Getting Started with Google Analytics

Imagine that your site is getting thousands of visitors per day. Now imagine that about 100 of them are spending money on the site. Obviously, you probably want to get more of the users that are spending money on the site but how do you know where these users are coming from? Or, how do you know what actions they take while on your site before spending money?

What is website analytics?

This is where website analytics comes in. Website analytics collects data about who our site visitors are, where they are coming from, and what they are doing on our sites. We can see where information about our site visitors such as where they are located, the languages they speak, and the devices they used to view your website.

We can also see information about how site visitors got to our site and which pages they spent the most time on. Additionally, we can see what actions they took on the website such as watching a video, signing up for a newsletter, or adding a product to a shopping cart.

Without website analytics, how do you know where your site visitors are coming from and what they are doing? Click To Tweet

By having all this data within one place, we can analyze the different paths visitors take to complete actions on our sites. We can then look into which marketing channels we are using that are the most profitable. This helps us to ensure we are optimizing our marketing to save us time and money.

There are many services out there that offer analytics for your website. Some of the most popular ones include Clicky, MixPanel, Heap Analytics, Fathom Analytics, and Kissmetrics. The most popular service is Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is not only free for most people, but it is also powerful and user-friendly. Even better, you can link it to your Search Console and Google Ads if you use them to add even more information into your reports.

The basics

Before we can get too far with using Google Analytics, there are some terminology and concepts that we want to explore first.

Our first round of definitions correlates to the different levels within your Google Analytics account.

Account

Inside your Google Analytics account, you can have different “accounts” for the different companies or brands that you’re using analytics with. For most people who are only using Google Analytics for their one site, they will only have one account. If you are using Google Analytics with your clients, you may have different accounts for each of your clients.

These accounts are all within your Google Analytics account, so you only have the one login to get into and work with these accounts.

Property

Inside each of the accounts, you can have different properties. These properties are individual sites or apps. For example, if you are using Google Analytics for your own site only, you may have one account with one property in it. If you have multiple websites for your company, you may have several properties within your account.

If you have clients who have multiple sites, you may have different accounts for each client and then different properties within those accounts for each site for that client.

View

Inside each property will be “views”. These views are where the data is actually stored and where you will be reviewing your data. Each “view” is a set of data within a property. For many sites, you only need one main view. However, there may be times where you have a variety of different views to analyze different subsets of data. We will look more into views in a future email.

Our next round of terms focuses on the data that is in Google Analytics.

User

This is a single individual visitor to your website. When a visitor comes to your site for the first time, Google Analytics creates a unique ID for that user and stores a cookie in their browser. If the visitor comes back to your site, Google Analytics will look for the cookie to determine if this is a new or returning user.

Session

This is a single visit by a site visitor. If someone comes to your site and views several pages, that is one session. If the person comes back next week to view some more pages, that would be considered a different session. By default, Google Analytics ends a session after 30 minutes of inactivity. So, if a person browses your site, leaves, and then comes back a few hours later, that would be two different sessions by the same user on that day.

Browsing Your Google Analytics

Now that we have a basic understanding of Google Analytics, let’s take a look through some of the content in the service. First, we can look at the Audience page to see some overview data about our traffic and its visitors.

Google Analytics Audience Overview

On this page, we can see a graph of the number of sessions that the site has had. We can also see the number of users, sessions, page views, pages per session, average session duration, and more.

We can then dive into the Audience section to compare the visitors based on a variety of data such as what language they speak, where they are geographically, what type of device they are using to view your site, and more.

Google Analytics Audience Location

Now, let’s take a look at the Acquisition section. In this section, we can discover where the users are coming from. By default, Google Analytics will break down the channels by search, direct access, social, and referrers as you can see in the image below.

Google Analytics Acquisition Overview

You can then dive into each channel further to learn more about where the users come from in that channel like in this image:

Google Analytics Acquisition Social

Setting up Google Analytics

Now that you know a bit about Google Analytics and what it can do, it is time to get it set up on your website. The first step is to go to Google Analytics and set up your account. You can sign in with your Google account and then you will want to add a property for your website during their guided setup.

If you are using WordPress, there is a really simple plugin called Google Analytics Dashboard for WP that allows you to simply log in with your Google account and then the plugin will automatically set up Google Analytics for your site. It even displays some basic traffic data in your WordPress dashboard so you can easily keep track when you log into your site. This is the plugin I actually use for this site.

If you are not using WordPress, most CMS’s and platforms have a simple process for setting up Google Analytics so be sure to check out your platform’s documentation or reach out to their support. Lastly, Google Analytics will give you some code when you create your account. So, if you know how, you could simply copy and paste their code into your site and not have to worry about any integration tools at all.

What’s Next

Once you have your Google Analytics set up, there are a few more things you can do to better analyze your data. You can track your conversions and create dashboards to quickly see your most important data.

You can also use UTMs to create custom campaigns and get more specific data.

From there, you can track specific user events such as when a user clicks a submit button or downloads a document. If you are interested in learning more, refer to this article on event tracking with onclick.

