Monthly Archives: December 2010

Two Mouth, One Ears

Post written by Matthew Egan. Follow Matthew on Twitter.

The holiday season is a time when we often look back and reflect on the closing year. There’s no better time than now for us to do that here at Image Freedom as the new year will bring with it “Season Two,” when we plan to unveil some of our new tricks.

I find myself, with my business owner hat on, looking back at this past year and deciding what my big personal project for 2011 has to be: listening.

Listening? I know that sounds ridiculously simple. But I’m an ADD kid. I’m hyperactive. Sometimes that brings with it impatience. As I sat in the San Antonio Zen Center recently, I reflected on how frequently I have to force myself to listen, even when it doesn’t come naturally.

This year, I’ve had the privilege of listening to Lindsay Wassell teach us the concepts of better SEO site audits and how to provide more clear and robust reporting for those audits. My time spent in Seattle at the Mozinar listening to Lindsay helped inspire clearer reports from our Image Freedom team.

I had the honor of chatting with Will Critchlow about growing a business, the baby steps it takes, and how it takes years to become an “overnight success.” Now, fifteen months into my own business, I am wiser thanks to Will and the expectations I set out (or often didn’t set out) in front of myself thanks to his example.

I was blown away by meeting David Mihm and have had my horizons broadened when it comes to Local SEO. Not only that, David’s blog, Mihmorandum, has to be one of the finest looking web designs I’ve ever seen and has inspired a lot of our Season Two revisions (more on that soon).

I’ve had the chance to listen to smart and successful people and I did the best I could to retain their wisdom. I’ve been on and off Adderall. I’ve started studying the real impact that ADD can have on a business owner, both in learning style and social relationships. I look back at all I’ve gained by listening over the last year and wonder how much more could I benefit if I put even more energy into listening next year.

They say that God gave us one mouth and two ears for a reason. Are you talking more than you’re listening? I know I often do.

My New Year’s Resolution: Talk less and be happy just listening.

You never know what you might hear.

Matthew Egan is the President of San Antonio SEO consulting firm Image Freedom. When not dancing to the blues, Matthew helps web pages like yours get more traffic through content driven Search Engine Optimization.

Professionalism is Dead

Post written by Matthew Egan. Follow Matthew on Twitter.

I recently ran a poll on Facebook asking my nearest and dearest social media-savvy friends about whether or not business and personal life should mix online. Conventional wisdom dictates that you keep your work and your private lives separate. But modern (especially Social Media friendly) wisdom says you that when you share who you really are, without putting on a false “professional” front, people will respond better.

My quest to eschew the traditional notion of professionalism won’t stop me from wearing pants, though that endeavor would likely generate some interesting link bait. I’m not a Senior Vice President at Microsoft. I’m a geeky kid from Los Angeles who tries to make the web a better place. I’m all I’ve got, so why not be myself?

 

I am constantly inspired by bloggers like Leo Babauta and Penelope Trunk who blatantly expose their true personality and build a community around their own confidence (or, in many cases, fears). I’m not perfect. While I do run an honest business, I make mistakes and I believe it makes me a better businessman to own those mistakes, even publicly.

The Facebook feedback I received about my “personal vs. professional” dilemma was phenomenal. Holly Hoffman, co-founder of Neovia Solutions said, “Consider your audience. Would one be annoyed by the content of the other?” She’s right. I should keep my blogging on-topic. I can maybe deviate 10% of the time, but not in a way that will put people off.

Melba Romero added, “I have a personal FB page and business FB page, but I don’t ever post personal hobby on business FB…hmmm, now you’ve got me thinking!” She is absolutely right, and that was my concern. If you decide you’re going to have a personal blog, a business blog, a blog about cooking and a blog about your comic book collection, something will get neglected. So why split it all up?

If I find I have blog topics bursting out of me that are even geekier than the standard fare that’s usually offered here on the Image Freedom blog, I may post them elsewhere. My personal blogging — thoughts on business and marketing — will remain here at Image Freedom.

Where I live. Where it belongs.

Matthew Egan is the President of San Antonio SEO consulting firm Image Freedom. When not dancing to the blues, Matthew helps web pages like yours get more traffic through content driven Search Engine Optimization.

They Pay Me to be a Jerk

Post written by Matthew Egan. Follow Matthew on Twitter.

I don’t mean to be a jerk, but sometimes your website just sucks.

Some of you paid a lot of money to have your site designed by someone who pretended to be amazingly talented. But, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is whether or not your website brings results.

I often have to explain to clients, “Your web site doesn’t have any Title Tags.” To which I often get the response of, “But I paid a lot of money for that website,” as if somehow paying a lot of money means that effective Search Engine Optimization will magically happen on its own.

