It can be very difficult for independent consultants and small businesses to achieve a good and worthwhile presence online, and I’m not just talking Google position.
Independents often offer services that, in some way, directly compete with the largest organisations in the land.
Many of our clients work in Management Consulting or Counselling and it’s impossible for them to be able to match the effort that huge conglomerates put into their websites. However, all hope is not lost!
Optimise your website – not just for Google
People often get obsessed with their position on Google, which is at times crucial, but less so for independent consultants. Why? Because when people are looking for independents, they spend time looking! As I’m sure you’re aware, for the buyer, hiring a consultant isn’t a quick and easy decision, unlike searching for a product that you know you want to buy. In fact, many organisations appoint selection teams, dedicating time to researching and assessing options. This is where, if your website looks the part, responds well to any device and contains all those things you wish you had mentioned, you could be head and shoulders above the rest.
Possibly more importantly, a survey conducted by one of our clients recently found that the most popular way to find a consultant was:
- Recommendation from a friend or a colleague
- Check with an industry body (Institute of Consulting for example)
- Check an internal / approved supplier database
- Consult Social Media, such as LinkedIn
In this case, it’s essential to make sure that your website is not only optimised for Google, but also it’s presence can be felt across directories, online maps, LinkedIn, Facebook and other forms of social media and contact, making it a regular feature on these platforms and as accessible as possible.
Make it beautiful!
Your website is your shop window and it has to be unique. Would you be happy to hand over a standardised, tatty old business card? When visitors are recommended to your website, you don’t get the opportunity to apologise that it hasn’t been updated or that it doesn’t work on their specific mobile phone. They are leads you may never know you had and an excellent website ensures all those indirect chances of business are given the best chance of success. It is thought that up to 35% of all consulting work is a result of recommendations and up to 72 leads, known or unknown of, are required to win a single project (O’Mahony 2016). This is where a website can be all the difference.
Imagine you have an influencer within an organisation that you would like to do some work with – it’s a great starting point, but what do they have to hand when the decision maker asks for a recommendation? Is it a simple website with a contact form? Or is it a site that responds well do their device, contains beautiful original imagery, consistent branding and is packed full of information about your services and industry specific insights. This is one example of how a website can gain significant results for a small business that doesn’t have an exceptional Google position.
To aid us and our clients in the early stages of creating a new site, we developed our Great Squarebird Website Philosophy! which inspired this blog/article, and a huge part of it is about imagery. The web and all the devices connecting to it can now cope with websites that are home to large, high resolution images without hindering website speed and performance. So take advantage of it!
New, professional images are a huge step towards making your website unique, and best of all, they give a true reflection of your business and helps a visitor understand what they can expect from you. Authentic websites make buying decisions much easier and it’s often the difference between an enquiry and just another website view.
Your website has simply GOT to be not just mobile optimised, but designed to be accessible and relevant to mobile users. With 74% now accessing the internet by mobile device every day, the likelihood is, your website will be accessed regularly on a mobile phone.
Your unique thoughts and experiences with your clients can potentially be extremely valuable to you and be a vital part of the effectiveness of your website. By sharing them in the form of a news article or a blog, they can help visitors identify with someone else you may have helped before. They are able to position themselves in your clients shoes and visualise how you could help them too. In their eyes, you have just become the easy, experienced option.
It gives content on your website the opportunity to go viral and gain a brilliant position on search engines because of its relevance, perceived credibility and popularity.
- Imagine you are a HR Consultant advising a client about how to negotiate a tricky piece of new legislation enforced within a specific industry, say health and safety provisions for electricians. There are bound to be hundreds of other HR Managers worrying about the same task, and many will Google it.
- Because of the problems specific nature, there search isn’t likely to be “HR Consultant”, it’s much more likely to be “what information do electricians need for the new December provisions”.
- This presents a huge opportunity for you to quickly grab a valuable position by writing an in-depth, helpful article offering advice on the subject, based on your experience with the issue, the outcomes and a testimonial from one of your clients.
- You might name the article “10 things you need to know about the December provisions for electricians”. Yes, it’s a long title, but that’s the beauty! It’s so specific, and related to such a new rule, that hardly anyone will have written about it.
- If it’s a good article, it’ll get picked up by HR Managers and shared between them on HR Forums and alike, creating more fuss and attention to your website. Before you know it, you’re king of that new piece of legislation, adding a new, exciting attraction to your website.
By sharing the link to this blog across your own social media channel (LinkedIn for example), you have a good chance of directing those with interest to your website.
I would recommend keeping a note on your phone or at the back of a notepad, ready for ideas for new blogs as they come into your head. It makes writing them much easier when you have lots of subject and titles to choose from.
But remember – thought leadership in this format (blog or news) can have a negative effect on your website if it is not kept fresh. We advise a minimum of at least some fresh content every month. 2 months at the least. Beyond this, users can be turned off by a stale date. “Are they still in business? Are they proactive?’ – it seems mad to think that something as simple as a date on a blog or a Tweet could effect. In essence, do it properly or don’t do it at all, or don’t make your content time relevant/sensitive (this is called evergreen content).
Be specific in promotion
Yes, online adverts do cost money, but you can set the limit and with new tools, be very, very specific. It’s not necessarily a continuous cost to worry about. Let’s say you have a warm lead or you know of an organisation who is due to look for your services. You can now use social media adverts to target specific roles within specific companies, “Head of People in Coca-Cola” for example, or a whole department for a few weeks and hope that they are then familiar with you by the next time you communicate directly. It’s really, very clever.
Get analytical – Assess the past and inform the future
Website data and analytics are now so accurate and insightful that it’s incredible that Google provide them for free. They can help inform so much about your website. What are visitors looking at? What aren’t they looking at? Where are they coming from? At what point to they leave? All of these observations can help you decide what needs to be developed, changed, amended and helps to identify opportunities to refine and improve. This ensures that you are optimising your chances of converting leads that just might have visited your ‘Contact’ page had the link been in the right place, for example.
Remember that all of these things are interconnected – effort in one area can add value to the other and begin to snowball.
If these ideas resonated with you and your business, feel free to talk to us today about how we could help you establish your online presence.