We Discuss Why Its so Important To Find Your Niche!
We have an old friend of the show and former co-host John Locke back on the show to talk about why its so important as an freelancer or agency business owner in the WordPress or technology sector to find your individual niche. Here also are the main topics that we discuss during the show.
1 – Why its so important to find your niche!
2 – SEO (search engine optimization) for membership/LMS websites.
3 – We discuss why just publishing great content won’t get you the results that you are really looking for.
Here’s A Full Transcription Of Our Interview With John Locke
Jonathan: Welcome back folks to the WP-Tonic Wednesday show. It’s episode 285. We’ve got an old friend of the show back, John Locke. We’re going to be talking about finding your niche. We’re also going to be talking about SEO and Membership sites. And then, in the bonus content, we’ll find something else that’s going to be really interesting and we’ll tell you closer to the end of the show what that particular topic’s going to be. I’m going to let John quickly introduce himself and my co-host, Kim. John, would you like to introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers?
John: Sure thing. My name’s John Locke. My business is Lockedown Design and we do SEO for manufacturing and industrial companies.
Jonathan: Yeah. The heavy lifters as they say. Kim, would you quickly like to introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers?
Kim: Absolutely. I’m Kim Shivler. I’m a Communications Instructor and Strategist. I help people build teams as well as online courses and Membership sites.
Jonathan: And she keeps me under control folks. I’d also like to mention that you can watch this show live on Wednesday at around 9 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on the WP-Tonic Facebook page. All you have to do is put WP-Tonic show and up it will come. Before we go into this great chat, I just want to quickly mention our major sponsor which is Kinsta Hosting. And what is Kinsta Hosting?
They only host WordPress. They specialize in WordPress from day one. They’re a boutique hosting company, not too small not to have all the bells and whistles. Superb UX Design interface, staging site, all the bells and whistles that you require as a Developer and great for your clients as well if you’re a client that’s looking for maximum speed and great support. You’re going to get that from Kinsta as well. I host the WP-Tonic website with Kinsta and some of my clients’ websites. We’ve been totally blown away with their service and the speed and just the staging functionality is just amazing.
If that sounds like something you would be interested in and you should be, go to the WP-Tonic website. There’s some banners. There will be links in the show notes. They are affiliate links. You’ll be supporting the show if you utilize one of those and give us some comments of how you found Kinsta in general. I’ve just found them amazing. So back to our great interview with a real great friend and a friend to the show, John Locke. So, basically, a little while ago you decided that you were going to find a niche and it’s a difficult step to do. Can you quickly go through why you decided that you’re going to go in that direction John?
John: Absolutely. And to give a little back story, back it up just a little ways here. I didn’t start learning Web Design until about 2009. From 2012 onward, I was doing a lot of WordPress development, some for local clients, some like sub-contracting to a lot of agencies, most of them back East really but doing a lot of generalized WordPress development. And I was doing okay at that for about 5 years or so. But around Autumn, like late Summer, Autumn of 2017, I’m like, “I really need to mix this up. I need to make a change”. And the reason why is, well, there’s a couple of reasons.
One reason is me and wife, we talk about wanting to be location independent, not that we’re going to go and be digital nomads and travel the world but we just don’t want to necessarily have to live close to a big city to get leads. And in order to do that, we really had to pick a specialization that we could be known for and that we could attract leads for by being among the best in class at what we’re doing. And one of the things that I’ve really been noticing in the Web Design world as far as like generalized agencies, even the big agencies you’ve seen this years ago when closed their doors and the partners all went to go work for Facebook and a lot of the big agencies in Web Design, in general, were starting to scale back. We’re starting to really see that in the WordPress world now.
I think the bigger agencies have done fine but I think just selling WordPress or even just saying you build on a certain framework or something like that is not enough. I just feel like that market has been really really saturated and there’s so many WordPress Developers out there that it’s not really a distinct thing anymore. You have to pick the actual vertical and a client base that you’re going to serve.
Now, at the same time that this was happening, I really kind of renewed my interest in SEO. I had had some projects when I was first getting into Web Design around 2011, 2012, where I had done SEO for some side projects and also for some friends and stuff. A friend of mine had opened a business like here and I had done some SEO for him just as kind of part of like building a site and he was ranking number 1 basically.
