I love to talk shop so much that I can’t help but peek behind the scenes when I travel.
Every summer when my kids were young, we went to Tyler Place – a magical spot that feels more “camp” than “resort.”
But make no mistake, there is nothing campy about the food at Tyler Place. This vacation consistently draws persnickety palettes back year after year for its gourmet, farm-to-table menu.
And there’s a 3-year wait for a reservation at Tyler Place because a family has to “drop out” before a new family can take their place. And, well, families rarely drop out. They come back year after year and even return with their grandkids.
By the time I got the call that we’d been “accepted,” it felt more like being admitted to Harvard than just handing over a credit card to pay for a week-long vacation.
The Tylers are certainly doing something right!
What’s also distinctive about Tyler Place is that the Tylers themselves mingle, run activities, and eat with the guests.
Everywhere guests look, there’s a Tyler.
“What percentage of the hash browns do you think should be crunchy?” One of the Tylers asked me one morning in the line for breakfast.
I had never thought about the ideal ratio of crunchy-to-mushy hashbrowns, but he sure had.
And it turned Mr. Tyler was there in line with me to inspect the breakfast potatoes, which he felt should be “65%-brown-and-crisp to 35% white and mushy.”
As a business owner, I understood that having the Tylers roaming amongst paying guests was a way to quality-control the operation. And I appreciated that they cared enough to stay engaged.
It certainly would’ve be easier for them to hire out the day to day management of the resort and “stay out of the weeds.” But I’m not sure they’d have a 3-year waiting list if they didn’t obsess about the crunchy-to-mushy ratio of the hashbrowns.
In my business, I’m Mrs. Tyler.
I have all kinds of standards that need enforcing – all of which are as fastidious as Mr. Tyler’s hash brown ratios – but I can only do this if I’m connected, engaged, and there.
Mrs. Tyler wants her presence known. She’s watching, overhearing, and connected.
The mice don’t play when Mrs. Tyler’s around!
Bikes are the only way to get around at Tyler Place!
Large corporations with huge budgets have the exact same problem as you do – a lack of original photos for their websites.
Luckily there’s are effortless ways to find photos for your website if you know a few tricks.
If you’re writing needs a photo for embellishment or to make what you’re writing stronger, simply ask your SEO agency to use stock photos for you.
Most agencies have a subscription to Canva or Shutterstock. Shutterstock offers weirdly specific images and you can often find a photo that looks like you have a professional photographer on staff.
And if you do your writing without an SEO agency’s help, you can get free stock photos via the free version of the app Canva. Booyah!
How precise will the photo be if it’s a stock photo?
Let’s do a search on Canva.com and see what comes up:
You’re able to search Shutterstock without a membership. Once you find an image you like, note the photo’s number.
“Good enough” photos are just fine!
Most of us have a professional camera built into our smartphones.
And since most readers want authentic photos from a small or local business, readers are very forgiving if the pictures you have are less than perfect.
If you need a photo of a person, consider using “Portrait Mode” to blur the background.
Portrait Mode is so exceptional that some runway models are now taking their own headshots using this setting and skipping professional photographers altogether.
If your business is part of a franchise or other business co-op:
My painting company is part of the CertaPro Franchise, so I simply screenshot their website images and upload them to my own site. You cannot do this if you don’t ask permission, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
People read photo captions:
Make sure you’re adding captions to your photos because often, people won’t read any of the words, except for the captions.
Don’t forget to add “Alt Text:”
This sounds like you’d need to know coding to add this, but Alt-Text is simply a description of the photo for someone who has trouble seeing.
It’s “not that bad” to publish a post without a photo!
If you can’t find a photo you like, simply publish the article without a photo. You’ll still get Google credit, and you can always go back in and add an image later on.
Most importantly: Understand that posting without a photo is infinitely better than not posting on your website at all!
If photos are holding you back from publishing to your small business website, don’t let this stop you. Publish posts with less-than-ideal photos or with none at all.
This is the fourth post in my series “Simplifying SEO for Small Businesses.”
