Staying Organized as a Freelancer: A Gamers Guide

Staying Organized as a Freelancer

Are you having trouble staying organized as a freelancer? Do you play Video Games? This one's for you.

When you're working as a freelancer; it can be difficult to stay on track when managing multiple clients; especially if you're working from home.  If you're having trouble, just remember that life as a freelancer is a bit like a Role Playing Game.  Not following?  Allow me to explain.  

There are a few basic elements to your standard RPG; there's your inventory, your quest log, the NPCs that you interact with throughout the game, and a list of people that you occasionally group up with.  I'm not going anywhere near PVP.  To explain my point; we'll use this basic paradigm as the backbone of my argument.  (Warning; this post is about to go full blown video game nerd)

Your Clients are your NPCs

There will always be grind quests; it’s part of gaining experience.  But just because you find yourself grinding tasks that may not be appealing to you doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary.  It’s all part of leveling;  it’s how you make sure you have a high enough level to go after new quests.

There’s a joke to be made here about NPCs always standing around just asking you to run errands for them.  

But seriously; NPCs giving quests is a perfect analogy for your clients.  They need you to do things that, for one reason or another, they themselves cannot do.  It is your job to take their requirements, understand what they need, go out and do the work, and turn it in for your reward.

There will always be grind quests; it’s part of gaining experience.  But just because you find yourself grinding tasks that may not be appealing to you doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary.  It’s all part of leveling;  it’s how you make sure you have a high enough level to go after new quests.

Your clients are people that all need something done.  They’re turning to you as the expert, and it’s your duty to make sure that the job is done and done correctly.  So they presume you know what you’re doing; make sure you don’t let them down, and you’ll increase the likelihood of staying employed.

 

Google Drive is your Inventory

That pavlovian response that you get in the virtual world; the sparkling color explosion, the coins or item, the experience, gaining a new level, the NPC giving you a new quest, are all part of what makes playing the game so much fun.

What’s the golden rule of finishing a quest?  Make sure you ALWAYS have the right items in your inventory to get credit for it.  

You could spend hours scouring the earth in search of the proper items, kills and tasks in order to complete the quest, but it could all be for nothing if you go to turn it in only to find that you have to run back and get something you forgot.  You need to make sure that your inventory is organized and you’ve hit every part of the quest requirements in order to get credit for it.

That pavlovian response that you get in the virtual world; the sparkling color explosion, the coins or item, the experience, gaining a new level, the NPC giving you a new quest, are all part of what makes playing the game so much fun.  This translates perfectly to the real world.  Getting that invoice paid, maybe gaining additional work from the client, or a referral to a new client is all very exciting, and it’s part of what makes your work worthwhile.

Having a repository for required items in Google Drive allows you to make sure that you have everything in order; every work order, every piece of information required to get the job done, a paper trail of issues communicated and detailed out, the original agreement.  It’s all part of getting your ducks in a row and making sure that you have the level of confidence required that your project is complete when you finally turn it in.

Trello is your quest log

Your quest journal will help you keep organized and stay on track.
Trello is a great way to keep track of your concurrent projects quickly and easily.

Being able to take a step back and look at your boards at a higher level is a great way to keep yourself reminded of the projects that you need to handle.  If you’re ever feeling lost or like you don’t know where to go next or what to do; just open your quest log.  Chances are there are plenty of things that require your attention.

Every project has requirements and tasks; just like every quest.  

Look at a service like Trello as your quest log; creating boards and swimlanes with tasks described and moving down the board is perfect for making sure that you’re meeting the right requirements for the job, but also great for managing multiple clients or projects.

Being able to take a step back and look at your boards at a higher level is a great way to keep yourself reminded of the projects that you need to handle.  If you’re ever feeling lost or like you don’t know where to go next or what to do; just open your quest log.  Chances are there are plenty of things that require your attention.

Keeping track of multiple moving parts at once and having the ability to quickly reference multiple client projects helps to keep you focused.  If you’re stuck on one thing, move onto something else.  Just move the needle on a project.  If not one, then another.  There should always be something to do; all you have to do is look.

 

Slack is your Group Chat

Warning: don’t send the wizard in too early or they might draw aggro and get waffled, ruining the raid for everyone.  A bad wizard will always, ALWAYS need a heal (typical).  A good one knows what to cast and when.

A tank, a healer, a ranger, a wizard and an enchanter walk into a bar.   Except the bar is a castle, and the bartender is a giant dragon that’s at the end of the raid.  