He’s pulling in leads from Reno and all over Northern California. So, I said, “I’m pretty good at SEO. I’ve done it in the past. So I’m going to try and do that”. And the reason why is a lot of these website projects, the way a lot of agencies work is they’ll build a site, they’ll launch a site and then that’s kind of it. You’re kind of done. They don’t really do maintenance unless you go on a retainer and a lot of places don’t necessarily want to do that. But SEO is a lot different because you’re actually measuring what’s happening after. Because a lot of people say like, “Hey. This Wed Design is great. It’s SEO optimized”.
Well, how do you know it’s SEO optimized? Because you’re not really measuring it afterwards. You’re just moving on from the project and going to the next project in the pipeline. SEO is a different business model because what I do is, I do like one-offs like SEO audits. But for somebody who’s really trying to grow their stuff, it’s a monthly retainer and you have them on there for, usually around 6 months minimum is what I say. And sometimes it scales down after that but you’re still doing stuff in the background. So to me, it’s like a lot more stable business model. It’s something that I’m good at. And I can also do the Web Design on top of it. But instead of including SEO as part of the Web Design, I’m including the Web Design as part of the SEO. And so, it makes a lot more sense.
Now, in picking a vertical of manufacturing and blue collared companies is kind of like I had done. You kind of do the thing where you go down the grid of who can afford to pay for this stuff, who’s going to get the ROI, who do you enjoy serving, who do you have on your client roster. Now, I had a couple blue collared companies already on my roster. I had kind of like a big mix of different types of clients.
The ones that they’re either fabricating or they’re manufacturing or they’re selling some sort of products online, those seem to be generating the most revenue and they seem to be the easiest to work with. And nothing against smaller like maybe solo businesses where it’s, you know, life coach, author, massage therapist, whatever, what have you. That’s fine. But they’re really not going to be able to put in the revenue to get a return from doing SEO for more than a month or so. So it just made sense to me to kind of go in that direction. Now, the next step that I did was really crafting the message on my site to really drill down with that and I kind of wavered. If you look in archive.org, you could even see when I first relaunched a site, it was still wavering. I was still saying, “We’re based in Sacramento. We do Web Design and stuff like this”, and it wasn’t like honed down. As it is right now, I think the first words you see when you go to my site now is like, “We’re doing SEO for manufacturing and industrial companies so you can get more RFQs”, which is Request for Quotes. It’s basically people saying, “How much will it cost to build this?”, or, “How much will it cost to ship this to me?”. So I’m seeing a lot of success.
I have to say that I’m getting, I don’t know if it’s the content that I’m writing because I’m just writing about SEO for the most part. I’m not really writing stuff toward other Marketers or other Developers anymore. I still have stuff on my site from that but I’m not really pushing it. I’m getting back into YouTube and I’m making videos that are about SEO that are aimed just at those helping their clients and not really at other Marketers and not really at other people who do what I do. It seems to be working because I am getting inquiries from all over the place, not just here in Sacramento. So there you go. It seems to be working out. The evil plan is 29 percent complete.
Jonathan: The evil plan. Kim, have you got a question?
Kim: Yes. When you’re dealing with these companies, they’re the blue collar. So I think a lot of times, like you said, manufacturing, local businesses, etcetera. What strategy do you have or what is your percentage of really specialized with them on local SEO, like maybe a car repair place type blue collar or a bigger manufacturing company where they might be looking for national or international contracts even, how do you break that out and what’s your strategy there?
John: Okay. That’s an excellent question because I do have both types of clients like that. Now, with local SEO, you’re really going to focus more on getting local links and mentioning local areas like, “Here’s the areas we serve”. And for both of these cases, I’m going to do like a full SEO audit of the whole site. Before I go in and fix everything, I can show them like, “Hey. Here’s where you’re at. Here’s where your competition’s at and here’s what I think we should do”. And then, the next months after that we’re actually doing all that stuff. But it’s important to outline it. With local SEO, you’re going to want to, just as a baseline and a foundation, you’re going to want to make sure you have all your local citations correct. You’re going to want to possibly have landing pages for specific areas. I think it’s a good idea to have reviews from local people.
If you’re going to do landing pages like that, have it on there. Anything like that that can show that you’re part of that community is going to be good. Obviously, you’re going to want to focus a lot more the Google My Business part and get local reviews. Yelp is going to be way more important to local SEO. And if you’re in a specific type of vertical, depending on what it is, you’re going to want to maybe get another third-party type of review system. So if it’s Real Estate, you’re going to want to get reviews from Zillow. If you’re a lawyer, you want to get reviews from Avvo. If you’re more like a contractor type, you’re going to want to maybe get on something like Nearby Now or like HomeAdvisor, maybe get reviews there, Angie’s List, House. Those are the types of things that you’re going to want to do. Now, for national, it’s going to be a lot more about matching what the user intent is. And one of the things that I break down in SEO audits is let’s look at, what’s actually ranking on page 1. Let’s really try and figure out, why is Google putting these ones up at the top? Why are all these ones? And so, it’s looking at, not just the content on the page and the words that they use and the backlinks that they have and all those things are totally important. But it’s, what is the user actually coming here to do?
