Stop the excuses: launch your web business

Stop excuses launch web business

Now I’ve had the good fortune to be part of a number of great startups and companies. And I’ve been able to use my experience to start a number of online companies, including my newest venture MarijuanaRates.com.  

If you are looking to launch an online business, here is my first step to take to ease you into being a business owner.

Basics of starting a web business: Decide on the type of business you want to provide.

The choices are, but not limited to a service , ecommerce, subscription, or software. This decision will help you with your monetization plan.

Move past the fear and stick to integrity.  

Starting a business is scary. It’s not abnormal to ask yourself questions like:

  • Is my idea stupid?
  • Someone is already doing it, what will make my business different from the competition?
  • Will my business succeed?
  • What if my business fails?
  • Will my business make money?

You’ll find many articles written about how entrepreneurs succeed — not many discuss the failures.

Here’s the thing: You’ve got to embrace those failures and learn from them.

We often choose to only remember the good times and forget the bad. But guess what? You’re the only person who knows you failed and why.

During the early years of PearlyWrites.com, the business took on it’s own direction and I didn’t like where it was going. The control freak in me didn’t like clients dictating my service offerings. It took about a year of adjustment to bring it back to the intended direction.

  • Did anyone know this happened? Not unless I shared it publicly. Clients wanted the quick win of blackhat-SEO thin content, and I didn’t.
  • Did we lose clients and money because I chose to stand my ground? Yes.
  • Did it cause financial hardship? Yes.
  • But am I happy I did it? Absolutely!

Ever hear of Demand Media? PearlyWrites would bid against this company but we offered real, researched and sourced writing — the opposite of what Demand Media was offering.

For those who remembered the mid-2000s, SEO and digital marketing was a disaster of scams to find ways to make money quickly on the Internet, any way possible. The Google results were full of spammy sites due to thin, non-informational content. This is why Google consistently adjust the algorithm to keep clean, informational results in the rankings. Knowing that the plan was to be in the industry for the long term, I stepped away from bidding and restructured my marketing strategy. Because we did that, we gained corporate clients and are still in business.

What’s stopping you? Launch your business and work it. When you are ready to share with others, then promote it.

 

Full edited article appeared in The Altucher Report.

Do you set goals for your content?

Creating content has become the driving force for many online marketing strategies. With the buzzword of “content marketing”, not only does a business need to create engaging and thorough content for their own site, but they also need to consider the marketing plan way before they ever hit publish.

When speaking to many content creators, and discussing the topics they want to create, more times than not they automatically use the word, story or article. I understand, I spent many years creating content just with words so it took me a few years to retrain my brain into thinking about the different content types.

  • Infographics
  • Data-driven surveys
  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Slideshows
  • Interactive charts
  • Widgets
  • Social content
  • Visuals
  • Screencasts

Till this day you won’t see me on video (unless someone records my presentation), though I have been approached a few times, to get in front of a camera and use video as a content type. Maybe one day in the future, once I get over my fear of being in front of a camera, will I appear on video. But I have reached outside my comfort zone when developing content to use visuals, audios (even led an internet radio show) and being “PearlyWrites” on social media.

To get back to the original question, when starting to brainstorm about a piece of content, do you set goals first?

Since we know that a piece of content can take a few hours to a few weeks to create, you want to get the most use or “legs” from your efforts. Some goals for content can be:

Depending on what the initial goal is will direct which of the above you are going for. If you are strictly going for rankings, then the brainstorming session will start at the keyword and the conversations that are centered around the particular keyword.

If the goal is to earn authority and attribution, then the first question you ask during brainstorming is:

  • What question are you answering for the user?

Then the second questions are:

  • Who would be interested in this piece of content and why?

Once these questions are answered, it directs the content creator to drill down even further to reviewing what the competition has done and making the decision of how to approach the topic from adding a different perspective, or using a data set which is unique only to your site. Using unique data sets is a strong approach when wanting to hit a few of the above goals. It allows for not only earning authority in the niche but links and gets the community talking about it.

