Know Your Purpose for Business Networking

Definition of Business Networking

Entrepreneur.com defines business networking as: Developing and using contacts made in business for purposes beyond the reason for the initial contact. For example, a sales representative may ask a customer for names of others who may be interested in his product. 

Best Practices for Business Networking

It’s important to note that business networking should not be viewed as a one-time activity, or one you engage in only when you need more customers.  Instead, it should be viewed as an ongoing process with the end result of creating long-term relationships that are mutually beneficial. 

Advantages

As mentioned in my previous post, becoming someone who is comfortable attending networking events may take some work because this is not a natural thing for many people and because of who you are – your personality – it may be even more challenging for you.  Keeping in mind that becoming an effective networker can have a positive impact on your business, it’s to your advantage to learn the skills that can bring you amazing results. 

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.

Look Beyond Business Connections

While the foremost purpose small business owners have for attending business networking events is to make business connections,  it’s important to realize that there is much more than can be achieved.  Are you doing market research?  You can use it to learn what’s on trend in your industry.  Do you want to expand your solopreneur business and are wondering what skills to add?  These events offer you an opportunity to find out from others what skills would be advantageous to add to benefit you and your industry.

In my next post on business networking we will look at two fundamental concepts that are essential to success.

Have you identified your purpose for business networking?  Please feel free to share…We help each other.

 

 

 

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Positive Mindset: One Key to Build Networking Relationships

Positive MindsetYou’ve probably heard or read many times that you should get away from your computer, or as some persons put it, ‘Stop hiding behind your computer’ and get out to start making connections – build networking relationships.

 

Your Personality

Networking may be downright scary for you because of your personality. You may
be very shy or are a natural introvert, which is exactly why you prefer to spend most of your day in front of a computer…and you’re good at what you do. You may be the kind of person who will open up if someone speaks with you, but may find it challenging to initiate the conversation, especially in a group of strangers.

If this sounds like you, be assured that you’re not alone in feeling this way. You are in the company of millions of people, many of whom have had to learn to break through their fears.

Positive Mindset

To achieve the most benefit from business networking, a positive mindset is essential. First of all you need a positive attitude to attract others to you. However, before you even walk out the door it’s important that you focus on a few things so that these can help you to create the positive mindset that will attract others.

Preparation

Notebook: Keep a notebook that will be only used for networking.  In this you will make notes and quick reminders about people you meet and conversations you have so you can transfer these to a more permanent place like a spreadsheet.

In the back of your notebook start to make a list of your strengths – what you can offer to others. This reinforces your own worth and gives you greater confidence that you have something of value to give to others.

Introduction: Practice a simple introduction that shares what you do and how you help others. This is the most important step to master. It’s often called the elevator speech, but for now just think of it as being able to confidently say what you do in a meaningful, but concise way. Most events only allow you to give a 30-second introduction.

Referral: Think of your business and who you’d like to work with so that if someone asks you, “Who is a good referral for you?’ you can confidently reply.

Business Cards: Have something with your information so that  you have something to give to someone who wants to connect further. It may be a business card (not a home-made card, please) or a brochure.

Be Others Focused: People love to talk about themselves! Prepare questions to ask others like:

  • Tell me about your business, what do you do?
  • How long have you been in business, or in your current position?
  • What type of clients does your business attract?

Be a good listener!

I’ll be sharing a lot more over the next few days, but for now, grab your notebook and start to develop the positive mindset to build networking relationships.

Are you attending local networking events? What is one thing that’s stopping you? Please share in the comments.

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Top 3 Ways to Communicate Your Brand Message Offline

Top 3 reason to communicate What are you doing to communicate your brand message offline? For the first two and a half years after I started my online business I did everything exclusively online.  I had no business cards for my online business since I was not sharing the fact that I had an online business with my offline world.  Is this what you do as well?  Do you continue to keep your offline and online worlds separate?

In 2011 I realized that there were lots of offline businesses that needed to get their message to a larger audience– online – but many had no clue what to do.  I began focusing on social media and online marketing strategies to help small businesses and highly motivated solopreneurs.  It was now important to communicate my brand message offline. 

