Business, Entrepreneur

7 Mistakes to Avoid when Starting Your Business

You’re buzzing with ideas and can’t wait to get started…..I get it! I’ve been there too.

As creatives, we never seem to be short of ideas and things that we want to try. Unfortunately, though, this can often mean that we rush into things too quickly and get caught up in the excitement, only to wonder what in the world we were thinking a little later on. I’ve been there too. I started my first Etsy shop in 2010 and literally just created things I loved and put them online. My shop had everything, from jewelry to leather bags, artwork, scarves, fashion and printed fabric. I sat and waited for the sales to come in, but they didn’t. It was so disappointing to not have any sales and sit wondering what I’d done wrong. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, so I thought I’d give you the benefit of my initial failure and hopefully get you started on the right foot….

As creatives, we never seem to be short of ideas and things that we want to try. Unfortunately, though, this can often mean that we rush into things too quickly and get caught up in the excitement, only to wonder what in the world we were thinking a little later on. I’ve been there too. I started my first Etsy shop in 2010 and literally just created things I loved and put them online. My shop had everything, from jewellery to leather bags, artwork, scarves, fashion and printed fabric. I sat and waited for the sales to come in, but they didn’t. It was so disappointing to not have any sales and sit wondering what I’d done wrong. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, so I thought I’d give you the benefit of my initial failure and hopefully get you started on the right foot.  |  Think Creative Collective

1. Don’t launch all your ideas at once

It’s easier said than done, I know, but the saying is true; don’t be a Jack of all trades and a master of none. Take some time to really hone in on your ideas, write down what you love to make, what you’re good at making and what you think there could be a demand for. Hopefully, there will be some products that fall into all three categories. More often than not there will be several ideas that fall into all three, so refine them down further until you have a specific product or service that you would like to pursue.

Why focus? Why shouldn’t you fill your shop with everything you can make? Because it makes things harder and starting a business is hard enough already! Say you start your business with 10 completely different products. When you pitch your brand to customers and the press, how will you describe it? If there’s a lot going on, people can get confused and won’t really understand what you’re about. Another thing to consider is the cost of materials. You can often get a discount if you buy a larger quantity. If, like my first business, all of your products use different materials, you’ll either have to spend a lot in order to buy everything in bulk, or you’ll have to pay retail prices for everything, which also gets expensive.

2. Don’t try and sell to everyone

Eventually, after huge amounts of trial and error, I decided to focus my efforts on helping small and startup fashion labels realize their dreams and launch their first collection. In our very first mentor session, I always ask my clients, ‘Who is the range for, who is your customer?’. 90% of them will answer this with, ‘People who love fashion!’. In the nicest possible way, I have to tell them that isn’t going to work.

There are so many people out there who love fashion, or handmade goods, or art, for example, and trying to create a product that all of them will love is going to be impossible. Instead, I always advise being as specific as you can and doing as much research as possible, to really understand who you want to create for. Try to think about things like how much they are willing to spend, where they shop, where they aspire to shop, what magazines they read, and so on. This will really help you later down the line, in lots of different ways. For example, with my clients, the budget that their customers have to spend will determine the fabrics that we use, and the places they like to shop will help with choosing platforms or shops to sell the items in.

3. Don’t wait until everything is perfect

With this, I’m definitely not suggesting that you start selling a product that’s sub-quality or not fit for purpose. What I mean is that you should show your ideas to people before you start selling. This could be something as simple as showing your ideas to friends for feedback (ideally friends who are similar to your target customer), posting a picture of your color ideas online, or sharing some work in progress photos in an online business forum (Facebook has some great groups for entrepreneurs, where people share ideas and helpful articles on running a small business).

This will help you to establish ‘proof of concept’. Proof of concept means establishing if a product or service is viable and likely to sell, prior to launching and investing money in stock. For example, you might share your color palette on social media and find that lots of people have a preference for one color over another. This could be a good starting point for further research, to see if perhaps you should reduce the number of colors on offer, or make some changes. Recently, I was working on a range of print designs and shared some of the ideas with a few of my clients. From this, it was easy to see which ideas I should focus on, as there were a couple of designs in particular that everyone commented on, whereas others didn’t really make an impression. This helped me to refine my ideas and develop prints that already have some interest in them.