Have other goals not mentioned here? Share & let’s learn together.

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Directing Users to a Conversion Action

How many times have you been on a website and clicked back because there was no direction to the design madness?

A users first action is to search for an answer through Google, many times through mobile, and when the results populate in the SERP’s, the marketing copy seems to answer their inquiry so they click. Once they click, it’s a 50/50 shot that they actually receive the answer they were looking for. Or at least pointed in the direction where the answer may reside within the website.

Grabbing the User

Recently I was searching for a swim team for my daughter (who is quite the fish) so did a search for “swim team in Delray Beach“. In the SERP’s, my question was answered within seconds by the results.

FLASwim-SERPs

I clicked on the first result since the meta description answered my question, as well as had a local confirmed listing with the local map in the right rail. As a user, I felt this business was legit.

FLASwim-homepage

When I arrived at the website, I was happy to find a call to action, above the fold, scrolling module which advertised the latest programs and newest announcements. The site was up to date! There even is an offer of a free week all within seconds of landing on the home page of FLASwim.com.

Accessibility & Trust

Then I stayed on the site to find the information about swim team for my daughter, the days, times and costs all from the top navigation. The site isn’t cluttered or directing me into 20 different places. The mobile version is using the same positive aspects so the consistency between both the desktop and mobile versions brings a trust to the user.

Of course my favorite part I saw, below the fold, are their multiple Twitter streams and Facebook community!

FLASwim-SocialStreams

If I was to do a Content and Social Media assessment on this site, I would suggest not directing their Twitter community to their Facebook page, but create content that directs the community to their site and add a G+ page to build up that community. But just my two cents…

Of course the next thing I would complete is a search on the business and reviews from other clients. If all this checks out and looks good, I will be a new client of this business.

It takes a few items to make a user feel trust when wanting to convert them into a client. It starts with:

  • findability,
  • answering the users question,
  • not having too many paths or choices,
  • directing the user to make a call or sign up.

When the presentation draws the user to stay on the site, it allows for building trust and the visitor to click around. Advertising your business online should be focused on converting the lead to take action. Make the user feel comfortable to transact.

Connect with Lisa Weinberger on Google+.

Interview: SEO and Social Media in TechRepublic

In the past few months, I have traveled to both coasts as well as overseas, and in between was asked by Nicole Nash for an interview about what I have been doing for a living since the mid-90’s, digital marketing. I had the pleasure of presenting at SMX West and PubCon NOLA about integrating SEO into your Content and Social Media tactics and strategies which was fun.

Interview at 30,000 Feet

In between all the business trips and flying, the interview was conducted. We spoke on the phone, questions were emailed to me while home for a few days, and after flying to California and back, the interview was finally completed and emailed from high up in the air over the Rockies.

The day I presented at PubCon NOLA, to my surprise, the interview on TechRepublic about my integrated marketing approach was published. Knowing Nicole since 2005, she and I not only grew together as colleagues, but as friends.

My Twitter notifications were blowing up and I wasn’t sure why.

Then when I saw the interview was published, and read what Nicole wrote, I was brought to tears. She was able to paint a picture of the trials and struggles I dealt with as a content business, holding to my high standards, back when clients wanted crap content. No one else but Nicole could have captured and recollected my experience the way she did.

The Past to Present

PearlyWrites started as a freelance writing project, and quickly turned into a full time business where we not only fulfilled content requests from clients but created and executed eLearning curriculum development, SEO, Content and Social Media strategies where still today, we train and support our clients. (As Nicole reminded me in the interview, we would call it “Organic SEO“.) We developed our network of reliable contractors when specific requests were made like building the GoHappyGoHojo(TM) website with a points of interest search function.

We continue to maintain our network today and still love to make connections amongst each other.

Read the full interview on TechRepublic about my SEO and Social Media approach.

A huge thanks to Nicole Nash for allowing me to share some of my knowledge and relive the beginning stages of my business.

Connect with Lisa Weinberger on Google+.