Core Values Help Guide Your Team in the Right Direction

Like people, most businesses have certain ideas and views that they highly value. These core values are part of every decision and action you take in your business. If you value freedom from an office, you will grow your business in a way that is different than someone who values having teams working in an office with them. However, most founders and entrepreneurs never take the time to pull the values out of their mind and present them to their teams.

What are core values?

A while ago, I wrote about having a clear vision for your business. Creating your company values and explaining them to your team helps immensely in this process. By knowing exactly what the company values are, your team is more likely to make decisions and take actions in the ways that your business needs them to. For example, if one of your core values is “Have Fun” and it is regularly talked about, it is more likely that your team will evolve into embracing that value.

This also helps as you grow your team. You can use the company’s core values to find potential candidates that fit in with the company’s values to ensure that they are a good fit for your company and your company is a good fit for them. For example, if your company has a value of “Full Transparency” and you can tell that to your potential candidates for positions that you are hiring for, you may find people who feel that your company is not a good fit for their values. This helps identify culture conflicts before you even hire anyone.

Some examples of core values

So, what does some core values look like? One of Zappos’s core values is “Deliver WOW Through Service”. Some of your core values can be longer such as one of Whole Foods core values which is “Promoting the health of our stakeholders through healthy eating education”. Here are Aweber’s core values:

  1. Foster Respect and Cooperation.
  2. Listen to What People Say About Us. Invite Feedback.
  3. Learn. Educate. Innovate.
  4. Don’t Take Ourselves Too Seriously; Have Fun.
  5. Create Remarkable Experiences.

Another example would be Salesforce’s values:

  1. Technology – Offering donated and discounted technologies to higher education organizations and nonprofits
  2. People – Promoting a culture of caring and helping employees give back
  3. Resources – Providing grants inspired by our employees, technologies, and communities

Now, compare those with Barnes & Noble Booksellers‘s core values:

  1. Customer Service
  2. Quality
  3. Empathy
  4. Respect
  5. Integrity
  6. Responsibility
  7. Teamwork

They then further explain each core value depending on where they are using the core values. For example, their Quality value has additional explanation:

Our actions and personal standards reflect our mission of being the best specialty retailer in America. We focus on delivering desired results within established timeframes.

As you can see, core values can be formed in all different ways. They could be one word values that you can explain further. Or, they could be lengthy phrases. Core values are unique to your business and can be worded in any way that feels right for your business.

How to decide on your own core values

Now that we have looked at a few example values and discussed why they are useful, you may be wondering where to start in creating your own. I was first introduced to core values when I read Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business and I highly recommend you checking that out. After looking at many different businesses and their values, I have found that they usually decide upon about 5 values. These values range from 1 word to 15 words.

When I started working on core values for Quiz And Survey Master, I first started pondering what sort of values do I have and which of them heavily influence the business. From there, I started crafting a few ideas that I could write down. Then, I put that list away and stepped away from it for a few days. This gave me time to look at them with fresh thoughts when I visited the idea again.

Once I narrowed down the ideas to around 5, I started trying to come up with different ways to phrase them that may make it easier to explain or convey the value itself. Finally, I presented my current ideas to my team and asked for feedback and their ideas.

Eventually, we crafted these 5 core values:

  1. Our Team – We treat our team like family
  2. Customer Success – We strive to ensure our customers are successful
  3. Respect – We respect every person
  4. Curiosity – We are always curious about learning new things and self improving
  5. Transparency – We always have honest, open, and transparent communication

From here, I created a document to keep these values listed in that I can include in various content such as communication with team members, new hires, content packets with new clients, etc…

What’s next?

I have found it very helpful to refer back to these core values to re-iterate what we stand for. For example, when a support person is trying to help a particularly difficult user, we ask “how can I ensure this customer is successful?”. This is a useful exercise to keep the core values a part of the team.

So, once you finish creating your core values, what should you do next? The first thing to do is to communicate your core values with everyone on your team.

This first thing you should do with your core values are share them with your team! Click To Tweet

This can be a simple team meeting or a company-wide keynote speech. The goal is to not only tell your team what your core values are but also why those are the core value and how is the team benefiting from having core values.

Finally, tell everyone else about them. Make it a part of your “get to know you” campaign and your onboading process for new clients and users. Your users want to know about you and who you are. Telling them about your core values is a great way to connect and share a little about your business with them.

If you are trying to figure out what your core values are, take your time. This will not be something you whip up one afternoon. I have created a set of questions that you can download that will help you in the brainstorming part of the process. Check it out below:

Several of the example core values came from a post on YFS Magazine.

Quickly Gain More Subscribers With These Lead Magnets

With many online businesses, growing your email list is one of the best ways to grow your community, loyalty, and revenue. But, how do you get your site visitors to want to join your mailing list? Email addresses are very important to people and they do not want to just give out their email address to anyone.

That is where lead magnets come in. Lead magnets are a free item that the user can get in exchange for joining your email list. There are many type of lead magnets out there and some are more effective than others. How do you know which ones you should try and how to get started? This is what I am going to answer today.