Use a short cycle (like 30 minutes), so your clothes aren’t mangled in the washer.
Notice how the above bulletsabout laundry:
1. Reflect the point of view of someone who LOVES laundry.
2. Introduce unique terms that a true laundry lover would know. For example, I bet you’ve never heard of Sodium Percarbonate!
3. Gives your SEO agency a lot of great information to use that may not already be available on the World Wide Web.
The SEO writer at your agency can now take this “insider-laundry-content” and write a nice 300-400 word post for me.
“But, I REALLY can’t write/hate to write/won’t write.”
If you know you’re simply not going the write stuff for your website, here are a few options:
Have your salespeople who are close to your customers and know their questions, write some bullet points. Answer questions that customers most often ask them with nuanced insider information that’s not widely available on the web already.
Ask your staff – someone you employ has to likes writing. Make them in charge of “collecting bullet points” for you.
Hire your kids – they’ve heard you talk incessantly at the dinner table about the pitfalls and upsides of your business – put their knowledge to good use. Just be sure that they talk with your staff and really dive into the subtleties of the subject matter.
Remember, Google is easier to please than your high school English teacher.
Google rewards the following types of things with higher search placement:
Most small business owners glaze over when asked to “write a blog post for their website.”
Today I’ll make it easy to understand exactly “what to write.”
A blog post is like a magazine article that sits on your website.
If a person is searching for answers on Google, and your blog post does an excellent job of explaining the subject, Google delivers your blog post to the searcher. This is much like when your grandmother snail-mails you an article she knows you’ll like.
Getting people to your blog is good because you now have a potential customer right there on your website (and not your competitor’s).
Google does not charge you to deliver your blog to searchers. Google is in the business of delivering the best search results to their searchers; if your blog post is the “best answer” to a searcher’s Google query, Google happily offers up your blog post to the searcher.
Wait, if Google doesn’t charge me, what’s in it for Google?
Google’s “world-class search experience” keeps searchers coming back to Google and keeps them away from other search engines.
The more people who start their searches on Google, the more Google can charge for its paid-ads to small businesses. But remember, paid-ads aren’t what we’re talking about here.
But I pay a lot of money to my SEO agency, why can’t they just write the blogs for me?
You should write your own website posts and have your SEO agency edit your words to optimize them for SEO because:
1. You know your business.
2. You know the jargon, the vernacular, and the subtleties of your business and local area.
3. A writer without this knowledge is much less skilled in writing anything nuanced enough to rank high on a Google search.
4. The best a freelancer or SEO agency could do is re-write information that’s already on the web. And Google does not reward this type of writing.
Google rewards skilled and nuanced perspectives that offer a peek into the mind of someone out there grinding in the day-to-day of their industry.
So while a freelance writer at your SEO agency could easily rewrite information from other sources about upholstering a sofa, a person who actually upholsters sofas could write about the intricacies of the thread they use, the stitching they prefer, and how they like to finish off the underside of the furniture with a different type of cloth.
Deciding what to write for your small business website:
Here are two rules of thumb I use when deciding on what to write on my website.
Choose a subject your customers ask you about over and over. Remember, if your customers are asking you questions, they’re also asking Google those same questions.
Prioritize subjects that are associated with your high-value products. For example, writing articles about painting epoxy floors in large warehouses is more lucrative than painting front doors. Eventually, you can break this rule when you’ve got a lot published, but start with high-dollar-value subjects first.
My next post will center on exactly “how” to write a blog post, especially if you “can’t/won’t or hate to write.”
You just read Day #2 in my series: “Simplifying SEO for small businesses.”
As a small business owner, do you freeze or put your head in the sand when you hear “you should work on your website?”
I did too. So let’s simplify things.
What does it mean to “work on your website?”
By writing posts for your website that answer web searchers’ questions, Google directs searchers to your posts bringing free traffic to your website. This is called, “SEO” or “Search Engine Optimization.”
Bonus: If searchers want answers in your area of expertise, they’re also likely in the market for what you sell. Getting them to your website allows them to get answers and (hopefully) buy from you.
