Tag Archives: Small Business

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.

Why not just do it now?

Published in Geek Health by

This May I hired an assistant.  Business had been improving and I knew that one of my biggest weaknesses was my Attention Deficit Disordered self.  Being easily distractible is fantastic when you’re in the creative space, where I spend probably half my day, but when it comes time to returning e-mails, remembering appointments and getting things done, the mind of an ADD child suffers dramatically.

So I now have an assistant, and her name is Sarah, and she completes me in no understated way.  Sarah is detail oriented, organized and difficult to distract.  She is often my nemesis, and I’ll do my part to derail her plans to keep me on task.  I once contemplated giving her Pink Eye so her absent self would be unable to remind me that I should be doing work.  I mean, contemplated, really, I wouldn’t honestly infect one of my employees with a contagious disease.  Honest!

So today Sarah and I were working on Excel and updating the budget for the company, and for myself.  We discussed various aspects of the business, who we needed to contact, who to update, who to assign this or that to, etc.  Sarah pointed at my Twitter client and said, “Why not just Direct Message her now?”  We needed to write some checks, for both personal and business things, “Why not just write the checks now?”

So we did.  Both.  Right then.

We got to talking about a book I had been given called “The Power of Now” and it’s a book I always thought I should read but never did, so you’ll have to tell me if it correlates at all to what I’m talking about here, but essentially, those things “I should really do” are much more easily done if you just… you know, do them.  RIGHT NOW.

I needed to e-mail a client.  Do it now.  I needed to update my spreadsheets.  Just do it!  I was behind on my blog.  Now is as good a time as any right?

Now is truly a powerful thing, and when we sat down, and we identified tasks and as soon as we gave it a name, gave it a purpose, we just accomplished it.  Didn’t create an action item, a calendar entry, or a separate spreadsheet, nope.  We just opened whatever it was, completed the thing, and just like that it’s done!

What are you putting off?  What are you planning to do that planning for, making a list for, or thinking about doing, is taking more time than it’d take to just freaking do it!?  Join me in a culture of now!  You’ll be glad you did!

Big Numbers vs. Real Leads

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.