Networking at Formal and Informal Group Live Events

Joining the Chamber of Commerce was the first step I took to get to know local businesses and what their needs were.  The second step was to craft a 30-second “elevator speech” that quickly summarized what I did and what made me unique.  Keep in mind that your elevator speech or brand message is not static; it’s always going to be evolving and will change depending on your audience, but it’s important to master this skill.

While the Chamber of Commerce is a great organization, it’s not necessary to join the Chamber in order to get to know your business community.  If you live in an area where there are lots of organizations, many of which are free or a minimal cost, those may be just as effective, or even more effective than the formality of your Chamber of Commerce.

Meetups are great for connecting with other people in your niche.  Just as you’re a part of groups online for support or mastermind, many of these people are also in your local community and the support from your peers in your community is priceless.  You can also find Meetup groups that contain your target market.

Keep in mind that with any group, your primary goal is to build relationships and develop the know, like, and trust factor, not to sell to them.  Your goal is to communicate your brand message offline and create top-of-mind awareness so that when your target market needs your services you’re the first person they think of.

Speaking and Workshops to Communicate Your Brand Message

Public speaking is one of the most effective ways to communicate your brand message offline.  Many organizations have to fill their events with speakers, and speaking in front of an audience, even a small one positions you as the Expert on your topic.  You have an opportunity to convey one to many what your message is and how you can help your audience.  Your speaking opportunities can be used to share your uniqueness, increase your credibility, but it can also be used to fill your workshops.  Workshops that are done effectively allow you to educate people and spread your brand message offline.  They are also a great source of adding an income stream to your marketing.

Your Brand is You

You are a brand, therefore, your appearance- dress and grooming – are part of your ‘package.’  The statement, “You only get once chance to make a first impression,” is not an understatement.  Just as large corporations and other businesses spend time and money designing their logo as well as other brand-related matters like letterhead, stationery, colors, to make sure they convey the right message, you want to make sure that the first impression people have of you is a professional one that builds confidence as well as curiosity in a positive way.

Bonus: Get Involved in Your Community

This  is self-explanatory.  Doing things to help others is a great way to communicate your brand message offline.  Displaying concern and empathy for others in a genuine way will cause people to appreciate you for who you are and be more open to listen to you when you share your marketing message.

In the digital age that we live in it’s easy to focus on building your brand online…and you must!  However, it’s important not to neglect your local community and the ways you can communicate your brand message offline.  This has made a huge difference in my business and I’m confident it can in yours as well.

What offline methods have worked for you?  If you haven’t been using any of the above, which one would you be willing to start with?  Please share in the comments.

 

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Lessons Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Diana Nyad

Diana Nyad: Lessons small business owners and entrepreneurs can learn from Diana NyadOn Monday, September 2, 2013 Diana Nyad successfully completed her goal of swimming from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida – a distance of 110 miles and almost 53 hours in the water…after her fifth attempt.

There are so many things that are remarkable about this lady and her journey:

a)            She’s 64 years old; she obviously did not feel she is “too old.”
b)            She could have given up after her fourth attempt, but persisted in her goal to fulfill her vision.
c)            While not everyone would agree with her that it was worth swimming in the Florida Straits, known for its shark-infested waters without a shark cage;  she knew the risks and was willing to take the chance.
d)            She endured four years of what the New York Times describes as “grueling training, precision planning, and single-minded determination.”

What are some of lessons small business owners and entrepreneurs can learn from Ms. Nyad?

1.            Be A Visionary and a Goal Setter:  We must create the vision first, that is, know where we want to go. Vision is the ability to see something you desire at the end of your effort. Goals are the step-by-step blueprint telling you how to get there. When you lay out exactly what you want to do in detail, the vision starts to become a reality. Ms. Nyad had a clear vision and a blueprint to achieve the goal, which she pursued with “single-minded determination.”

2.            Be a Risk-Taker:  Being a successful small business owner or entrepreneur involves taking risks. We often have to make decisions regarding our business with little or no safety net.  Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”  If you try something new there is the risk of failure. On the other hand, if you stay safe and try nothing you also risk failure.  Ms Nyad was willing to risk jelly fish bites and possible shark attacks to achieve her goal.