Choosing a Lead Magnet

If you look at the following list of lead magnets, you will see several different ones that you might be interested in trying with your audience. But, how do you know which one will work best? The key to creating a lead magnet is that it is relevant to your audience and also your content.

The key to creating a lead magnet is that it is relevant to your audience and also your content. Click To Tweet

For example, if you are a florist, recipes may be not as beneficial to your audience as a guide or checklist. However, if you have a post about choosing flowers for Valentine’s day, then a pdf of great Valentine’s dinner recipes may be beneficial to viewers of that post. So, look over the lead magnets and find some that are relevant to different parts of your website. Start with one that benefits your target user. Then, you can create others for particular parts of your website.

9 Lead Magnet Ideas

Coupon

This is my least favorite lead magnet as it tends to be the least effective. However, it is the easiest and quickest to set up. In this lead magnet, a user gets a coupon for their next purchase when signing up for your mailing list. The issue is that this offer is usually seen before the user decides to purchase. For example, if you are using a popup on your site, the user will probably click out of the popup before deciding to purchase. Once they decide to purchase, they have to either try to track down a form again or just not use the coupon. The other concern is that if the user hasn’t decided to purchase by the time he or she leaves your site, offering a coupon will not want to make them want to join your mailing list as the user does not intend to buy.

Checklist

This is one of my favorite lead magnets. Offering a checklist for the user to follow that relates to your business or content is a great benefit for the user and tends to convert well. An example would be a checklist for the user to follow to improve their site’s SEO. This is great to go along with a post that follows a step by step process. For example, if you create a post about what the most important items are for a chef, you could create a checklist that the user can print out to go to the store with or check off as they purchase the items. An example of this is my pre-launch landing page article which had a free pdf checklist users could download to use when building their launch pages.

Guide

Similar to the checklist, you can create a pdf guide for your users to download. An example would be a guide for taking care of the flowers. Another example would be a guide for setting up an email marketing campaign.

Free Tool

Consider building a free tool that is useful to your target user. A great example of this is HubSpot’s Marketing Grader which grades how well your site is set up for marketing and SEO. This tool collects your email address in order to use the tool which allows HubSpot to communicate with potential users.

Email Course

This is one of my favorite lead magnets. In this lead magnet, you have to create several lessons on a particular topic that your target user will find beneficial or want to learn more about. For example, my WordPress agency (My Local Webstop) offers a free 6 day email course on WordPress security. Once users sign up, they receive a lesson a day for the next several days. This is great because it positions you as an authority on that particular subject. Even better, is that you can re-purpose old content such as blog posts for these lessons or re-purpose these lessons for future content.

Quizzes or Surveys

A great way to gain subscribers is utilizing quizzes and surveys. You can have users take your quiz and provide them the results after the enter in their email address. For example, one of my previous clients runs a paleo diet site and offers a free carbohydrate intolerance quiz to help users discover if they have carbohydrate intolerance. The user can enter in their email address to receive their results. If you use WordPress, you can quickly and easily set this up using a tool such as Quiz And Survey Master.

Resource List

Something that can benefit new users in your industry is a resource list. This compiles all of your most used tools and resources so they can easily discover great tools to use for themselves. For example, my Blogging Toolkit is a list of the tools and services I use to improve my blog.

Recipes

If you run a site that your users may benefit from recipes, these are a great and easy lead magnet to create. Simply create a pdf that includes the ingredient, instructions, and maybe an image and you are good to go. However, you can apply this same thought to other industries as well. Maybe knitting patterns, paint-by-numbers kits, or even some woodworking how-to’s could also fall in this category.

Webinars

If you are comfortable with hosting a webinar, having users register to attend is a great way to gain subscribers. An average webinar is 30 to 40 people. So, running a couple of webinars a month can quickly grow your mailing list.

Now that you have some ideas, go create some lead magnets to grow your mailing list! Be sure to check out some of my lead magnets such as the Blogging Toolkit or the Pre-Launch Landing Page Checklist for ideas.

Reach Success This Year By Creating Smart Resolutions

Rainer Maria Rilke, the poet, once said “And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been”. I have always like that particular quote about the new year. The new year brings unknown adventures, exciting new challenges, and potential successes. Most people create goals that they want to achieve during the year. This could be anything from wanting to lose weight to wanting to grow their business. However, many people create their goals without much thought or any accountability to reach them. I encourage you to create SMART goals this year.

Many people create their goals without much thought or any accountability to reach them. Click To Tweet

What are SMART goals?

SMART is an acronym that stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

The SMART system has been around for many years and helps guides us to creating objectives and goals in various settings from project management to personal development. Let’s take a look at each part of the SMART system to see how using it can improve our goals.

Specific

The SMART system encourages you to create a specific goal rather than a vague or general goal. This helps us reflect back on our goals and see our progress. Some questions that you want to ask about your goal to get specific include:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Who is involved?
  • How will I accomplish this goal?