4. Don’t wait until later to get your online presence going

As soon as you’ve confirmed your company name (which should be one of the first things after you have defined your target customer), I’d suggest registering for the domain name, email address and securing the handle on social media, even if you don’t intend to use it just yet. At the very least, you’re preventing someone else from taking the name. I would, however, encourage everyone to start up some form of online presence straight away, even if it’s just a ‘coming soon’ web page with an email signup form and a social media account.

As creatives, we’re often drawn to Instagram as it allows us to focus on photos, but do try and go back to your customer research and think about where your customer ‘hangs out’ online. If research suggests your audience loves Twitter, start there and work your way onto other platforms later. Social media can be a massive drain on your time and you need to be consistent, so don’t overcommit and start out on lots of different platforms if you can’t maintain them. The benefit of getting your online presence going right away is that from day one you can share content and start building a following so that when you are ready to launch your products, you have someone to tell. There’s nothing worse than having a beautiful range ready, that you’ve poured your heart and soul into, only to realize that you’ve not got anyone to tell about it.

5. Run your business as a business, from day one

As a creative, it’s too easy to leave the business admin to one side, or until the last minute. I think a lot of us are guilty of getting caught up in creating and spend most of our time on that, rather than balancing our time between design and business. Personally, it took a long time for me to really pay attention to the numbers and understand what they meant for the long term future of my business. In fact, it wasn’t until I became a fashion buyer that I understood the true power of how numbers can be a game changer in a company. The role focused so much on profit margins, something that a lot of us don’t want to think about too much, as we worry it will crush our creativity.

I have to be honest in saying that it can sometimes have that effect. As much as I would love to be creating couture dresses, the reality is that the production cost is sky high and only a handful of people in the world can buy them, so I know that’s not a viable business for me and I’ve accepted that! There are still lots of other things that I like and I love the work that I do now. I certainly enjoy the business side more than I expected to, even more so now that I actually run my business as a business, rather than a hobby that I make a living from. This approach also gives you room to grow in the future.

Even if you’re only thinking about a product at this stage, try to put a reasonable amount of thought into the cost of producing it and what you think you can sell it for. You’ll save a lot of time in pursuing products that aren’t cost effective. And by pricing correctly from the start, you won’t have to disappoint your customers by raising your prices in the future. I found out the hard way it’s better to focus on something achievable from the start, rather than making a start on the wrong idea – I certainly wouldn’t recommend following in my footsteps and refocusing your efforts and products three times!

6. Don't try and do everything yourself

This may seem a bit contradictory to number 5, but I do think that if you need help with something, it can often be beneficial to invest in the help that you need. Help can come in lots of different forms, for example, a freelancer who could help with branding or your website, some software or equipment to speed up and automate your process, or a mentor to help guide you. Of course, you should first review the expense and figure out the cost vs benefit ratio. Try to establish how much this expense will really benefit you right now, but also consider how much it’ll cost you if you don’t get it. For example, if you waste a lot of time that could be freed up with some software, remember that time is money! You should be factoring in your time and adding this to the cost of your products. I’ve definitely been guilty of ‘saving money’ by doing things myself, only to realize that actually, if I’d invested in some software sooner, I’d have freed up 4 hours a week of my time, which I could spend on other things.

7. Give an amazing customer experience

Your customers are your business, and it pays to look after and appreciate them. Even if you’re just starting out and don’t have a product to sell yet, you should be making everyone who gets in touch with you want to experience more of your brand. Even if it’s something as simple as thanking someone for commenting on your post, or replying to an email query, put some thought into it and give a personalized reply. A lot of the reason that consumers are turning away from mass market shops and buying from designers and makers, is that human interaction, connection and personalized service offered by small brands.

If a potential customer asks you a question and you give a vague, generic reply, they’re not going to form a connection with you and they’re not going to be as willing to support, follow or buy from you. Likewise, if someone asks you about a product that you don’t sell, still treat them like a customer, even if you know they’re not going to buy from you. As well as this being good manners, you never know if they may need something from you in the future, or they might recommend you to a friend because of your helpful, caring response.