Using Social Media Data to Find Authority Influencers

Source: Marketwire

 

In my many years of working in the field of Search and Social, the cool thing is our approach has always been focused on creating strategies all centered around research and data. (Check the tag line…)

Research could range from search engine rankings, analytics, content auditing, analyzing the competition, to the actual data research for the development of the content piece.

Prior to writing any content, we always research the targets, the competitors and ranking, the available data sources (free & paid), the authority influencers who can either be a contributor in our content piece OR would be interested in reading the content itself. From there, then we begin reviewing the topics and content types which the competition holds a strong placement for. And finally, once we gather all our background research, is when we decide on the content type we plan to create.

There has been many times we have gotten halfway through our process where we decided it wasn’t worth continuing if we couldn’t offer the user something of substance. If the information wasn’t totally different than what any other site was publishing in our space, I have made the decision to “Stop the Presses!”

Why?

Because when we develop content, we develop content with a purpose. If we don’t hit one to three of our goals, then the content didn’t perform the way we intended it to. When we don’t hit the goal, as a team we examine and analyze what went wrong and take a note so we don’t repeat.

Part of our SEO and content development process is using social media to find authority influencers.

What exactly is an authority influencer (AI)?

Of course the first thing that enters the mind is a celebrity, but the reality is how many people can interview or be in direct contact with a celebrity. So for the regular person who doesn’t have the connections to get a Kardashian’s phone number, where do we turn? Social Media has opened a path to connect with others throughout the world but mining through all the profiles on all the multiple networks can slow down the content creation and promotion process, hence slowing down the influencer courtship.

One suggestion, which we have used is to create a criteria that your influencers must meet. Whether they have over 10,000 followers, converse about a topic a few times a day, has a strong community within their own website niche; these are just a few ideas prior to spending your time researching for your AIs.

This week, I will be presenting at NCDM 2012 Orlando about this very topic with a colleague where we will share more details about the criteria we use when using social media data to find influencers. Incorporating Search, Social and Content Development data is all part of the strategy we created and continue to use as well as internal proprietary tools. Let’s connect!

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Data Driven Content Attract Readers

Doing an evaluation of your site content every few months allows for growth and opportunities.

Ask yourself or team a few questions to get the discussion started:

  • Does your content attract readers?
  • Are the readers the type of traffic you want to attract to your website?
  • Which content type brings in the most engagement?

Just like how teachers are taught to create lessons using Bloom’s Taxonomy, which attempts to hit all learners: the auditory, tactical or visual learner; the same approach should be used when creating content. There are a variety of users visiting your website and the population demographic may not just be in your city or even country!

Bloom’s Taxonomy
Source: @jepilgreenss

Data used in content doesn’t just have to be written. Try a few different approaches with the data you collect.

Example: The site is a provider of gluten-free products and considered an authority source of information about Celiac Disease and living with gluten intolerance. After reviewing the site analytics your team sees that traffic is strongest on Monday and Tuesday between the hours of 9:00am EST and 12:00pm EST. It shows traffic coming directly from search the first hour and then from the social promotion campaigns. Twitter is driving the most eyes so with all this information, the first indication is to create a piece of content for Monday morning which is focused on what your site is known for which is gluten free information.

Next steps:

  • See where your site is positioned to make sure you do not create content which either your site already has ranking for or that a competitor already has strong placements.
  • Research to find any new studies that were published in the past 6 months to a year where your team can use the data; but not use all the information from just one study but research 2 or 3 studies and decide on the unique attributes to overlay and present.
  • Places to research for data could be the Journal of Medicine, Newswise or the Department of Health.
  • In reality, you are creating your own survey to continue being the authority source on the subject.

What brings readers to your site and share with others are unique data points.

Once these data points are decided, then the content type brainstorming sessions can begin. This is where the fun begins. Since the analytics indicated the high traffic days and times, consider creating a few pieces of content, presenting different data points in a variety of ways, to publish on the different days between the hours when eyes are on your site.

Be creative and optimize for all uses…Happy Publishing!

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Clean, Connect & Engage

Sometimes we put things on our to-do list like update the design to our own website that tends to be put to the end of the list.

