job, but there’s also going to be a lot of work involved as well.

So where do you start?  Let’s find out…

 

Creating a Professional Image

 

If you wanted to be a lumberjack, then you’d have chainsaws, axes, blade sharpeners, gas, oil and all the other tools of the trade, right?

So if you want to be a freelance superstar on Upwork, you need to acquire those same types of tools.  For instance, take a quick tour of my website- look at the branding, content and calls to action on each page.  This appears to be a huge company, right?  But it’s not, it’s just me and a couple of part time folks that help out.  So whenever someone asks for an example of a site I’ve worked on, you’d better believe that this is the very first place I send them.

Think about that- my best portfolio piece is my own business.  Can you see how that would make sense to a client?

Now, that doesn’t mean that you need an expensive looking website to impress people.  But you shoud have at least a full portfolio laid out somewhere online- even if it’s on Google+.  You need one place where a client can take a look and think, “Oh wow, this person is the real deal.”  This will be your #1 sales tool throughout your career BY A LONGSHOT.

Tools of the Freelance Trade

Likewise, you want to have the other tools of the trade as well.  That means getting certified by Google for development, AdWords or analytics.  Then head over to HubSpot and get certified in Inbound Marketing, design, content marketing, or wherever your expertise happens to be.  Moz also offers an SEO course on Udemy so you can get up to speed there- these are steps that most amateurs won’t bother with.

Then there are the skills tests on Upwork itself- clients actually pay close attention to these kinds of things.

Finally, there is your Upwork portfolio; it should be 100% completed with awesome content.  That means linking to your previous work, providing full descriptions, sharing why you’re the perfect candidate for the job and what to expect when working with you.  My Upwork profile still earns me at least 1 or 2 invites a week from people who find it in Google search engines.

One other thing you need to have in your arsenal- if you send clients SEO/analytics reports, wireframes, work summaries or anything else outside of the regular chat, you need to create branded documents with your logo and business/portfolio info in the headers and footers.

If you don’t have a logo yet, then design one on Canva for free.  It’s the most no-nonsense place I’ve found.

 

 

Making an Awesome First Impression

When a client posts a job on Upwork, Freelancer, iWriter or any freelance paltform, it’s almost like a fishing expedition.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve posted an ad to hire an extra writer and every sinlge application was just boring.  Here’s what 99% of all freelancer place in a proposal-

  • Their name and how long they’ve been in the biz
  • A few generic sentences about how they’re an expert
  • The price they’d charge for the project
  • End with something like, “I hope that we can talk soon!”

As a client, when you see 15-20 proposals that look exactly the same, it’s almost impossible to distinguish one applicant from another.  And when that happens, the client either decides to not hire anyone or they pick either the highest or the lowest possible bid…depending whether they’re searching for quality or value.  Most of the time though, they just walk away because they’re not impressed.

This also goes back to your portfolios as well (on Upwork and on another website).  When all the proposals stink, then the client will sometimes browse through the freelancer’s job history to see what others have said.  And if you’re not shining in that aspect, then it’s almost impossible for you to ever get hired for anytihng…except crappy jobs for low pay from crappy clients.

Writing a Killer Proposal

Here’s how I write a proposal on Upwork-

1)  I look through the client’s job history, click on a past job, and find the client’s username (You can’t see it in the current job page until after you apply- this is a quick little workarond.).  Then I Google that username to try to get a clue of who they are, what they do, etc.

2)  If I can find out what the business is, then I’ll visit their website and look at it critically.  What could they do better to impress customers?  Where are they losing out on a great call to action?  Are there awesome graphics, videos, and other stuff to make the page engaging?  How easy is their navigation to use?  I look at all of that stuff.

3)  From there, I use the business website to figure out who posted the ad.  Then I’ll look them up on Facebook and LinkedIn to see if we have anything in common.  If not, is there something there I can use as an ice-breaker?

4)  Finally, I’ll make their job requirements almost an afterthought in the conversation by focusing on what the client really needs.  NOTE- that’s way different from what they want to hear!

What does that mean?  

Let’s say that a client is looking to hire someone to create an email marketing campaign or sales funnel.  In my proposal, I’ll actually tell them NOT TO hire anyone because their website is not optimized for people.  Why would you let a client spend a thousand bucks to get people on their website when it’s not going to help them sell?  You always optimize the website and the calls to action first.  

By not actually bidding on the project, I accomplished something that 99% of all freelancers goof up- I proved my value without ever having to brag.  I also showed that I was loyal to them and not the money.  Clients will reply almost 100% of the time in those situations and they’ll ask me to tune up their website…then they’ll have me do the email marketing campaign afterwards.

Learning to Break the Ice

If that’s not an option, then I’ll use one of those ice breakers to show that I did my homework.  For instance, I sent a proposal the other week that started with, “I see that you just got back from vacationing in Orlando…did you happen to go to Disney Wolrd?”  Of course, I know they did because there was about 50 pictures with their kids and Minnie Mouse.  That’s how you break the ice though…you find something to start a conversation with.

The lesson here is to make sure that you’re completely different from every other applicant by paying attention to the client’s needs, writing a personalized proposal and tying in anything that the average person won’t bother to look up.  You’ll be amazed at how many doors will open for you quickly.

 

Always Over-Deliver

Want to hear about how I landed my first Fortune 500 client on Upwork?  I absoluely love this story.

About seven years ago, I hopped on Elance late one night just to see if anyone on the West Coast was posting a project before bed.  I’ve learned that if you can get your proposal in before anyone else and it impresses, then you have a decent chance of landing the job on the spot without any competition.

So I would check the job feeds fairly often back then- usually 3-5 times a day minimum.

Anyway, I see a project for writing a post card for an upcoming charity event with a budget of fifty bucks.  And I’m thinking a post card?  That’s almost not even a job.  I have a policy of never charging charities anything if I can help it but at the time, the minimum bid on Elance was $25 if you didn’t want to get penalized.  So I bid $25 for a series of five postcards, with visual cues for the front and the copy for the other side.

Now, the client didn’t ask for any of that…she only wanted the writing.  But it was for a good cause so I tried my best to go way above and beyond in any way that I could.  Even so, I spent maybe 30 minutes total on this project before sending it back to the client.  She was absolutely thrilled.

About a week later, the same client emails me and says, “Have you ever written a video script?  I work for <massive, huge company>  and I need five scripts for one of our major clients- I could pay you up to $1,000 if you could complete them within the next 3-4 days.”

Naturally I was blown away- I had no idea who I had volunteered for.  But it made sense; highly sucessful people are more likely to be involved with big charities.  And I happened to get on this person’s good side over a simple $25 project.

Over the last 7 years, I have billed this one client in excess of a half million dollars.  She’s also referred me to two others on the Upwork platform that add up to an additional $175,000 in freelance work.

The Art of Landing Small Projects

Personally, I love bidding on small projects that can show off my abilities because I know for a fact that the client will come right back to me the next time they need something.  So while others only bid on the jobs with $500 or $1,000+ budgets, I don’t pay any attention to the numbers part of the equation.  I just look for users with a history of projects and good feedback- if they have that, then I’ll spend two minutes researching them and try to get them on board.

Here’s the thing though- if I had delivered $25 worth of postcard copy, then that client may have never reached out to me again.  She loved me because I went above and beyond for a complete stranger…that’s how you prove your worth.

