Resetting Expectations - What Business Today Needs To Learn

Today’s new businesses have much in common with their older counterparts. The need to acquire new leads, drive revenue, market their product or service. The need to manage overhead, do more with less and stay one step ahead of the competition. So from, say 1974 to 2014, some things haven’t changed much.

One thing you never started a business without “back in the day” was a business plan. And that same thinking should be in place today, but in a lot of cases for new businesses, it’s missing. And that’s a problem.

See, a business plan literally lists out your plan for the next 5 years. Then, you couldn’t get a business loan without one. Today, many folks expect their business to grow, then have hopes of being bought out. Rags to riches, no loans needed, no plan required beyond what’s on the back of a napkin.

And let’s face it. That approach has worked often enough to be a certifiable urban legend today, so there must be some cases to back it up.

The reality for most businesses, however, is that they require a plan to succeed. The plan doesn’t need to be anything elaborate, but should be comprehensive. Covering everything from services provided or products to be sourced/sold, to a financial plan (cash on hand, access to credit, payment schedules, receivables, payables, etc.) and a marketing plan. This last one, these days, often gets all rolled into one ball of wax, with people either figuring they’ll manage it on their own, or will hire a consultant to manage it. In execution, though, they find they have little time to learn the needed skills on their own, can’t determine who to trust and which advice to take and stumble in making the decision on hiring a consultant.

While walking through setting up a detailed business plan is best left to other sources, we can talk about the marketing side of things a bit here.

Before we start marketing anything, though, we have to define what we’re marketing. That’s where your content comes in. Creating excellent content and match that to what searchers are looking for and you’ve got a winning combination. Nothing new there, but still a very important message. Don’t just rely on yourself to determine quality here, either. Have others review it, and watch your analytics to see what people are consuming. Watch for patterns and learn from them the type or content and style that resonates with visitors to your site. When you see a winning combo, start replicating it.

When it comes to SEO, less is more. There is little need today to chase the smallest of details around SEO. Cover the basics and get back to producing quality content as it’ll net you more in the long run. It’s still important to have proper titles and well written meta descriptions. Beyond that, even basic plugins for systems like WordPress can help you cover most of what’s needed. You should avoid duplicate content issues, you should use rel canonical where appropriate, you should have a proper robots.txt file and a well maintained sitemap file.

Bottom line here is that the best practices are well known and can be trusted. The engines even provide some guidance here.

And if you’re having trouble knowing which areas around your site to focus your time, resources and work on, here’s a tip borrowed from Matt Bailey, author of Internet Marketing: An Hour A Day:

Take every URL from your site and place them in a spreadsheet. In the next column, assign a dollar value to each URL. Estimates will work, though solid numbers work better. Now resort the entire spreadsheet by those dollar values. From here you can see the “value” of your URLs stacked with the most valuable on top.

This approach can then form the basis for your approach to what to work on and in what order. Depending on your case, and each case is individual, you may end up fixing issues for one URL that also apply across many other URLs in your list. This is often the case with template-driven websites.

Now, let’s talk about links. Everyone wants them and most are afraid to go find them or confused about what’s a safe practice. The safest practice is to simply allow them to come to you. Produce excellent content that resonates with people, find a hook that draws them in and links will follow. The engines do decent work getting rid of bad links that get pointed your way, though each offers a tool to allow you to disavow links you don’t care for, too.

The bottom line with links is like SEO, often less is more. You always want quality, and quantity is rarely the path forward. In many cases, it takes only a single good link to help boost your rankings, so no need to follow link schemes or sign up for services promising links organically. They are highly unlikely to actually work, and do you really want to risk your domain on such tactics?

Here are some of our popular past blog posts on topics that are related:

In the end, taking shortcuts simply doesn’t work. Today’s success requires a plan. Time invested in making a plan is time well invested. Maybe those business people who came before us were on to something. While tactics may have changed in 40 years, the formula for success hasn’t: provide a desirable product or service, treat the customer well and plan for your growth.

Duane Forrester
Sr. Product Manager

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