Measurable

In your goal, you should establish criteria for measuring your progress towards accomplishing your goal. This is useful to reflect back on and determine how far along you are on your goal. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • How will I know that I am successful?
  • How much?
  • How many?

Achievable

When setting your goals, you want to make sure that these goals are actually possible in the time-frame you want. For example, setting a goal of growing your business by 1000x is a great goal to want but it probably isn’t achievable within a year.

Relevant

With your goals, you want to make sure that they are relevant to your long-term goals. For example, you can set a specific, measurable, and achievable goal such as “painting 100 houses in 2 months”. However, if you are a cupcake shop owner, then that really wouldn’t help you in the long term. Be sure to ask yourself questions such as:

  • Does this help me achieve my long-term goals?
  • Is this a worthwhile goal?
  • Does this align with my company’s vision?

Timely

Lastly, you want to attach a time-frame to each of your goals. For example, you can say that you want to lose 50 pounds, but by when? In a month? In 6 months? When setting your goal, plan your time-frame so you can measure your progress more effectively.

What are examples of SMART goals?

Now, let’s take a look at some of your possible goals and see how we would create SMART goals for them. First, if your goal was “to lose weight”, you could turn that into:

“I want to lose 50 pounds in 6 months.”

If your goal was “to grow my business”, you could turn that into:

“I want to grow my company’s revenue by 300% by the end of the year.”

If your goal was “to write more”, try something like:

“I want to write at least 500 words per week in blog posts and email marketing” or “I want to write at least 2 blog posts a month”.

Now, go create your goals!

Now that you have a framework for creating your goals, take some time to think about what you want to achieve this year. Always try to at least have one personal and one business or work-related goal. Also, try not to have any more than 5 goals for the year. These should be big and focused goals, so you may not have time to achieve as many as you think you might. So, what are your goals for this year? Comment below and let everyone know what your goals are!

What Your Pre-Launch Landing Page Needs To Be Successful

If you have been following my recent posts, you will have seen several posts I have been writing about launching a business. Now that you have a clear vision of your goals and have validated some of your business ideas, it’s time to set up a pre-launch landing page. Many businesses skip this step and start immediately creating their product and launching it only to find very low sales at the beginning. In this post, I will go over why you need a pre-launch landing page, what your landing page needs, and some solutions for creating it.

Why You Need A Pre-Launch Landing Page

Have you ever heard of a company or person launching a product and making thousands or tens of thousands the first day? They can do this because they have many interested potential customers on a list already waiting for their launch. When you launch your product, who are you going to let know that the product has launched? The goal of the pre-launch landing page is to get interested people to want to join your list.

The goal of the pre-launch landing page is to get interested people to want to join your list. Click To Tweet

Then, after collecting many emails of people who are interested in your product, you can let everyone know when you launch your product. You want to send anyone who may have a problem that your solution is solving to the landing page so they can sign up to be notified when you release it. However, you won’t wait until then to talk to them. As you develop the product, or prepare its launch, you will be communicating with these people about your product. You will be keeping them engaged and excited about your product. So, when do you set your landing page up? The sooner the better! I advise you to set up your landing page directly after you validate your ideas.

What Do You Need On Your Landing Page

So, you may be wondering what to add to your landing page. First, start with an engaging call to action at the top. Since the goal is to get people on your list of interested people, you need to add a sign up form that will add users to your list. But, why would someone just give you their email address? You have to tell them about you and your product. Tell the user about the product’s story such as what problem it solves, who is it for, and why you decided to build it. For your story, you want to keep it short, simple, and honest. You then want to add an image or video to capture the user’s attention and to possibly add more information. You want to relate to people and show them how the product will benefit them. Lastly, remember to focus on the problems that the product is solving and not its features.

Next, you want to mention the benefit to signing up. If you are offering an early or VIP discount or early access, mention it. Now, once the user signs up, you want to provide ways for the user to share your page. Include sharing buttons to allow your visitor to share the page on social media and through email. Consider rewarding them for sharing such as moving up in the queue of early access or running a contest. Once the user signs up, be sure to send them an email thanking them for signing up and encouraging them to share your product’s landing page.

I created a landing page checklist for you to use as you create your landing page. You can find the checklist at the bottom of this post.

How To Create Your Landing Page

There are a number of products and services out there that will help you create your landing page with little or no programming knowledge. If you have a development team or already have a website, consider simply creating your own on your website. If not, here are a few services for you to consider:

  • Lead Pages – A premium landing page service that offers a variety of features including many built-in templates to choose from, social sharing features, and optimizing.
  • Instapage – Another great service that offers almost 100 templates, split-testing, and a 45 day free trial.
  • OptimizePress – A WordPress plugin that allows you to easily build and edit landing pages on your site.
  • Thrive Builder – Another WordPress plugin that will help you quickly set up landing pages on your WordPress site.

I created a landing page checklist for you to use as you create your landing page. You can get it delivered to your email by filling out the form below:

Now that you know why your product needs a landing page before you launch it, it’s time to get out there and create one!