So remember this- there’s no such thing as a lousy job on Upwork.  If you earn great feedback and get the chance for more work later on, then it’s a win/win situation.  And you can always decline recurring projects down the road if the money is not adding up.  That feedback and making a great impression is literally priceless though- I initially built my Elance profile $25 and $50 bucks at a time.

The Joys of Scam Artists

In fact, I remember an early job- maybe the worst project I ever accepted on Elance.  It was for a “short eBook” on the driving laws in Australia, and the client said that he would be fully involved with the project and do all the research.  The proposal said to write around 15 pages and he was offering $300.  So even though the money was lousy, I said what the heck.

Only, the client completely lied- he didn’t share any research at all.  In fact, he didn’t do anything but make additional demands.  He changed the page count to 25 pages and then 35…all while promising me a hefty bonus at the end.  The end product was 42 pages AND I did all the formatting for it.

But all of a sudden, the client wouldn’t respond.  I could see that he was logging into Elance, yet he wouldn’t reply, release the payment or talk about that huge bonus he promised.  So I’m contacting customer support and screaming bloody murder…this crook ripped me off!  They did initially get the $300 released to me though since the client was non-responsive.

Nightmare job, right?

Of course it was.  Yet, I received an invite for an eBook job about seven months later from a really, really good client.  This person happened to like my profile and then he noticed that project, which convinced him to reach out.  So even bad projects pay off if you deliver quality work.

 

Parting Thoughts on Upwork

I’ve saved the best (or possibly the worst) for last since this is something a lot of people won’t want to hear.  To succeed on Upwork, you only have to do one thing well- impress clients.

Throughout this article I’ve given you almost everything that you need to shoot up to the top of the ranks…there’s only one little thing missing.  Your work ethic.  Are you willing to go above and beyond for evey client?  Have you created an awesome portfolio, stationery and all the other tools of the trade?  Can you guarantee that you’ll never miss a deadline?  Will you research clients inside and out before applying (with a custom proposal)?

These are all the things that the best of the best do on a daily basis.

Over the years, I have literally trained hundreds of writers, digital marketers, SEO professionals and copywriters at all stages of their career.  And if there was one thing that the vast majority were lacking, it would have to be an amazing work ethic to consistently go above and beyond.  They wanted to put out minimal effort and receive great pay…that’s just not how the freelance world works.

If you’re really committed to your craft though and you’re ready to take the freelancing world by storm, then Upwork is certainly a place that you can do that.  The best advice I can give you is to be yourself, work hard and always overdeliver for your clients.  Focus on building actual relationships as well- that’s what clients are ultimately looking for.  The last thing they want to do is scan through dozens of postings every week, they’d rather just hire that last person who did such a great job.

So become that person who always leaves clients with a smile on their face.  Then the frelance world will literally be your oyster.

By the way, I LOVE netowkring and comparing notes!  If you’ve had a different experience on Upwork or see anything that I’ve missed, feel free to share it in the comments section below.

 

Twenty-Seven Reasons to Never Hire a Website Designer

Twenty-Seven Reasons to Never Hire a Website Designer

Never hire a website designer?  What kind of idiot would actually say that out loud?  Before you start throwing rotten tomatoes at your screen, just hear me out…

After all, if you want a great cup of coffee, then you would visit the best coffee shop in your town.  If you need a new suit, then you go to the premiere tailor around.  So why wouldn’t you hire a website designer to help you build a great website?

To put it simply, a freelance website designer is good for only one thing- coding HTML into websites.  And for the sake of argument, let’s say that you do need a website built.  Should you hire one then?

No.  Heck no.  Don’t even think about it.  That’s a big mistake Mister.  Do not hire a website designer and expect random miracles.

Why?  The initial coding elements of your website are a minor part of the overall picture compared to things like design, branding, marketing, search optimization and customer engagement.  The vast majority of web designers don’t know about any of those things, so they’re definitely not the one you want leading your online face lift for the masses to see.  Choose a creative design firm instead.

If that’s not enough to sway you to never hire a website designer, then here are 27 more things to consider-

Do You Know Content Marketing?

1) Can you speak in HTML, PHP or Klingon?

Let’s start with what websites designers are actually good at; programming in languages like PHP and HTML, plus brushing up on their Star Trek lingo for this summer’s Comic-Con.  Since you don’t speak these languages though, then you’re going to have no idea how to make any adjustments.

2) Do you care about customer service at all?

Besides, have you ever asked a website developer for help understanding something?  That’s like asking Gollum from Lord of the Rings for fashion advice…there’s simply no answer to the equation.

3) Are you a genuine WordPress expert?

Let’s say that you do hire a website designer and they deliver you a site as promised.  Now what?  Do you know your way around WordPress enough to actually turn an empty domain into a place that potential customers would want to visit?

A website designer is a person who takes instructions and works with code to make your idea come to life.  But well over 90% of them now very little about how to attract customers or make a website become popular.

4) Do you enjoy overpaying for imaginary services?!?

Besides, most of today’s web developers still work on an old-school monthly-rate plan, which means that you pay for your website up front and then shell out a large chunk of change each month for site maintenance and other imaginary services.

Well, guess what?  You don’t need to pay someone to sit idle and collect monthly fees for absolutely nothing.  Don’t EVER hire a website designer under these conditions without spelling out exactly what they’ll be doing for you each month

5) Do you enjoy being frequently lied to?

Now, we’re not saying that website designers are liars, because most of them have the best intentions in the world when they say that they can design your new website from top to bottom in a few weeks.  But again, they’re thinking about code and the bare minimum of back-end stuff to make something qualify as an actual website.  All of your content marketing, lead banners and images in place are a completely different story.

If you hire a website designer with the sole intention of driving sales or attracting new customers, then that’s the very first question you should ask- can you prove that you can do that kind of stuff?

6) Do you follow the latest SEO algorithm trends?

If you do then that’s great, because your web designer almost certainly doesn’t.  He has to keep up with new programming languages and the latest apps/tools instead.  That means you’ll have to do a lot of reading on Moz and HubSpot for hiring a website designer.

There’s another inherent problem here though- and that’s Google’s inherent love towards innovative online businesses that strive to make customers happy.  If you hire a website designer that’s not studying these trends and continually expanding their strategies, then you’ve already lost before your website is even built. 

And don’t even get me started on those “specialty website design firms” that essentially sell everyone the exact same website over and over again- the automotive world wastes billions of dollars every year on websites that will never, ever draw customers because of poor design and horrible SEO.

7) Do words really matter at all?

Most website developers will quickly volunteer to write your website’s content for a nominal fee, and then turn around to do one of two things-

·         Hire a writer from India for $2.36/hr., who sub-contracts it to a gal in Pakistan for 1/4th that amount

·         Write the content themselves…which makes the Pakistani look like a true poet in comparison

Either way, none of these people are brand experts that can help you drive in conversions.  And if pleasing customers and making sales isn’t a priority, then there’s no sense in having a website to begin with.

8) Can you create an effective banner ad?

Since sites like Canva and BeFunky make it easy for almost anyone to get their art on, then maybe you can crank out a decent looking banner all by yourself.  But do you know how to upload it and link it to your squeeze page?  Can you configure it with your lead generation software?

Probably not…and neither can your web designer.  That’s why you never hire a website designer to handle creative aspects of your domain (HINT- which should be the ENTIRE FREAKING WEBSITE!)

Do You Know Web Design?

9) Do you like people who overstate their credentials?