It may not be every day, but every now and then you’re required to raid to get a larger quest done.  Okay okay; we know a raid is often more than one group of people; calm down.  It’s not going to be a perfect analogy here.  Point being; the boss mob is the project that you’re working on.  Do you have the right team assembled to do the job?  Does everyone meet the proper level requirements?  You need to make sure you have all of your bases covered for a successful operation; right?

Well, your project manager is your healer; responsible for handling errors and planning corrections.  Your enchanter is your QA person; perfect for crowd control and calling out adds (sidebar: adds are issues; do I really have to explain this?).  The tank is your lead developer; someone to take the hits while others are working behind the scenes.  A second developer is your ranger; perfect for taking on adds. Finally; the designer is your wizard; make everything flashy and you can send them in last minute for the final kill.  Warning: don’t send the wizard in too early or they might draw aggro and get waffled, ruining the raid for everyone.  A bad wizard will always, ALWAYS need a heal (typical).  A good one knows what to cast and when.

Sorry; let me get back on track.  Using an application like Slack is perfect for keeping in communication with your team members.  If you need something that requires more than one person or you need a hand with something; it’s always good to have a few people that you work with or talk to on a regular basis.  This is especially true if the people that you’re talking to have skills that are outside of your own skillset.  

 

Did you make it all the way through that nerd-fest? Ding!  

Phew, that was a long one; thanks for hangin in there with me for it.  You've completed your quest for the morning, and hopefully you've learned something here.  Staying organized as a freelancer can be quite a daunting task when you have consecutive projects going at once.  Just remember that you can always leverage the people and tools that you have at your disposal and never stop the grind; it's how you gain enough experience to move on.

Hey, Listen!  Quit throwing pots and go do your job.  Stop cutting the grass for deku nuts.  There's a dead tree somewhere that needs its spiders purged.

As always; if you need any help completing your quest; feel free to Drop Us a Line Here's to endgame content!

-- Chris

 

5 Useful WordPress Plugins for Small Businesses

5 Useful WordPress Plugins for Small Businesses

There are a lot of quality WordPress plugins, but here are 5 of the most useful ones we use here at Symposium

Visual Composer Logo

  • WPBakery Visual Composer

What makes Visual Composer Good?

Visual Composer by WPBakery is one of most robust visual editing solutions for WordPress pages.  Featuring drag and drop functionality and loads of extra plugin support; many themes you'll find today will incorporate Visual Composer as a package.  Extra plugins range from something simple like parallaxing backgrounds to fully baked functionality like WooCommerce Page Builders for selling your products online.

Where to find Visual Composer

You can download Visual Composer here

What does Visual Composer Cost?

A single-use license for Visual Composer costs $34 and can be purchased at the link above.

WooCommerce Logo

  • WooCommerce

What makes WooCommerce good?

WooCommerce is the #1 e-Commerce plugin solution for WordPress.  Years ago; shopping carts used to be expensive to get up and running.  WooCommerce has made everything involved blindingly simple.  Just install the plugin, activate it, and you'll be set up automatically with pages for a Store, Shopping Cart and Checkout as well as customer accounts.  Additionally; there are over 350 free and paid extensions for WooCommerce that handle everything from integrating with various payment gateways to setting up recurring payments, figuring out shipping rates with UPS and set up dynamic pricing.  If you know how you want to set up your online store, your best bet is to look to WooCommerce to help get you up and running.

Where to find WooCommerce

You can find and download WooCommerce from their homepage.  If you want to view a list of extensions, you can visit the WooCommerce Extensions Page

What does WooCommerce Cost?

Your standard WooCommerce installation is free.  Extensions and plugins pricing vary depending on what you're looking at.

Yoast SEO Logo

  • Yoast SEO

What makes Yoast SEO good?

Yoast SEO is a fantastic plugin for on page keyword optimization for any piece of content you have on WordPress.  From posts, products, pages and images; this simple tool lets you put a keyword focus on anything you create and gives you a measurement of the quality of the SEO focus the piece has.  Yoast also has a variety of functions available in both the free and paid version.  You can view a list of their full features here.

Where to find Yoast SEO

If you want to make sure you are best positioned with SEO on your WordPress page, you can find the plugin homepage here

What does Yoast SEO Cost?

Free for the initial plugin; $69 for the premium bundle.

Site Origin Page Builder Logo

  • SiteOrigin Page Builder

What makes SiteOrigin Page Builder good?

The Page Builder framework from SiteOrigin is similar in a lot of ways to Visual Composer, but with at least one key differentiating factor; the price.  Page Builder is fast, responsive and offers a wide range of options available, including the ability to customize the CSS of any element you choose.  This site was actually built on Page Builder, so use it as a testament to what's possible!