Not every graphic artist should be programming. Not every programmer knows how to do SEO. And not every website, whether you paid $300 for it or $30,000, is created for success.

That’s why I’m a jerk. You leave me no choice!

 

I’m the poor sap who gets brought in to fix your website. Maybe you hired a “Black Hat” SEO — a company that uses sneaky tricks to manipulate search engines — and you figured you wouldn’t get caught or you just didn’t know any better. Now your website’s been banned from Google and you need help repairing your company’s online reputation.

Maybe your website looks good and serves as a great brochure for your company, but it doesn’t motivate the reader to interact with the site or to engage with your company in any way.

Maybe an SEO company lied to you and made outrageous promises that they knew they couldn’t keep. And for that I’m sorry.

I’m not going to lie to you. But please remember that the truth can hurt.

Here are three of the biggest things I look for when I’m doing a website review and establishing what a company needs to do to improve their internet marketing:

#1 – Are you using the right keywords?

You should use keywords with intent. Is your website designed to bring spectators or customers into your business? A spectator just stops by your website and reads, but a customer will actually pay you. It seems pretty simple, but you’d be amazed how many websites exist purely to “get hits” but aren’t good at making money.

You need to use the keywords that paying customers would use. Don’t be generic. Be specific. Help the searcher find you and they will.

#2 – Are you following On-Site SEO Best Practices?

A missing Title Tag always kills me. I’m not so worried about Meta Descriptions and you’ll only ever see me fill out a keywords tag when I’m asked to (kicking and screaming). The Title Tag of a website is just so valuable that you can’t ignore it. But, very often, companies only include the name of their business in their Title but neglect to include keywords or any geographic information. Even worse, some companies simply use “Home” as their website’s Title, which is a rookie mistake and an SEO killer.

You need a Title Tag, Meta Description, Header 1’s, keyword relevant page content and links that tell search engines what your pages are about.

This is why you should hire an SEO before your website is designed. The impact of having an SEO help you develop your site architecture from the ground up is huge. You can have your website generating traffic and revenue right away instead of spending time later fixing a bad site that doesn’t attract customers.

#3 – Did you claim your Google Places page?

Taking advantage of Google Places is free, so you would think that everyone would do this. It only takes a few minutes and you should take the opportunity to do it at all the similar sites (Yelp, CitySearch, etc.).

Remember, Google and other search engines crawl the entire internet, not just your website, so references to your business should be all over the place. Google is a “handshake” game. The more sites there are out there “vouching” for you or even just verifying your address or phone number, the better.

Don’t shoot the Messenger!

I hate having to be the bad guy. I’m often the guy who comes along and tells you that you invested money in a web programmer who didn’t know what SEO stood for, let alone how to bring fresh customers to your site. This is me apologizing in advance for their incompetence.

Can I go back to being a jerk now? It sucks, but my being a jerk and getting all this stuff fixed for you is what’s going to finally let you make money with your website.

I can promise that I’ll tell you the truth. I can’t promise you’ll always like it.

Matthew Egan is the President of San Antonio SEO consulting firm Image Freedom. When not dancing to the blues, Matthew helps web pages like yours get more traffic through content driven Search Engine Optimization.

Zen of Search: The SEO Beginner’s Mind

Post written by Matthew Egan. Follow Matthew on Twitter.

We are so encouraged, personally and professionally to become an expert. We must become a “pro” a “guru” or a “master” in order to be successful. I’m not sure where that got started, but let me say it’s a bunch of bull.

When I was starting out with SEO, or specifically when I was working with the web for the sole purpose of placing well on search engines, my mind was a blank canvas. I had maybe some best practices in mind, some web navigation concepts, but my beginners mind was clear, and open.

I was free to be creative, to brainstorm, to dream.

 

 

There is a lot of talk in the Social Media space about these self proclaimed “experts” or “gurus” and often those I find I truly respect (Colleen Pence and Holly Hoffman to name a few) are the ones who own up to being a permanent student. To knowing how much there still is to learn.

Shunryu Suzuki wrote in his book “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.” If we spend our time pushing so hard to be an expert, we’re saying that we can define perfection, we can be the best Social Media consultants, and we can optimize the perfect web site for SEO.

That simply isn’t possible. The world is change. We need to champion the people who stand up and shout “I HAVE MORE TO LEARN” and we need to be very wary of the people who get up and say “I KNOW IT ALL!”

I’ve hired a new person recently, who you’ll learn more about soon, as we approach Season Two. What I loved about speaking with her, she and I being a lot alike, was just how much she wanted to learn.