Unfortunately, most website developers earn a bad rap because people have no idea what they’re looking for when hiring a professional.  So here’s a little cheat sheet-

  • Web developers install themes and write code
  • Programmers create apps, often from scratch
  • Designers make pretty page layouts & graphics
  • Copywriters and bloggers handle your site’s content
  • Marketers focus on traffic and generating leads
  • Analysts dig deep into the data to find insights

Very rarely will one person have some serious skills in all of these areas since each can take decades to master.  That’s why you hire a digital marketing team instead of a web developer.

10) Do you prefer face to face business meetings? 

If so, then your boss will either laugh or cry when the “website guru” you hired shows up in the board room wearing cutoff jeans, a tie-died tee shirt, and flip flops.  Either way; you’re probably in for an ear-full from the VP of Common Sense after the meeting adjourns.

Not that web designers can get dressed up for a meeting, mind you…that’s not really the point here.  You need a firm representing your brand online that understands business, marketing, sales projections, customer loyalty and all that good stuff that really matters.

11) Does your company work late-night?

If so, then hiring a website developer may not be such a bad idea after all.  That’s because a large portion of the top web geeks tend to work well into the night and sleep until noon…just because they can.

Between that and Halo tournaments, that’s essentially why it takes three weeks for you to get a simple answer.

On the bright side though, if you hire a foreign web designer then his nights are your days so everything works out perfectly!  That is, as long as you have enough time to overcome the language barriers.

12) “It puts the lotion on its skin, or it gets the hose again!”

What, you don’t like random pop culture quotes forwarded to your inbox sixteen times a day?  Then let’s hope that you didn’t accept your web developer’s Facebook request…that’s where the real magic happens!

Seriously though, coders are a special breed that don’t always march to the same drum cadence as the rest of society.  That doesn’t make them any less dependable, mind you, but most are simply not made for the board room.

13) How important are overall results anyway?

Let’s say your boss is a big AC/DC fan and he wants the song “Highway to Hell” to auto-play on your homepage as soon as new visitors arrive.  Sounds like a pretty terrible idea, right?

Well, too bad for you that the web developer you just hired could care less about what may seem like a good or bad idea.  Their only job is to build a site and get paid…they could care less about results.  And once your boss realizes that heavy metal misses the demographic , guess who gets paid all over again?  Cha-ching!  Time to hire a web designer all over again.

Go ahead and click play though- you know you want to.  Better to get it out of your system now.

14) Hey look, the homepage is giving some random 500 error…

Oh, you actually believed that random web developer when he said that you can call him day or night?  Sorry friend, but it’s a Buffy the Vampire marathon weekend and definitely not a good time.  Maybe try back next Tuesday when his mom will be there to pick up the phone…

Seriously though, you want to hire a website designer that has a long history of great customer service.  At times it will fell like you’re married to your design firm since they play a vital role in practically everything your company does.  So focus on your relationship early and makes sure all lines of communication are wide open.

15) Are you looking for results-based quality?

Surely by now you’ve seen a little bit of a pattern forming here…it’s not just in your head.  The average web developer knows absolutely zero about actual design, marketing, search optimization or your customers, so they can only deliver a mere fraction of what you’re looking for.

That’s what I’ve been saying all along here; do not hire a website designer if you’re looking for the total package.  Such a person doesn’t exist in the modern world unless you’re looking to spend $150/hr for the next 18 months.

Can You Afford a Rockstar Designer?

16) What if I want to work directly with a top-level programmer?

Here’s a little secret for you- the rock star programmers in today’s world are earning comfortably in the six-figure range creating apps and future technologies.  The few that do develop websites are often either-

·         Making their own custom themes and affiliate sites, or

·         Earning a huge paycheck with a top-tier agency/corporation

Either way, there are only a small handful of top-tier website developers out there that still build websites from scratch.  The rest use platforms like WordPress or Joomla.

17) Okay, but what if I want a website built from scratch anyway?

Well, that is the way to go if you are a large company with 6+ figure online sales and millions of web views per month.  Clean code from a professional will easily pay for itself in no time, plus save you countless headaches.  So in this one very specific case, you need to hire a website designer…through a design firm.

Why? Remember how arrogant Tom Cruise and his fellow fighter pilots were in the movie Top Gun?  In real life, a superstar coder is likely going to be five times as self-righteous and twice as quick to defend their excellence.  

These types of work relationships almost always end badly without that designer being on premesis and working as a part of a team.  Think epic proporations bad.

18) Do you take deadlines even halfway seriously?

Was Picasso given timelines when creating a masterpiece?  Heck no…and he didn’t even know C+ Basic.  So when you’re braving the world of programmers and building something from scratch, there’s no such thing as a timeline for actual launch.  You can be given estimates, but definitely not any sort of deadline.

To be fair, you can experience this type of setback with any reputable design firm if communication breaks down or you simply like watching underlings dance in terror.  That’s why you never want to hire a website designer without properly vetting them first- grab the phone and call a few of their previous clients directly.  Just because their site is pretty doesn’t mean it didn’t finish six months late and $15k over budget.

19) What if I just skipped using a web designer completely?

Oh, you mean like one of those free website builders that allows you to launch a complete website in 15 minutes?  That’s a great idea…except that they absolutely, positively suck.  Not only do they vastly overcharge you on a monthly plan to move forward, but the “plug and play” coding is also a jumbled mess that the search engines hate.

So if you’re going to be a do-it-yourself type, then buy a premium WordPress theme and find a highly rated foreign WordPress expert on Upwork to install it.  This will save you a small fortune if you can serve as your own tech support and figure out the content/marketing elements on your own. 

20) Wait- there are cheap AND talented foreign website developers?

Definitely, and you can find some world-class developers from Pakistan, India and similar regions for less than $200 a week for full time work.  But be warned; there are many language and cultural barriers that will drive you absolutely nuts if you don’t know what you actually need completed.

These are super-friendly, hardworking people that really aim to please…just be prepared for quite a long trial and error period.  If you do hire a website designer from overseas, then it would be a great idea to start with a consultation from a reputable digital marketing firm here in the USA (hint, hint- that’s us!) and have them manage the project with your cheap labor.

21) Are you a true patriot?

Of course you are…so why are we talking about hiring foreign web developers and putting some hard working American college graduate out on the streets?  You should be ashamed of yourself for even entertaining the notion!

Then again, what’s more American than saving money on business expenses?  There are certainly pros and cons to hiring individuals overseas so I’ll let you decide how to proceed there.

What About Other Online Factors?

22) How versed are you on finding and optimizing keywords?

These days, it is almost impossible to appear on the first page of the search engines for your major keywords by accident.  Ranking a website is a process that’s both time consuming and highly technical; plus it takes a creative flair and a solid understand of consumers to execute correctly.  So this person with a multitude of talents either needs to be on your staff (likely for six figures), or it can be part of a creative team working on your behalf.

For you to hire a website designer that has all of these skills though, it will be like finding a needle in a haystack.  Unfortunately, the only way a designer becomes the total package is by sheer experience working with a number of leading companies and start-ups while wearing a number of different hats.  And quite honestly, these types of folks usually get hired by major corporations before you’ll ever find them.

23) What is your actual end goal with web design?

Most people would answer this question by saying, “I want to make more sales or gather more leads.”  That’s what we all want from our websites.  But the only way to achieve that is by having a fully optimized website that engages your customers and answers their most pressing questions.

Remember that getting the customers to your domain is only half the battle…the rest is convincing them to stick around and actually experience your brand.

24) Who’s going to hold your web developer accountable?