Where to find SiteOrigin Page Builder

You can find SiteOrigin's Page Builder framework on this page

What does SiteOrigin Page Builder Cost?

"Free, and always will be" -- the SiteOrigin Page

  • AMP

What makes AMP Good?

We've talked extensively about the effects of Google AMP on SEO, so it would make sense that we're including a plugin for it here.  This very simple plugin allows you to turn posts on your page into AMP-ready posts.  This helps SEO by dramatically increasing the load time and offering server-side caching by Google.  Once the plugin is installed, you don't have to do anything else.  Your posts are automatically now AMP compatible to make a big difference in your mobile users load times!

Where to find AMP Plugin

Download WordPress AMP Plugin Here

What does AMP plugin cost?

Free!

Small Business Blogging

The Effect of Small Business Blogging

Yes, blogging can help drive sales. Period.

The Effect of Blogging on Traffic

Introduction

People don't see the value in telling a story.  It's easy to understand this; why put resources towards someone talking about something when it's not doing anything to increase your bottom line?  The simple answer is that this assertion is flat wrong.  Blogging drives sales, period.  Okay, while it’s not necessarily true that just writing something will automatically increase your sales (this isn’t Field of Dreams, after all), writing coupled with the right strategy to broadcast that content will help drive traffic an order of magnitude great versus not writing at all.

Don’t believe me? That’s fine, so let’s do a little exercise, shall we?  Put on your blogging lab coats and let’s try something.  Write something.  Give me (yourself) 300 - 500 words on something that’s relevant to your business.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

.

.

.

Done yet?  If so, congratulations.  You’ve written some (presumably) quality content.  Now, go broadcast that on your social media channels.  Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Google+ / anything at all where you currently have some sort of foot print.

Bake for 24 hours.

.

.

.

Great!  Now check your analytics.  Did you see an increase in traffic to your site?  Chances are you did.  Check your Twitter activity.   Your Facebook likes / post reach, your LinkedIn metrics.  Did they all go up?  Again; chances are you did.

The Cold, Hard Numbers

Not convinced?  Keep doing it.  11+ times / month.  Then get back to us.  We aren’t saying this to be sarcastic, but studies have shown that companies that write between 15 - 20 times per month on their site and share that article through proper channels see an average bump of 3,500% in traffic and leads versus sites that create very little or no content at all.  As a matter of fact; Hubspot, the marketing solutions company and brilliant people that they are; measured exactly this over 13,500 of their customers.  Here’s what they found:

 

Effect of Monthly Blog Posts On Traffic

Impact of Monthly Blog Posts on Inbound Traffic
Companies across the spectrum have seen a dramatic increase in benefits between 6-10 posts and 11+, but no greater is the difference than with companies that have over 200 employees, which see more than double the indexed traffic at 11+ posts versus 6 - 10.
Impact of Monthly Blog Posts on Inbound Traffic for B2B vs. B2C
Regardless of whether you're B2B or B2C, the benefits of blogging carry over. While there might be a slight decline in B2B, everyone can benefit from increasing their blog post count.

Effect of Monthly Blog Posts on Leads

Impact of Monthly Blog Posts on Inbound Leads
The correlation between the number of monthly blog posts and the number of leads is tremendous. Versus not blogging at all; this should be as clear an indication as ever that the more you write the more leads you're likely to get coming into your website.
Impact of Monthly Blog Posts on Inbound Leads by Company Size
Small businesses benefit the most here. By posting 11+ times a month, businesses with 1-25 employees in size see a drastic increase in the number of inbound leads.
Impact of Monthly Blog Posts on Inbound Leads for B2B vs. B2C
It's clear that B2C is influenced the most here. The benefits of posting more frequently in a B2C environment are drastic when the frequency is increased beyond 10 / month.

Effect of Total Blog Posts on Traffic

Impact of Total Blog Posts on Inbound Traffic
The total number of blog posts leading to an increase in traffic spikes drastically after 300 posts are written on the site. Once you get to 400+ the traffic spikes even further. The take away here is that while it may take a while to get to that number of organic posts, it's crucial for building a long term growth strategy.
Impact of Total Blog Posts on Inbound Traffic by Company Size
Again here we see small businesses benefitting the most from having an increased number of blog posts after 300+ has been reached.
Impact of Total Blog Posts on Inbound Traffic tor B2B vs. B2C
No surprise here; after 400+ posts, B2C sites see a huge spike in inbound traffic. While they usually stay at relatively the same level from 100 all the way to 400 total posts, once they reach beyond that there's a sharp spike.

Effect of Total Blog Posts on Leads

Impact of Total Bog Posts on Inbound Leads
Again no real surprise; the total number of inbound leads that come into a website are directly proportional to the total number of blog posts on the site, and see a spike between 300 and 400 total posts.

