Chances are you’ve received an email from an unfamiliar company critiquing your website and offering to fix problems affecting your search engine optimization.
“It’s an absolute scam,” said Eric Wu, an 18-year veteran of the Los Angeles tech scene who has mentored startups and consulted with behemoth companies, including Google, Pinterest and Cars.com. “There are countless firms that send scary-sounding emails all the time, in hopes that you’ll relinquish your money. Then they do nothing good for your site.”
Nefarious operations like to prey on small business owners “who care a lot about their website’s performance, but are too busy to investigate what’s real and what’s snake oil,” he said.
Wu, who recently joined BloomNation as its head of product growth, has spent much of his career monitoring the latest news related to SEO so his clients don’t fall for any malarkey and, instead, spend their time and money on activities that make a real difference. He’s taking his knowledge to Palm Beach, where he’ll share his expertise with SAF members, empowering them to take control of their online business.
Wu gave E-Brief editors a preview of his presentation, “How to Evolve Your SEO (And Not Get SEO-Scammed),” for SAF Palm Beach 2017.
E-Brief: What do you plan to discuss in Palm Beach?
Wu: My presentation has two main parts. I’ll share screen shots of messages from these SEO con artists and point out red flag phrases, so florists will recognize them when they see them and instinctively hit delete. I’ve seen countless small business owners from all types of industries fall victim to this and it sickens me. My presentation will also focus on the SEO philosophy at major companies, specifically Google, Pinterest and Cars.com. They have three core strategies that drive their success. I’ll go through each one and suggest specific tactics attendees can use for their own websites. I want florists to feel comfortable with SEO, so they don’t have to pay someone to do it for them forever.
E-Brief: Why is search engine optimization such a critical topic for florists — isn’t it all about paid search?
Wu: The majority of small business transactions happen because of Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Bing. You can pay for traffic with things like Google AdWords and Facebook ads, of course, but only to a certain point, because order gatherers are extremely aggressive and have deep pockets. Most florists can’t compete with paid advertising alone, so they need to do what they can to get organic traffic. If you’re not in the game, you’ll have trouble competing for the next two to three years.
E-Brief: What’s one action that improves organic traffic?
Wu: Google, Pinterest and Cars.com focus on user experience, which naturally leads to a good conversion rate. One of their biggest strategies isn’t technical at all. They think of questions people have when they go to their sites and make sure they provide the answers. Florists should poll their non-industry friends to learn what concerns them when buying flowers. Posting pertinent information, such as your phone number, email address, physical address and hours is a must. Including original photos, customer reviews, and frequently asked questions — especially about delivery — are a few examples that increase a shop’s authenticity and, consequently, customers’ trust.
E-Brief: What are some misconceptions about SEO?
Wu: There are so many! It’s mind-boggling how much bad advice I see on the Internet. There are countless people touting themselves as SEO experts spouting off information that is just plain wrong.
Probably the biggest SEO lie concerns meta-keyword tags. Google hasn’t considered them in their rankings for about 15 years — its spokesperson reiterates this all the time — while Bing and Yahoo penalize companies that use them. Nonetheless, bloggers who don’t know what they’re talking about keep the myth alive, urging small business owners to load up on keywords.
There are also misunderstandings with blogs and links. A blog is a great way to engage with customers, but in order for it to help your SEO, you need to update it at least once or twice a week. Posting inconsistently won’t do anything. Links to your site do help organic traffic, but only if they make sense. Be cautious of third-party sites that offer to pay bloggers to link to you. Search engines are well aware of this practice and hate it. They’ll penalize you for years if they catch you — and ignorance is no defense. It’s much smarter to have a designated PR person who pitches stories about your business to journalists, resulting in legitimate links.
E-Brief: What drew you to the floral industry and what have you learned in your tenure?
Wu: I met the BloomNation guys about five years ago. They were in my incubator; I was their mentor. My passion is helping small business owners, so that’s what motivated me to join their company in 2015, just before Valentine’s Day. My “floral” knowledge was very amateur before that. Basically, I had purchased flowers and I knew how to keep my mother’s orchids alive. I had never heard of wire services, didn’t understand how the different segments of the industry worked together and had no idea how many different business models there are at the retail level alone. I think a lot of people think all flower shops are the same, but there are a lot of nuances. Some florists operate studios and specialize in events, others run gift shops in pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, while some work out of warehouses and focus on volume and deliveries. It’s definitely a complex industry!
To learn more, sign up to hear Wu and two dozen other speakers at SAF Palm Beach 2017. Register here.