Hopefully you’re not the type that listens to some fast talking salesman and then says, “Sure, let’s run with it!”  Since you don’t personally know website design or the many other skills it requires to make a website rank favorably, it will be impossible for you to hold a web developer accountable or even guide them in the right direction.

That means you either need someone on your staff that understands tech or you need to partner with a firm that has earned your trust through delivering actual results.  If you just hire a website designer off the streets though because you saw their spammy ad on Facebook, there’s very little chance that they’ll have your best interests at heart.  After all, they’ve already proven that they have a quantity over quality mentality.

25) Who’s keeping an eye on your competitors?

Large corporations spend millions of dollars per year analyzing their competitors and creating campaigns to counter their rival’s latest moves.  And on a smaller scale, you should be doing the exact same thing with your website and everywhere you keep an online presence.

Is the guy who writes website code the best person for this job though?  Not by a longshot…you’d be better off hiring the average 7th  grader to take on the job.  At least you can keep them focused with a juice box.

26) How do you measure success and failure online?

When a website visitor stumbles on your website, how do you know whether they had a great customer experience?  Where’d they even come from?  What do they want?  Is anyone actually paying attention to this sort of stuff?  You need answers to these difficult questions and very few website developers are qualified to be the one interpreting it.

If this is starting to sound like a broken record, that’s because you should never hire a website designer that doesn’t talk about conversion rates, click-through rates, time on site and all the other metrics that mean your customers are actually being engaged.

27) Why are you so negative about website developers anyway?

Like I’ve mentioned several times already, I have nothing against web developers since they are essential for both my business and yours.  I just want for it to be crystal clear in your mind that website development is a very small (although important) aspect of your complete online presence.  Web developers are generally weak at copywriting, photography, graphic design, search optimization, lead generation and marketing…which are all vital to your success.

So you absolutely, positively need to hire a website designer…but you don’t want that person in charge of your overall campaign.  Would you recommend an awesome mechanic to be the next VP of Marketing at Ford or Chrysler?  Of course not- the same principle applies to hiring web developers.

Have any good horror stories from hiring a website developer?  Did I miss something in my list?  Feel free to share away in the comment section below.

Building the Ultimate Dealer Website for Selling Cars

Building the Ultimate Dealer Website for Selling Cars

Although it’s been on my to-do list for quite some time now to reach out to a few of the local Spartanburg car dealerships with horrible online presences, I simply haven’t had the time lately to try and add additional clients.  But since I’ve been writing sales copy for automobiles for practically 1/3rd of my life, I decided to take a look today just to see how my competition has been treating our local auto lots.

I can summarize what I saw in one word- ouch!

The best way to measure the area car websites is to do a basic Google search for “buy used car Spartanburg”.  Not surprisingly, GoUpstate had the #1 ranking since many of you are still paying for advertising, which you need since your sites are not properly optimized for consumers.  The number two dealership in the results was Family Auto of Spartanburg– which seems downright shocking.

Now, I don’t know the good folks that run this business, but the website loaded extremely slow, the text formatting was horrible, and the individual cars listings didn’t even load properly.  When you click on a particular vehicle, it pops up a single photo with the car’s information lower on the page…but when you try to scroll, the website in the background scrolls instead.  This means that their customers can’t even get basic details about the vehicles they’re looking at or see the price.

To make matters even worse, it was designed by a Greenville company that claims to only build automotive fleet websites; and yet they’re killing this poor business by not giving potential customers any reason to ever call the dealership!

Now remember, this is the highest ranked used car dealer in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  What does that say about the rest of the Spartanburg automotive websites out there that rank below this one?

I’ll tell you what it says- double ouch, especially since almost 90% of all car buyers do preliminary research online before ever buying a vehicle.

That means by being poorly optimized for online sales, you’re likely selling to less than 10% of your ideal market each and every month.  The vast majority are driving to Greenville, Asheville and Charlotte simply because that’s where they are finding great vehicles on the net.  These consumers don’t even know you exist…even though they likely drive right past you every single day!

So if you’re the owner or general manager of an automotive dealership here in the Upstate, let me tell you real quick how to properly sell vehicles online-

1) Start with a gorgeous homepage. Grab some stock art of the top 3-5 nicest vehicles that could possibly be sold on your lot and place them on a slider at the top of the page.  Then on each photograph, give bullet points about your sales process, your simple financing options and how hard you work to serve the Upstate.

2) Nail down your navigation. Customers should be able to easily find vehicles by class, price range, mileage, fuel economy and even color…and these search elements should be visible below your homepage slider as well.  You should also have a financing page, a company history, current specials/promotions and a map of where your dealership is located.

3) Make Listings Pop. When it comes to actually listing vehicles on your site (and promoting it out to other sites like Auto Trader and Cars.com), more is always better. Consumers want to see the mileage, the options, recent service inspections and a thorough description…plus at least 25 photos taken from every possible angle inside and out.  A short video is also a massive plus since it lets them hear the vehicle and it gives you a new way to rank.

4) Write Awesome Descriptions.  That thorough description I mentioned- this is what actually sells cars online these days. Talk about the highlights (low mileage, one owner, maintenance receipts, great paint, etc.) while minimizing the negatives (rust, worn interior, etc.).  Here’s a quick bonus tip as well- NEVER use the stock description of a vehicle.  Google sees it as duplicate content and naturally penalizes it in the search rankings, so you’re better off having no information than something copied from the manufacturer!  This is true for every industry.

5) Drive in Leads.  You want to catch customer information as early in the viewing process as possible, so every description page should have a button that says “Schedule a Test Drive for this Vehicle!” Then they can submit their name, email address, phone number and preferred appointment time without ever speaking to a sales rep.

6) Encourage Connections.  Likewise, every page on your website should have the following elements- (a) your phone number and address in bold, (b) an clever opt-in form to generate leads and (c) something that creates urgency.

7) Learn to Convert.  Every online lead should go straight to a sales rep in real time so a personalized email can be sent. For example, it could read, “Hi.  This is Scott with ABC Autos.  I saw that you were interested in the ’06 Camry with 43k miles; it’s a really beautiful, great driving car.  Are there any questions I can answer for you before your scheduled appointment?”

8) Strong Community Outreach.  Dealerships also need to be huge in giveaways these days…but it’s actually nowhere near as expensive as you’d think. Have people opt in for a free oil change, a monthly drawing for an iPad or something similar, and build a loyal following using this strategy on social media.  You can also host contests where friends of friends do the voting…which means that your best customers become brand ambassadors on your behalf.

9) Keep Conversations Going.  Finally, start a fun-loving blog about events here in Spartanburg, customer testimonials and other light reading. This gives you something to post to social media between advertising each new car that you add to your inventory, and it drastically increases your natural exposure.  You’ll also use this content for email blasts to keep customers engaged well after their purchases, all the while helping you sell more vehicles.

This is the exact formula I use for all of my national clients, and it equates to an average of 30-40 additional used car sales per month over their previous totals.  Just take a moment and do the math- what’s the average commission times forty worth to your bottom line?  Because that’s what you’re losing out on every single month by not fully optimizing your website for consumers.

The best news of all is that online rankings for car dealerships in Spartanburg, South Carolina is wide open for anyone that’s serious about selling more cars and trucks; there simply is no serious competition out there at this time.  And as long as dealerships turn to those self-proclaimed “experts” in Greenville that can’t even make a car ad display properly, there will be a golden opportunity in place to really dominate the local market.

