10,000 hours is the amount of time they say you should invest into becoming an expert in something. 10 minutes is the amount of time we ask you to spend reading our post. I think we know who holds the cards here.
And speaking of cards, today we’re talking with SEO Magician, Bill Treloar. Bill’s site Rank Magic (that’s why he’s a magician) focusses on providing SEO solutions exclusively for small businesses. Read on for some great takes on searchability and whether or not one can pull a better ranking out of a hat.
You offer SEO services catered specifically for small businesses; how does this differ from working for a much larger client? Are there benefits you see to catering exclusively for this smaller market?
Our approach is much more collaborative than typical SEO done for larger companies. For example, we typically spend anywhere from an hour to five hours on the phone with our clients helping them to select the best keyword phrases to optimize for from the results of our specific keyword research. We also refrain from ever touching a client’s website, believing that control of the site must always remain with the website owner and their designated web designer or webmaster. We do, however, offer unlimited phone and web support to our client and their webmaster throughout the process of on-page optimization. The personal support we offer makes us sort of a boutique SEO company, I guess.
As a very small business ourselves, we have a very acute sense of the kind of limited cash flow our clients have at their disposal and our rates are lower than we’ve seen from larger SEO organizations.
Small businesses tend to aim their services at a localized or specific audience; how does this come into play when they become your client?
Many of our clients run businesses that service customers or clients or patients on a face to face basis. Those have a local focus and we leverage that through local search optimization at Google, Yahoo and Bing as well as a number of other local-oriented websites. Other clients have a broader, perhaps nationwide, service area or run online businesses, and for those it’s not necessary or appropriate to do local search optimization.
As an example of the kinds of people who’d need your service, what’s the most obscure or odd business you’ve had approach you in the past?
There was a lady who runs an adult BBW website who I had to decline as that niche is very specialized and is not something we’ve had experience with. Another is a dermatologist in the UK who consults with patients online instead of in person.
Your site uses the phrase “billboard in the woods” in reference to small businesses with poor online visibility but great presentation; do you have an example of one such site you helped as a visual example of why SEO is as important a factor as visual design?
Any brand new website is a billboard in the woods until people can find it in search. The first website I ever optimized was my wife’s. She started tutoring kids with learning disabilities after school (she was a public school teacher) in 2000. I created a quick website for her and quickly realized it would do her no good unless people could find it in a search at Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. Once she was well optimized, she started getting business from the web on a regular basis.
A New Jersey doctor wrote this (it’s on our Testimonials page along with a link to his website): “I put up a website, but the only people who ever saw it were people who already knew my name. Our ranking on Google was somewhere around page 200. I then asked Rank Magic for help. We quickly redesigned the keywords and content and, much to my surprise, wound up in the top ten to twenty list for every major search engine. Now about one-third of new patients refer themselves from the website, up from virtually none before Rank Magic helped us.”
Clearly what he had before our efforts was a billboard in the woods.
Your site also mentions that you engage in public speaking engagements to help people better understand online marketing. Are there any questions you’ve found come up repeatedly in these sessions?
There are some common threads — mostly myths that persist despite being completely wrong:
Will paying Google for AdWords advertising make my organic rankings better? (It won’t.)
What about the Keywords meta tag? (It’s worthless.)
How many times do I need a keyword on my home page to rank well? (That question is wrong on several levels.)
How often do I need to change my web pages to keep them “fresh” and attractive to the search engines? (Pretty much never.)
With that in mind, are there any questions that have taken you off guard during these sessions?
Not that I can recall. (Sorry, but I’m really not trying to duck the question.)
Were there any specific stylistic choices you made when gearing your own website towards working for small businesses?
No. I learned early on that good web designers make lousy SEO consultants and good SEO consultants make lousy web designers. I designed my own website and it was admittedly an amateurish design. When I hired a professional web design company to redesign my website, they gave me some choices and I went with the one I liked best. They did a FAR better job with aesthetic decisions that I could have.
In terms of the style of the text content, my approach tends to be to speak in plain English instead of technical jargon and to be transparent. I will explain anything I do and why I do it. I try to get that personality across in my website and in my blog.
There’s a definite focus on testimonials on your website, is there one you’re particularly proud of? Do you feel it better sells you to future clients?
No particular one. What I’ve done though is to avoid anonymous testimonials. Every one identifies the person and links to their website. If someone asks for some evidence that I know what I’m doing, I send them to my Testimonials page or to a page with a few dozen current and former SEO clients linked. I encourage them to click on one or two that are similar to their own business, find a phone number on the website, and call to ask about me.
Are there any special requirements you feel that you need to keep in mind when you’re working with a smaller business?
Cash flow is always limited in a small business. There are times when a prospect just can’t afford me. When that happens, I often refer them to the Local Search category in my blog which contains instructions they can follow themselves for free to improve their local search rankings. I may offer some advice on the phone about the value of a blog and of promoting blog posts in social media—again something they can do for free given the time and inclination.
For those that hire us, I offer to minimize upfront costs by optimizing perhaps only a couple of their most important pages and saving other pages to be optimized after the first work brings them more business and they can better afford the incremental cost of optimizing additional pages.
Another requirement is that small and very small businesses tend to need more hand-holding and phone conversations for explanations and help with things like choosing the best keywords. I spend a lot of time talking with our clients.
Finally, is there a reasoning behind the name “Rank Magic”? The longer I spend looking at that rabbit the more I think it has a back-story I need to hear.
Ha! I worked my way through college as a professional magician, performing at kids birthday parties, cub scout and boy scout dinners, etc. When I have a speaking engagement it gives me a chance to do a magic trick in front of an audience again. I’ve spun the word magic into a tagline about “working magic on your bottom line through great rankings in the search engines.” Although I must admit that someone once told me the name Rank Magic made them think I rented out really, really, really bad magicians. 🙂
If you want to see the rabbit in question or have SEO work done by an honest to goodness magician, check out Bill’s website. Or head over to his company’s blog for some copywriting advice direct from the man himself.