Clear vision is valuable to a growing business

There are many things you need to know when you are starting or growing your business. One thing that I feel is crucial to the success of your business is the vision that you have for it. Where do you see your business in a month? How about 3 months? A year? 5 years? Running a business is hard and sometimes you need to focus everything on getting through the day. Sometimes, you have to make many decisions quickly to satisfy your users and customers. However, you do need to take time to create your vision and reflect on it.

Why you need vision

Without an overall vision, how do you know if you are making the right decision for long term success? When making short term decisions and plans, it is easy to only focus on what you are currently working on. However, you can steer the business the wrong way if you are not making those plans and decisions while keeping the vision in mind. For example, what if you have created a small time tracking service? You may be receiving hundreds of requests from your customers and users. In addition, you may be facing several problems and reported issues.

Without an overall vision, how do you know if you are making the right decision for long term success? Click To Tweet

If you only base your plans on what is immediately requested, you may work on projects that you will have to re-create or throw away later on as you introduce new features. Another example would be if you are running a service business and you are considering adding a new plan or new offering. You should reflect on your vision to see how this will fit into your vision of the business a few years from now. You may discover that this new plan does not align with your goals for the business.

Things to consider when outlining your vision

Now that I discussed why you should have a vision, you may be wondering what your vision should be like and how detailed it should be. The vision isn’t meant to be an exact plan. This is because things may come up later that changes your business model, structure, or plans. However, the vision should be a guiding principle. For example, if you started a nutrition blog, your long-term vision may be to have a large community of people sharing nutrition ideas. This vision will help you make decisions and plans. If you see another nutrition blog start offering a paid service for designing meal plans, you may consider doing the same. However, you will want to consider if this service will help you grow your site into the large community of nutrition sharing people. So, when outlining your vision, keep it simple but consider items such as the size of your business, the size of your audience, and the channels you want to use to acquire and communicate with your audience.

Changing your vision of the business

There will be times when you may consider changing the overall vision of the business. You may see another business offering services that you think will be beneficial to your customers. Or, a user may make a feature request that you feel many of your users will greatly benefit from. After validating your feature or service idea, this is the time to reflect on your vision. It may be beneficial to some of your users, but will it be beneficial to most of them? Will it help you move towards your vision of the business? If so, that’s great. If not, you may want to consider not going that way. However, you can decide to shift your vision in order to begin offering that service or creating that feature. That’s okay. It’s your business and you can shift the vision to suite what you want. However, do not fall for the “shiny object syndrome” where you are constantly chasing the next shiny object. Reflecting on your current vision to see if you should shift is crucial to ensure that you continue down the right path for you and your business.

I would love to hear about the vision for your business! Comment below to share it with everyone.

Why And How You Should Validate Your Business Ideas

There are many times that we come up with great product ideas or even new features. Then, we spend time and money to create them only to have no one want it or want to pay for it when we are ready to start selling our new product. Many people will tell you that you should validate your ideas. Why should we validate them? What if we want to validate the idea but we don’t know how to even begin? In this post, I am going to walk you through the why’s, the what’s, and the how’s so you can validate your ideas before wasting time and money.

Why Should You Validate Your Ideas?

There are a variety of reasons that you should validate your ideas before creating the product. If you are creating your product yourself, it could take you hundreds of hours to create the product. What if, after all those hours, you finish the product and no one wants to buy it? Or, maybe you hired someone to create the product. Now, you would have wasted thousands of dollars or more. Another benefit to validating your idea is that you can talk to potential customers and begin marketing your product before you even build it. When it comes to your product idea, there are three things that you should validate.

Validating The Market

The first thing that you need to do is to validate the market itself. Is there a market for this type of product? You want to make sure that there is not only a market but a market that can scale as well. If you only quickly validate your idea with a few potential users, you may not realize that there isn’t enough of a market to grow your product. Are there competitors in the market? Are they successful?

Validate The Problem

Once you ensure that there is a market and it can scale, you need to validate the problem that you are trying to solve. Is this an actual problem? Do other people have this problem? For example, if you dislike the way a social network handles displaying friend’s posts, you would want to make sure other people have those same dislikes as you before you create the new social network. Similarly, if you have a problem keeping track of time spent on projects and that current time-tracking tools are too complicated, then you want to make sure there are other people that also have that problem before proceeding with creating your product.

Validate That People Will Pay

The last thing that you must validate is that people will actually pay for your product. There may be people out there interested in your product. They may have the same exact problem as you think they do. However, if they do not want to pay for your product, it doesn’t matter. The best way to validate a product is to ask for a potential customer’s money. Knowing that you potential customer would be willing to pay for this product ensures that you will have customers willing to pay when the product launches. Not doing this final step could lead to a product launch that has people interested but not enough wanting to pay for it.

The best way to validate a product is to ask for a potential customer's money. Click To Tweet

Now that we know what we want to validate, how do we actually validate this? Where do we even begin. Follow the next 4 steps to validate your idea and get you going down the right path to a successful launch.

