A friend is bailing out of her corporate job to become a Life Coach in independent practice. She asked me where on earth to begin.
As an SEO content writer, I’ve been exposed to all facets of digital marketing. The Facebook marketers will tell you Facebook is the place to be. Search Engine Optimization specialists say you MUST START WITH SEO (I agree there actually). I find that the companies that are most successful use website pages (sales or landing pages), blog posts (which link to website pages and provide original content for social media to link TO), email newsletters (where you aggregate the blog posts and email monthly) AND social AND making it all search engine optimized.
No wonder my friend feels paralyzed. Where to start? It’s on the website where professional service providers can describe their services, the problems they solve and their expertise, so let’s start there. As a friend once said, the website acts as “command central” for the business. Social media platforms and directories are the “outposts,” bringing them back to command central or the website where your offers live.
While this post covers the best elements on websites for professional service providers, I also gave her the news that the website wasn’t enough. If she wants to be able to be found online, she needs to leverage her website with a the blog on the website, social media, and local search directories. She will need to spend 3 to 4 hours a week taking care of these tasks.
But, starting from the very beginning . . .
1. Find 3 Professional Services Provider Website You Admire
Your web designer will ask for examples of websites you like anyway. Find at least 3. Write down the elements that you like and what you don’t like. Decide whether you are attracted to a formal style or a fun, casual style. More important, try to think of what style your clients will respond to best.
It goes without saying that financial services websites are generally formal. These must convey trust and respectability. Websites having to do with kids or pets tend to have more whimsical look. Think of the balance, too, between text and image. Fashion websites, catering websites and photography websites contain mostly photos with little text. News, opinion, and publishing websites on the other hand are text heavy.
2. Find a Web Designer You Like ( Preferably One that Integrates SEO)
Get recommendations for at least three website designers. Give them the specifications for your website. Ask all three whether whether search engine optimization (SEO) is included in the price and in the initial website build. Ask all three to do some search engine optimization upfront so that you know the best words to use on your pages. Called “opportunity keywords,” these are the terms and phrases that you can rank for quickly. If the web designer does not do SEO but you still like their design ideas, tell the designer to sit tight while you consult with an outside search engine optimization specialist. Have the SEO come up with your page titles and keywords so that your audience can find your solution to their problems. A new website should start with SEO, NOT DESIGN!
3. Tell Your Web Designer You Want these Elements
It’s well known in the website design community that when visitors come to a website, the first three things they ask are:
- Am I at the right place? (the place I intended to go; lots of websites are bait and switch scams)
- Is this is this business professional? (in other words, do the graphics and content look and sound professional?)
- What can I get here? (can I get a free consultation? information? my problem solved?)
If the answer is no to any of the questions, the visitor clicks away, often in under a second. If the answers to all questions are yes, hopefully they choose to connect with you either by calling, filling out your website form, or connecting with you via social media. These actions turn them into a precious lead. To capture those leads before they click away, the professional service provider website must lay traps (sorry, but that’s what they are.)
Conversion opportunities are:
- A conversion form: “Ask a Question” “Schedule Your FREE 15-minute Consultation” with three “fields” or boxes ( name, email or phone number and comment). Make it as easy and fast as possible for website visitors to put the responsibility on you to call them, which you’ll gladly do.)
- Email newsletter sign up: you should build an email newsletter list of subscribers that you can market to monthly. I like to aggregate the month’s blog posts in the email newsletter. Your clients may not have seen your blog posts; emailing to their inbox at least ups the odds they will see it, and be reminded of you and your expertise.
- Social media icons: When a visitor connects with you through a social media platform, you get to remind them of you several times each week.
- phone number in top banner in large font: Make it easy for them to call you!
- blog on the website: frequent updates are not only excellent public relations, they are critical for SEO. They also demonstrate your authority and your approachability.
- Name Address and Phone number (NAP) on every page. This step is critical for SEO.
- These Plugins:
- Yoast SEO for WordPress: also critical for SEO
- Share buttons on every and blog post for easy sharing: let visitors can share your pages with their Facebook friends and other social media communities.
Examples of Excellent Professional Service Providers Websites
For a professional services providers, I like how these solopreneurs have done their websites and social outlets:
Both the writing and the art is top notch. If you look at all of the elements, though, you know they paid not only $5,000+ to set it up, but probably at least $1,000 per month maintaining it. In the article How Much Does a Website Cost to Make, Small Business Trends breaks down exactly what level of website costs what. Sure you can get $1200 websites, but that will mostly be a static online brochure very limited page. The website I mention above most likely cost over $5000 to build.Oh Joy! WAS a website design company before it became just a blogging platform.
3. Set up Your Facebook Business Page
Facebook has made set up easier than ever. You just need to get an image from Bigstock photo or iStockphoto that measures at least 851 x 315. Have a designer put together a nice Facebook cover for you and then upload it. Fill out all the other parts of the Facebook page. (If you need help contact me. )
4. Like Businesses in Your Industry (Competitors) as Well as Those that Complement Yours
Like competitors to see what they are posting on Facebook. You could use the same links to fill out your Facebook page. Follow businesses that complement your business and share their posts. Spend some time each day studying both competing and complementary businesses. These posts from other businesses will come into your Facebook “home” newsfeed.
5. Put together Your First Five Blog Posts
While it’s best to blog every day, most find it tough to get one blog post per week up there. The blog post has all kinds of advantages. According to digital marketing giant Hubspot’s 2013 State of Inbound Marketing Report
- Companies with 51-100 pages on their website generate 48 percent more traffic than those with 1-50 pages. Business can make it to 51 pages within a year by blogging once each week. Make sure your blog lives on your website!
- Companies double sales leads by doubling blog frequency from 3 -5 times per month to 6 – 8 times per month.
- Small businesses with blogs get 126 percent more leads than those without a blog.
- B2B marketers rate blogging as the most effective content marketing tactic.
- B2C marketers rate eNewsletters as the most effective tactic. (But then what to put in the email newsletter? The blog posts!)
When you first start out, the more blog posts, the better! If you need help getting started, as a San Diego content writer with experience in legal, hospitality, professional service providers (veterinarians, psychologists, nutritionists), trade, plumbing, breweries and more, I can consult with you to get you started or write your initial blog posts which you can use as models if you even want to write for yourself.
6. Get Monthly SEO Services
I know this is expensive. The least expensive I’ve found in San Diego for my small business clients is $400 per month, and that was after exhaustive work. Let the SEO team work on your site for a year (generally they ask for a year contract), getting all the basic elements for good SEO integrated into the site. After that, you can add blog posts and use the plug in WordPress SEO by Yoast to do your own SEO. (It’s easy!) After a year of doing that, you may ask an SEO to look over your site to see if any upgrades are needed.
The SEO specialist will also get your business listing on all local search directories (Yelp, CitySearch, InfoPages, etc.) in a consistent way. If you decide to drop SEO services after a year, you can use Moz Local ($50 per year) or Yext ($500 per year) to perform the same services. (Yoo hoo, Yext. Better look out!)
7. Get Reviews on Directories like Yelp and Google+
Where once movie stars encouraged people to trust brands, now consumers trust their fellow consumers most. Reviews are everywhere, whether you want them or not. If you’re hesitant to ask for a Google+ or Yelp review, use my free tools the Google Plus Review Request and the Yelp Review Request here:
Good luck with your business launch. It’s great more and more people are going into business for themselves!