So if you’re ready to start flooding your showroom with foot traffic and sell a heck of a lot more vehicle every month, I would be more than happy to sit down with you and discuss how we can make that happen- just fill out the enclosed contact form for a completely free evaluation.

Does Online Marketing Work for Restaurants?

Does Online Marketing Work for Restaurants?

I had an interesting conversation with a local restaurant owner in Costco the other day as he tried to push his enormous cart of mozzarella, spices and tomato base towards the checkout counter.  As a former Italian restaurant owner myself, I knew his story without even having to ask- his vendor undoubtedly messed up and good old Costco is always a solid last-minute bail out for our kinds of businesses.  I could instantly feel his pain since I was in the exact same position myself dozens of times.

After sharing war stories for a few minutes about incompetent delivery drivers and the perfect blend of cheeses for pizza, the owner asked me if I knew anyone that would be interested in buying his restaurant.  He explained that while the business was still profitable, it seemed like his customer base had continually shrunk over the past five years even though he’s remained highly competitive on his pricing and delivered a great product.

Then I told him what every restaurant owner needs to hear- online marketing is essential for every restaurant in the Spartanburg area, regardless of how big or small they are.
Why?  Think about this for a moment.  How do you order a pizza these days?

For my family, we hop on our smartphones, look at the current specials and then submit our order online…and that’s how over 70% of America does it these days.  That means if you’re still handing out flyers, placing newspaper ads and using other forms of traditional marketing these days, only 3 in 10 people are even noticing you.

For example, my family loves Sidestreet Pizza over in Tryon.  Besides the long wait times, I honestly couldn’t say a single negative thing about it.  The service is great.  The food is great.  I love the atmosphere.  Yet, I haven’t eaten at Sidestreet in at least 4 years.  But I’ve ordered from Dominos, Papa Johns and The Pepperoni Express in Inman dozens of times since then, all because they have a solid online presence and I can see their specials quickly.
Are franchises like Pizza Hut better than Sidestreet?  I don’t think we even need to dignify that with an answer.  But the big chains are making a huge effort to cater to today’s consumer and that simply makes them more relevant.  People will literally settle for food from an inferior brand simply because that’s what they see in the search engines.

And as I explained this to this restaurant owner in Costco the other week, he sort of hung his head in defeat since he didn’t know anything about internet marketing.  Even if I built him a great website, he said, there was no way possible that he would be able to keep up with updates and things that would make him stand out.

He also mentioned that cost was a major issue…and I realized that he wasn’t just trying to sell his pizza restaurant; he was on the verge of going out of business completely.  That’s the only reason why I’m not sharing his name or his location (yet).  Stay tuned for updates though, because I am actively working on his search optimization as we speak.

Now, I could completely relate to his situation.  When that bad ice storm hit Spartanburg back in 2003 and my restaurant was without water/power for over a month, I had no idea how to get my customers back fast enough for it to really make a difference.  I was underwater in debt and the idea of a website would have been laughable for me just like it was for this person.  But then again, I didn’t know back then what I know now…and you can’t ignore that 70% of all consumers perform a Google search before heading towards a local restaurant.

Since I definitely don’t want any other local restaurant owners to feel this way, here’s a quick cheat sheet of simple things you can do to drastically increase your online presence on a tight budget-

  • Build a Facebook and a Google Local business page, and start a campaign for people to like your page. My favorite for restaurants is giving customers a $3 off coupon or a free side item for following you on social media…and you’d be amazed how quickly it will be shared and deliver traffic to your doorstep.
  • Take the time to register on at least a dozen directory sites like the Yellow Pages, Zomato (formerly Urban Spoon), TripAdvisor, etc. Create complete profiles there and offer a special unique to each website, and be sure to add some photos of your mouthwatering food.
  • Ask your best customers to leave reviews for you on those directory sites in-house for an instant $1 off their check total per person (per review). If you’re doing this regularly, then you can simply raise your menu prices by $1 and all the reviews are free.
  • Build a restaurant website using one of the free online tools or contact me to create an affordable website for you. Then add the essentials- great photos, a full menu, daily specials, directions via Google Maps, a food blog, etc.
  • Use the same tactic to get customers to opt into your email marketing campaigns; just give them a great one-time special to share their email addresses.
  • Once you’ve completed the social sites, directory sites and your own personal website, start sharing fun facts about Spartanburg, cool photos, daily specials and other information people wouldn’t mind reading.
  • Likewise, every time you post a blog or a new special, share it straight to your social sites for people to see it. Then send out a weekly email recapping what you’re doing for customers.

Now, you may be thinking that most of those things are far outside your comfort zone, which is exactly what the restaurant owner inside Costco told me as well.  But then I asked him- how many times a night do you have to tell your younger employees to get away from their smartphones?  Fifty?  A hundred?  Every one of them is a social media genius- they just don’t realize that their talent for wasting time online can actually become a massive resource from a business standpoint.

And honestly, I do not recommend the free website builders like Weebly since they are hard to customize and rank effectively.  But if you have to choose between doing nothing and launching a basic website…go the free route every single time.  While it certainly can’t hurt, the help it could deliver is enormous.

So if you can’t afford to hire me right now, then put your youth to work knocking out the above list and improving your online presence.  You will be absolutely amazed at how quickly it makes a difference…I’ve seen restaurants go from on the verge of closing to being on track for $50k+ months in a matter of weeks.  It just takes a substantiated effort of communicating with your customers and giving them reasons to pay attention to you online.

If you have any questions about how to market your restaurant online or you need a little more guidance on making your location profitable; then feel free to contact me through my online form to set up a consultation.  Since restaurant management will always be in my blood and I love having the chance to make a difference here in Spartanburg, the initial consultation will only cost you lunch.  Hopefully you know somewhere good to eat.  =)

The Complete SEO Strategy Guide for Small Business

The Complete SEO Strategy Guide for Small Business

It’s no secret that search engine optimization has changed drastically over the years as Google continuously adapts to reward the most helpful websites with coveted first page rankings.  And for the average small business owner or entrepreneur that’s on the outside looking in, it can seem like executing the perfect SEO strategy is nearly impossib

What if I told you, however, that everything you need to know about search optimization is summarized in the very first sentence on this page?

Go ahead and look again if you don’t believe me- I’ll sit here and wait while you do it.

The websites that go out of their way to help their customers the most are the ones that SHOULD rank at the tops of the search engines.  That was the goal in 1991 and it’s still the goal today.  The only thing that’s really changed is that Google and Bing have become much better at detecting unsavory tactics that allow websites to artificially rank, but the goal still remains exactly the same.

So as we work through this guide together, I want you to remember one universal truth that can guarantee your excellent search placement for the next fifty years- the site with the best content should always win.

That means that as long as you’re making serious efforts to bolster your customer’s online experience, you will remain in favor with the search engines and continuously see improved results.  It really is that simple.

Since this is an official SEO Strategy Guide, however, then you’ll probably want a little more detail than that to work with.  So let’s get down to some key points of interest for your search optimization strategy.

 

 

Core Content is Everything in SEO

Old-school search optimization depended largely on stuffing keywords, cranking out tremendous amounts of content and getting any form of backlinks to your website.

The Internet back then was like the Wild West; everything was available for the taking if you didn’t mind being called an outlaw.  And that’s why quality was almost an afterthought over the past two decades, the search engines did not have a strong enough algorithm in place to properly identify what we now call spam.