“Show me how to do that.”

“How does this work?”

“Teach me why this is important.”

A beginners mind is a valuable thing. Of course, sometimes dreams are unrealistic and it takes experience to know when something will or won’t work, but when we decide to label ourselves as an expert, to declare our own mastery of something, we’ve decided we’ve learned all there is to learn.

There is always something new, especially with SEO, and to close ourselves off to change and to continued learning, is to fail.

Matthew Egan is the President of San Antonio SEO consulting firm Image Freedom. When not dancing to the blues, Matthew helps web pages like yours get more traffic through content driven Search Engine Optimization.

Come up with 50 blog ideas right now!

Maybe Twitter was being boring that day or maybe I was just trying to put off whatever work I was supposed to be doing. But I was inspired recently to take on a daunting task that we here at Image Freedom had been putting off: Come up with 50 new possible blog ideas to write about.

We try to drill the SEO cliché into the heads of our clients: “’BLOG’ stands for ‘Better Listing On Google.’” We continually remember that we need to practice what we preach.

At first, the idea of coming up with 50 fresh, interesting blog ideas seemed impossible. Yeah, yeah… “The longest journey begins with the first step” and all that good stuff. Thanks, fortune cookies and Joel Osteen. But, still, I didn’t think I could do it.

So I just started. I didn’t need to go meditate in the woods for two hours first. I just starting typing and let my creativity take over. Just like the rest of your body, your brain won’t get going until you start warming it up.

Compiling the list wasn’t always easy and sometimes I got stuck or let myself get distracted. (Who started that change your Facebook profile photo to a cartoon thing, anyway?) But I pulled it off and I was pretty proud of myself when I finished.

If you decide to come up with your own list of 50 (and I really recommend you do), it may help to keep these tips in mind:

1) Not every one of your 50 blog ideas has to be golden.

It was temping for me to stop and ask myself, “Would we be good at writing something like this?” or “Would this blog topic attract people to the Image Freedom SEO site?” You’ll frustrate yourself and waste time if you over-analyze every single one of your ideas as you go along.

Remember that you’re not writing the blog right now. You’re brainstorming a whole bunch of ideas and seeing which of them will stick later. That’s why you’re coming up with 50 ideas and not five. Let the law of averages work for you.

2) Don’t be scared of bad blog ideas.

I knew there was a good chance that my boss would only like some of the ideas I came up with. I might even think some of my ideas were stupid later on. That’s fine. Nobody likes to have their ideas rejected. But imagine how much worse you would feel if you had tried to be “safe” and come up with only a small number of ideas that you were absolutely sure would be awesome only to have them rejected. If you were in school, 15-20 percent would be a pathetically horrible failing grade. But having 15-20 percent of your blog ideas taking off isn’t bad at all.

3) Don’t worry about “copying” someone else (not yet, at least).

One thing that may slow down your brainstorming marathon of awesomeness is wondering whether someone else has already blogged about a topic you came up with. Then you’ll be tempted to search for similar blog entries to make sure your idea is original enough.

Don’t waste time getting bogged down by this while compiling your list of 50. Once you decide (later) that you’re going to write about a particular topic, you can then research and see if someone else has already written something similar. It’s highly unlikely that what you want to blog has never been written about before in the history of mankind, but even frequently written about subjects can be presented in your own unique and original way.

4) Don’t be afraid to be weird.

Image Freedom is an SEO company, but our blog would be really boring (both to you and to us) if all we talked about was SEO-related stuff. Instead, our blog is a mix of SEO industry discussion, videos, social media commentary and – what we may be most (in)famous for – extremely candid personal blogs from our founder, Matthew Egan. The latter leads nicely to my last suggestion:

5) Maintain a healthy tension between all-business and all-personal on your blog.

When you’re brainstorming blog ideas, don’t try so hard to limit yourself to one subject area. I would have bored myself if I limited my list of 50 blog ideas to only SEO or business-related topics. Like it or not, we’re living in a day and age where professional and personal online “brands” are merging.

But, remember, it’s your blog, not a MTV Real World audition tape. You don’t need to post the photos from Saturday night’s party of you passed out drunk after a mischievous joker drew phallic symbols on your forehead. However, bringing that personal touch to your blog — that small peek behind the Wizard’s curtain — will help you create a rapport of trust and genuineness with your readers.

So get to work, people! Come up with your awesome list of 50 possible subjects that you or your company can blog about. Leave a comment or tweet me at @CatholicDan to let us know how easy or difficult it was for you to come up with your list. Tell us what worked for you and what didn’t.

You can do it!