What’s does it mean to “write a post” or “blog?”
Think of a blog post like a magazine article that sits on your website.
Let’s look at a real Google Search:
But wait Paige, you said SEO was “old-fashioned?”
When I was small, my dad owned a tiny picture framing shop in our town. When customers would ask him, “Do you know a good painter in our area?” or “Who’s the best children’s photographer?” he’d pull out his Rolodex (now that’s old-fashioned) and serve up answers to his customers. He did this as a way to provide an extra bit of expertise and service to his customers.
Back in the 1970s, in his frame shop, my dad was acting as a “Human Google,” directing people to the businesses that could solve their problems.
So how do I know what answers people want?
Let’s go back to my dad’s frame shop. If my dad were working on his picture framing website, he’d be wise to write a post about what his customers were asking him in person.
This is an important point that’s worth repeating:
The questions your customers are asking you, are the same questions they’re asking Google.
In my dad’s case, today he might write a post on the cost to frame a keepsake, how to frame a pair of leather gloves, or the role a mat plays in keeping artwork protected.
So start right there – writing the answers you’re asked over and over again by your customers.
In the mid-2000s, car dealers often asked, “have I done everything to make this a 5-star experience?” I always felt put on the spot, and I hardly ever answered truthfully.
Assuming we only have a handful of genuinely 5-star experiences in our lives, getting my oil changed hardly felt like one of them. As a small business owner, I never want to game the system and get flattering ratings without merit. I consider it my only job to identify the messy truth about the goings-on in my business and fix them, and so that’s what I’m going to share here in this blog.
I’ll do my best to get quite granular and not sugar-coat the truth for you, so you’ll understand why running a small business is so darn hard most days.
I quit my corporate job to start my first small business when I was 26 years old to have more time with my kids.
Mind you, this was a full 5 years before my first child was born, but I could read the tea leaves: If I stayed in my current career in corporate America, I’d never see my future kids.
I’m a bit of a planner.
My friend, Jessica, always reminds me that our businesses were started to serve our lives. Full stop.
In the 23 years I’ve been a mom to three boys, my business has allowed me to work from home 99% of the time. This meant I could “be there.”
And when they were younger, my kids needed me to be there a whole lot. This meant that I went to library storytime, volunteered in their classrooms, and could finish my work at 10 pm when they were asleep.
As they’ve gotten older (they’re now 23, 18, and 15)- it’s now super-easy to work “regular business hours” and not remember to stop and spend time with them.
Last week, my son Joey gave a presentation at 11 am to an organization in our town. I had to remind myself not to be frustrated that the 11 am start time would cut into my “normal working hours,” and I forced myself to stop, drive across town and go to his speech.
Joey’s leaving for college in 3 weeks so my chances to “be there” for him are now vanishing before my eyes.
Jessica’s words reverberated in my head the whole way there that THIS flexibility was THE reason I started my small business in the first place.
And if I didn’t take advantage of these now very fleeting times with my older kids, well then, shame on me.
Do your research, take your time, word-smith the heck out of your words. And then decide.
Leverage all of the time you spent deciding by then spreading your decision out over the next decade.
For example, in our office we:
1. Play a game of Plinko at our weekly meeting when it’s your birthday to win cold-hard cash. This prevents us from finding out it’s your birthday, spending time online figuring out what to get you, and doing a mad dash to the store to pick up a gift. It also frees up your colleagues’ from the mental load of deciding what to write when they sign your card.
2. Use TextExpander software to pre-think our email responses, so they’re ready for action on Tuesday when we are too busy to think clearly. We have hundreds of TextExpander templates, including one for rejecting a candidate, saying “no” to a project, and scheduling a meeting – all composed to perfection a few years ago.
3. Use “Subscribe and Save” for office snacks – nobody has any mental load deciding if we should get Swedish Fish or Wheat Thins (Swedish Fish, of course!).
4. Ask each employee when they start, 3 sandwiches they like. This makes ordering lunch for the team a whole lot easier on our Office Manager.
What have you handed over to the “Decide Once” gods in your life?