An important lesson that I learned years ago, when I had my first ever job as a clothing store assistant, is that people who receive great service are likely to tell three people, whereas people who receive bad service will tell eight. I know I’d much rather have people talking positively about my brand!



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Entrepreneur, Branding

How to Dress like a Boss & Create Your Own Distinct Look with Your Wardrobe

Okay, boss lady. You’ve got a killer website, an awesome team, amazing clients, and a brand that is flourishing beautifully. Things are popping right now for your business. Take a look at your schedule for next week. I’m sure your endless list of to-dos looks a little something like this:

  • Monday: Meetings, meetings and more meetings.
  • Tuesday: Skype call with your business bestie.
  • Wednesday: You’ve got an awesome webinar packed with helpful information.
  • Thursday: A speaking engagement. Oh, and you have to pack for that conference next week.
  • Friday: Happy hour with your boo.

But, wait..hello??? What are you going to wear, girl?!

As entrepreneurs, our schedules and lives can get a little hectic. Okay, a lot hectic. Nonetheless, that’s no excuse not to look your best. Crafting a cohesive, consistent, and curated wardrobe that aligns with the aesthetic of your brand will not only do wonders for your business, but it will greatly impact your self-confidence, which will in turn make you more successful.  |  Think Creative Collective

As entrepreneurs, our schedules and lives can get a little hectic. Okay, a lot hectic. Nonetheless, that’s no excuse not to look your best. Crafting a cohesive, consistent, and curated wardrobe that aligns with the aesthetic of your brand will not only do wonders for your business, but it will greatly impact your self-confidence, which will in turn make you more successful.

Do I have your attention yet? No? Okay, well what if I told you that you could make more money from your business by cultivating and elevating your style and your wardrobe?

“If you want to be the boss, you’ve got to dress like a boss.”

Hate to break it to you, babe, but as much as you may not want to admit it,  your image is really important, especially when you are a boss. When you walk into a room full of new faces, your personality isn’t the first thing people notice. It’s what you put on your back, and the confidence that radiates through when you put an awesome outfit on. Yeah, they really do matter.

“The first step to a great personal brand is a distinct look.”

But before you go running to your closet and start freaking out about what you need to wear to look like the boss babe that you are, breathe. Branding your wardrobe is no walk in the park without a strategic plan of action.

What is the message you’re trying to convey with your image and branding style?

Define Your Target Market:

This is a question I’m sure you’ve asked yourself many times during the long and stressful process of building your brand and business from the ground up, but I’m going to ask you again anyway.

If you want to attract your ideal target market, then you need to dress accordingly. That way, they will respond positively to the overall personal brand that you present to them. If you know what they need, want, and enjoy, then it will be a walk in the park to create a connection with your brand. The following questions will help you become more relatable to your client, but don’t lose yourself in the process. It’s okay to please your target audience, but don’t wear or promote anything that you don’t feel comfortable with or believe in.

  • Are your products or services most likely going to be purchased by a younger audience or an older audience?
  • What characteristics define your target market? Are they younger or older? Are they outgoing or conservative?
  • What is your target market interested in? What do they read? Hobbies? Passions?
  • Where does your target audience hang out? Where are they more likely to hear about what you are offering? A Facebook group? A local coffee shop? A networking party?
  • What words speak to the consumer? Balance, health, security, stability, quality, etc.?
  • What colors are your target market drawn to?

What is your typical work environment like?

It’s important to adjust your wardrobe to your everyday lifestyle. You can have style and be comfortable. Do you work from home? Do you travel a lot while you work? Or do you like to go to the neighborhood coffee shop when you zone out and work? Remember, wherever you decide to work, look like a boss. You never know who’s sticking their nose in your business (literally) and may look at your screen, enquire about what it is that you do, then BOOM! You have a new client. Cool, right?

What is the impression you’re trying to give?

What type of vibes are you trying to give off to your target market? Does your target market see you as an expert in your field? Who is an expert in your field? If you can’t think of anyone, look it up. When you see photos of that person, what do you notice with their wardrobe? Does the person look polished, prepared, outgoing, and hardworking? Or do they look fashionable and on trend? What personal or professional characteristics can you implement into your style?

How well does your wardrobe differentiate you positively from your competitors?