3.            Perseverance:  You did not fill your group coaching program; your book you thought everyone would love because of your research is not selling; the return on investment you made in your business is not paying off as quickly as you expected.  You can either give up or get up and move forward.  Knowing your big WHY will prevent you from giving up.  You’ll assess, revise, and persevere.  Ms. Nyad  has had this goal for 35 years.  Her first attempt was in 1978 and her last previous attempt was in 2012.  She failed forward four times, and on the fifth attempt she conquered.

Being courageous, passionate about what you do, and confident are some other lessons small business owners and entrepreneurs can learn from Diana Nyad.

On her arrival in Key West Ms. Nyad’s three messages were: “One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.”  A remarkable lady indeed!

What did you think of Ms. Nyad’s determination and perseverance to accomplish her goal?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

 

 

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Time Management Strategies that Build Your Personal Brand

time-management

Time Management or Self-Management?

Time management is a term I’ve always felt was not the most effective way to describe the intention entrepreneurs and small business owners have with what they want to achieve. How about self-management so you make the best use of your time? For the sake of clarity, we’ll go ahead and use the term most people are familiar with: Time Management, but that’s the thought process we want to focus on in this post.

Time Management Defined

According to www.en.wikipedia.org Time Management is the ‘act of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency, or productivity…These (activities) include planning, allocating, setting goals, delegation, analysis of time spent, monitoring, organizing, and prioritizing.’

The emphasis in this post is managing yourself and your time so that you focus on the tasks, skills, and passions required for your business, as well as creating systems so you can streamline and execute your practices and business tasks quickly and efficiently.

How You Can Build Your Brand with Time Management Strategies?

The ability to manage and exercise ‘conscious control’ over your activities in order to increase your effectiveness and achieve your goals in life and business is not easy to do as these are skills that are developed over time.

As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you have an opportunity to brand yourself with effective time management strategies that set you apart in your business. An integral part of personal branding is how you’re perceived by others, and this perception, based on how you manage yourself and your activities, can give you a unique space in establishing who you are and what goods and service you provide to others.

Design Your Systems to Match Your Personality

Creating systems in various aspects of your business is critical to your success. Systems allow you to execute repetitive tasks quickly without reinventing the wheel each time. Systems also allow you to streamline your business for efficiency and continuity. These systems, however, must be in sync with your personality.
Let’s look at just one example of connecting a system with your personality. Do you find that you’re in constant crisis management mode? You’re doing everything in a hurry and at the last minute so as to meet deadlines? You may need to set time aside to organize your priority tasks.

Some people may be happy with a detailed list of all the things they need to get done during each day and with a pre-allotted time assigned to complete each task. That may be too regimented for you. You recognize that planning is essential and so you set time aside to make a list of your priority tasks for the week and determine what day they should be completed. This way you’ve given yourself more flexibility, yet important tasks are prioritized.

The sense of satisfaction and achievement you will derive will go a far way to relieve stress in your business. At the same time your reputation-your brand-will be impacted in a positive way.  You will be perceived as someone who’s always in control and able to accomplish tasks efficiently and effectively.  People will feel confident and comfortable doing business with you.

Time management strategies that build your personal brand deserve your careful attention and implementation.

Action Step: Take some quiet time to evaluate the tasks in your business and tie these in with your goals and your business plan. Ask yourself questions like, What areas of my business do I need to control better? Which parts seem to be the most disorganized and unplanned? What parts of my business bring me the most profits and what do I need to do to increase those profits? What systems do I need to implement to build my brand with effective time management strategies?

Please share in the Comments one tip that has helped you to manage yourself and how you use your time in your business.

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A Unique Selling Proposition (USP): Why You Need One

A Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

USP Graphic_FlikrShortly after I came online at the end of 2008 I realized that I needed a personal website because it was not enough to use the company’s website to be successful.  At that time my focus was on Skin Care and Image Consulting with a well-know Direct Sales company.  I quickly realized that I needed my own website to create a blog and allow people to get to know, like, and trust me so they could decide if they wanted to do business with me.  One of my first mentors connected me with a web designer and the first question he asked me was what was my Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?  ‘My what? What is USP?’ I asked.  I had no idea what he was talking about!