Impact of Total Blog Posts on Inbound Leads by Company Size

 

So what are the key take-aways here?  However much content you have, you probably need more.  In the vast majority of cases, an increase in blog post count is directly related to the total traffic that comes into the site, leading to an increase in organic leads and arguably to an increased number of sales.

If you ever need content written to get started on your journey for web relevance; contact us to get started.

 

Until next time

-- Chris

Planting your Social Media Roots

The Beginning Stages of Meaningful Social Media Interaction

Likes can be nice; but how do you establish your brand as a thought leader in the industry?

"Everybody Loves Me!"

Getting started on Social Media in any serious way can be a bit intoxicating at first.  We've written about this before in our post about ROI and Gaining Momentum.  New followers, new likes, maybe a re-tweet or two, slowly growing your network of 'fans', its all very exciting.  While it's important to realize that not everything is an opportunity, and not every interaction is going to be meaningful, planting your roots and growing your social media presence can be the ultimate vehicle for getting your message out to your audience.  So how do you grow in a way that makes sense for you or your business on social media without getting pulled in the wrong direction?

1. Read.  And Share.  A lot.

Due to the magnificent scale of the internet; there are a number of publications and news sources on just about any topic known to man.  If you have something you're interested in, or something that's relevant to your business, know the topic and do your research.  Spamming out meaningless links may get a few quick followers, but the goal with sharing content on your social media platforms is to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry or interest.  Knowing about the trends of your industry and having an informed opinion can make an incalculable difference when it comes to having interactions with a potential audience that makes sense.  Your user base is likely pretty good at identifying bad content versus quality content, so make sure that you are able to share things that make sense.  

2. Learn the Big Hitters in your Industry

Everyone loves followers, but knowing who to follow can also help you gain recognition early on and help you tailor your audience to better suit your needs.  While it might be fun to follow a few novelty accounts (@Floridaman comes to mind), making sure you can follow other thought leaders and heads of industry in your chosen interest can be a real boon to your presence.  If you see something from them that's relevant and makes you interested in learning more, don't hesitate to reach out to that person or share that post directly and thank them for their contribution.  It's very likely that while you are paying attention; so are scores of other people.  The more you grow your presence with influencers the better chance you have at becoming a thought leader yourself.  Being a trusted source for good, relevant information is always a very good goal to have.

3. Don't be Selfless

While you're spending your time curating your Twitter and Facebook feed to make sure that you are able to post relevant content in an effort to gain followers and recognition, make sure that you have original content on your own that's worth showing to your audience.  Fresh, original content written by you, on your site, should be added in to your social media posts on a regular basis.  This helps to ensure that not only are you an expert at finding and sharing information, but that you're also capable of creating content on your own.  Independent thought can be especially rewarding on Social Media when you've already shown that you know your industry and its key players very well.

4. Interact Daily

Keeping an eye on social media and relevant content daily can be easy to forget to do.  Having your morning coffee and going through emails thinking about your tasks for the day lends itself to focus on immediate paying work rather than social media; we get that.  But working social media interaction into your daily routine can be a great way to stay fresh of mind to your audience and make sure that you grow your influence just a bit every day.  

Keep on being social; it's in our nature!  In case you need help doing a little of the heavy lifting, you can always Contact Symposium and let us help you.  We work to understand your industry, and you would do well to let us help you out if you need to focus on growth and are struggling with your social media presence.

~~Chris

 

Google IO Liveblog

Google IO 2016 is Here!

We'll be liveblogging Googles yearly developer conference. Liveblogging starts at 1:00pm est. Here's what we know so far.

Android N

The main event

We all know that every year Google introduces a new version of Android at its IO conference.  This year was a bit different as Google decided to release a developer preview of Android N early; giving people a glimpse of what the newest iteration of Android looks like.  Things like Split-Screen multitasking, battery live tweaks and adjustments to a new quick settings button are all tweaks that were built into the developer preview.  Early reports on the split screen mode were that it was fast, responsive, and well thought out.  We expect to see much more from the newest version of Android here, but what we've seen so far is, indeed, very exciting.

Chrome OS and Android Closing the Gap

A Convergence of Operating Systems

The divergence of two operating systems has been a bit of an interesting journey for Google.  ChromeOS has come quite a long way away from a simple Chrome window into a more fleshed-out desktop offering, and they've made a compelling case for themselves over the years as good replacements for the Windows-based netbooks of old.  More recently; reports have been showing up that Google intends to merge the Chrome operating system with the more robust Android OS.  The convergence of which could mean a unified platform in which all manner of notebooks, phones, tablets, and anything in between could be running a version of Android rather than multiple operating systems.  This is very similar to the approach that Microsoft has taken with its Windows platform, but we're very interested to see what comes from a more unified front, as Android on Laptops have always been of keen interest to us as we've even experimented with the Android-x86 project several years ago.  Call us crazy; but we think the world could use another desktop-class operating system.