You should aim to stand out with your brand in any way possible. The way you present yourself is just as important as how you present your brand on your website, or on social media. For example, when I first joined Think Creative Collective, I was immediately drawn to  Abagail & Emylee’s signature look (they both look amazing in a red lip and bold accessories). These are the types of things that you may not think that your potential clients or customers will pick up on, but trust me, it matters.

How Does your Wardrobe Affect Your Brand?

We all know that being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 job. We are always working. Between posting on social media, creating content for our brands, and networking, there’s never really an off-switch when it comes to our personal brands.

Think about how many times a day or a week you put yourself out there for your target market to see: business meetings; Facebook Live chats; webinars; conferences; emails; headshots; social media; a networking happy hour; or a corporate dinner with your spouse.

If you market yourself as a badass, vivacious, and bold designer and you show up to a client meeting wearing a stuffy pantsuit, your client will be a little confused.

You have to present yourself with the same consistency and authenticity that you do with your other marketing strategies.

Show your clients the real you. After all, that’s what personal style is all about.
 

How to Create Your BossBabe Wardrobe

  • Define Your Style (Would you describe your style as chic, glam, trendy, laid back, boho, etc?)

  • Create a Mood Board

    • Choose your color palette.

    • Add Textures & Prints

    • Find your style inspiration.

    • This is what Pinterest is for!

  • Detox Your Closet

    • Get rid of the things that no longer serve a purpose in your closet.

    • Create a shopping list to fill in the gaps of your wardrobe.

    • Organize your wardrobe.

  • Shop the Basics

    • Start off with the essentials, then start adding statement pieces to your wardrobe.

  • Add the Extras

    • Accessories, shoes, etc.

Now do you understand where I’m coming from? Creating a cohesive and consistent wardrobe will do wonders for your personal brand, whether you’re the boss of your own business or you’re killing it in your career with a company you love. I’ve included a little extra-special something to help you plan your new branded wardrobe. Happy planning!



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Video Tutorial, Marketing

4 New Ways You Can Get in Front of a New Audience on Youtube

YouTube can seem like a pretty scary obstacle to tackle. Not only is it video (eeek, your face is now out there for the world to see!), but how do you create a video strategy that’s manageable for you?! What is a video strategy? What you do know is, if you are going to take on a new platform you want to have a strategic plan and have a measurable ROI from your new endeavor!

I feel ya! I am a mom to 2 little ones under 3 and I’m not going to take on a new platform that will suck up more of my time (I’m looking at you Facebook), let alone a platform where I need to get showered and dolled up every week just to film videos!  

YouTube can seem like a pretty scary obstacle to tackle. Not only is it video (eeek, your face is now out there for the world to see!), but how do you create a video strategy that’s manageable for you?! What is a video strategy? What you do know is, if you are going to take on a new platform you want to have a strategic plan and have a measurable ROI from your new endeavor!  |  Think Creative Collective

This is exactly why having a plan will not only save you time BUT will allow your videos to convert at a much higher rate. I plan out my videos ahead of time and film as many as possible in one day thanks to my video strategy. This allows me to stay consistent with my video content.

Why is it important to stay consistent with your video content?

Let’s Get An Understanding Of YouTube

YouTube has its own algorithm and SEO. And even though we don’t have the exact formula for algorithm success on YouTube, we know what YouTube likes to see in a video

1. Watch time

YouTube promotes highly valuable content and one way in which they determine whether your content is valuable or not is by how long people watch your videos.  

If people are clicking on your video and tuning out after 30 seconds, you are never going to get any traction on that video or your channel! You need to make sure your video is grabbing your viewers’ attention from the first 3 seconds (the estimated time you have before that viewer decides to stay and watch or say no thank you) and keeping their attention until the very end.

2. Engagement

Another way that YouTube determines whether your content is valuable or not is the amount of engagement your video gets in the very first 24-48 hours after it goes live. This includes likes (thumbs up), comments and shares.

The more engagement you get on your video, the higher you can expect to get ranked in YouTube search results.

3. YouTube SEO

There is quite a bit that goes into YouTube SEO and the metadata you should be including in each of your video posts. I do all this research when I’m crafting my video strategy. This way when the time comes to post a video, I know exactly what to include in my metadata. It saves a boatload of time!