Today I get those questions from many of my clients when we first start to work together.  Some may have been in business for a while offline, while others have been both offline and online, but never gave it serious thought. Let’s take a closer look at what is a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), why you need one, and what are the essential elements of a USP.

What is a Unique Selling Proposition?

A Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is a statement that explains what makes your business unique; how it’s different from everyone else in the marketplace. It tells your customers how you can better meet their needs and what makes you special.  Is it easy to do?  Not really, because you have to take time to analyze your business and yourself.  You may have been doing the same thing for quite some time and been successful at it, but never stopped to consider what specifically is contributing to your success.

In Reality in Advertising, television advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves defined the unique selling proposition.  Two of the three parts of that definition are:

  1. The proposition must be one the competition cannot or does not offer. It must be unique—either in the brand or in a claim the rest of that particular advertising area does not make.
  2. The proposition must be strong enough to move the masses, i.e., attract new customers.

Why Have a USP

Having a unique selling proposition is important to your success.  By taking the time to do some analysis you’ll be identifying your strengths as well as any weaknesses that could affect your position in the marketplace.

Why are people buying from you, or using your services rather than someone else?  What do you do for your customers that create loyalty so that they buy from you again and again, and refer their friends and family to you?  What is it you do that’s different from anyone else who is doing the same thing?

Identifying what you do that’s different from other’s in the market will take time to measure as it will likely involve studying whomever is considered your competition, analyze what they’re doing, and determine what you do differently.  It must also be of strong benefit to the customer so that current customers can readily recognize this, and prospective customers will be able to determine what you do that others do not.

Once you’re able to clearly identify what makes you different, you can continue to build on that as the business owner, but you can clearly bring it to the fore so your customers and clients think of you first when they need your products or services.  Your USP helps to establish your brand in the minds of your customers and creates top-of-mind-awareness.

Two Essential Elements of a USP

A good USP is memorable. To be effective it has to stick in people’s minds so that you’re the one they think of when they need your products or services.  This means that your USP has to be condensed to convey your uniqueness without being too wordy. It must say a little but convey a lot. It’s important to recognize, however, that you USP is not the same as your tagline.

It must connect with your buyers emotionally. Good USPs speak to the fears, worries, desires, and frustrations of your target market.  It also tells them how you can solve these concerns.

Final Words

Creating your USP through careful analysis and research is essential to your business success.  At the same time being able to articulate an amazing USP is not enough to ensure success in the marketplace—and a crowded one at that.  Your products and services must live up to the promise(s) you made in your USP as failure to do so will have a decidedly negative impact on your business causing you to lose customers and clients, and damage your reputation.

Contact Me

If you’d like to receive help with creating your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), you’re invited to schedule a complimentary Business Breakthrough Session with me via email at yjones [at) mysuccesscircleonline [dot] com with “Business Breakthrough Session” in the subject line or through my contact form  on http://mysuccesscirclemarketing.com.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42931449@N07/5342954678/

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Marketing Automation Software: Evaluate Benefits to Your Business

What is Marketing Automation?

According to Wikipedia, Marketing Automation refers to software platforms designed for marketing departments and organizations to automate repetitive tasks. Marketing departments, consultants and part-time marketing employees benefit by specifying criteria and outcomes for tasks and processes that are then interpreted, stored and executed by software, which increases efficiency and reduces human error. Originally focused on email marketing automation, marketing automation refers to a broad range of automation and analytic tools for marketing.

How small business can benefit from marketing automation

When it became clear that some 93% of B2B buyers are using the search engines to begin their buying process, businesses needed to discover a way to simplify the inbound marketing process, as well as make it far easier and much less time intensive to support.

Marketing automation software is the tool which makes this happen, enabling marketers to more quickly manage all aspects of your lead generation process. Software like this will not only get traffic to your site, it will begin to lead prospects through the buying process with offers, relevant emails and other content. It can also segment your leads by source, interests and any other criteria.

