When you think of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and wonder how your business could become one of the better SEO success stories it is useful to learn from the trials and tribulations of others who have done this before you. It will save you time, money, and frustration. This is our personal story about marketing our business online, and what we found works and what doesn’t. We invite you to come along on our journey – and you will learn how we made decisions as our business grew its offerings and what we did when we moved our offices. Let’s go/
Is It Realistic For a Small Business To Become One Of the SEO Success Stories?
There is a question that plagues many business owners.
“Can Search Engine Optimization REALLY grow my business? “
This question arises because we know that online marketing is becoming ever more important. The number of Google searches is now a stunning 5.9 Billion searches per day. That is 200 times more searches than 20 years ago. The total number of websites is around 1.75B. Even if less than 200 million of them are active that is still a heck of a lot of competition for online eyeballs. Active sites are those that haven’t been parked for future use (or sale).
SEO Success Stories: Can We Always Create Them, No Matter What?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is touted by many as the holy grail for online marketing. You build your website and its content around the right keyword. The keyword is one your customers use to search for someone like you. Voila, you get more customers. SEO so goes the story, will solve all your online marketing problems. New business is going to gush through your door. Right?
Well, not so fast. Let’s look at our own story as an example. I want to share with you when SEO is a good idea, and when you are better off focusing your time and money on other business-building strategies.
SEO Success Stories: Learn From Our Journey to Become One
In this article, I share with you our journey to becoming one of the SEO success stories that are not based on exorbitant budgets of money and time.
The first few questions a reputable marketing agency will ask you are
- What do you do?
- What is your business niche?
- Who is your ideal client?
- What are your goals?
Most often this turns out to be a tough set of questions. For us it was.
SEO Success Stories Require Decisions About What To Lead With
Let’s just start with the first one, “What do you do?”. When I faced this question, several answers (and thus possible keywords) emerged. My company Top-Notch CEO does executive coaching. We do business consulting. We grow businesses. We are very successful with business turnaround, too. For sure, we are trusted advisors to the business owners, CEOs, and executives we serve.
Should we present ourselves as an executive coach, business consultant or trusted advisor? This question began to give us a headache. Which one are we? And which of our tools should we emphasize?
It led almost to a bit of an identity crisis. The International Coach Federation (ICF), offers this definition for coaching. It is a “partnership with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaching is a client-driven process that’s distinct from other service professions, such as counseling, mentoring, consulting and training.”
There you have it. We agree. It is a partnership, thought-provoking, creative and client-driven. It is about maximizing the client’s professional and personal potential.
Yet, wait. There is a small issue here. How distinct is coaching from consulting? Of course, when we coach, we pull out the client’s vision and ideas, his/her sense of purpose, goals, and strategies. We guide the client in developing their own plan of action. A plan developed by the client is worth way more than one developed by someone else (even if that someone else is very smart and experienced).
Along the way, two things happen:
- We see things the client doesn’t. In fact, we see things the client can’t see because it is in the client’s blind spot. Even the best leaders have blind spots. It is physics. No one can see everything. We are too close to ourselves. What we bring, on top of coaching, is “fresh eyes”. Fresh eyes give our clients an unbiased perspective, based on what we see and our experience. Fresh eyes tell you about new opportunities and warn you about threats before it is too late.
- The second thing is: What happens when the client is at the end of his/her rope? He/she wants new ideas and strategies.
• How do I do this?
• How do I negotiate that important deal or giant step in my career?
• What do I say or do in this situation?
This is where executive coaching in its purest form leaves the client hanging. We can’t let that happen, of course. We bring in our own executive, business growth, and business turnaround expertise. We bring it in as a brainstorm with the client. We don’t say “Do this!”. We say “Let’s think about this together. What we have seen in other companies is … What do you think about that?” Etc.
But aren’t fresh eyes and bringing in your own expertise reserved for the “separate” world of consulting? According to Wikipedia the wording consulting comes from the Latin word consultare, “to discuss”. “A business consultant is a professional who provides professional or expert advice in a particular area”
Ok, then. We give advice when asked, as part of a brainstorm. Is this consulting? Hence, should our website lead with coaching or consulting?
Finally, we realized we are both. Let’s resort to a metaphor.
A modern material such as a cutting-edge superalloy (e.g., Inconel 686) is not made from chromium, molybdenum or tungsten. It consists of all three metals. What we do is like that. We support our clients in meeting their ambitious business goals faster and with greater ease. That requires coaching, fresh eyes, AND experience-based advice where needed.
That is one of the ways we set ourselves apart from our “competitors”. We don’t “just” have a coaching certification and years of coaching experience. We are not consultants who hand out solutions that without the skill of coaching, likely never get implemented. We bring it all; whatever it takes to make our clients even more successful and happy.
What does All This Introspection Mean for Creating SEO Success Stories?
Back to the question of SEO. Even though we are this “advanced alloy”, to stay in the metaphor, we needed to pick a keyword that people are searching for. Those people need to be the kind of people who are looking for what we are offering.