An old friend came out of hiding a few weeks ago and what a great time he did because I needed a kick in the ass. He simply said, “Lisa, your process is all about creating engaging content which can be promoted, but your own site doesn’t allow to share or connect.”

Yes, this is true as my last site update was from January 2009, so many items in search, content and social has changed. The landscape, the Google updates, the usability, the IA, the overall design of a site and how the web is mostly accessed on a mobile device vs a desktop.

So I had to get my slap in the head from over 3000 miles away to make me realize it was time for a site update.

You will notice the design is minimal, clean, shareable and

Chosen as an SMX East Presenter: Authorship to Authority

It has been a wild year in search with Panda and Penguin being tossed out by the big “G” but what an exciting year in search and social it has been.

My big deal moment came a few weeks ago when I was chosen as a presenter to speak at SMX East on the Authorship to Authority panel on October 3 at 3:30 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in NYC! I am joined by many other greats in the industry and very lucky to have the opportunity to share my 15 years of content development, SEO and Social knowledge with a ballroom of interested attendees.

I am speaking at SMX East
Below is the official description for the panel.

From Authorship To Authority: Why Claiming Your Identity Matters (#smx #23C)
With all of the recent focus on “content is king,” many marketers overlook that there’s a much broader process involved in establishing and maintaining the all-important factor of “authority.” This comprehensive session considers the entire process of “claiming your identity,” starting with brainstorming sessions with SEO, social and content development teams, to content promotion tactics for gaining authority links. Both enterprise SEO teams as well as outside consultants will benefit from this session.

Moderator: Elisabeth Osmeloski, Managing Editor, Search Engine Land (@elisabethos)

Q&A Moderator: Carrie Hill, Director of Online Marketing Services, KeyRelevance, LLC (@CarrieHill)

Speakers:

Mike Arnesen, Senior SEO Analyst, SwellPath (@mike_arnesen)
Brahm Booth, Director of Marketing and Ecommerce, WowWee (@brahmbooth)
Bill Slawski, Senior SEO Consultant, Webimax (@bill_slawski)
Lisa Weinberger, Director, Content Promotion, Bankrate, Inc. (@PearlyWrites)

After 3 years of not speaking at industry conferences, a few colleagues gave me the push to send out proposals to get myself out from behind the computer screen and be seen in person. My first industry presentation was at Simon Leung’s (aka Coolsi) first conference in 2007 in San Jose and prior to that experience, thanks to my education background, I taught in college classrooms since 2003. If you can keep hung over college student’s interested at 8:00am, presenting to 75 – 400 attendees doesn’t seem too difficult.

My presentation will focus on “Content Development with Purpose.” If you have been following my twitter stream the past few weeks, I’ve been posting some small tidbits of information about this topic which incorporates all three focuses of search, social and content strategy. How all teams working together can produce not only amazing content, but content which is informative, interesting, engaging and visitors want to SHARE and READ. BUT does all content have to be read?

Can’t wait to meet you at SMX East and answer this and many other questions.

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You Clean Up Nice; What About Your Content

In the past year the phrase which keeps being repeated to me when I am seen in a dress & make-up, “You clean up nice.”

Is this suppose to be a compliment?

Does your content clean up nicely?

Since my teenage years I always chose jeans, t-shirts or shorts to wear. Hair in a ponytail, thanks to Shirley Temple curls and I was never into make-up or trying to impress others. Spending most of my childhood up on a stage where I dressed in costume and globs of make-up was applied to my face as I gracefully danced around definitely had something to do with not wanting to add fakeness to myself as I grew older. With the addition of always ending up with some skin irritation and eye infection, putting make-up on left me with a bad experience.

Up to age 25, it never bothered me till my wedding day. I walked over to my grandmother (Pearl) during my wedding reception where she said the most sarcastic thing to me, “You clean up nice.” My mouth dropped open, I smiled, hugged her and said, “I love you too grandma!”

Since I always felt living a natural and an organic life also included natural beauty, why did I have to “dress” up for others?

