The Zen of Search
the Image Freedom blog
The Zen of Search
the Image Freedom blog
The mirror has been my best friend lately. That sounds pretty vain right? Well, the mirror is my best friend because the mirror holds the one opinion lately that I actually listen to: my own. If I like who I am when I look at myself in the mirror, I’m doing pretty good right?
Ever since we moved into our downtown office a lot of people have been super complimentary, it’s like suddenly we have 500 new friends. There are certainly folks we talked to before but when we “made it” and started hiring and started expanding it brought with it a lot of attention. I wanted to write this to really look back and talk about where we’ve been.
In April of 2009 I moved to San Antonio and knew one person in the whole city. We started with his realtor, we moved on to his realtors interior decorator, from there we worked with home cleaners and landscapers, we grew. We spoke to anyone we could. I was living in a little one bedroom apartment and doing my best to keep the lights on. It was the Wild West and I loved it, every day was an adventure.
Eventually I decided that I should peel back, hold onto as much cash as humanly possible so I could invest more in the business, more trade shows, more seminars, more training, etc. I rented a room for $200 in a house with three other guys. Geeky guys not unlike myself, gamers, we had a good time. I liken that time to living in a frat house.
People tell me I’m in demand, they tell me I’ve changed, I’ve been asked what the secret was, that one move was probably the most important. It’s all about footprint. How big is your cost of living footprint? When I reduced my cost of living to pennies of what it was, it freed up so many options for me that I hadn’t considered.
For the first time, I’d had the funds to go to those conferences, take that training, enroll in that online class, or sign up for that Pro Membership. I had the funds to better myself, because let’s face it so much of the best educational resources out there aren’t free. You can’t exactly go to school for SEO as by the time you graduated the information would be out of date.
Reduce your footprint, go without TV, go without those fancy things and just like Dave Ramsey says “Live like no one else, so you can live like no one else”. I’ll tell you, I went without for so long that I second guess every purchase even now. It’s fantastic, I save a fortune.
I am sitting on my Mac Mini right now typing this in my living room, the Mac Mini is plugged into my TV and I’m typing from a Bluetooth Keyboard on my lap, on the couch. Feet up and all. I didn’t need to buy a big computer for the house, I didn’t need to get another laptop, I just needed access to the internet in some form. I did what I needed, not what I wanted, and it freed me up to do other things with those dollars.
Yesterday I paid off 90% of my worldly debt. Old credit cards, some student expenses, you name it. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I hadn’t peeled way back. So when you ask me why things are working out for Image Freedom, when you’re curious why Matthew has that big stupid grin on his face, it’s because I decided that only my opinion mattered when it came to my life.
Don’t worry about appearance, don’t worry about the shoes you wear or the car you drive, worry about taking action, about being the example of excellence you want to set. Make a product, offer your service, plant your flag and declare yourself for who you are. The second you stop, the second you look back, or God forbid let someone SHOULD on you, that is time you’ll never get back.
Pick a direction and act. You’ll fail only until you succeed.
What are you waiting for?
Social Media is a pain in the ass. Writing a blog, posting actually RELEVANT stuff to your Twitter page, getting fans to care about your Facebook page. These are all important things! The problem is, you wind up doing them for a while, they generate some buzz for you, your business grows and you lose the free time you had being without clients, to keep all that crap updated.
Hire a Ghost Tweeter you say? Don’t mind if I do!
Just kidding. I’ve been neglecting my blog a lot lately, and I think it comes from that perfectionist paralysis monkey on my back. Sometimes it’s hard to publish ANYTHING for fear of it not being a hit with my massive (read 34) subscriber base.
I need to get over it, need to get back on the horse, or back on the tweet, as it were. There is so much going on, we’ve been busier than we’ve ever been and I know I owe that to our social media efforts. One of the things I’m working on right now is getting approval from our clients to start sharing their success here on the blog.
That can be a tough sell at times because you don’t want to share too much of what you’re doing in your marketing plans, if that gets out to the wrong people then by essentially bragging you’re helping the competition. On the other hand, screw em! Knowing what you’re doing is only part of the equation, and without knowing how to counter it there isn’t much gained by learning what would have been obvious sooner or later anyway.
So yea, working on that as what is a blog if not the rantings of an overshare.
On the personal front, I’ve moved from my home in Alamo Ranch to a new place in Olmos Park. I love Alamo Ranch and there are a ton of great shops and resources there in town BUT it is just so far from everywhere I go on a daily basis. The Olmos Perk on McCollough for example, is a good forty minutes from Alamo Ranch. Now I’m within walking distance of the Perk and only ten minutes from downtown San Antonio.
Hardwood floors are fantastic, and as someone who spends a lot of time in his home office, it is just so important to be comfortable in that space. Big beautiful windows surround my home office and I couldn’t be happier.
Plenty of good news lately, some that I can talk about, some that unfortunately I am sworn not to mention, BUT I’m back on the horse here in the blog and returned to the focus of making SEO approachable to business owners of any experience level.
