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Have you been wondering how to increase the number of visitors to your website? Remember, the more visits you have, the more business you’re likely to get. Those visits aren’t just the result of pure luck. They’re the result of strategy.

Search engine optimization (SEO) enables your site to be more easily found by search engines when people search queries related to the content on your website. It’s important to optimize your SEO to improve your website’s ranking in those search results. Optimizing SEO is a paid service provided by CloudZen Designs, but there are also steps you can take that don’t cost anything. Continue reading for easy tips you can implement today.

Note: Google owns about 65% of all search traffic on the web. As a result, most SEO tips are geared toward pleasing their algorithms.

Blogging

Regular blogging (anywhere from once a month to several times a week) does several things. First, it shows Google that you’re updating your site regularly instead of just letting it sit there. Regular updates indicate that you’re making an effort to keep your content fresh and relevant. Second, by updating your site with quality content, Google ranks your site higher. In other words, if you update your site with mediocre content, the fact that you’re doing so regularly doesn’t matter. Third, consider length. While shorter posts (around 300-500 words) used to be typical, Google now prefers longer posts of 1,000 words–or even longer if the content warrants it.

Of course, the reason Google prefers that length is because readers now prefer it–or at least, are open to it. Readers want answers to questions and new perspective on issues that matter to them, and they’re willing to read as long as it takes to cover the information.

But be warned: just because readers are open to longer content doesn’t mean you should pad your content with excess words, either.

If you’re not comfortable writing strong content yourself, or if you simply don’t have time, one of our partners can help. Moss River Media, LLC provides expert blogging, among other services, to help you with your content strategy.

Reviews

The more reviews you receive, the higher you’ll be ranked in search results. If you have no reviews and another business has thirty, who do you think a user will call first? As a result, Google ranks businesses with reviews higher. Not all of those reviews have to be five-star, either. A fair mix of three- to five-star reviews will suffice.

As for how to begin acquiring those reviews, it’s simple. All it takes is a call-out on social media or a direct verbal request to your customers and you will begin to see them roll in. While it’s unethical to use incentives for positive reviews, incentivizing any honest review with, say, 10% off is fair practice.

Speaking of reviews, are you managing the reviews that come in to your business? Though every business will likely receive a negative review at some point, the worst thing that business can do is ignore those negative reviews.

Claim Your Google “My Business” Page

When you search for a type of business, like “car washes,” the local business results appear at the top of the website results. Those businesses are listed with Google, and they generally receive more clicks than businesses exclusively found in the website results. In some cases, your business will already be listed with Google, but if not, you can also request to be added to Google’s listings. Once you’re listed, you’ll claim the business as the owner, allowing you to take ownership, change hours, and post updates to the listing.

Aside from the huge benefit you’ll receive from appearing in business search results, this will also allow your business to appear in Google Maps results, an important feature that helps people find you easier.

Social Sharing

Your social media accounts are, in most cases, connected to your website. As a result, when you regularly post updates your social media accounts, search engines consider that as activity relating to your website–again, positively impacting your search engine ranking. Share updates from your blog, changes in hours, promotions, and anything else your customers might be interested in.

How We Can Help

The steps listed above can absolutely be completed by a business owner with some time on their hands. Aside from some writing skills and a basic knowledge of content strategy, they don’t require any special technical skills. However, time is often more difficult to find than we’d like it to be. That’s where CloudZen Designs comes in. We or one of our partners provide every service listed here. Aside from these four action steps, we also offer paid a paid SEO service for budgets of all sizes.

Contact us to get started today!

Inquiring minds want to know: Should I charge by the hour or by the project?

There are, generally, two business models that service-based businesses work from. The first is based on an hourly rate. A business quotes a client a rate of, say, $75 an hour, and the client is then able to request the number of hours in their budget. The second is based on a package or project rate. In this business model, a client and business work together to detail everything that needs to be done, and the business quotes a rate for the entire project.

New businesses, particularly freelancers, are forever debating what type of business model is best, but there are pros and cons to each. Read on, and read to the end to learn what we think the best option is.

Pros and Cons of the Hourly Rate

An hourly rate has some major benefits and situations in which it’s most useful:

  • It’s a small amount of work, such as website updates or editing a single page of content.
  • It’s a new project type and you’re not certain how much time it will take.
  • You’ll get paid for the exact number of hours you work on the project.
    • This helps you get paid more accurately–instead of allowing yourself to imagine a project will only take three weeks, though it will really take four, you’ll be paid for the exact time it does take.
  • The requirements and goals of the project are somewhat unclear. If you quote a project rate, in this case, you could easily end up doing more work than you anticipated.

But, an hourly rate does have cons:

  • You’re trading time for money. You should be trading value for money.
    • It’s also worth noting that as you become faster and more skilled, you’ll be doing the same amount of work in less time. If the average time to complete a job, industry-wide, is three hours, but it only takes you two, you actually lose money charging by the hour.
  • I’d argue this makes it somewhat more difficult to change your rates, as the client will very blatantly receive charges per hour–so when you decide to double your prices, the change will really stand out.
  • This isn’t exactly a con, but you must accurately track your time to stay above-board when reporting to clients.

Pros and Cons of a Project-Based Rate

The main pros are:

  • The client is given a total cost up front. There are no hourly or hidden fees to surprise them later. They are then able to budget for 50% down and the rest in payments (or however you’ve agreed to set up the payment plan).
  • The client is focused on the perceived value they’ll receive, not the amount of your time they receive.
    • This also helps keep freelancers and other business owners focused on providing strong value.
  • It’s easy to raise rates because clients are not focused on what they pay you per hour.
  • If you’re particularly fast or particularly slow, it doesn’t matter–as long as you complete the work by the deadline.

Cons

  • Project rates require discipline to keep both parties happy–which means setting up a clear contract. The contract should clearly state what your business will provide, by what date, what revisions are allowed, etc. Otherwise, you could end up with a real mess–a client asking for 20 revisions or additions and a contract that doesn’t put a limit on those changes. In that case, you could wind up losing a significant amount of time.
  • If you’re not careful, you could end up undercharging yourself when the amount of work you initial thought was involved was a lot more when you actually go into it.

What about Packages?

There is another business model that plenty of companies use, likely in addition to hourly or project rates: packages, though they’re more often called retainers. These are typically charged by businesses that provide some sort of ongoing service. For example, CloudZen Designs provides website maintenance. For a set fee each month, clients receive maintenance that will be completed regularly. If we find a problem that will take significantly more time than their retainer fee covers, we bill by the hour.

Packages are useful in grouping services that clients will likely need on an ongoing basis. It’s sort of a combination of hourly and project billing, as the package is often determined based on the number of hours you think that ongoing work will take, but it is billed as a single monthly fee.

Value and what CloudZen Designs thinks about the different business models

CloudZen Designs is focused on providing value. We want to help businesses achieve their goals and look good doing it. While we use project rates for very specific cases (such as SEO and maintenance packages), we always quote large projects with a project rate. We aim to be transparent in pricing, and we want every client to come to the end of the project feeling they received even more value than they’d hoped for. And that’s probably what you want to do, or you wouldn’t be in business. Keep that in mind, and remember–nothing is permanent. If you try one business model and it doesn’t work for you, try another, or combine the two in a way that fits your particular business and industry.

For more reading, check out this post on Bidsketch. It’s a great read that digs deeper into the psychology of client decision-making.