Step 1 – Look For Competitors

First, we want to validate that there is a market. To do this, we want to search for similar products to our ideas. A few places that you want to search includes Google, YouTube, iOS app store, and Google Play. If your product is inside of a niche like WordPress plugins or Drupal modules, then you would also look into niche repositories or marketplaces as well. You want to check to see if other people have already been able to successfully build products. If so, this proves that there is a market out there for these products. Try to reach out to the creators of existing products or creators of failed products. Check to see what may have been difficult for them. If you can’t find any similar products, it may mean that it is either a difficult problem to solve or that people aren’t willing to spend money to solve the problem. Don’t be discouraged at the findings of this step but keep in mind the results of your findings in the next few steps.

Step 2 – Talk To Potential Customers

Now that we have looked into the market, it is time to validate the problem that we want to solve. To do so, we need to go out and talk to actual people who would be potential customers. I like to find 30 to 50 people for this step depending on the type of product and market. These should not be friends and family as they will usually side more on the positive side than normal. You can get good results from friends and family and validate their feedback with the next step, but I find it is better to look elsewhere for the majority of this feedback. So, where can we find people to talk to? Depending on your following, you may be able to just post on social media or post on your website that you are looking to talk to people that has a certain type of problem. For example, you may tweet something like “Anyone have issues finding a good time tracking app? I would love to talk to you about your experience.” If you don’t have a following, you can look through blogs, Quora, Facebook, and various places for people who have commented about having a problem similar to the one you are trying to solve. For example, if I were creating a time tracking tool, I may search through a freelancing blog for people leaving comments asking for a good time tracking tool.

So, what should you talk about? You want to focus on the problem itself. Don’t try to sell your product or anything much about it. You also don’t want to persuade them to feel like they have the problem the way you describe it. So, the first step is to build some rapport with the person. From there, you want to ask several open ended questions about what there problem is, what have they tried to solve the problem, and how did they feel about those solutions. For example, for the example time tracking tool, I may ask things like

  • “Why do you want to track your time?”
  • “What have you used to track your time?”
  • “How did you feel about the experience of using _____(product they have used)?”

I created a guide for talking to customers with more example questions which you can find at the end of this post. This process helps you validate that other people have the problem that you are attempting to solve. Ideally, you will have over half the people you speak to have the problem that you are looking for and describe their situation in a way that fits with the product you want to create. If less than a quarter of people have similar problems as what you are trying to solve, it may be time to pivot your product’s goals.

Step 3 – Ask For Money

Now that you understand and tested your theory of the problem, you should have an idea of the exact problem that you are solving. However, if you jumped straight to creating your product and launching it now, you may find that no one buys it even though it solves a problem. This is because not all problems are ones people are willing to pay to solve. For our example time tracking tool, people may need to track their time and find their existing tools are difficult to use, but they may not be willing to pay for a new product to learn and use. So, now is a great time to reach out to the ideal customers out of the group of potential customers that you spoke to and ask for a payment. You can do this in a variety of ways. You can create a simple landing page with a simple payment option. Or you could even use a newer crowdfund platform such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. I like to just ask a few ideal customers to make a payment just to ensure that there are people willing to pay for my product once it launches.

Step 4 – Create An MVP And Test

The final step is to create a minimal version of the product. Ideally, it would only be 10% of the product. For our example time tracking tool, maybe we go and create the overall design and layout. Alternatively, it could be a single main feature. Then, we want to go back to our potential customers and show them this minimum version. Ask for feedback, suggestions, and concerns. Now, if they like the direction that you are headed, you know that you are on the right path. If you had validated the problem and created the entire product, you may have found that your idea of the solution may have been different than most of your potential customers. So, we want to test a minimum version to ensure that we are going down the right path. From here, you can start building out the product and preparing for your product’s launch.

Now that you have a good vision of what you should validate and how to do it, it is time to get out there and start validating your ideas. Below, you can claim a free guide that I created for talking to potential customers and some more example questions to ask them.

Everyone Should Attend A WordCamp And Here’s Why

When it comes to WordPress, few events can have as much as an impact as a WordCamp. If you are unfamiliar with WordCamps, they are conferences built around WordPress. WordCamps are usually casual and are completely community created. All the organizers, speakers, and staff are volunteers. You usually have a great mixture of users ranging from a complete beginner to developers to business owners.

WordCamps usually have 2 or 3 tracks which means there are 2 or 3 talks happening at the same time. Most of them are over the weekend though some also have a Friday event as well. So, this usually adds up to 20 to 40 different talks that you can choose form to attend over the weekend. So, why should you go to them? I have 3 reasons why everyone that uses WordPress should attend WordCamps.

WordCamps Are Affordable

The entire staff of a WordCamps are volunteers. WordCamps are meant to be low cost and affordable to everyone. Since they do not pay any speakers or staff and they also have a variety of sponsors, most WordCamps cost less then $40 for the weekend. This tickets cost usually includes the admission to all the talks over the weekend, lunch, and some swag items such as a t-shirt and stickers. Sometimes, this ticket will also include admission into an after party with free food and drinks. Other times, the ticket may include a breakfast one day. At such an affordable price and such great content, they are accessible to everyone.