Android Wear 2.0

Google's Wearable Platform Likely to get a major update

As long time tech early-adopters, we've often seen the highs and lows of new technology being brought to the forefront, and Android Wear is no exception.  The pared down operating system from Google meant for Wearable devices was certainly a leap of faith for some on the early tech front, but we've seen an explosion of wearable devices over the last few years since its inception.  Apple's own watch, while most likely selling more units than any one Android Wear watch, has really failed to catch on in the typical Apple fashion that everyone is so used to, and the democratization of the Android hardware ecosystem has brought on some pretty great advances.  There have been a number of small-but-important updates to Android Wear since its inception, but today we're likely to see what the next iteration of this platform looks like.  

Android Auto

Google's Fight to End Terrible Infotainment Systems could see an update

While there hasn't been much buzz about Android Auto being present in Google IO, it makes sense that we should expect some updates about the platform to save auto manufacturers from themselves.  It's no secret that in-car "infotainment" systems have been, largely, well, garbage.  Android Auto is aiming to close that gap fighting alongside Apple's CarPlay initiative to make the user interfaces more compatible with what we've come to expect from touch screen devices.  It's likely that we'll see an update to Android Auto in the coming hours; whatever that may mean.

Twitter Activity

Filling the Sales Funnel

When do you work on the sales funnel?

When you wear multiple hats; sometimes it can be difficult to determine when to build and when to relent.

Filling the Sales Funnel

"Are you kidding me? ABC, baby! Always Be Closing!"

Well, maybe.  Then again, maybe not.  As a small business owner there's a delicate balance that needs to be struck between making clients happy (read: always make sure the client is happy) and building out the top of your sales funnel.  The reason being is that while they are certainly not mutually exclusive (referral work is excellent when you can get it!), it can be easy to slip into one mode at the expense of the other.

 

The Sales Funnel

Filling the top of the Sales Funnel with new potential opportunities can be an invigorating experience.  New conversations!  New potential clients! A new contact form filled out!  It's all very exciting, I get it.  Anyone worth their weight in salt will tell you that sales can be the lifeblood of your organization; the sink or swim element.  However, when you operate a small shop (if, say, you're the first and last employee), spending too much time on filling the top of the funnel may come at a detriment to spending time on people that you've already convinced that you can deliver a project for them on.

If you fail to deliver and those customers are unhappy, then ultimately your sales will go down as well.  Managing the sales funnel is every bit about your current clients as it is about your potential future ones.  So while it's exciting and can be relatively easy to get sucked into pipeline-mode, you have to always keep in mind that the people that are signed up with you should be a primary focus of your daily efforts, as its success with them that will ultimately help you gain more business.  Plus you'll make some money while doing it, and that's rarely a bad thing.

The Work Process

Speaking of focusing on clients; its crucial that you maintain a steady workflow to make sure that you have deadlines that are met and that you do quality work for the clients you have on deck.  On the other hand; you will learn early on that you need to set realistic expectations with the client about the workload and the length of time it will take you to deliver the work.  

It can be tempting to over-promise in order to win a contract, I understand that.  Shorten the deadline and drop the cost a little to make it seem more appealing of an option to go with you versus a competitor.  That just might give you the edge over your competition in helping your client ultimately choose to move forward with you.  However, if you aren't getting the job done in fewer overall hours, the only thing you're doing is saying that you're spending more time on them and scrubbing a few weeks off of a delivery timeline.  While that may sound attractive, you need to keep expectations reasonable, because the balance that you strike between your work process and your sales process could ultimately mean life or death for your company.  Don't get caught up in being penny-wise-pound-foolish; sustainable success will only come after a crucial balance is struck between happy clients and potential new ones.

The Balance

The balance is the most crucial (and arguably the most difficult) thing to maintain, and that's likely because its almost always changing.  If you're always trying to get a new meeting; you may not be spending adequate time on your current client.  If you spend too much time with your current client, you may come out of it starting again at zero because no time was spent on outreach and sales.  Even further; you need to make sure that both your prospective clients and your current ones are happy with the output that you promise.  Making sure those proposals get out on time and followups are handled in a timely manner can be equally important to making sure your current clients deliverables are on schedule and on track.