I won’t lie to you- some of those tactics still perform well with the major search engines these days.  You can still take a few shortcuts building backlinks and almost any form of traffic is still considered a positive signal, even if it comes from spammy sources that have no interest at all with your brand.  These black hat methods are becoming harder and harder to execute properly though, and there’s one crucial thing you have to remember about being an outlaw-

Outlaws eventually end up dead or in jail.  So stop trying to be an SEO outlaw, even if think you’re the quickest draw in the West.

  • DO create informative content to educate your customers
  • DO update your FAQ and core information pages
  • DO commit to a weekly blog about your industry
  • DO share your blogs on social channels to increase engagement
  • Do focus on a quality over quantity approach
  • Do update or remove poorly written pages
  • Do post content that leads to additional actions (read more, call, opt-in, etc.)

So when it comes to content for your website, don’t even think about taking shortcuts in 2016 and beyond.  Everything you post should engage your audience and help them learn a little bit more about your brand.  That means you should be getting down to the nitty-gritty and sharing precise details about anything and everything your customers have questions about, and it should be written in a way that just makes sense.

Take Mobile Seriously

Let’s talk about backlink building as a search optimization method for a moment…and I’ll start with an obligatory, “Ladies and gentlemen, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position.  We are about to experience some severe turbulence.”

Over the past few years, creating a solid backlink profile has become increasingly difficult.  Let’s just look at what Google tells you not to do-

  • DO NOT guest post on websites with questionable ethics
  • DO NOT leave random comments with your link in it
  • DO NOT buy backlinks under any circumstance
  • DO NOT swap backlinks with other websites
  • DO NOT associate yourself with any spammy site
  • DO NOT use the same anchor text across most of your links

That’s where we reach the turbulence part of this journey, because chances are pretty darn good that you’ve violated some or all of those guidelines over the past few years.  If that’s the case, then we strongly recommend that you disavow your less-than-reputable backlinks since your website is likely facing penalties because of it.

With that said, link building strategies have not changed much over the past year other than to avoid the ComLuv’s of the world that Google has clearly blacklisted.  In fact, you should probably forget about any form of guest blogging where you’re permitted to insert a backlink straight to your website, unless it’s in an author bio.  There are still tens of thousands of quality content sites to write for out there as well- just use a little more caution this time around.

Social media is still a powerful way to receive natural backlinks as well, and Google vastly prefers this approach since others are choosing to talk about you on their own sites.  Other solid opportunities for gaining backlinks are creating highly-sharable content like infographics or case studies, utilizing directories within your niche, press releases and blogging about authorities within your industry.

One more word on backlinks before we move on.  Remember that your profile does not need dozens of backlinks to every possible page in order to achieve solid overall rankings; this is the old-school formula for grey hat SEO and it is completely unnecessary.  The search engines would rather see a handful of natural high authority links to your domain over thousands of weaker ones, so make sure your focus remains on quality partnerships.

Build Better Backlnks

Let’s talk about backlink building as a search optimization method for a moment…and I’ll start with an obligatory, “Ladies and gentlemen, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position.  We are about to experience some severe turbulence.”

Over the past few years, creating a solid backlink profile has become increasingly difficult.  Let’s just look at what Google tells you not to do-

  • DO NOT guest post on websites with questionable ethics
  • DO NOT leave random comments with your link in it
  • DO NOT buy backlinks under any circumstance
  • DO NOT swap backlinks with other websites
  • DO NOT associate yourself with any spammy site
  • DO NOT use the same anchor text across most of your links

That’s where we reach the turbulence part of this journey, because chances are pretty darn good that you’ve violated some or all of those guidelines over the past few years.  If that’s the case, then we strongly recommend that you disavow your less-than-reputable backlinks since your website is likely facing penalties because of it.

With that said, link building strategies have not changed much over the past year other than to avoid the ComLuv’s of the world that Google has clearly blacklisted.  In fact, you should probably forget about any form of guest blogging where you’re permitted to insert a backlink straight to your website, unless it’s in an author bio.  There are still tens of thousands of quality content sites to write for out there as well- just use a little more caution this time around.

Social media is still a powerful way to receive natural backlinks as well, and Google vastly prefers this approach since others are choosing to talk about you on their own sites.  Other solid opportunities for gaining backlinks are creating highly-sharable content like infographics or case studies, utilizing directories within your niche, press releases and blogging about authorities within your industry.

One more word on backlinks before we move on.  Remember that your profile does not need dozens of backlinks to every possible page in order to achieve solid overall rankings; this is the old-school formula for grey hat SEO and it is completely unnecessary.  The search engines would rather see a handful of natural high authority links to your domain over thousands of weaker ones, so make sure your focus remains on quality partnerships.

Local Search is Massive

Here’s a statistic worth remembering- almost 80% of all mobile searches in the United States directly lead to a purchase.  Since almost 73% of those purchases occur in local brick and mortar stores, local search optimization (AKA Google Maps) should definitely become one of the most important parts of your overall SEO strategy in 2017 and beyond.

How do you optimize for the local search engines?

  • Create/verify your listings with all the major search engines
  • Complete the certification process to show that it’s your business
  • Complete your profile 100% (photos, categories, descriptions, etc.)
  • List a local contact phone number in your profile
  • Repeat this process on major directories (Yellow Pages, Yelp, etc.)
  • Ask your best customers for honest reviews/ratings
  • Build backlinks from social and authority sites
  • Focus on your main website’s core engagement levels

Essentially, Google and Bing want to see you treat your local search profiles exactly like you would your own website, so remember that the little things really do matter in this instance.  Also, make sure that each of your local search profiles uses 100% unique content for the spiders to crawl, but all of the other information should be exactly the same.  In other words, do not list different addresses, phone numbers and other information that the search engines could see as a conflict, and avoid toll free numbers altogether since they signal that you’re probably not seeking local business clients.

Monetization & Lead Generation

Quick question- why are you worried about your website’s SEO in the first place?  And before you answer, let me point you right back to the very first sentence on this page once again.  Because the answer you’re looking for should not be, “So I can make lots of money.”

Honestly, Google could care less if you are making income through your website or not.

Their only worry is that your site’s content makes visitors happy, and it is a huge red flag for the search engine giant if they see just a few paragraphs of text and a dozen or more ads.  Without even looking at anything else, they know right off the bat what your real intentions are.

  • DO use appealing calls to action in contact forms
  • DO ask users to visit your social sites
  • DO monetize your pages in natural, logical ways
  • DO offer freebies and giveaways to generate leads
  • DO NOT lose focus on making great content the top priority

Now, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use ad banners and email captures on your website; just don’t do it in a way that would make people question your motives.  Remember, this is not so much about the amount of advertising, but about how much actual content there is to balance it out.

So don’t be that guy who posts 12 flashing ad banners per page- not even John Chow does that anymore…and you’re no John Chow.  That is, unless you are actually John Chow and you just happen to be reading my blog.  If that’s the case, then I guess this last section doesn’t fully apply to you.

But for everyone that’s not named John Chow, then you may want to reconsider limiting your ad-space and focusing on your actual visitors instead.

Back-End Optimizations

Even though you probably have a web developer that handles the heavy lifting when it comes to the back-end of your website, there are several minor issues that could cause you to lose appeal to the search engines.