But the three most important SEO pieces to your video are the title, what’s written in the description box and the tags you include. All this information allows YouTube to clearly understand what your video is about.

How can you make YouTube manageable for you?

Here are 4 easy ways to get started!

1. Finding The Content Your Audience Is Actually Searching

The worst thing to do when starting a YouTube channel is to create the video content you “think” your audience wants to see. In fact, you might even research their pain points and use them as your video titles thinking, “I know what they want!”

The issue is that sometimes those pain points aren’t actually what your target audience is typing into search engines. Not clearly understanding the keywords and phrases being searched in your niche means you won’t get your video in front of your audience. Even if it’s the most highly valuable piece of content you’ve ever created, it needs to be optimized for the YouTube search gods!  

By using tools like YouTube Search, TubeBuddy and Google Keyword Finder, I am able to come up with the exact video title I need to use to make sure that my audience finds me in search results on YouTube. This way I know I’m not wasting my time on content that is only going to get a few views and is never ranked on YouTube!

2. Providing Valuable Tutorials

One of the very best and quickest ways to get started on YouTube and grow your channel is by creating tutorials. Whether these tutorials are screen shares or video of you showing your viewers how to paint or use a camera, tutorials and how-tos are HUGE on YouTube.

People go to YouTube to find answers to their questions. Have you ever gone to YouTube and the first 2 words you typed in where “how to…”? Exactly!

Educational content is the very best way to start a YouTube channel. You are able to show your audience that you know what you are talking about and you are able to build your authority in their eyes. And let’s not forget, you are helping them solve a problem. It’s going to be a while before they forget you!

3. Going Live On YouTube

I know a lot of you LOVE Facebook Live, but YouTube also has its own live component. And the reason why I love YouTube Live is the searchability factor! (Psst! YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world!)

Yes, Facebook puts you at the top of the news feed when you go live and yes, Facebook Live is probably where you get most of your interaction, BUT is any of that interaction with a new audience? Is Facebook Live actually growing your audience?

The sad answer is no. Because no one will actually see your video unless they already follow you. You are not going to get in front of a new audience by sticking strictly to Facebook Live. And after a few hours or days, that video is pretty much lost on your page.

Going live on YouTube, if optimized correctly, could potentially mean that new viewers might find you while you are filming! Just like Facebook, YouTube is loving itself some live video and is currently giving all live videos a huge boost in ranking! So, once you find the keywords and phrases that your target audience is searching on YouTube, get on live and help them out! Added bonus: no video editing for you!

4. Repurposing Facebook Videos

But what about all the amazing Facebook live videos you’ve already done? And what if you’ve already promised your Facebook audience new live videos every week? Don’t stop! Just take it a step further.

Until Facebook has a searchability function, download your Facebook live videos, upload and optimize them on YouTube. This allows you to reach a new audience, plus repurposing this content saves you time! Who doesn’t love repurposing?!

A great way to start using your Facebook Live videos for YouTube videos is to host your Facebook broadcasts like you would in a pre-recorded format. Save your question and answer session for the end of the broadcast, then simply cut that part out in editing. You won’t have to do much editing to this type of video and it gets more content on your channel for new viewers to start consuming.

When you upload these Facebook videos just make sure you create a custom thumbnail and optimize it properly to get your content in front of a brand new audience!

Were you overthinking this whole YouTube thing? Didn’t think YouTube could be that easy, right? I get that a lot!



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Pinterest, Tutorial, Squarespace, Website Traffic

The Daily Pinterest Formula to Jumpstart Your Referral Traffic

Way back in 2015, we shared our secrets on how we increased our Pin impressions by 53,285.71% in just two weeks! That is bananas. Since we get asked all the time to share our Pinterest strategy, we’d like to walk you through the tactics we used back then to make it all happen.

Way back in 2015, we shared our secrets on how we increased our Pin impressions by 53,285.71% in just two weeks! That is bananas. Since we get asked all the time to share our Pinterest strategy, we’d like to walk you through the tactics we used back then to make it all happen.  |  Think Creative Collective

You might be aware that we now use Tailwind to make this process even easier, but for those of you on a shoestring budget, this can get you big results for f-r-e-e.