Benefits of marketing automation

This works through a system with complex series of rules to trigger action items, whether it’s a particular offer, more content, email follow-up or some other action. This allows marketers to deliver exactly what the visitor wants at any given time. It also allows marketers to nurture relationships with those who are not yet ready to buy, yet create top-of-mind awareness so that when they are ready, your company or business is the one they think of first. Additionally, marketing automation allows you to appreciate and follow-up with your current customers and retain them so they become your loyal advocates.

The decision to utilize marketing automation software like Marketo in your small business is really a matter of resources and commitment. Once the decision has been made, a commitment to keeping the content funnel filled, in addition to managing the automation workflow is necessary.

If maintaining all the tasks you must do in your business is causing you to feel overwhelmed, or you are simply hoping to scale your business, then marketing automation software could be right for you. Look into it today!

What part or parts of your business do you currently automate?  Please share in the comments.

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Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners: Tap Into Your Network for Support

Tap into your network for support

The Decision Maker and Action Taker

Entrepreneurs and small business owners are constantly making decisions that affect their business and by extension, their personal life.  Being a decision maker and action taker are in themselves essential characteristics of entrepreneurs and   small business owners. However, without the benefit of a Board of Directors or in the absence of a business partner it’s easy to second-guess yourself when what you’re doing at a given time does not seem to be as effective as you’d like it to be.

Tap Into Your Network For Support

At times like this, entrepreneurs and small business owners: tap into your network for support.  Everyone needs to have this type of network, especially if you work in virtual isolation – from home.

To illustrate: I have been doing weekly one-hour webinars on Wednesdays at 2:00pm ET since May of this year and initially promoted this to businesses in my local area.  I later extended the invitation to my target market in general, which is, small business owners and highly motivated entrepreneurs.  The response has been great with a number of persons registering at http://treasurecoastbusinesswebinars.com to get access to the weekly call information and the link to the recording of the webinars after each call.

Although the feedback has been great,  the actual number of persons on the live calls has been pretty low.  Even though I know the benefit of these educational webinars to my market, the live response made me question whether I should shorten the length of the webinars;  should I just do them once or perhaps twice per month? Could the time I spend preparing for these webinars and actually delivering them be spent creating products? etc. etc.

Take Action – Get Out of Comfort Zone

Yesterday I got out of my comfort zone and attended a morning networking event with a (new) group of business owners about 40 miles from home and everything I had been questioning went out the door.  The organizers, who are familiar with my weekly webinars, commended me on the benefits I was offering to the business community through these educational webinars and encouraged everyone in the group to register and attend.  They also invited me to post the information in all of their various groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.  Had I stayed home I’d not have received that validation, support, and encouragement.  And I appreciate and thank each of them.

Who do you have to support you in your business?  If you do not have a business partner, it’s important to build a network of supporters who can give you feedback or encouragement just when you need it most.

What’s your story?  How were you encouraged when you were at a low point in your business or felt some discouragement?  Please share in the comments below.

To join my weekly educational webinars you only need to register once at http://treasurecoastbusinesswebinars.com  and each week you’ll receive emails with the call information.  You’ll also receive a link to the recording so you can watch it over and over.

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How to Develop Your Personal Brand So Your Serve Your Customers Effectively

business-woman-with-smiling-faceThe question to a small business owner, “What is your brand?” could elicit many responses ranging from, ‘I haven’t selected my brand colors and logo’ to ‘My brand colors, logo and tagline are…’  The responses to “Do you have a personal brand?” would  also generate different responses as many business owners have not given serious thought on how to develop your personal brand so you serve your customers effectively.

What is Personal Branding?

Whereas a company’s brand may encompass it’s colors, logo, business cards, letterhead, website, tagline, and/or packaging, your personal brand is much more than that.

Your personal brand is unique to you.  It’s your unique promise of the value you provide to your customers and to your community or network, whether these are online or offline, or both.

It’s important to keep in mind that personal branding depends to a great extent on how you are perceived by your family, friends, customers, peers, and network.  Therefore, you must be proactive in creating the brand you want others to perceive.  Failure to do so could result in others creating one for you that may not be how you’d like others to see you.

How to Develop Your Personal Brand

Developing your personal brand takes time; it’s not something that be done quickly as it involves searching deep within yourself to identify some things that you may have taken for granted.  It also involves getting feedback from external sources. According to William Arruda in the book, Career Distinction – Stand Out By Building Your Brand, it’s important to define your Vision, Purpose, Goals, Values, and Passions.