They Are Packed With Information

I had already mentioned there are quite a few talks happening during the course of the WordCamp. Some of the larger WordCamps could have over 50 possible talks, panels, and workshops for you to choose from. These topics can range from begginer topics such as learning how to organize your site’s content all the way to developer topics such as plugin development. Some recent talks that I have attended include:

  • Choose the Right Theme
  • So You Want to Build a Plugin
  • Building a Community of Loyal Buyers and Raving Fans
  • Advanced Development Workflows
  • SEO for Business Owners: Understanding the complex world of Google search results
  • Zen and the Art of WordPress Maintenance
  • How to Build a WordPress Membership Site

As you can see, there are all types of talks. Anyone can find talks that are beneficial to their journey with WordPress.

Amazing Networking Opportunities

One of the reasons that I love WordCamps so much is the networking. Most WordCamps have a few hundred people attend. Some are even larger with over 500 attendees. With these numbers, you can almost always find users who are in similar situations as you. The WordPress community is always so friendly and open that you can always start conversations with a variety of people. I always make many new friends and many more connections at every WordCamp that I attend.

So, now that you know some more about WordCamps and the reasons why I feel that everyone should attend one, you may be wondering how to find them. Luckily, WordPress has a site that lists all upcoming, past, and planned WordCamps across the world. There are usually always a WordCamp near you. I have 3 within reasonable distance from where I live. To find a WordCamp near you, check out the WordCamp Central page.

Have you attended a WordCamp before? Please leave a comment about your most memorable experience below!

Should you grow your business?

Have you heard the phrase “If your business isn’t growing, it’s dying” before? You probably have heard it many times from many different people. The truth is that this is simply not true. You can effectively keep your business the same size if you want to. Think of the mom and pop shops that have been open for decades. Most are still a single location and offer the same products or services. Of course, their prices and strategies may change with the changing markets and economies but their size can remain the same if they choose to.

Reasons To Grow Your Business

Naturally, there are many reasons why you would want to grow your business. However, there are several reasons why you may also want to not grow your business. When you are considering growing your business, it is important to analyze the different pros and cons. Lets go over a few reasons why you may want to grow your business.

Increasing Financial Needs

As an owner of a business, you probably want financial freedom. However, it is completely natural to want to earn more money as time goes on. In order to pay yourself more, you will have to grow your business to accommodate your income as well as any new staff that you may bring hire.

Stability

As businesses grow, they tend to become more stable. If you are running a one person business with limited streams of revenue, your business is much less stable than a business with multiple locations and dozens of people on staff. Many people want to grow their business so that it can be more stable in the ever changing market.

Freedom

If you are running a smaller business, it is very likely that the business depends on you. If you were to be out for a week due to sickness, it may drastically effect the business. However, if you were to grow your team so that the business doesn’t rely on you, this enables you to have the freedom to step away when needed or when wanted.

Limited Personnel

What if your business is needed so much that you have to turn away potential customers simply because you do not have the time to assist them. This would be a good reason to hire help and grow the business.

Reasons Not To Grow Your Business

I have just went over several reasons to want to grow your business. Naturally, there may be many other reasons that you want to grow your business. However, before doing so, take a moment to consider reasons why you may not want to grow the business. Lets go over a few of the main ones.

Stress

Any time that you grow a business, it is going to be stressful. What if you hire extra help but then revenue doesn’t increase as much as you needed it to? What if you have trouble scaling? Even under the best conditions, growth can be stressful.

Risk

On top of the extra stress, there may be risk associated with your growth. You may have to hire people before you are sure the revenue will be there or you may consider a loan to have the finances to grow the business. You also have more financial obligations to your business and team.

Managing

In order to grow your business, it usually requires hiring new people. This will require you to worry about training, taxes, insurance, accountability, and more. It is acceptable to not grow your business because you do not want this extra layer to deal with.

Cost Of Growth

Depending on your type of business, it may cost you time and money to grow the business. For example, you may have to rent or build a second location to grow the business. Your business may not have the finances to consider growing the business. If this is the case, you may have to look externally for investments or loans. In some cases, you may decide that it is more beneficial to not grow.

So, before you being your journey of growing your business, consider the pros and cons for your business. It may be helpful to ask yourself some questions such as:

  1. Why should the business grow?
  2. How will the business grow?
  3. How much should the business grow?
  4. Am I prepared to take on the extra risk and stress?
  5. Do I have the processes in place to hire and grow my team?
  6. Do I have the finances to grow?

There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to whether you should grow your business or not. Each of these reasons and answers will be different with each business. However, taking the time now to thoroughly consider and discuss why you may or may not want to grow the business will help you tremendously as you move forward. I would love to hear your thoughts. So please leave a comment with your reasons of why you want to grow or not grow your business.

 

What Is SEO And How Do I Improve My Site?

