The Passion Problem
Say you’re in a relationship. How many hours a week do you spend with your Significant Other?
Now consider your business. How many hours a week do you spend with it?
Unless you have an amazing secret worked out where you’re spending 80 hours a week with your family and 10 with your business (email me!) I’d bet the numbers are either pretty even or weighted in favor of your business. It takes a lot of effort to make most businesses work, and effort requires time.
But then consider: would you be with someone if you didn’t like spending time with them? Why would you want to spend 40+ hours a week with a business you don’t like? It makes no sense. Our relationships to our businesses, and the client/customer relationships within have as much impact on our overall satisfaction and happiness as our personal relationships, and really, for those of us invested in the success of a business, it does become a personal relationship.
If you have an internet-based business and you really want to be successful in the long term both in terms of financial payoff and happiness, you need to start thinking of your website as you would your relationship.
In the beginning, it’s all very exciting! You’re creating a website about a business you really like! It’s fun and you can’t wait to start gathering clients and actually getting this business off the ground!
As you get comfortable and feeling competent in your new role as an internet businessperson, you start thinking- I could take this thing up a notch! Let’s get some SEO GOING! You start optimizing your site, making new pages, building relationships and interacting with people in your industry and customers…it’s still a lot of fun!
Until one day, it’s…kind of not. It’s human nature to be attracted to novelty, and when the novelty wears off our attention to website optimization, drive to create awesome new content, concern about nurturing relationships, and dedication to social media can wane. Since the proper long-term execution of these is tantamount to the success of your SEO efforts and the overall success of your online enterprise, the entire business begins to struggle as a result of your loss of interest.
Again it’s human nature: if you don’t like it, you’re probably neglecting it. If you’re savvy enough to realize that you need this business to work, but that you don’t want to do it yourself, maybe you’re outsourcing your SEO and other online strategies to a freelancer or agency who says they have experience, but you don’t check up on their results very much. They make changes on your site and you glance over them. And your website: it feels the pain. No one knows your site like you do, and unless you’ve put in the effort to ensure that you’ve engaged someone who both a) knows what they’re doing and b) knows your goals, restrictions, and values extremely well then you’re still continuing to neglect your old baby, but now you’re paying for it too.
So what to do? You want your site to work. You want to work on other new adventures. You are tired of this business but not ready to give up on it. You don’t know how to find anyone who can do it how you want it done, and you don’t want to pay that kind of money for help with the site anyway. You’re just sort of stuck. But why? It’s your business…it’s your relationship- so unstick yourself.
If you like it, they will come!
This may not be the most enlightened rule you’ve ever heard for SEO, but in a lot of ways, I mean it almost precisely as I’ve written it. The basic tenet of “good guy” SEO is that if you make your website more like what people want and then connect with those people, then search engines will notice your effort and your connections and reward you with- yay! High search rankings, a bigger network. More people find your awesome stuff.
Here is the strange part that I think a lot of people miss: it doesn’t matter if what you like is weird. I promise you’re not the only weirdo in the world who is into it. And I’m certainly not saying there aren’t best practices for copywriting and site design and site speed and coding tricks and link building and on and on…but really, in the long term, what determines a site which is successful in terms of SEO vs one which fizzles is if you’re willing and able to find ways to follow those best practices while maintaining a website that reflects yourself and your business. If you decide you “need to do” SEO, and then give the reins to a firm without respect for your vision and relationship with the company and customers and let them take over, you’ll end up with a spammy, ridiculous site that everyone, including search engines and your visitors, will recognize as commercial and phony. Why not change your business and your site in a way that will satisfy you?
The beauty of this is: tweaking an element of your business that’s causing you dissatisfaction is much simpler than getting your husband to stop leaving his dishes in the sink. You have total control over the business relationships and structures you create, which is a freeing realization. Much simpler much simpler than trying to change another human being, but complicated in that it can be scary to make a change that takes you away from what your customer base expects from you, or to try a new strategy that hasn’t been proven to work in your industry.
Is there risk to changing the way you operate/to modifying your basic business philosophy? Of course! No risk, no reward and all that. Being cautious is smart, but you can’t be so risk-averse that you force yourself into misery- I’m sure that’s not what you had in mind when you decided to go into business. Don’t keep being unhappy with your online business and its site and its customer base and your product suppliers and etc etc etc. You have all the power, and your passion and dedication are the deciding factors in the amount of effort you can pour into properly creating content for and promoting your website.
Jessica is an Account Supervisor at Hanapin Marketing, a search engine marketing firm focused on generating results through PPC and SEO.