If you’re like most entrepreneurs you get hit up to work for free. Someone wants to pick your brain (yes, if the contents of your brain usually have a price tag higher than a cup of coffee, then coffee a good brain picking is working for free,) or they want you speak, consult, design, troubleshoot or otherwise provide your products or services for charity, for the exposure, for the good-will or just because they don’t want to pay for it.
As many reasons as there are for people to ask you to work for free, there are only two good reasons to do it. They are equally good reasons, but you should never use the first to justify the second.
1. It’s marketing.
Every business should have a marketing budget. Benchmarks vary by industry, but let’s say you decide to budget a minimum of 5 percent of gross revenue. That may not be much money, but a lot of entrepreneurs don’t spend even five percent on their marketing efforts.
They network, they use social media, they take their clients to lunch and ask for referrals. They avoid spending money by leveraging their two other resources
, time and energy, to make up for what they aren’t investing in dollars.
That’s great, so long as they follow the same principles for their time and energy investment as they would for a monetary investment. Which means having a clear strategy for their efforts and an eye on their return.
So if doing the work for free fits your marketing strategy, and you believe the investment represents a reasonable expectation of return, then it might be well worth saying yes. Your guidelines may differ, but here the questions I ask before investing time and energy instead of dollars:
If I were spending money, how much would I be willing to invest?
Let’s take a conference, for instance, at which I’ve been asked to present for free. If I had to pay for a sponsorship to get in front of that audience, I’d be weighing the potential return against the investment. I’d be asking questions like, “How closely does this audience align with my most profitable niche?” and “How much impact will this exposure allow me to have on the audience?”
Based on my conclusions during that line of inquiry, I’d decide if I was willing to invest marketing dollars to promote my business at that event, and if so, how many dollars I was willing to invest. Once I know that, I can do a pretty fair calculation of how much time and energy I should allow myself to put into presenting in exchange for exposure. That raises some questions.
Do I have the time and energy to invest?
If I plan to invest dollars, I have to make sure those dollars are available without putting other financial obligations at risk. The same is true of time and energy. If doing a project is going to stretch me too thin to take care of other obligations, then I’m either going to spend money paying someone else to take something off my plate, or I’m going to short-change someone in my business or personal life. Unless this is a huge opportunity, it isn’t worth that. If it is a huge opportunity (see above) it may be worth it to pay for some assistance so that I can take the project on, even if I’m not getting paid.
Will I have to invest money as well as time and energy?
Depending on the type of product or service I’m being asked to provide, there may be hidden, or not so hidden, monetary costs as well. If I’m being asked to speak I may be expected to provide handouts. Or pay my own travel costs. Or, as I mentioned, I may need to pay additional staff to cover tasks I won’t have time or energy for if I take the project.
Is it something that aligns with my personal values and my brand?
This should go without saying, but it’s actually my first question. If the answer is no, then the other questions don’t matter. So what do I do if I go through my checklist and conclude that it just isn’t a good marketing investment?
Then there is that second good reason to work for free:
2. Just because I want to.
That’s right. Because the project is in my heart space, it gives me joy.
I hope you never work for free out of guilt. And I hope you never fool yourself into thinking you did it for the marketing when you really did it “just because.” But if you have the time, money or energy, feeling good is reason enough to invest it in anything or anyone you choose.
Every business owner or blogger wants their site to rank high in Google search results. Today, if you want to be noticed you need to be visible when your target audience uses the search engine to find information on something which you already have on your site.
Your position in the search results depends on a multitude of factors; keywords held the most weightage. But after the 2011 Panda updates, that is no longer the case.
Now, it’s quality that determines rank.
Posts that are “high quality” is rewarded with a boost in ranking and consequently a boost in traffic. “Thin sites” with poor, replicated content bursting with strings of keywords, ads and embedded internal links are no longer preferred. Panda is updated frequently catching sites which may have escaped the previous update.
To climb up the Google rankings ladder, you need to employ “best practices” outlined by the search engine giant in the content of your site. We’ll explore three dimensions of an effective content marketing strategy: keywords, user experience and content.
The algorithm behind Google understands what your website is about by catching keywords embedded within the site. To attract your target audience, your keywords should be relevant. Ask yourself what the website provides, and what kind of people it caters to. Whether it is targeted to locals or international visitors is also important in determining the right keywords.
Keywords can be highly competitive. For this there are is wide variety of software tools online to help you choose keywords with lower competition and higher ranking. A great tool is Moz’s Keyword Difficulty tool. According to it’s product description, it lets you “find out how difficult it is to rank for a specific term or phrase and who you’ll be competing against.” By mixing up different words, you’ll eventually find a more suitable keyword with low competition and high traffic.
Google aims to deliver search results which provide the best user experience. You website should be easy to navigate and be able to be “crawled” by Google. With the ever-growing internet user base on smartphones and tablets, a mobile-friendly site has become very important.
A while ago, Google recommended that sites use a responsive web design which optimizes the site for both desktop and mobile. Now, however, it is no longer a choice as it is now required by Google to be included in search results. An algorithm update known as Mobilegeddon eliminates sites without a reposinve design from search results.
A great tool to view your website across different device browsers is Browsershots. It lets you spot any problems your site might be having on a certain platform, so that you can adjust it.
Good and informational content creates loyalty and drives traffic to your site. Poor quality content stuffed to the brim with keywords is not going to leave visitors wanting to come back. Google shuns websites with “thin content” and through its periodic panda updates is committed to clearing out such sites from search results.
A good content marketing strategy focuses on delivering high quality content with useful information. If you are overwhelmed or just unclear what exactly defines good content according to Google’s standards, then invest in a good software program to help you. A good one is HubSpot SEO which analyzes your content and gives suggestions in line with Google’s policies for ranking.
If you want your site to rank high on search engine results without delving into paid advertising, then search engine optimization (SEO) is your best option. SEO is a process which uses different tactics and methods to boost your site’s visibility and ranking among search results on Google, Yahoo or Bing.
And one of the most effective ways to do that is through backlinks.
What are Backlinks?
Backlinks Google SEO
Backlinks are inbound links on other webpages, blogs or documents, which when clicked, direct the user to pages on your website. Before search engines were popular, backlinks were the primary means of web navigation but now they serve a second purpose of driving up your page’s rank in search engine results.
The context of the placement of backlinks proves the good value and quality of your site to people and search engines. For example, somebody adding a link to your food blog in their 10 best food blogs of 2015 will give a good impression to readers and increases your page rank.
Why are they are important?
Anybody who is involved in SEO cannot stress the importance of using backlinks enough. Search engines like Google, use backlinks to determine the popularity of a site and identify the page rank of its webpages. The higher number of inbound links from sites which are relevant to your blog, the higher will your site be on search engine results.
It is highly unlikely that people will discover your site on their own. Backlinks are like recommendations from other sites. A reference builds trust from readers. Having your site mentioned on a good quality blog is a great way for potential followers to find you, trust you and remain loyal to you.
However, beware of having spammy links on your site or mentioning links to dubious websites. That will not only decrease your page’s rank, but will label your site as spam-related. Google among other search engines is all about quality, and gives more weightage to links from authoritative websites.