There are over 3.5 billions Google searches every day and over 1.2 trillion Google searches each year according to Internet Live Stats. Once the search is completed, 33% of searchers click the first result and 18% click the second result. The percentage drops drastically down to only 2% of users clicking the 10th result. Then, less than 9% of searchers even go to the second page according to Search Engine Watch. So, how do we get websites on the first page of a search? We do that by focusing on a process called search engine optimization or SEO for short.

Why SEO?

If 92% of searchers do not go past the first page, then getting your site to the first page could increase the amount of clicks to your site by up to 400% if you get to the first result.  This allows for your customers and visitors to find you easier. Before we look into how to improve our seo, we must first understand how search engines even work.

How Do Search Engines Work?

Search engines use automated scripts, called “crawlers” or “spiders”, to browse the web. These spiders access a webpage and stores information about the site. Then, the spider follows a link on that webpage to access the next page. The spider stores the information into databases. When a user searches for something, the engine searches the database and displays the results to the searcher. There is a lot more to the technical process, but that is the general concept.

Optimizing Your Content

One of the biggest factors to your search engine ranking is the content on your site.  There are many techniques and strategies to improve your search ranking that revolve around how you deliver and link to content. Content can be anything from posts, descriptions, galleries, recipes, and more. The first step is to ensure that links throughout your site site are clear and concise. Since links are the method of travel for the search engine spiders, every page on your site should be accessible through a link of your site. If your site never links to a certain page, that page will not be seen by a search engine.

After you have links set up and improved, you want to have relevant keywords. For example, if you are a bakery in Miami that focuses on breads, you want to make sure that words like “bakery”, “Miami”, and “bread” are used throughout your site. Also, use words that users may search for instead of those common terms. However, don’t go over the top. You can’t create pages with the word “bakery” used a hundred times. Search engines look for something called keyword density which is where the search engines compare how many times you used a word against the rest of the content. Most of the time, I don’t recommend worrying about the exact amount of keywords you are using. Instead, ensure that they are present and used naturally in your content.

It is also important to consider multiple ways to provide value. Your visitors will love to see different forms of content including images, ebooks, charts, and more. Be sure to include a variety of content on your site. Then, ensure that your content has appropriate descriptions and shows up on relevant pages. For example, if you are a baker, you could include pictures of your different breads and label them with “Freshly made Italian bread” or similar.

Search engines like to see that you are updating your content often. If the content never changes, search engines will feel that your information is no longer relevant and will lower your ranking over time. This is why many people recommend to start blogging on your site. This will give you more opportunities to link from older content to newer content to keep your site fresh and relevant.

Out of most of the other factors, links between sites can have a large effect on your search ranking. If your small bakery website is linked to from a large news site, then your site will receive a boost in ranking. So, it is very beneficial to try to get your site and its pages linked to from other sites. This can be through having news sites review or interview your business. It could be posting on other sites and linking to your site. As you grow your audience, many of your visitors will post links back to your site which will improve your overall seo.

At the end of the day, no amount of seo will improve your content. If the content itself is not engaging, useful, or thoughtful, then visitors will not go to your site, will not link to it, and will not engage with it. Creating valuable and useful content will help your site be found much more than small tweaks.

Optimizing Your Site

There are many things to consider when discussing the overall seo of your site. One major area to focus on is the organization of your site. Your site should be well organized with content divided into logical sections. Your users should be able to easily navigate and find content on your site. Remember to have your urls set up as logical and readable paths. Search engines do factor in a small value to urls.

When spiders are looking through your site, one of the first things they will look at is the title tags and meta-tags of your site. The title tag is shown to users in many places on your site but is also shown in the search results. WordPress already places the title of your post or page in the tag which is good practice. You can use a variety of SEO plugins to alter the tag if you need to make slight changes. Most search engines show the first 70 characters from the title tag on search results so you usually want to keep the title less than 70 characters. Adding keywords to your title tags are a good practice to help let the search engine know what the page will be about. These SEO plugins will also allow you to alter the meta-tags. One of the most important tags is the meta description. This describes what the user will see on the page and is listed in the search results. If this is left out, the search engine will show what it believes is a relevant part of your content.

There are many many more things I could cover here in regards to site structure; however, it is easier to simply install a great seo plugin, such as Yoast SEO, that will take care of all the smaller tweaks for you.

SEO Tools

There are many great tools to help you improve your SEO on your website. The first I already mentioned was Yoast SEO. This simple plugin will take care of most of the tweaks for you and allow you to alter the title and desctiption tags. This plugin will also rate the seo of your post or page and make suggestions on how to improve it.

Hubspot’s Marketing Grader is a free website review tool that allows you to enter in your site and receive a grade on the seo aspects. This site will analyze your site and generate a report with recommendations on how to improve your SEO.

WooRank is another great website review tool. This site will generate a report with recommendations on how to improve your SEO.

Upcity Free SEO Report Card is a free tool that analyzes your site and competitor sites to see how you compare and makes recommendations on how to improve.

Now that you know the basics of SEO and ways to improve your own site, be sure to share this post with your users and visitors so that they can also learn to improve their sites.