You’ve just started a business – how do you get your first customers? Allen Jordan is the Managing Director of FarPoint Alliance which helps companies get started online with their SEO. In this interview he reveals what really matters when you are just getting started online. He shows you how to overcome the fear of nobody finding you and how technology has made it much easier to get business even when nobody has heard of you yet.
Meredith: Tell me a little bit about your business and how you got to be doing what you’re doing? How did you get in the SEO business?
Allen: My business is Far Point Alliance. We are a small digital marketing agency that really focuses on the small businesses. Been in the business… from focusing on that part of the business for about six years.
Prior to that, I’ve been in the internet side for approximately about 27 years of private to public with the internet business, and then I branched out on my own thing about ’96. I opened an ISP, which was fun and games because, at that point, we were competing with America Online, which had the marketing budget that was insane.
So running a small ISP, competing against that was very difficult, so we eventually branched into website development which really started going to a focus of the whole SEO thing. And at that point, I just kept getting more educated in it. And just understanding it more and more, and loving this side of it. The whole online marketing, not just a website. Not just internet connectivity, but the whole thing that goes into marketing your business.
When you’re first starting out, you have to spend most of your marketing budget on building brand awareness. Statistically, they tell you to spend about 50% to build that. So brand awareness comes about from just getting your name out there. So a lot of times, you don’t necessarily have the content at that time to say enough about yourself. So it’s always good to stream other things that deals with your subject matter, so that you can build your brand awareness by having people frequent your site. You know. Maybe your site becomes a source of information for everything else. You know, that’s the totality of wherever business that you’re in.
Jasper: So what kind of community involvement does that represent? Is that like online type stuff, or offline stuff, or a bit of both?
Allen: It’s mostly online. Really, that’s what we’re talking about most of the time. Is that everything today is online. Everything leads to online, whether there’s offline or not. There’s no such thing as just being offline. Not if you want to stay in business. You definitely have to have an online presence, and you have to work that. And like I said, doing things like sourcing from other online communities can help build your online presence and awareness.
Meredith: So if someone is just, just, just starting out, and they have a retail business that’s very… typically not an online business, but brick and mortar. “We specialize in creating custom suits,” or something where you really need to have the person there to do it, what would you suggest to them for a very basic beginning web presence to get started? What’s the bare minimum that you need to have?
Allen: Well depending on… like you said in this example, something like suits, that’s very broad. But you basically, from your advertising standpoint, in the online world, you have to go where you customer is. So if you’re selling high-end suits for instance, it’s a good point to advertise on you know, sites where more affluent people go to. Your site itself can have the basic information, and to stay generic, you can have information in things like “What to look for in a good suit.” Something like that that actually serves as the carrot so to speak for your customers.
Meredith: Right. And that’s where you can actually… where the keyword research, I guess, you know, figuring out what people are typing into Google to get to you. And making sure that those words are on your website. Where that basic concept comes in. If people are looking to figure out how people are searching for them, can you give some basic resources for people to start to uncover some of that information?
Allen: Google AdWords is a good place to do. It will tell you what words most people are using, but search engine marketing is really about understanding the psychology of the search.
So for instance, if someone is looking for a tailored suit, you may want to use that as your keyword vs. something like “custom suits.” So you know it’s a combination of things: what people are using the most, and also, what would be more indicative of your site.
So again, getting back into the suit example, let’s say you’re selling high-end suits like some of these designer suits. Versace or something like that. You definitely want to have that as part of your keywords. You don’t want to ignore that. But a lot of times, people are afraid of that, because they say, “Hey, if I put something like Versace suits as part of my search, my site can’t be that dedicated to that keyword.”
But you know, the search engines have changed a lot over the last few years, so it’s more about your content than actually going after and doing keyword stuffing and keyword bombing and things like that. So you know, don’t be afraid of it. And understand the psychology of what people will look for. And I would say, the best way to do that is to start out in terms of what would you look for? And then you know, you could do your own market research real easy just by asking friends and family, “Hey, if you were going to look for my product, what would you search for?”
Jasper: Now one of the things… obviously, when you’re first starting out, it’s really difficult to compete with a lot of other people who maybe have been doing it for a while and have built up that kind of Google juice. How can they kind of be competitive when there’s so many other people using those same keywords in the market?
Allen: Well unfortunately a lot of this comes down to your spend. How much money do you have to spend in your marketing budget? They tell you that you should spend about anyplace between 1-30% of your sales revenue on your marketing budget. But when you’re first starting out, you may have 0 sales revenue, so you have to work with what you’re comfortable with, but whatever it is, spend the high end on getting the word out there about your business.
And in terms of this whole search engine, like you said, “Google juice,” or whatever, takes about two to three months to build up. So if you’re starting on January 1st, you’re not going to be in those search engines until March/April. So in the meantime, there’s other ways in which you can do that by doing some things like paid online advertisements. You know, banners on other sites, search engine marketing that’s paid. Pay-per-click. Those type of things. But you know you have to go into all those variations in order to build that brand awareness.
Meredith: And what do you think would be a reasonable beginning ad spend for someone? Just to give people an idea of what kind of costs they’re looking at, because I find that people think that they have to spend a lot of money, but in reality, you can start with a smaller budget and get things that really work for you. And then build up over time.
Allen: It’s hard to put a dollar amount to it, because it really depends on the cost of your product that you’re selling.
If you’re selling a high-end product that costs, you know, several hundred dollars, or more, it’s easier to come in with a higher-end budget, but if you’re selling something that’s $9.99…
It’s hard to do it with that. So you have to shape your marketing mix based on that. And that’s one of the things that we do for customers. We advise them about those things, because everything doesn’t come down to paid search. Paid search can break you, can break a small business, because that pay-per-click can be anyplace from ten cents to a hundred dollars, depending on what it is.
Meredith: Right. And a lot of small business don’t have the time necessarily to stay on top of it as much as a search firm would. Because you do have to be in there daily kind of tweaking and changing and all of that, and if you are scared of the technology anyway… so what would make someone a good candidate to hire a search firm? where would you be in your business, and how much… I guess where would you want to be to start thinking about hiring an SEO firm to help you?
Allen: Well I think you should hire them from day one. Especially if you don’t have a website… if you don’t have a website and you’re going to build one, because the amount of effort to change a website to work for search engines is more money than if you did it from the start.
So that’s a good point, but the bottom line is it comes down to what you’re comfortable with spending. And I always tell my clients, “It’s not about how much you’re spending on the online piece. It’s what’s your total budget.” So you may want to drop down your costs on other things. Typically, Yellow Pages… people have learned, “Oh, you’ve got to be in the Yellow Pages,” but no one uses those anymore.
Meredith: Right. Yellow pages and print advertising too, I mean that is crazy expensive – especially in larger markets if you’re going to spend $8,000 on an ad, which is this little teeny-tiny business card ad in the Washington Post or whatever. You can get a whole lot of SEO for that same amount of money.
Allen: Exactly. And like I said before, it’s not just about SEO. It’s all the other online platforms you can advertise on. You could do Facebook advertising. LinkedIn advertising. There’s plenty of venues and platforms to go around to advertise on and spend your money accordingly.
Allen Jordan, Managing Partner of The FarPoint Alliance is an innovative, results-orientated marketing technology expert with more than twenty-five years of proven experience in creating and managing search marketing, social media marketing and online reputation management strategies for clients wishing to increase their revenues, online traffic and maintain a positive brand image.
His passion and expertise for “everything Internet” has led to interviews by multiple mediaoutlets such as CNET, MSNBC, New York Times and New Jersey Star-Ledger. His educational credentials include multiple graduate degrees and specialized certifications.
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