I won’t dwell here though, just scan through this list of miscellaneous items that could be harming your search ranking-

  • Slow loading times/not enough bandwidth
  • Poor navigational structures
  • Missing pages that do not properly redirect
  • Broken inbound and outbound backlinks
  • Images not properly labeled
  • Missing H1 (main title) tags
  • Lack of meta keywords & descriptions
  • Plugin conflicts that affect functionality
  • Suspicious redirects (possibly by hackers)

So if you see any of these issues, contact your system administrator and tell him that he stinks at his job.  Then call me to fix the issues and we can make fun of that other guy together!

Keyword Research

You may have heard some of the experts mention that keywords are officially dead, and to some degree they are absolutely correct.

You should no longer be focused on things like keyword density or packing in as many combinations of key-phrases as you can in any given page.  This is no longer a valid tactic since the search engines have made it abundantly clear that they are more focused on your visitor’s engagement levels.

At the same time, keywords certainly do still matter, so let’s go straight to our bullet points-

  • DO mention on at least one primary keyword on each page
  • DO use keyword software to find popular phrases with low competition
  • DO hyperlink your targeted keyword to other parts of your website
  • DO hyperlink your targeted keyword to authority sites within your niche
  • DO include your targeted keyword in the title, meta title, and description
  • DO NOT repeat keywords just for ranking purposes
  • DO NOT ever use a keyword unless it fits naturally within the text
  • DO NOT forget that quality and engagement are the most important factors

To prove that, let’s do a little experiment and talk about our famous SEO Keyword Spatula, which is something that I just completely made up for testing purposes.  It does sound like a pretty cool product name though and since I bolded it, the search spiders will likely see it as being important.  Notice that we’re not actually keyword stuffing though, since the phrase is only being used twice total.

If you take peek in AdWords, the phrase “SEO keyword spatula” has zero natural competition (as expected) but it is also somewhat related to almost 600,000 similar monthly searches containing both “SEO” and “keyword” within the phrase.  And if our little experiment here works, then I should have the #1 ranking not only for the worthless phrase I just made up, but also have the opportunity for getting noticed in dozens of similar search terms that people are actively searching for.

Does that make sense? It’s sort of a backdoor ninja approach to capturing the easy stuff and possibly getting noticed in the ultra-competitive niches as well.

You should be doing the exact same thing with all of those long-tail keywords within your niche that others are not actively targeting.  And the long-term benefits of consistently searching for and using new long-tail keyphrases within your website copy can pay serious cumulative rewards.

Video Marketing is Huge

Many people are on the fence about video marketing since Google cannot actively see the content contained within your embedded multimedia players.  Hopefully by now you’re not going to make me refer you back to the very first sentence again though; modern SEO is not about what Google sees.

It is about how your visitors react to the core content on your domain.  And if a video captures their attention while they’re visiting you, then Google doesn’t have to understand what they’re watching.  It helps you anyway.

  • DO use videos to explain core products and services
  • DO share videos on social sites
  • DO share other videos on your site that resonate with viewers
  • DO keep the majority of your videos under two minutes
  • DO focus on lighting and sound quality
  • DO NOT hesitate to shoot simple, first person videos with a smartphone

Here is another incredibly important piece of the puzzle for video though– the most influential video hosting website on the planet is owned by Google.  So not only does video marketing get the benefit of its very own search stream for consumers, but Google also prioritizes YouTube videos within both the natural and the video types of searches as well.  So you literally get three streams of exposure by posting one video on YouTube and embedding it into your website…and your customers will love you for it.

What does a homeless young Korean man in a singing competition have to do with SEO and video marketing?  It’s almost impossible not to be moved by his amazing journey…and that is engagement at its very finest.  However, if your videos happen to answer the specific questions that your website’s visitors are contemplating, then it is an extremely powerful sales technique as well.

So while video marketing is not a core SEO factor all by itself, the engagement that it creates certainly matters.

Boosting On-Page Metrics

Throughout this guide so far, we’ve talked about the term “engagement” in almost every single section.  It is certainly one of those buzzwords that are tossed around frequently by experts, but it hardly ever seems to get properly defined either.  So let’s define it now by search engine standards.

Customer engagement refers to any positive action that is taken by a user on a website.

Any when I say “any positive action”, that’s exactly what I mean.  Think about this for a moment- the average smartphone user visits a website and qualifies it in the mind in a mere three seconds.  So if you manage to tick over to that four second mark, it’s a positive.

Not a good one, mind you, but still a plus in your favor nonetheless.

And your entire job as a website owner is to create more and more of those positive experiences so the search engines know that people are finding good stuff there.  This can include any combination of the following-

  • Visiting multiple pages
  • Clicking on a backlink
  • Filling out a contact form
  • Leaving a comment
  • Sharing on social media
  • Watching a video
  • Downloading a file/app
  • Users revisiting to your website
  • Opting in for email alerts
  • Giving likes, +1’s or other nods

If you look in your Google Analytics account, the search giant has been tracking these types of metrics for years now, so it only makes sense that you should keep up with these key metrics as well.  Every chance you get to create additional engagement helps your website overall, so know that your on-page metrics are as important as ever in the eyes of the search engines.

If you’re wondering how to boost your on-page statistics, just try to make each page as pleasant of an experience as possible for your visitors.  Here are just a few techniques to do that-

  • DO focus on using only top notch writers
  • DO keep your navigation simple
  • DO add lots of visual elements to your website
  • DO incorporate video, charts, and infographs
  • DO use bullet points and subtitles to break up text
  • DO use bold and italics to make key points stand out
  • DO link internally so users have easy access to more content

Focusing on the Consumer

If you haven’t realized it by now, search engine optimization is all about the consumer.  The more you go out of your way to provide great information and make your visitors happy, the more Yahoo, Google and Bing will reward you with a boost in natural rankings.  And even though some of the things I’ve shared so far may seem super technical and difficult to implement, I’ll tell you one more time to read the first sentence of this article- that’s close to 85% of today’s SEO right there.

As long as you’re putting forth a genuine effort to become more helpful online than all of your competition, then you will eventually outrank them…even if it’s purely by dumb luck.

So let’s recap real fast with the highlights-

  1. Write great content.
  2. Optimize for mobile users.
  3. Focus on quality backlinks.
  4. Use local to your advantage.
  5. Don’t be that guy with too many ads.
  6. Make sure your website loads smoothly.
  7. Continue to focus on keywords.
  8. Post a few videos on your site.
  9. Use smart page layouts to increase engagement.
  10. Always focus on pleasing your consumers.

That’s not so hard, is it?

If you have any questions about modern search optimization or want to point out a tip or two that I missed, please feel free to reach out through my contact form or leave a comment below.  I’m here to help.

How One Post on Warrior Forum Drove $400k in Sales

How One Post on Warrior Forum Drove $400k in Sales

As some of you already know, I’ve been posting on Warrior Forum for about three months now under the username “kk075”. For those of you who don’t visit there, it happens to be the largest online marketing community in the world. My initial goal was to pick up a few tips about the latest affiliate marketing techniques since I’m mainly an SEO type of guy, but then I saw all these different questions about how to build a website and where to get traffic from.

Well, you writers out there can relate with me here…when you give us a new place to write about things, we get to typing in a hurry. So I was happy to help others with a few tidbits about internet marketing and other advice I have picked up over the years.  Then I dropped what turned out to be a bombshell of a post, “Making My First Million Online- My Story.” 

It’s definitely worth a read if you have time; here’s a quick summary though in case you don’t.  In essence, this post was highlighting how I began my freelance writing career, why I moved on to learn about web design and SEO, and all of my adventures as an affiliate marketer.  It seemed like every year I’d find a way to advance my game to hit that next level in professionalism, 

 

250k Views and $400k in Sales? From a Stinking Forum Post?

