Have you ever gone in blind?
You know, like trying something for the first time with a blindfold on.
Let's say it was a taste test.
If it was some childhood thing, it's likely your friends made you try worms or something else disgusting... Needless to say, you wouldn't ever like being blind again, would you?
Especially when you have the gift of sight, having it taken from you would be monstrous.
So why do so many bloggers and entrepreneurs dive into businesses with a willful blindfold on?
Before I started my other website, LifeViaSara.com, I'd done a talk in front of a group of local professionals.
Beforehand I'd sent out a survey and requested that anyone planning to attend needed to fill it out ahead of time.
I was simply gauging where everyone was in the grand scheme of entrepreneurship.
Well, I hate to admit that this experience (even with a survey) left a rotten-sour taste in my mouth.
There were direct sales people, brick-and-mortar business owners, realtors, and consultants in attendance, yet as I was presenting my "5 Necessities Of Long-Term Success", it was received with, well, I'm too busy to do all that stuff loaded disrespect and (I'll nicely call it) ignorance.
I wasted my time and theirs presenting that night.
The worst part was, it made me realize just how many people dump money, time, and energy into ventures that they don't even treat like a real business.
(Don't even get me started on the lacking of niche researching...)
I remember going home, fuming that night.
Am I the ignorant one for thinking that people should start with an idea, then research, then an intelligent action plan before investing precious time and money into something?
Well, if I am, I'm blissfully ignorant then. And for those who like the blindfold, I hope they are too.
Now, if you're not backing out of this post right now, it means you're smart enough to know that the idea + research + action plan approach is a wise one, or you're already on the right track in your business. So let's move forward.
Let's start with something simple.
Because I know one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to researching is:
What the hell am I supposed to research..?
I get it. So here's my quick and clean (I can't say dirty, 'cause it's not...) guide to researching your industry, niche, and competitors the free-ish way.
Want a detailed, step-by-step plan to discovering your ideal target customers, defining your niche, keywords for SEO and social media hashtags—all of it?
Check out the Content Planning Workshop: a 90-minute, 2-module video tutorial that includes the 45-page Content Planner + 6 bonus worksheets to help you develop, plan, and maintain your content and strategy for up to 12 months at a time.
How would You Search for [your business or blog] online?
Here's where I like to start.
Since you already have an idea of what it is you're doing, it's time to look into every nook and cranny that you can before diving in and building a website.
(Aaaand all the other stuff that comes with any new venture from simple blog to bustling business.)
So, how would you search for your business or blog online?
STEP 1: Make a list of search terms and phrases.
Let's say, you're a graphic designer who wants to work with people in your county. You'd search for yourself with something like:
- graphic design [county] [state]
- graphic designer [county] [state]
That may or may not generate a specific set of results. So, get even more specific.
What's your specialty?
Let's say, for our graphic designer example, it's brand design.
Ooh, there's a whole new plethora of specificity to crack your niche wide open with.
- brand and graphic(s) design [county] [state]
- branding designer [county] [state]
- brand design [county] [state]
So, you'd plug the phrases you came up with directly into good ole Google Search.
From those results, you can grab several things.
1. Snag other viable search term phrases that are aggregated by Google Search itself.
These are term and phrase variations that other people are searching for when using Google to find businesses or specialists just like you.
These are the terms and phrases that, when used properly in blog and other published media content will increase your shot at being featured on that first page of results.
Record these given phrases.
Oh, what am I thinking...
I created some free Google [Spread]Sheets you can use just for this reason.
(Sorry I almost forgot about it...)
Grab the Keyword + Competitor Google Sheets, FREE, to have as a bonus guide (and easy-to-reference storage) for this process.
[ Includes the Start A Blog eCourse, also free ]
All righty, now that you've got your spreadsheets, let's really get into this.
2. What to do with those keywords?
I'm sure you've generated a fair amount of keywords and phrases, yes?
What you do next is group phrases with a "main keyword".
