We have all had friends who ask us for help getting into the world of online marketing and search engine optimization, wanting us to teach them everything we know so they can make just as much money as us while working in their pajamas from home all day… but without really wanting to put in the effort to do it. Not to mention the fact that you often feel you “have” to help them out if they ask because of that guilty complex you have of always being there for your friends. Now combine that with the fact you can almost guarantee that certain friends who ask you this will never actually be serious enough about it to make it work after you do help them out. So you don’t necessarily want to invest a huge amount of time or effort into it in case he decides he hates it!
Lucky for you, there are some ways you can be that good friend and give them the tools and help they need to get started with as little pain and suffering (yours!) involved. Here are some tips on what you can do to be helpful and supportive… yet not do everything for him, which unfortunately, as experience has proven, some of your so-called friends will want you to do!
Brainstorming the site topic
First off, they need to figure out what topic they want to do a site on. Here is where the fun begins, because your friend will either pick a topic so extremely obscure that Wordtracker shows a dozen searches on it a month, or they will want to jump into a big money topic like mesothelioma or mortgages for their very first site. Obviously, unless they turn out to be the Best SEO Ever, going the obscure route will be painfully slow for traffic growth, while the big money topic will be so competitive that he will get frustrated at the lack of success pretty darn quick. So here is where you may need to steer them a bit in the right direction to find a topic that has some traffic but isn’t super competitive either.
So how to do this? When a friend is starting out, I always suggest that someone they try out their very first site on a topic they enjoy and know a lot about. Not only does the world not really need another mesothelioma site, but unless your friend is an oncologist or a lawyer, it means a whole lot of legwork and research to get original content on the site without paying an arm and a leg for it. Is he a hockey fan? Suggest a hockey related site. Is she crafty? Why not a site on crafting trends with articles on the latest craft supplies or with instructions for various crafts? It is always best if it is about a subject they can write about “off the top of their heads” rather than something that needs researching, because as we all know, when you need to research your topic, it tends to just take that much longer to get anything done. Then, after they know if they actually like doing search engine optimization and marketing or not, then they can expand into other areas that might offer a higher return, once they feel comfortable and their growing skills can handle a higher level of competition.
Still struggling on the topic? Have them make a list of ten or twelve topics they would like to make a site on, and hopefully at least one of those sites will be one that is actually something worth pursuing as a beginner SEO’s very first site.
Choosing the domain name
So now you have the topic, we need a place to put it. Help them brainstorm a domain name, and offer advice on .com versus another TLD, as well as hyphens versus no hyphens in the name as well. Then, tell them your registrar of choice, but don’t register it for them, have them do it themselves. This will save any pain and suffering later, in case you have a falling out and his domain name is still in your account being charged yearly to your credit card.
Picking the host
Likewise for hosting. Offer the name of your hosting company of choice, as well as advice on what package you think would be the right one, but again, have him sign up for his own account.
Creating the content
I find that most people who have a grand idea of starting up a pure content-based site with grandoise plans of getting into the AdSense 10k Club might get as far as registering a domain name, possibly getting some hosting… and then it dies a quiet death. And if it is you who has put in the time to get it this far, and possibly even done a site design for them, it is annoying when nothing more gets done with it. So help brainstorm a domain name and show them how to register it themselves, then make an offer to do their site design…. but only after they have written the first 20, 50 or 100 articles (original content articles, not farmed ones) to go on the site. Since about 99% of the wannabes won’t get more than about 5 written, this can definitely help save you time, and also allow you to actually give the time to those who are serious enough about it to have written those articles.
To blog or not to blog
Another easy way to help a friend dip his or her toes into the world of online marketing is to help them start a blog… something else that will show the commitment he or she has early on. Suggest hosting with the one-button WordPress install, then offer to install one of the easy freebie templates for them, or direct them to someplace like Blogger if you are fairly certain that their venture into online marketing will fail. Spend a bit of time showing how to use a blog, and where they might get blogging inspiration for what to write about, then set them on their way. Then, after they have blogged X number of times, offer to do some minor customization, such as adding a logo, or suggesting someone who can create a custom template.
Resources for learning
Offer them some resources to help them along as well. You can suggest your favorite industry blogs and forums for reading up more about SEO & SEM. Pass along a copy of Revenue magazine, if you are a subscriber. If you have any related books, lend them to him or her to read.
Consider talking to him or her about hitting one of the industry conferences. Split the cost of a hotel room, and if you are a speaker, see about using a comp pass to help keep their expenses low. Then sit down to go over the conference schedule to help chose which sessions would be the most valuable for him to attend. And while networking in the bar is important, for new beginners, definitely make sure he or she gets up out of bed for those sessions, because they can be very valuable for newbies who have a lot to learn.
Also check to see if you have any AdWords, YSM or adCenter coupons kicking around from a conference. This “freebie” money can be a great start to help them get some traffic in the beginning before they build up readership on their blog or some natural search rankings.
Creating your own competition?
It can be easy to help out a friend to get started, but you should definitely try and lead them away from doing exactly what you do. If you have a great content site on XBox 360, for example, you would definitely want to steer them away from doing an XBox 360 site, and you might decide a PS3 or Wii site is just too close for comfort. No matter what, there will be a bit of competitiveness and one-up-manship going on that you probably don’t want to deal with, even if you think it might never get that far. You could have definitely spilled the beans about some crucial aspect of your site that makes you the most money before you knew your friend was interested in getting into the business too, so you may want to disclaim right off the bat that you are happy to help, as long as he or she isn’t planning to be direct competition!
When friends go bad
And unfortunately, like it or not, sometimes certain friends will just see dollar signs and will choose money over friendship. Don’t assume a friend won’t steal from you, when it comes to any of your money making secrets you want to keep secret. Shoemoney was helping a good friend of his get into the business, and was helping him do a ringtone site, and even gave him one of his proven high-converting landing pages to use. Then he went above and beyond by showing him how to research keywords for a PPC campaign, with advice on how to chose the best converting ones. But his friend then went and “borrowed” Shoemoney’s entire ringtone PPC keyword list, then outbid him for all those keywords. His friend made a lot of money in the very short term, but he lost Shoemoney as a friend in the process.
So next time a friend asks you to help them get started with an online business, follow these steps to help them on their way without making the experience super frustrating for yourself and without putting the time and effort into the friends who will flake out. And then once you see which friends are actually dedicated to getting into the business, by writing or blogging regularly, reading industry news and forums, then you can definitely spend more time with those friends and give them that extra attention they need to take it to the next level. Because let’s face it, it is always nice to have another local buddy you can “talk shop” with over coffee or drinks without having to wait for the next conference. But this way, you can dedicate the time to those who have proven to be serious, without having to invest too much time into the friends who want to do it because they see you make a lot of money doing it, but who just don’t have the follow through skills to make the effort work.
Anyone else have some disastrous stories from helping friends get into the business?