At Symposium, it's no secret that we're a big fan of recommending services to help you work more efficiently, and this is no exception.  Being able to work on projects efficiently is critical to maintaining the balance between sales and production.  Like many startups, we've found a great deal of success using a few platforms to help you get the work done without being overbearing or complicated to manage.  For instance; properly setting up a good Slack account can help you streamline the daily processes, and Forecast by Harvest can allow you to manage the hours you work on a project on a daily basis to alleviate some of the stress that comes with feeling a crunch that could have otherwise been avoided.  Knowing you're spending a few hours each day on production and using the tools available to you to make sure that production is going smoothly will ultimately save you time and help you deliver successfully.

TL;DR!

If there's one thing you learn from reading what we have to say, make it this; "You can't have good clients without sales, but you can't have sales without good clients.  Find a way to manage the two.".  Delivering consistently on time and on budget while expanding outreach is our credo here, and if you want us to do that for you, please feel free to Drop Us a Line any time, and we'd be more than happy to have a conversation with you.

That's all for now folks!  And remember; keep punching above your weight class, and keep nipping at their heels!

~~Chris

 

ROI and Gaining Momentum

ROI: Radio On the Internet? No; Return on Investment

Understanding ROI is a key driver for success; but don't count early victories as evidence of a trend.

"Maximize Return on Investment!"

Radio On Internet?  No; Return on Investment

ROI, or Return on Investment, might as well be a meme at this point.  It's found its way onto job descriptions, resumes galore, and is often thrown around by otherwise well meaning people who don't necessarily understand how to identify signal from noise.  Chasing and refining ROI can often be difficult, and many companies can fall into the trap of overestimating momentum.  Here are five points to keep in mind when measuring the success you're building for your business.

1. Not Everything is an Opportunity

If you're just starting out in your business, it can be easy to get excited.  Reaching out to new people, gaining new Twitter Followers, or expanding your LinkedIn network can all be very good drivers to keep you going day to day.  It's tempting to think that you need to immediately start trying to monetize your newfound network, and you start trying to line up conversations.  But there's a key pitfall many people don't recognize when they're first starting out; not everything is an opportunity.  Just because you have a phone call with someone, or a retweet, or a direct message, doesn't necessarily mean that these people or companies will convert.  Further; it's good to keep in mind that a lot of the times the person on the other end of that conversation is more than happy to talk to you about a service that they themselves provide, whilst ignoring your pitch all together.  Spending your time chasing unicorns can quickly turn into chasing the dragon.

Be wary of people who are only out to schedule meetings with you because of the services that they provide.  A lot of times there may be an opportunity for partnership or a working relationship, but that needs to be a mutually beneficial conversation before anything is to turn into an opportunity.

2. Starting to Work != Working

This point is absolutely critical to keep in mind.  Early successes are not necessarily an indicator of a trend.  Yes, a new contract, or customer, or contact point, or response to an ad is a promising prospect, but as we discussed; not everything is a lead.  Just because something is starting to work doesn't necessarily mean that it's working in the long term, or even that its the right business model for you.

Know that your early successes are just that; early.  It can be difficult to tell what's plain dumb luck versus the result of consistent hard work.  The worst case scenario of this is people who may find early successes and begin to rest on their laurels, thinking that they've hit a good pattern and things will carry them along and the business will grow.  It may sound unthinkable, but it's a potential reality that you'd likely do best to avoid. 

3. Early "Momentum" Defies Physics

This is especially true for early stage seedling stage companies.  An object in motion tends to stay in motion, right?  Wrong!  What you have to understand about the business world is that while yes, it can be true that the momentum you are building is crucial to your long term success, gravity and the laws of physics have nothing on the forces working against you in your chosen arena.  For every one of you, there are thousands out there like you all vying for the same business.  Just because you got a piston to fire doesn't mean your engine is running.

Instead; focus your time and energy on relentlessly swimming up stream.  Keep building that network, keep writing, optimizing your site, finding new opportunities, new venues to expand into.  Keep talking, keep going, keep listening, keep doing good work.  It can be easy to lose sight of what you're trying to accomplish by taking pride in your early successes, but you need to keep going. You need to keep putting gas in the tank in order to keep that engine running; so never stop putting the pedal down.

4. Signal from Noise

This goes along the same lines as our original point; not everything is an opportunity.  However, identifying "Signal from Noise" applies to a wider theory than simply identifying opportunities correctly.  You could see a few real opportunities as a signal of a trend, but the actual trend in your industry can be a much better indicator of where you should be going versus the direction you're currently heading.  For instance, in mobile development, just because you get a contract for an app built on Objective-C doesn't necessarily mean the trend is heading in that direction; especially when Swift is the new language getting all the attention.  Swift is the future; Objective-C the past.  Maximizing your ROI becomes much easier when you can correctly identify trends in the industry.  This is especially true of something like Search Engine Optimization, where the game is constantly being changed by Google, Bing and other search engines.  What worked yesterday may not work today, so don't focus on yesterday.  Make sure you identify the signal from noise and focus on what's going to work tomorrow.