 

Here’s just a few of the baseline stats from that one post. Note that these are as of Saturday the 18th at around 9:00 PM, which is about 36 hours after Warrior Forum featured my post in their monthly email and suggested that you read it. So know that these are very early totals-

– It’s received 14,448 page views (the most of any new topic this year)
– It’s received 198 comments (the most of any new topic this year)
– It’s received 143 thanks on the original post and 258 total  throughout (the most for any topic this year)
– It led to 41 people starting a new website venture (either by hiring me or doing it themselves)
– It led to me giving 107 people specific advice via the forum, PM & email
– It led to three other joint affiliate projects

– This website received 2,106 unique visitors from Warrior Forum in the first 36 hours
– This site also received 87 business inquires from forum members in that same time frame

Think about that for a moment.  A total of 14.4% of people who read that post visited me here.  And all my signature link said was, “Visit my Web Forum”, which is about as weak of a call to action as you can possibly have.  That’s the thing though; I wasn’t trying to sell or promote at all- it was just an experiment on what some good old fashioned storytelling could accomplish.  So why on Earth did my post receive such an incredible response AND convince people to click through?

Let’s talk about that for a moment because it is really a blueprint in itself on how to be successful online.

Telling a Genuine Story

First, it was the way that I told my story. Whenever possible, I tried to be as specific as I could when describing how I made money or where I failed, and something that honest seems to resonate with people. The quote about Google really seemed to grab people’s attention as well, even though I wasn’t writing much about SEO or how it really works.  But people couldn’t deny great advice when it was staring them right in the face-

“So here’s the best piece of advice you’ll ever hear- Google has never changed. Not one bit. They only got better at meeting their original objective of making the site with the best content appear in the #1 slot, and you can’t do that by trying to optimize for Google. Instead, optimize your sites for the people you’re trying to connect with…and then Google will see your value. If you do that, then no Penguin or Panda update in the world can touch you.”

In any case, many saw this as game-changing advice and they ran with it. And if nothing but that came out of this whole process, then I’m absolutely thrilled…because a few lives will change for the better. That’s awesome!

Giving Actionable Feedback

The second thing that really seemed to draw users in was that every time they asked a question, I would respond to them with actionable advice that they could use immediately. I gave very specific advice about how to hire great writers, how to build a local niche site, and whatever people happened to ask…and I tried my best to make the message as personal as possible to their situation. In other words, it quickly stopped being about me and the focus shifted to you; which is why so many of you are here reading this now.

I also want to point out that I have more “thanks” on my account than the average 10 year Warrior Forum veteran, and a few people have already started quoting me in other forum threads as the SEO authority. This happened because I took the time to care about individuals, which is what every single one of you running a website should be doing. Again though; this post is not about me…it’s solely about you and how you can achieve greater success on the forum and in life.

Standing Up to Internet Bullies

Standing Up to the Bullies

Finally, there are countless people on Warrior Forum that claim to be “gurus”, but all they really hand out is open-ended promises and con artist philosophies. If you want their good stuff, then they expect you to head over to their website and buy it. There’s a vital lesson here though- if you’re not taking the time to show others that you’re the real deal through actions, then they’re not going to believe in you or your products.

And in a nutshell, that’s why a select few people were attacking me so furiously on the forum; I did in one post what they couldn’t do in ten years. To them, it felt like I somehow hacked the system, but all I was doing is exactly what Google tells you to do and exactly what your customers expect- they want to see great information that will help them make a decision. Since those “experts” couldn’t understand that, all they could do was try to make me look bad.

But that didn’t work, because my only interest was in helping you with no strings attached. So I killed them with kindness and you shut them up completely with comment after comment thanking me for help. And it made these folks even madder when I kept thanking you back, because for a very brief moment- the forum wasn’t about self-promotion, sales pitches and empty promises.  People were actually learning.

Why You Should Pay it Forward Online

As you can see from my website, there are no eBooks for sale or any lead capture boxes. Every single page was designed for a very specific purpose, and that’s to give you real advice to help you make better informed decisions before hiring me as a copywriter or a web designer. All I really did on Warrior Forum was replicate that process…I genuinely tried to be helpful and people responded.  The key to it though was that I went all-out with the advice whenever I could, which very rarely seems to happen there.

If you’re wondering what the big takeaway here is; it’s to treat everyone around you with respect and try to always go the extra mile without any expectations. Internet marketing is a business, and the rules are the exact same as running a department store or a Fortune 500 company. People will appreciate you putting their needs before your own and that’s how you build a solid reputation in any industry.

So the next time someone asks a question on Warrior Forum, take a moment and give them some genuine knowledge that could change their lives forever. One way or the other, it will come back to you over time- I promise it will.

2018 Update on the Warrior Forum Experiment

Looking back almost three years later, I’ve had countless internet marketers email me and ask for advice on replicating my success on Warrior Forum.  The first thing I always tell them is that being genuine and going out of your way to help others are traits that we rarely see in the web design community anymore- we are all so laser focused on money and paying the bills that we sometimes forget that we’re working for real people with real businesses that need real help.  My success on Warrior Forum was largely because those types of things have always been the core of my business model- just help people first and then worry about the money part later.  It has served me extremely well and continually opens new doorways.

The biggest benefit by far wasn’t the money or the clients or the traffic- it was the networking opportunities.  Daymond John’s business manager reached out to me offering a six-figure job within his organization (which I regretfully had to decline) and I met countless other fantastic people that were thriving digital experts in their own right.  They made me realize that my business model was terribly flawed because every single one of them needed a kick-ass copywriter.  So I ended up partnering with dozens of top digital design and marketing firms, let them chase down the huge clients out there, and I sat back answering my inbox as opportunities flowed in daily.  In essence, I created my own freelance community network where we all went out of our way to help each other, and it resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for my company plus exposure that I couldn’t buy with any amount of money.

Surprisingly, I still get the occasional message three years later from someone who stumbles across that old Warrior Forum post.  I am no longer active there though because I can’t stand their new forum layout/style- it makes finding great posts 10x harder than it used to be.  The result is novice internet marketers starting hundreds of new threads daily on “How Can I make Money Online??” and I just got tired of that scene.  I am still searching for a new marketing forum to call home and I’ve thought about starting my own- maybe that will happen this year.

Here are some finalized stats on that Warrior Forum experiment-

  • This website received a total of 256,435 unique visitors from Warrior Forum 
  • This site also received 398 business inquires from Warrior Forum members
  • I partnered with 8 different individuals and 14 different marketing firms due to that post
  • I generated approximately $400,000 in revenue from the opportunities that arose
  • I also turned down dozens of employment offers (a few I probably should have taken)
  • Most importantly, I met dozens of business professionals that I now work with daily

Looking back, what did I learn from this experiment?  The biggest takeaway is that you don’t have to spend a penny on marketing if you can engage people on forums and other online destinations.  Don’t tell people how awesome you are- show them!  Go out of your way to give genuine, honest advice and you’ll really stand out from the crowd.  Also, don’t focus on sales within any online community- people aren’t there to be sold to.  The sales part comes from networking and helping others- $400k from a single post is probably some kind of internet record for a freelance nobody like me.  But it wasn’t that one post that made this so successful; it was the hundreds of others that helped aspiring entrepreneurs figure a few things out.  People listened to me because they saw I was the real deal and had their best interests at heart.