Today, we’re covering the secret daily formula that took us from 3% Pinterest Referral Traffic, to 32.39% without decreasing other traffic sources. We’re also giving you a nice peek at Pinterest Analytics so you can begin to see how your own account is shaping up.

Back when we were just using the daily Pinterest formula (so no Tailwind yet), our Pinterest profile was being seen on average 7,175 times daily. Pins that linked back directly to our website increased by 100% and we began to see average daily impressions in the tens of thousands. How can you make this happen?

Our Daily Pinterest Formula

Fresh Content – You heard it here first (ha!). Blogging is the best avenue to get new and fresh content to share on Pinterest. Back when we were using the Daily Pinterest Formula, you guessed it, we were blogging 5 days a week.

Pinterest Friendly Content – In addition to writing frequently and consistently, we make sure all of our content is super Pinterest friendly. Every blog post includes a “title” photo. This image goes along with the theme of the post and includes the full title. We also make it portrait so when it is on Pinterest it appears larger. You don’t need to have loads of images, just focus on one good Pinterest-worthy image and you’ll be good to go.

Photo Names – Did you know that the title of your photograph is what automatically populates when someone pins your image? We always adjust our photos so at a minimum, the name includes the blog post name and our business name. We also try to pull out keywords or key sentences from the post that might entice someone to come check it out and add those to the title/description.

The SPECIAL Board – Any photo we ever pin from this website first gets pinned to our SPECIAL board. You should have at least 1 board that has 100% your content only. Not only does this allow for lurkers to have a central location to find your content, but it makes someone more likely to follow you. If your pinning is a little all over the place – baby, home, food, blogging and more – not everyone will want to follow every board. Having a special board gives them an easy, no hesitation follow option if they like what they are seeing from you.

The 5-Minute Pin Marathon – There is no reason you need to spend all day on Pinterest (unless you’ve got Tailwind in your toolbelt). This part of the daily ritual is quick and dirty. If you have taken the time to have the initial setup done, then this will take you no time at all.

  • Pin a photo directly from your website to your special board.
  • Navigate to Pinterest.
  • Repin that same Pin to all the group boards you are part of if the topic makes sense
  • Repin that Pin to any special categories it may fall under – i.e. Small Business Advice, Social Media, How to Grow Your Blog, etc.
  • Have more than one Pinterest friendly image? Rinse & Repeat.

That’s it, it is really that simple. Follow this simple formula every day and you can see some amazing results.

How to Up the Odds

Monitor Your Impressions – The time of day you pin no longer greatly affects your impressions. The Pins people see on their homepage are now more “curated” by an algorithm. This has its pros and its cons, but we have personally found it helpful because we no longer need to be pinning at 9 p.m. — we can pin at 9 a.m. and see essentially the same results. At the time this article was first written, we had upped the impressions by 122.78%, and most recently seeing 16,027 impressions on just a single day.

Repins are Your Friend – Repins not only drive additional impressions, but they give you the opportunity to be exposed to people outside your own audience. The more repins, either the better the content you posted or the more “Pinterest friendly” your Pin was. Two of our top repinned posts are infographics which we created.

Clicks = Traffic – Ultimately, you want people to click over to your website, not just see your pretty pictures. See what posts are getting the most clicks. What makes them special? How are they better or different from your other content? This sort of information can give you great insight into what you should do next.

Referral Traffic

Our Pinterest Referral traffic has skyrocketed to 2nd place, just behind Direct. Direct is a combination of people who just know the URL and type it in and Instagram Referrals. By comparing our most popular Pins on Pinterest to the most popular pages/posts on our website, we can draw instant conclusions. To see our web traffic, we use a combination of both Squarespace and Google Analytics. We now have a fairly good idea of what “works” and what “works better”. This sort of insight helps us further tailor our content to our readers’ needs and desires.

How have you utilized Pinterest to drive traffic to your website or blog? What have you found to be useful?



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SEO, Blog

The Top 8 Questions to Ask before Hiring an SEO Consultant

We humans can live about 3 weeks without food.

3 days without water.

3 minutes without air.

How long can we go without Googling?

Hmmm, let me ask Siri….

Google processes over 40,000 searches every second, which is 3.5 billion searches a day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.