First, we picked “business consulting” as the keyword for the homepage. Using the cornerstone strategy we used the terms “executive coaching” and “simple business plan” for two other pages on the same site. (Yes, we offer an effective tool for business planning KISS style – KISS means Keep It Smart and Simple. It takes only 2-3 pages and as little as 1-2 hours to complete such a plan.
We also offer a “Fresh Eyes Assessment”. But since people don’t tend to search for our branded product (yet), we went with the term “strategic audit”. We also created a page for “women in STEM” (STEM= Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). That is because I’m a recovering Ph.D. chemist who turned into a business growth expert.
SECO Success Stories: Don’t Bite Off Too Much
Well, let me tell you it was a great plan, but it also was a very ambitious one. Our marketing agency warned us that it might be too much. Every keyword needs attention which means time and money. We wrote a lot of content, such as articles and FAQs. We conducted interviews and posted videos and their transcripts. We did our best to use social media, and the question was which one/s should we focus on? LinkedIn? Facebook? Twitter? and so on. Should we use ads (pay-per-click, Facebook ads)? What kind of budget of money and time could we invest?
It became a beast. As it turned out, the marketing agency was right. It was too much. We had to scale back our ambition.
SEO Success Stories: Local SEO Is A Lot More Realistic
We began to focus our online SEO on “executive coaching”. Because our office was in Carlsbad, California (North of San Diego) and it is almost impossible to rank highly for “executive coaching” all over the US, we narrowed down the keyword to “executive coaching Carlsbad”. This is called local SEO.
Finally, the phone began to ring. At last, we were gaining clients from this effort. I’m happy to say the effort was paying off.
What did we learn in for online marketing success with a modest budget? The strategy we used can work for your business IF your business can be successful by selling higher ticket items in modest volumes. It likely will not work if you are selling small-ticket items in large volumes. In other words: The strategy works better for a higher-end service or product than for selling stick of chewing gum.
By the way, you might have noticed by now, when we wrote this article we researched keyword volumes and decided to SEO this article for “SEO Success Stories”.
Revising the Strategy When We Moved Our Office
We needed to revise our strategy once more when we moved our office to the Dallas area. More precisely, we moved to Flower Mound, Texas, in the Northern part of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. We also incorporated “Google My Business” into our local SEO strategy.
We did our keyword research again. Of course, we are still the cutting-edge “metal alloy” I mentioned above. We offer executive coaching, business consulting and being a trusted advisor. We deliver business growth through coaching, Fresh Eyes, and trusted advice.
We selected the term “Executive business coach Dallas” for our homepage. We picked Dallas instead of Flower Mound because the search volume for Flower Mound was too low. It is not that high for Dallas either. Yet, we know from experience that using “Executive business coach Dallas” will bring clients to us.
SEO Success Stories: Track Your Score, Study Your Competitors, And Adapt
The advice I can give you is this. You need to track over time for which keywords you score. Find out who you are competing against, and which strategies they are using. Keep at it. It is a process, not an overnight event. But it is doable if you can get yourself to decide on ONE keyword as the main target.
By the way, you might struggle with which location to include in your keyword, especially if you are working all over the US. On our website, TopNotchCEO.com, we say “Executive business coach Dallas and beyond”. That is because we still have clients all over the US, and we don’t want them to feel left out when visiting our website.
Keeping SEO Success Stories Current: Your Business Is Expanding Its Offerings
Of course, leaving it at that would have been too easy. We made the alloy even better. We added “Brilliance Extraction”. The idea is this. Your company’s “brilliance” includes ALL your operational knowledge and intangible expertise. Most of that expertise is trapped in the heads of a few key people. But it doesn’t have to stay trapped. In fact, it can’t. That is way too risky. Much of your company’s intellectual capital goes home every night. It goes on vacation. Some day, it will not come back to work, sometimes without any warning. That is why we created a proven method called Brilliance Extraction. The method works fast and requires only small slivers of time from your key people.
SEO Success Stories: Don’t Dilute a Site With Working SEO
That begs the question: How do we bake the process of “Brilliance Extraction” into our online marketing and SEO strategy? Brilliance Extraction is an essential part of our coaching toolbox. Yet, the full-on Brilliance Extraction System goes so much further. Now we are extracting critical knowledge. We are building transferable knowledge assets. These assets are built from expertise that before was intangible and trapped in a key person’s head.
The outcome of this process is to protect our client’s companies from the brain drain that is so common today and to preserve critical expertise. It increases the EBITDA and the value of your business. It even supports your company in the ever more pressing fight to stay current. (that is another article for another day). It allows experts to delegate tasks they cannot delegate right now. With Brilliance Extraction, we can even build an online Learning Management System (LMS). Those online training systems have password protection. They can include certifications and gamification to engage younger employees.
The Brilliance Extraction process reaches way past the realm of coaching. That is even though the skillset of being a great executive coach is essential for its success.
So, what to do when your offer has grown beyond your focus keyword? In the case of Brilliance Extraction, we decided to create a new website, BrillianceExtraction.com. Its keyword is, as you might have guessed, “Brilliance Extraction”. Currently, few people are searching for that term. That will change over time as this term catches on in the marketplace. For now, this site introduces and explains the Brilliance Extraction system. There is a downloadable eBook. You can book a free consultation there, too.