  • Defining your Values and Passions – what do you believe and how do those beliefs influence your actions
  • Identifying your Goals – Where do you want to go with your life and business?  What path will take you there?  What activities should you focus on in order to reach the desired goals, and in what timeframe? Will these goals cause you to stretch and discover new strengths that you can bring to yourself and your community?  What weaknesses do you have that could affect the outcome of achieving your goals?
  • Clarifying your Vision and your Purpose:  I believe knowing what your purpose is can be one of the most significant things you discover about yourself.  In my opinion, once you have clearly clarified your purpose it makes it easier to align your vision with your purpose.

If we stand too close to the artwork we could miss seeing some finer details, a lot like the proverbial saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.”  The same is true of developing your personal brand.  As mentioned earlier it’s affected by the perception of others.  So getting feedback from others is essential.  The feedback can come from your immediate network of friends and family, but also important would be including your business partners or peers, and your customers.  You may be amazed at the insight you will gather from your customers that can benefit not only your personal branding, but your business.

Click here to download a copy of my report, Personal Branding: 5 Steps to Develop Your Personal Brand So You Stand Out From The Crowd.”

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On-Site Search Engine Optimization – Essential for Success Online

On-Site Search Engine OptimizationIs on-site search engine optimization (SEO) dead, or is it still essential for success online? In recent times there have been more and more headlines indicating that social SEO may now have more value than traditional SEO. While it is true that Google appears to be taking into consideration your overall online picture, including the extent to which you’re involved in social media, the fact is that on-site search engine optimization remains essential for success online.

Why ignoring On-Site SEO is a Mistake

Many companies are confused about SEO, and small businesses are especially affected because most start their business on a shoestring budget.  They may hear about it but feel that it’s too challenging to understand, and the cost to hire an SEO expert may not be in their start-up budget so they ignore it altogether. This is a significant mistake.

Failure to factor in on-site SEO gives Google the incorrect impression right from the start. They try to index pages, and without some semblance of SEO, here are some things that happen:

  • many times they’re not able to index
  • they index the page incorrectly
  • because on-page and internal SEO is such a big part of the search ranking algorithm, bury it so far down the search results it is useless.

There are some solutions that can be implemented to get you going so that your website does not experience any of the above negative results from Google and the other search engines.

Minimum Viable SEO

Priceonomics.com coined the term, “minimum viable SEO“, which means basically what it says: the minimum SEO you can get by to begin with. Even though this is not an ideal strategy, it’s a lot better than not doing anything. Here are a few of the things they pointed out, with a few of our own ideas tossed in.

1.  Decide which type of keywords you’re aiming for – as this determines not just your site structure but how many pages and just how quickly you’ll be profitable. You could be going after the long-tail keywords, meaning keywords that are commonly 3-5 words long, often with product or model numbers. They don’t have a ton of searches daily, but are much easier to rank for. Add a few thousand of these to your website and it puts you in a winning position.

A different way to go is to optimize for a single keyword, like “auto insurance Fort Lauderdale” you’ll typically be trying to rank only your home page. If you’ve got a business with a local presence, be sure you have local geo-modifiers on your keywords, as in the above example.  This will make a huge difference to your results.

2.  Use ‘bread crumb’ navigation – You’ve seen this on many web pages. It is a set of links that show where you’ve been on the site, and where you are now. This is helpful for the searcher, (which Google likes) and takes care of a good deal of internal linkage. Here is what it commonly looks like: Home > Tablets > Apple > Ipad 2 3g

3.  Use accurate title tags – Ensure that the title tag on your page is accurate, which means it is or contains the keyword you wish that page ranked for. It is probably the most important SEO task that you can do. Using local geo-modifiers is extremely important here as well.

Doing minimum viable SEO is a start, and a lot better than doing nothing. Just don’t regard that to be the end of your on-site search engine optimization efforts.  It’s a continuous process that must be given attention on a regular basis.

What’s your biggest SEO challenge?

**Picture credit: SEO Diagram by Stuart Miles**

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