My guess is that you can’t go very long without asking Google for an answer. Well guess what, neither can your clients. They are searching for your business right now, but the real question is, can they find you?  

If you have ever tried to search for your business by what you do, e.g. wedding photographer or what you want to be known for, e.g. natural light wedding photographer Boston, Massachusetts, and have been disappointed as to where your business ranks on the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP), then you are probably in the market to hire an SEO consultant.

SEO consultants research and analyze the trends and best practices online to develop a strategy to improve search engine rankings.

Before you go and hire an SEO consultant, here are the Top 8 Questions to ask before you sign the contract.

1. Do they only do SEO, or do they do other stuff too?

If you are in the middle of revamping your website, working with someone who can both build your site and optimize it seems like a win-win, right? Not always. Though a lot of web developers, for example, add “SEO” to their list of qualifications, they are most likely not that well versed in the details of optimization. In most cases, developers who are also SEO consultants are much better developers than they are SEOs. They may opt to add in a plugin or two and write a meta description, but that is simply not enough to build a fully optimized site. You need both, a developer and an SEO.

SEO is a complex field. Each year Google updates their search algorithm around 500-600 times. Even though most of these changes are minor, a great SEO consultant is up to date on the latest changes to the Google algorithm and understands how it affects organic traffic and rankings.

2. How will the SEO improve your search engine rankings?

To get results, you need a plan. If you don’t target keywords, plan content and build links, you will never see a consistent rise in traffic and income (and that is what you’re going for, right?). Ask the consultant, straight up, what exactly their plan to improve your rankings is. If they can’t provide a detailed outline, run away.

The plan should look something like this:

  • First, we are going to do a thorough audit to get a baseline of the current status of the site.
  • Next, we will identify the best keywords to target.
  • From there, we will write and perhaps rewrite content based on those keywords.
  • We will also create a strategy for building links.
  • Most SEOs will include a plan for Social Media and the Editorial Calendar.

3. How will the SEO Consultant report their progress?

This is a biggie and is often what separates the good SEO firms from the shady ones. A quality SEO consultant will show you performance reports of what they are doing and what they have done.

A good SEO will make it easy for you to understand the complex side of SEO and how it directly affects your bottom line. You should expect regular reports (monthly or quarterly) which should contain:

  • A list of backlinks
  • Target keywords and their current rank
  • Audit of content (headlines, meta descriptions, and alt tags)
  • Organic Traffic Report
  • Ideas for improvement.

4. How do they measure success?

Ultimately, your success is the SEO consultant’s success. This can be measured in increased traffic, targeted keyword optimization and content creation.

To gauge the ROI of the SEO consultant, measure the traffic that is getting sent to the site and where it is coming from. Your SEO consultant should track the amount of organic traffic (the number of web visitors getting to your site by searching). Another important measure of success is to track the ranking of targeted keywords on a monthly or quarterly basis.

5. How long do they expect it to take to see real results?

SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. If you have an SEO consultant who claims they can achieve immediate results, don’t work with them. SEO takes time. There are a lot of variables, but in general, most websites that have never been optimized before see significant traffic increases only 3-6 months after working with an awesome SEO consultant.
 

6. What will the SEO consultant need from you?

Expect to have to provide some details up front. Your SEO consultant will need to know what you want to be known for and the details of your brand. There will be practical things as well, like access to your Google Analytics Account and the admin of your website. If they don’t ask for access to these, ask why not!

7. What is the best way to work together?

The SEO consultant will be part of your team. They should have great communication skills and be willing to work with the other people who are helping you. The data that they derive from the performance reports is directly applicable to your social media strategy, editorial calendar and overall marketing strategy. The SEO consultant will need to work directly with the people in charge of these aspects of the business to implement the changes necessary to meet the goals.  

8. Do you have experience with improving local search results?

Appearing in the top local search engine results is especially important to small brick-and-mortar businesses trying to attract nearby customers, according to Moz. You'll want a consultant who has expertise in local SEO techniques.

Have you ever Googled ” _____ near me”? This is the essence of local search. If your business has an actual location, local searches will be extremely important. Ask the consultant about their experience.

The key when choosing to work with an SEO consultant is to be thorough. Don’t be afraid to ask bold questions and know that you are going to be in this relationship for the long haul.



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