So that's all for now; a few quick tips to help you maximize your radio on the.... I mean Return on Investment.  It's crucial to understand market trends, determine what's working and what's not, and realize that market forces are most likely against you until they're not, and it's up to you to know when they're not.

Stay vigilant; it's a jungle out there.

~~Chris

 

Quality Content is the Cornerstone of Good SEO

Writing Quality Content to Boost Rankings

Search engines try to find the best relevant results for users. What does that mean for you?

"I want good rankings!"

Search engines, at their core, are all trying to do one simple thing; bring the most relevant search results to a user based on the search term(s) that they use.  There are many people out there that will try to sell you tricks to boost your rankings, but artificial boosts may not pay off and can be dangerous for your search results in the long run.  So how do you build a solid foundation for getting your site to list organically?  The answer is relevant, quality content.  Here are 5 tips to keep in mind.

1. Tell a Story

Everyone and everything, no matter what it is, has a story behind it.  One of the goals that you should focus on is accurately telling the story of the platform, service, or product that you're trying to drive traffic to.  By doing this, you'll establish your site as a trusted source of information for your focus and help you increase visibility.

2. Tell it Well

When telling your 'story', make sure to write naturally.  Don't try to 'keyword stuff' your posts to try and get the most traffic; the end goal is quality over quantity.  Getting 10,000 visitors to your site means nothing if none of them are converted and they all leave instantly.  As such; make sure that you write what comes naturally to you.  If you have something interesting to say about the topic, say it!  Telling an interesting, relevant, focused story is what users will want to see when they come to your site.  If they come in and see a keyword-stuffed article that has a lot of words without really saying anything, they're going to leave. Fast.  So tell your story well.

3. Tell it Often

So you have quality content written, the copy for each page is perfectly tailored for what you want to say, and it's in a format that's easily readable by search engines.  Perfect!  Now that you've told your story, keep telling it.  Writing a blog on your domain about your industry / focus is a great way to continue to stay relevant.

4. Share Your Tale

Shakespeare would have died a complete unknown if it weren't for sharing his stories in the theatre.  Point being; it may not matter how much content you write if it's not shared with anyone.  Sharing with your audience has a direct correlation with driving traffic to your site, and can be a great way to start a dialog.

5. Offer Value for Content

Call me old fashion, but when I write I try to stay away from the Clickbait articles, and truly believe that most people feel duped when clicking on an article only to have it be a blatant cash-grab for advertisement. Ultimately, you're trying to sell your potential audience on the value of the knowledge, expertise, or products that you bring to the table.  There should be a good reason that people come to your site; don't disappoint!  The knowledge that you have in this world should be a value add to the community and should contribute something of substance to the conversation about it.

So that's it for now; 5 valuable tips to generating relevant content and driving organic traffic to your site.  Remember; not everyone can be Shakespeare, and that's okay too.  There's always value in hiring a quality copywriter to take what you want to say and shape it into relevant content.  If you need any content written but are struggling to find what to say, you can always Contact Symposium and we'll be more than willing to work with you to help you "Tell Your Story".

~~Chris

 

5 SEO Tips to Getting Started

5 SEO Tips To Get Started With

Here at Symposium, we realize that SEO can be a complicated, confusing affair. Here are 5 SEO tips that you can use to get started on the right path.

"I had no idea this was broken!"

 

Building a strong SEO Strategy always starts with introspection and an understanding of the current state of health of your website.  A lot of times, in the initial report, we'll find things for clients that they had no idea were broken or, even worse, that legacy pages were driving traffic to a portion of the site that has not been updated or monitored.  Here are a few tips to get started with understanding your current state of affairs.

1. Test Everything

 

This should sound obvious, but you'd be surprised how frequently we run into clients that do not have a crucial part of their website working.  We've even seen contact forms that weren't operating correctly, resulting in untold numbers of emails and potential customers not going through!  You need to make sure that everything your site needs to do its doing correctly.  One potential customers come into the site, you wouldn't want to turn them away without knowing it.

2. Get Baseline Site Metrics

Do you have any dead links, 404s or page crawl errors?  Now is the time to find out.  There are several online tools which you can use to identify any major issues that your site might be experiencing.  If you're focusing on the wrong keyword in your page and aren't optimized for relevant content to be found, it could be a serious detraction away from your standings and pointing the wrong audience in your direction.  This will give you a good sense of where to go. 