Then I realized what my grandmother was trying to say that day. It wasn’t so much about the make-up or hair but the way I held myself like I used to up on stage during all my solo dance performances. The confidence which shined through that day because I was “put” together from hair, make-up to the wedding gown and my ballroom dance placed me back up on that stage ready to perform.

When approaching brainstorming sessions with my team, before the content creation process, there are a series of questions we ask ourselves. These questions are focused on the presentation of the content and how others will perceive it. Another way of saying, “you clean up nice” but focused on the production of content.

If a piece of content isn’t formatted in a way that is eye pleasing or easily understood to your target audience, then why bother to write or even create the piece? Taking all the time to create with no real reward, what is the reasoning behind this?

To relate this idea back to being told that I clean up nicely, I am guessing the effort to be presentable, to each individual, have different “clean up nice” levels. A lot of my reasoning of why I choose to dress the way I do is I am a shy person and getting attention from others has always been an internal fight.

Could this also be a reason why some pieces of content that are created are not overly driven by data and promotion? Does the creator not want the attention for their piece?

As I have grown into a “mature” woman, I am getting more used to “cleaning up nicely” but the internal struggle will always be there. When it comes to content, I’ll always make sure it is presentable and as my grandmother said to me it will “Clean up nicely.”

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When second choice grows a business

Although many people know us as PearlyWrites, the history of how we became PW needs to be shared. In 1994, I started as a freelancer where I consulted small businesses on how to be found in the search engines like Ask, AOL and Netscape. My father is the person who got me interested in search engines, thanks to his engineering and government background, he was on the Internet, even before AOL! (Yes the Al Gore Internet…)

So when my parents launched their housecleaning business website and I saw how using keywords brought in traffic to the site, I wanted to learn more. My thirst for knowledge about search led me to finding mentors in Internet marketing and learning more technical items like back end coding and how search engines work.

Jump ahead to 2002, while completing my Masters degree in education, I decided to start PearlyWrites. I began transitioning from individual freelancer to business owner. Although I was already a business owner of a private tutoring service, the new venture was a business which was based on gaining exposure online and through referrals which was different than the tutoring service where we were the first choice by 4 synagogues in Northern New Jersey and was referred new business every week due to my reputation of “being able to teach a bear to dance”.

And PearlyWrites.com was born and we were the second choice of many of the proposals we sent. It was a different world for me; from being first choice to now fighting to create a reputation in a whole other field. BUT the cool thing was the new business was virtual which meant business could come from anywhere! No longer did I have to be marketing just to the local market, I could market all throughout the world.

While based in New Jersey, our first client was based in the UK which was awesome! Our second client was based in Australia where we provided all their web copy, marketing collateral and email campaigns for UnlocktheGame.com. Ari Galper was great to work for and very innovative. Then we signed our first client in the mid-west who we signed a contract for a year. Within 3 months of officially launching the business, we set a year goal which we hit 3 months later.

Now in month 6, it was time to bring on contractors to help with the client work and I went from freelancer to project manager to business owner. Although we grew by yards quicker than we planned, many of the clients who signed with PearlyWrites, we were actually their second choice. The first few times got me aggravated and then I realized, “Who cares! They want PW to do their work.”

Thanks to my earlier years of SEO experience, when Google came into the search world, understanding the algorithm was easy for me to connect it to content development and promoting to gain the most exposure and engagement which today is considered social media. So when PearlyWrites started we may have been the second choice for many of our first clients, but without them we wouldn’t be where we are today. We wouldn’t have gained the experience or even walked through the doors that have opened for myself and our team, would have never been possible without taking those first steps and taking the chance of being the second choice.

Going from a business where we were the first and only choice to a new business endevour and being the second choice allowed us to realize that sometimes a different approach and change is good. From the beginning of PW, we have relocated 3 times thanks to the lessons the business has taught us.

Change is good! Change lends itself to the continuation of learning!

So if a client comes back to you and you are their second choice, if the project is something that benefits you or your business, don’t say no right away. It may surprise you 10 years later when you look back and see how far you have come.

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