The Brilliance Extraction website works together with our networking strategy. Our networking is about building relationships within the local community. We also network with targeted business leaders across the US and beyond. The latter may start online but the goal is always to connect face-to-face. Video conferencing has extended our reach and ability to connect in this personal way to any place on earth with internet access.
SEO Success Stories: You Can’t Create Yours Without Knowing Your Ideal Client
Last, but not least there is one more piece: your ideal client. That is a very critical piece. To be honest, this piece has been very tough for us, too. I had spent years as a scientist and innovator, first in academia and then in the business world, doing and leading cutting-edge research. The realization hit me that for innovations and visions to make any difference in the world we must master the business aspects, too. Scientists are not trained in this realm. Yet, trained businesspeople often don’t connect well with innovators. This creates the chasm we talk about having to cross. My first business turnaround in 2009 was in high-tech – the realm of the industry I expected to work in. Yet, the area of tech I got thrown into was one I knew little about when I started. Being a “sponge”, I learned fast. It was “Brilliance Extraction” at work even then.
My next turnaround was in the glazing industry. The opportunity came by referral. I had to look up what glazing was. Ah, glass installation. It didn’t sound so exciting at first. That was until I saw what types of buildings this double-digit-million-dollar company was building. Stunning landmark buildings. The staff is an expert in their field every bit as much as the physicists and engineers I had worked with before. We crushed it.
These experiences have one major thing in common. Experts often don’t know how much more success they could have with their expertise if they had a few other ingredients to go along with it. They are strong, agile leadership skills, the benefit of fresh eyes, and a way to systemize their expertise better.
We worked with specialty construction companies and real estate developers. The list of clients included hard money lenders, major insurance, software companies, scientific companies, …. How could we define an ideal client?
We came up with the term “high-expertise companies”. The downfall of this description is that oftentimes the client doesn’t realize how much expertise is involved in running his/her business.
- A bathtub refinishing company (it’s specialty painting)? Yes.
- A therapy business with a dozen therapists hired and trained to follow a branded method? Yes.
- A software company that revolutionizes the way we discuss, amend and publish laws and regulations? Heck yeah.
SEO Success Stories: What To Do When You Create a Niche But Still Love Your Other Clients?
Along the way, we found an area of specialty. Employee-owned companies. The first employee-owned we worked with was so fun. In fact, we helped them to become employee-owned and take on a whole new mindset based on ownership thinking. I fell in love with the concept. If done right, employee-ownership is awesome. I ended up writing a book about it, “101 Quick Tips for ESOP Leaders”. (It became the second volume of the Top-Notch CEO Guide. The first volume is “101 Quick Tips for High-Talent Companies”). By the way, ESOP means Employee Stock Ownership Plan.
We created a separate website, ESOP.io. The keyword of its home page is “ESOP Consulting Companies”. We studied who else is working in the space. We found that others rank on Google for their own company name and not much else. They gain business from going to conferences where employee-owned companies meet. They speak there and present success stories they created with their clients. Current online searches related to the keyword “ESOP” are more about people looking for an attorney to set up an ESOP. It is also about finding trustees, banks, and the like. “ESOP leadership” and similar keywords have little to no volume. This means we could rank for this keyword with little effort. Yet, if no one is searching using this term there is no payoff.
By the way, for the record, we still like to work with the broader spectrum of high-expertise companies, too. TopNotchCEO.com remains devoted to those types of companies.
Personal Branding Can Pull Together All the Pieces
All this led to one more idea. What if we had a personal website? We got DrStephie.com. It pulls together all that I am involved in. From TopNotchCEO.com, and BrillianceExtraction.com to ESOP.io. Being an entrepreneur means I have more ideas up my sleeve. There is no SEO strategy in place for this site. Until people start googling for “Dr. Stephie” that would be pointless. This site is for people who know about me and want to learn more. It is a credibility site as we say. And that is quite okay.
SEO Success Stories: To Sum It Up
In summary, in positioning ourselves for becoming one of the SEO success stories, we made the conscious decision to use a search engine optimization strategy for only one of our four websites. That is TopNotchCEO.com with the keyword “Executive business coach Dallas”.
Yes, we do more; much more. But now you understand. We are the “alloy” combining executive coaching, business consulting, and trusted advising. We give our clients the benefit of our fresh eyes. And then there is Brilliance Extraction, a way to delegate better, preserve your intellectual capital, grow and scale up your business, build value…
It is my hope this story serves you. When you ponder whether Search Engine Optimization is right for you, you can learn from our experiences.
Sometimes SEO makes sense for a business with a modest budget of money and time. That is when you can see a clear path for scoring sufficiently well on Google and other search engines for a relevant keyword. That is especially true if what you sell is a higher-ticket item.
Many times, your online marketing might be less about SEO and more about building a great professional website. Such a website gives you credibility and it acts as an online business card.
My advice: Don’t bite off too much. Connecting personally with potential clients and business professionals who can collaborate with you and act as a referral source is still the lifeblood for most small to midsize businesses.