(You don't have to do this if you don't want to. But if your desired niche is even a smidgen as crowded as mine is, you'll want to have an easy way to keep everything grouped together in similar categories.)
The examples I gave in the Google Sheets freebie aren't related to the graphic design business, but they are:
- productivity tools
- productivity formula
- productivity tips
What's the common keyword? Yep. Productivity.
So group all keyword phrases together using their main keyword.
In the Google Sheet, it's organized like:
- [Then] Phrases
- Number of Search Results Generated
- The Level of Competition
- [How Many Ads—if any]—another level of competition decipher
- [The number of refreshes it took till the ads disappeared]—another level of competition decipher, explained in the Content Planning Workshop
- The Top 3-5 Competitor Sites or Pages—listed on the search results listed on the first page of Google revealed with that exact keyword phrase.
I didn't lose you yet, right?
Again, for a more thorough, easier-to-understand and tools-based breakdown, get the Content Planning Workshop.
Oh, and don't forget to list the extra results that were generated in the drop-down menu of the Google Search Bar (covered in point one).
3. Who are my competitors..?
Point three here goes along with the first one.
All those businesses and people listed in the first (and sometimes) second page of the Google Search results, those are the people you should consider your "competitors".
Now, let me get one thing straight:
Not every niche has "competitors". Most all online businesses can consider said competitors as future pro-partners, affiliates, connections, etc.
Many times, your competitors are really your allies.
And you can learn from what they do, how they do it, and why they do it as a more established presence in the niche your want to corner.
I walk you through this in full in the Content Planning Workshop. There's a basic guide in the spreadsheets.
So, in a nutshell, you'll want to record things like:
- Competitor's name / site name
- Website URL (Homepage)
- What are they using their website for?
- What is their main offer?
- What topic are they writing about?
- What social channel(s) do they use?
- Who follows them?
- [Presumed] level of authority? (Building Authority? An Authority? Borrowing Authority?—Get the Kindle eBook "How To Find A Profitable Blog Topic" by Steve Scott *Affiliate link*.)
- Notes on their style, how they come across to you, etc.
4. Once you've got a good idea about your keywords and competitors, do a SWOT analysis on yourself—even a little one.
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What are your opportunities? (Holes in the market, or things your competitors are missing.)
- What are some threats? (Is your niche a fierce, dog-eat-dog one? Are others aggressively buying ad space where you may not be able to afford to or want to keep up with that?)
Simply draw a line vertically down the center of a piece of paper, and another horizontal line across the middle.
Bullet point your strengths in the top left box, your weaknesses in the top right. Then your opportunities in the bottom left and your threats in the bottom right.
The left column are the things that will set you apart in your niche—these are your lighthouse [answers] among the storm.
The left column represents the quality things you need to focus on to strengthen and prolong your blog and business with.
Now, the right column are all your negs...
Those little bastards suck, but you need to be aware of the crap that could (and most likely will) pop up and slap you in the face every now and again.
(It's just a part of life and business, it seems. With good comes bad, and vice versa.)
So, how will you search for your business on Google?
Once you've gotten several search terms and phrases logged, focus on researching your select keyword phrases.
If you need a thorough run through with video tutorials, a workbook, and more worksheets to maintain your long-term content strategy with, check out the Content Planning Workshop.
Those are the exact methods I use to come up with all my email and blog content, plan out for 6-12 months in advance, and exactly how I found a "competitive edge" for my new website, LifeViaSara.
Tomorrow, we're covering what pages and content you need to start your website and / or blog off with strength.
Be sure to sign up for the drip emails to help pace yourself, get all the free guides in order, and get the 5 bonus trainings in this Start A Blog Series.
P.S. Comments, emails, running a business and being a mom of 3 were just too much for me to handle. So, blog comments got the boot. But the lack of a comment box doesn't mean I don't want to hear what you think! Share your thoughts with me via @GoffCreative on Twitter or directly via email.
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