SEO: Simple Skills Everyone Can Use

In my freelance work I regularly encounter two misconceptions about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO):

1. Our website doesn’t bring people to us now, so it won’t in the future.

This is like saying that because my toe is broken now, it will never heal. Or like saying that because I can’t ride a horse, I can never have riding lessons.

If you have an un-optimised website you have the most to gain by optimising your website. If you’ve neglected your website and left it to fester, don’t feel bad; feel happy, because you’ve got so much potential for improvement!

2. We can’t afford SEO / we can’t afford to perform well for our keywords

Not true. If your business is operating in a crowded market, with lots of big players with well optimised websites, you might need to think carefully about how you approach SEO (maybe targeting long-tail or niche keywords instead of pursuing the obvious ones). And if you have a limited budget, you probably won’t be able to employ a slick agency to do all the work for you.

Either way, you can benefit from optimising your website. And SEO is definitely something that everyone can do.

If you’re new to SEO, have a look at these very useful resources:

SEO: Patience is a Virtue

Search Engine Optimisation is an ongoing process of refinement.

However you tackle your website’s optimisation, it’s important to understand that you’ll need to maintain and update your website if you want to keep up with your competition.

After making changes to your site’s SEO, you’ll have to sit back and wait to see the effects.

So don’t expect changes to be immediately noticeable, and remember that great websites need to be nurtured and coddled on their way to the big time.

Usability – Mystery Buttons on Watercoolers

To me, usability means making sure that everything is obvious, self-explanatory and easy to use. I often see things in the physical world which make me wonder what the hell the designer was thinking. Here’s a classic example:


This is one of The Werks‘ watercoolers. So, what’s the difference between the green button and the blue button? I don’t know.

Normally, blue taps signify cold water. So what about the green button? What does green signify? Is it hot? Why green?

Whichever button you press, you get cold water. So why two buttons? Why no explanation of what the buttons do? And why not stick to the convention of:

Blue = cold

Red = hot ?

This is a good example of bad usability, which leaves people with a vague sense of confusion. Obviously, giving people a sense of confusion is a bad thing.

Good web copy (and design) leaves no room for confusion.

A Very Bad Sign (Literally)

Pavement signs are fantastic – your business can leap beyond the boundary of your premises and stand in the path of potential customers. What a jolly good idea!

But, it does help if the sign contains some tempting invocation to pull people towards your enterprise. I recommend you strive for something marginally more persuasive than this:

A Bad Sign
A Bad Sign

Aiming for Success Leads to…

…not a lot.

I’m reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, which is an account of his time in several Nazi concentration camps and an introduction to his own school of psychotherapy, logotherapy.

I’ll probably be blogging about a few of his ideas, regarding the peculiarities of the human brain, but today I’d just like to share this with you.

In the introduction, Frankl writes of his surprise at this book’s success, and of his bewilderment that subsequent books had not been as successful, despite his best efforts. Because of this, he would tell his students:

Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself…”

How to Do More on the Web – Part 2

(Part 1: How to Do More on the Web: A Few Ideas)

Part 2: Thinking about Your Products and Services (Your Offering)

Okay, so you know what you’re selling, but do you know what people are buying?

If you’re selling books, your customers are buying information, knowledge and entertainment. If you’re selling cars, your customers are buying freedom, independence and a romantic idea. If you’re selling beds, your customers are buying a good night’s sleep, relaxation and comfort.

Whatever it is that you’re selling, think about what your customers are thinking about when they’re buying.

Make the Most of Your Features and Benefits

Another way of thinking about the difference between the thinking of the buyer and seller is to think about features and benefits.

The features of a product are things like:

•    Stainless steel construction
•    Dual-core processor
•    Available in 200 colours

These features mean something else to your customers. To a buyer, features translate into benefits.  Benefits like:

•    Won’t rust
•    Handles multiple applications without crashing
•    You can find one that suits you

Whenever you present a product or service on the web, mention the benefits as well as the features. It may sound like rudimentary advice, but it’s an essential part of any website. Many organisations fail to clearly present the basis of their offer. What seems obvious to you, from within your organisation, is potentially alien to your visitors.

See also:

Do People Understand?

Making the Most of Being Freelance

I’m a big fan of freelancing. Being your own boss offers a billion wonderful benefits, which I won’t go into here. But it’s too easy to get wrapped up in the daily blend of work, projects and tasks, without really appreciating the freedoms that freelancing provides.

I’ve decided to work harder at working enjoyably. Enjoying work is the best way to make it sustainable and as stressless as possible. Step 1 in my crusade to lap up the freelance lifestyle is:

Lunch by the beach

Working at The Werks means I’m only a ten minute bike ride away from the beach:

Sea view

And that bike ride isn’t particularly arduous… the entire world tilts slightly downward and my bike literally rolls me through the sweeping grandeur of Palmeira Square:

Palmeira Square, Hove 2

Why am I sharing this with you? Because I think it’s important for our sanity and internal health to enjoy life. Whether or not you’re freelance or live by the sea, you can probably create spaces in your days that give you a chance to look around and take in the view.

A former colleague had a good approach to beautifying his life: he would always drive to work along the coast road. His colleagues headed inland, where the traffic was less dense. But not him. He tolerated the traffic and just allowed more time for his journey. Less time in bed, but an infinitely richer experience on his drive to work.

Let’s chat about your projectContact us