David Waring Interview
Could you tell us a little about yourself – how did you get an idea to launch Fit Small Business and how important is it for you be online?
We’re entrepreneurs ourselves, and looking around the internet we found a lot of great sites talking about how to run an online business or a venture capital-backed tech startup. What we didn’t find, though, was information for brick and mortar stores and mom & pop businesses.
But more than 90% of American businesses are not internet-focused. So it surprised us that there were so few sites talking about these kinds of business, and no comprehensive informational resource or review site. That’s a big gap in the market, and we set out to fill it by providing great info for all kinds of small businesses.
The right domain name is important. How long did it take you to come up with the domain name for your site?
A couple of days. We had a few basic criteria going in. We’ve always been focused on search, and we wanted ‘small business’ in our URL to maximize relevant traffic. Because that’s already a long set of letters for a URL, we knew we wanted something short to go with it. I was doing P90x at the time, so naturally fitness came to mind when we were discussing names. It made immediate sense: just like you want to get yourself in shape, small business owners want to make sure their business is fit and competitive. The name clicked, and we stuck with it.
As we can see, you blog a lot and we all enjoy your posts. How much time do you spend blogging and do you find it hard to introduce fresh content?
When we started, it was just myself and my business partner, and we spent around 75% of our time blogging. Since then, we’ve added three full-time writers to our team and worked with a number of freelancers. We publish or update an article six days a week, but I still don’t see us running out of content. One reason we chose the small business space was the amount of search traffic on small business topics. People have a seemingly endless number of small business questions, and those questions are growing all the time with new technologies and new companies that serve small businesses.
In a perfect world you have great content on a reliable schedule, but life’s not always perfect. Would you rather post mediocre content to keep a schedule, or miss a day to improve a piece?
Quality over quantity, every time. The days are over where you could throw something together in a couple hours and still get it to rank on search and generate social buzz. These days, if you want traffic, you need to create something special and different, and that almost always means more time spent researching and writing your content.
With Fit Small Business you made a brand. From experience, what do you think the most important part of building your brand was, in retrospect?
Building on my last answer, we have always distinguished our site by the amount of research we put into our articles. We also make our recommendations as clear as possible. Other sites prefer to give their readers a wide range of options, but we’ve found that small business owners would rather make a quick but informed decision. We still present multiple options, but we make our recommendations very clear so small business owners can readily find a solution that works for them.
If you had to pick the top three things people do wrong, the things holding them back from success, what would those be?
The biggest mistake website owners make is not promoting their content enough. Many people put 99% of their efforts into writing and only put a token effort into promoting content, adopting an “If I build it, they will come” attitude. That almost never works. We spend just as much energy promoting content as we do writing it.
People also expect immediate results. Especially with search marketing, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It takes months to even start building search traffic, so if that’s what you want to target, get ready for the long haul.
On that note, people also try too many different approaches at a time. One of the great things about the internet is that it offers so many ways to promote your business: search traffic, PPC ads, social media, email marketing – the list goes on. But you can’t effectively focus on all of those at once. You’ll get much more traffic being excellent at one approach than you would by being mediocre at every method. So limit yourself to developing one or two techniques at a time.
How do you maintain good relations with your audience and how important do you think that really is?
We make sure to give clear opinions, since that’s ultimately what people want. We still go over multiple options, because no one answer is right for everyone. Also, our writers also respond to every comment on our site. That’s a great way to build a personal connection with your readers. So don’t be afraid to make yourself directly available.
Do you have any advice for novices starting their own websites? Any rookie mistakes to avoid?
In addition to the answers I’ve given above, I would note that there really isn’t a reason not to use WordPress.org. It’s free, very reliable, you own the platform, and has a huge community of users and developers. There’s no shortage of advice and help for running a WordPress site, and no shortage of web developers you can work with.
You’ve got a pretty good thing going, obviously, but if there’s one truth of the internet, it’s that things change. Where are you going from here?
It’s true that the internet changes quite a bit, and SEO is no exception. Google is constantly updating its algorithm, which means if you want to game the system you have to constantly change your tactics. However, Google’s goal doesn’t change: to offer the best, most relevant results for searchers. So if you focus on providing excellent content that’s relevant to your audience, you won’t have to fundamentally alter your strategy.
Not that we won’t change at all. There have been quite a few advances in paid marketing in the past year, especially in the use of demographic data and remarketing on Facebook and Google. So one avenue we’ll be pursuing more will be hyper targeted paid advertising. We’ll also be building out our email list and working on new email campaigns.
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Photos ©: David Waring