3. Plan, plan, plan

There's no sense in trying to fix something without a plan on how to do so.  The best thing you can do is write out a roadmap for fixing any issues and going page-by-page to make sure that these issues are fixed.  This can be a tedious task at times, so its best to have something to look back at and keep track of your progress using either a strong task management or project management system to monitor progress.

4. Execute

SEO is an ongoing effort and an exercise in patience to try and figure out what works.  Having said that; making sure your content is optimized is crucial as a first step.  So now that you've got your issues identified and a plan of action for how to tackle them, start executing.  It's important to be able to focus on one page at a time and go line by line and optimize it in the best way you can.  If you start doing a little bit at a time on each page it'll be very easy for you to lose focus and forget what you've already done.  So pick a page (Usually your home page is a great place to start) and don't stop working on it until you're satisfied with its performance.  There are several online tools available to help measure page performance and SEO readiness, so rely on those to help guide your efforts.  Go through this process on all of your pages until you're ready to move on.

5. Retest

Once you've gotten your pages optimized, it's best practice to go back to the testing cycle to see if you can still recreate any of the issues that you were previously running into.  If there are still issues with Javascript or above-the-fold optimization, it will be prudent of you to go back to the drawing board and put a plan of action in place for the page to be optimized as best as possible.  It's not uncommon to miss some crucial items the first time around, so run through the plan again and make sure that your ship is running as tight as a drum.

That's all for now, we hope you'll find these tips helpful in getting your bearings and starting your SEO journey.  Remember, if you need help you can always Contact Symposium and we'd be more than happy to get you started and work with you!  Enjoy your Sunday, and we look forward to connecting with you.

~~Chris

 

Small Business Weekend

Small Business Never Really Stops

You've worked hard all week, and it's time for the weekend. Even though it's Saturday, you still have to engage

"Okay, give me my coffee and lets do this"

 

As a small business owner; there are times when resting is much needed and appreciated.  It can even be good as it can help to clear your head.  But sometimes, even on the weekend, it's good to stay engaged with your audience.  With that in mind, let's do this!

This can wait... actually no it can't

 

One of the hardest things to do as a small business owner can be finding the motivation to keep going every day.  There are times when things will be moving quickly, and other times when it won't be.  Staying motivated through the troughs of activity can be a challenge for some people.  If you have something that needs to be done, especially on a weekend, it can be near impossible to think of working when all you want to do is sleep in and forget the world.

"I'll just do it Monday" you think.  Then you get restless and keep thinking about it until, eventually, you know you aren't going to feel okay unless you do something for it.  While this can be a dangerous path to burning out, it's good to keep that instinct in check.  Maybe doing something small for an hour or so that will help you set yourself up for the next week will be what you need.  But you need to know that you aren't crazy; you're a small business owner.

So; how do we stay productive on a weekend and satiate that need that we have to constantly be going full throttle?  Here are a few things we do on the weekend to help that won't consume your entire day.

Engage Your Audience

 

The weekend can be a great time to expand your influence on Social Media.  Attract new followers, write a blog post (hey there!), put something up on Facebook, muse about a sale or product you want to highlight.  All things that you can do to interact with your potential customers that won't take too much time and will help you feel productive in the morning before you start your day of forgetting the world until Monday.

Check Analytics

Finding out about your audience from the previous nights engagements can be a great way to spend some time understanding your site or business.  Seeing where your traffic is coming from and what seemed to be working the most doesn't take a long time to do, and is an effort that should really be done every day anyway.  

You can also check your sites SEO performance metrics.  Are you ranking for any new keywords?  Have you moved up or down the ranks?  Again, this is only something that should take no longer than a few minutes to scan through and give you some ideas for the coming week.

Write that email

Do you have something that you want to say to someone?  Follow up with a potential client or keep someone up to date on a project?  Writing an email; even a draft, can be a good way to help you stay focused and organized in the morning.  Bonus points if you have something that will allow you to schedule an email to send out Monday morning.  This way you don't send things on a weekend and make it seem like you're nothing but a workaholic.

Task Management

Take some time to move some things around in priority for the coming week.  If you keep a to do list (I suggest Asana as a good start) then it would be helpful to arrange some things to get an idea of what crucial items you need to take care of first thing Monday morning.

You're Done!

Congratulations, you've managed to get a few things done that took no longer than an hour or so to do.  Now, go relax and enjoy the rest of your day.  Remember; even a small business owner needs time to relax, so enjoy the rest of your day!

Until next time; keep that coffee flowing!

~~Chris

 

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