Recently I reconnected with a friend I’d not spoken to in several years. She and I came from a similar background, parents that just weren’t there, didn’t care. We found ourselves both looking for love, filling that void, with the love or attention or affection of others. We are both extroverts, quick to jump into a crowd, quick to say hello, but at the same time constantly wearing this armor, this face that we think we need to wear.
This past Sunday I was listening to Josh Lopez and the band at Community Bible Church (Check out Josh on Twitter @JoshDLopez). What I was seeing in my mind while Josh and his band got the room hopping was this caricature of myself wearing this mask, this armor created by what I thought I should be. Who I thought I should seem like, or who I wanted to be perceived as. Going back to our Mr. Big Stuff post, the motivation from that comes from wanting to create a reality, instead of just letting reality happen.
I found what I needed within my faith.
I am truly blessed. Not just lately, but looking back, nothing bad has ever happened to me that didn’t also come coupled with opportunity for growth, or even advancement. Every trial was rewarded with knowledge or a new adventure. Why isn’t that enough?
“The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
I decided last Sunday to leave my armor at home, and to instead wear God’s armor. That isn’t to say I am going to become the next generation of missionary, or suddenly dedicate my life to prayer and seclude myself away like a monk. What that means is I’m going to let my heart guide me, and God protect me. I worry so much about the thoughts and opinions of others when at the end of the day unless those people are hurting me directly, I need to just let that negativity bounce off His armor.
After @AliciaSanera‘s boot camp today we talked about how many of a businesses problems, are really just the problems of the owner manifested through the business. If I have a flaw, if I have a weakness, that will become a weakness for my business. If I let these weaknesses diminish me, if I let them hold me back and stop me from getting up and putting myself out there, I’m letting the fear of that armor being penetrated stop me from achieving what I want to achieve.
I choose not to let fear hold me back. I choose to take that energy that I’m using to construct my own personal armor, and spend it on more worthwhile goals. I will use that energy to learn more about my SEO tactics, and remain a student of web development. I will use that energy to find those speaking engagements and follow up on those existing offers to share what I have learned.
I am where I am for a reason, and I now choose God’s protection before my own. My armor I leave at home, His armor is with me always.
“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Often I hear from clients that they want a lot of web traffic, that if only they had the traffic, some random percentage would convert to sales. That is true to an extent but wouldn’t you rather have 50 customers, over 1,000 visitors? When optimizing for the search engines it is possible to evaluate which keywords are of most value, and through ongoing optimization of a site you can achieve fantastic conversion rates without needing huge traffic volume.
I am a small business SEO, so right off the bat I am at the disadvantage that a lot of the articles you read apply to much larger enterprise level businesses. I chose to be a small business SEO because I believe in the small businesses value to America, and because often the small business is in greater need than the larger business with a huge built in marketing budget. When I get your small business onto page one of Google, that is an accomplishment when you consider how many people are linking to these larger name brands. That one small local business stands out, and the hits they get from being there quickly turn into sales.
Let’s use the example of “san antonio medical text books”. I don’t have a client that sells medical texts, but let’s assume I did, and I optimized for phrases related to medical text books. I could target ‘book store’ I could target ‘text book’ I could target a pretty wide variety of subjects, but how likely is a person searching for ‘book store’ going to need my medical text books? The traffic may come, the site may get hits, but the conversion rate would hardly be noticeable because these terms are related, but not necessarily supportive of the goal of our site.
This is why Keyword Research is so important, and it pains me to see the web sites designed BEFORE any kind of SEO or Keyword Research has been done. When you put the SEO as an afterthought to the development of your site, you have to work backwords, and as any business owner can attest to, no one wants to pay for the same work twice.
So once again, our friend the Google Keyword Tool comes into play, and we sit down with the phrases we feel will generate sales. On average I try and build a list of 5 or 6 keywords that are related and can be worked into site content without much issue. For the most part, small businesses live or die by a single keyword and you start by making an educated guess about which keyword that is, and then follow the search volume over time to attach value to each keyword.
Ryan Kelly from @PearAnalytics makes a product called SiteJuice which we’ve talked about before. SiteJuice assigns value to each of your keywords, and Ryan tells me that in future versions of SiteJuice you’re going to be able to assign specific value based on your industry to those keywords. So just because you come up under “san antonio book store” doesn’t mean the value is there that you’d want targeting “san antonio medical text books”. I’m really excited to see the progress there as that will make tracking the value of these keywords that much easier.
What are your top performing keywords? Do you even know? Contact an optimizer near you and tell them you want an hour of their time to talk about your existing analytics. See what they can tell you about your best performing search terms and see if you can better target those phrases. At the end of the day, you don’t just want big numbers in the visitors column, you want a hige conversion rate, and targeting the RIGHT keywords is the way to get there.
What are your top performing keywords?
Was this helpful? SEO can be frustrating, so if you have any questions please post them in the comments below. Check out the Image Freedom homepage for the full SEO kick or contact Matthew directly for a free consultation.