Web marketing can seem overwhelming sometimes, even for professionals, let alone for small business owners just starting out with promoting a new site. There are so many areas and there is so much to learn – and the goal posts are always moving. Google is constantly developing their algorithm, and there seems to be something new in the world of social media every day.
However, the single most important thing when it comes to marketing your small business, whether online or offline, is simply getting into action. No amount of expert knowledge will help you if you're not using it, and even a little knowledge will get you a long way if you're out there putting it into practice.
Learning everything you can before you start is great if you can do it, but all too often it turns into a mental block. We get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing.
Anyone who has worked with a personal coach in any area of business or life will have heard this mantra over and over again: get into action with what you can manage now (however small), build your confidence and knowledge over time, and work toward larger tasks; don't get bogged down by being too ambitious or by trying to do everything at once. Long to-do lists are the enemy!
Applying Habit Forming to SEO and Web Marketing
The biggest problem you will face as a small businessperson is that most tasks associated with SEO fall into the category of important but not urgent (as are most tasks associated with working on, rather than in the business). We get caught up with all the super-urgent day-to-day stuff (deadlines to meet, bills to pay), so the long-term development of our business suffers.
Now, if you're incredibly disciplined or have a boss breathing down your neck, this doesn't pose so much of a problem. But if you're like most of us mere mortals or are working for yourself (or if you are the boss!), then we need to do some work. The answer is to develop a system or structure, combined with small, short-term targets, to get you into the habit of regular action.
I use the word "habit" very deliberately here. It too often goes along with "bad," but habits don't have to be negative things at all.
We all have plenty of habits, both good and bad, that together make up our daily routine. What we're talking about here is making those non-urgent but very important SEO tasks a part of that daily routine.
Using a system is important, as it ensures regular action and the measurement of that action (and associated results), regardless of your level of mood, energy or inspiration (let's not kid ourselves: if you're working by yourself, these can be huge factors, even if they're not meant to be). It's easy to get into action around something if you're feeling inspired or bursting with energy, but what about when that initial enthusiasm runs out? The tasks still need to be done.
Just as with exercise or dieting, so many people start out with the best of intentions and ambitious goals, but peter out quickly. However, the benefit only comes with the long term.
How you will put this system together is up to you. It depends on where you place your focus (link building, content generation, social media?) and what works for you personally. However, any successful habit-forming system will have the following components:
- Frequent action: At least once per week, if not more often.
- Regular action: Those actions need to be done at the same time of day or the same day of the week every time. Your brain doesn't fix the habit otherwise.
- Records: Make a note whenever you complete one of your regular actions, so you can go back and review your progress.
- Short-term targets: Manageable targets that you can see yourself progressing towards with every step.
- A stick and a carrot: These are more personal, but most people work best when there are both rewards and punishments in the offing. One or other by itself isn't as effective. Set them yourself but get someone else to enforce them for you if you don't have the discipline!
We're trained from a young age to set big, ambitious and long term targets... and always bigger and always more ambitious! These are fine in the right context, but are often misused. They can be very disconnected from everyday actions and become fictional very quickly, as soon as your original enthusiasm has died out. This is a great way to get conditioned to failure rather than success... so we set another big, ambitious goal and the cycle repeats.
This is a especially true when it comes to SEO: the payoff can come a long way in the future, and it can be disheartening to work away at building great content and links for no immediate return. This is why you need small, short-term goals to work toward. They make it clear to yourself that you are making progress.
Again, these goals will depend on you and what you're doing. However, they must always be challenging but something that you fundamentally know that you can do – not a pipe dream. They must also be something that you control fairly directly (rather than relying on external forces).
So, if you're starting a new blog, instead of setting "A-list celebrity blogger within a year" as your goal, try setting "250 visitors in my first month" (or whatever seems realistic to you, depending on your niche). The target for your next month might be more ambitious, based on how you did in your first, or you may decide to concentrate on something else ("be mentioned 25 times by other bloggers in my niche this month").
By all means, keep your big goal in mind – but focus on the small steps. You'll be much more likely to get where you want to be.
By far the most important thing is just getting into action. Don't worry about what you don't know, or what other people say you should be doing – just do what you know you can do and build from there. Create a system that will let you form habits around doing those important, but not urgent, tasks.
Image credit: Richard Dudley
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!