Because you’ll see sometimes and especially if you’re selling industrial products, some of the things that rank up high, it’s like, “Huh. Here just a page of the categories of the different things that they’re selling. Why is this up here?”. And some of the ones are really obvious. Like say, you’ll go to a page and it’ll have all the product information and it answers every question that the customer could have and maybe it has like product reviews, things like that. But sometimes you’ll see patterns emerge too. Like say, if you’re searching using these particular phrases, you’re looking for the cheapest version of this industrial product. And if you use these types of phrases, maybe you’re looking for a higher-end version of that type of product.
And looking at the layout of the page, sometimes certain search phrases are purely informational. You’re not going to rank selling a service for those terms. People are asking a question. And then, other terms are going to be, you have to have some sort of ability for them to either buy the product or get a quote on the product because that’s the only thing that’s going to satisfy that search or intent. So it’s really just looking at the patterns. Obviously, you’re going to want to have good content that answers all those questions, so a product page. And then, all the supporting informational content in the site that other sites that are ranking really well have. And then, trying to figure out how you can do something that’s a little bit different so you’re not a complete carbon copy. You don’t want to do that either. And then, the basics. Just getting on fast hosting. Making sure that all the technical SEO is right. No 404s, having nice short, clear URLs and making sure that you have a backlink profile that doesn’t suck. Because that’s a lot of SEO companies. Some of them just invest into backlinks and they just get them from anywhere and that’s not going to help. And then, some SEO people will not build backlinks at all and that’s not going to help you either because, honestly, content’s important but you’re not going to rank without links. You’re just not.
Jonathan: I think that was great. Before we go to the break, I’ve got one final question. Like I say, before we go to the break. Do you think this niche process, you’ve probably been thinking this yourself, do you think you’ve taken it further enough and maybe you should just focus on one industry, one industrial industry?
John: You know, maybe. I think, for now, I think it’s casting a wide net. I think if I was to get a bunch of the same types of clients, it might end up like competing against one another and that might be a little tricky.
John: So I think for right now, it’s dialed into the right intensity.
Jonathan: Yeah. That’s a really good point. Thanks for that John. We’re going to go for our break folks. When we come back, we’re going to be talking about SEO around Membership sites and what John thinks. If you’re looking to start your Membership site or if you’ve got a Membership site, what are some of the things you’ve got to consider to get that traffic to have a successful Membership website? We’ll be back in a few moments folks.
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Jonathan: We’re coming back. We’ve had a great discussion with my friend John Locke about SEO and about why he’s niched his own agency and why that’s, I feel, I totally agree with John why that’s so important. So, on to the subject of Membership sites. So you already have covered some of the things. But what are some of the considerations, you know, somebody’s got a lot of balls in the air when it comes to a Membership site. They’ve got the technology, the content and then they’ve got to get people to the site. So, if you had somebody approach you with a Membership site, what would be some of the advice you would give them around SEO, John?
John: Well, there’s a couple of things that you’re going to really want to do and I think first is have a lot of great free content. I think where a lot of Membership sites jump the gun is just expecting people to buy into their stuff without really having gotten that brand loyalty. If you look at a product ladder, free content would be the lowest rung and maybe some sort E-book or small product might be next. You want to obviously get people on some sort of recurring membership thing where they’re buying into your paid content. But I think your free content needs to be almost as good and for a couple of reasons. If you don’t have good free content, you’re not going to build up the audience that’s going to be necessary to build a viable business off. People talk about having a 100 true fans. If you have 100 true fans that buy everything that you put out, you can have a business. But to get those 100 true fans, you’re going to probably need thousands of casual fans first. So building things up, you’ve got to get good at content creation.
So the free content on your site, whether that’s podcasts, videos, written content, maybe a mix of all three and I think also pushing out to your email list. Making sure that you’re doing something unique within your emails as well that’s providing value to people. I think it takes a lot of touches to really get people to buy into any sort of membership these days. You really have to be hammering it. So if you’re not good at creating content on a daily basis, it’s going to be difficult. Second thing I would say is definitely get allies that can help you promote that. I think you see that in the WordPress space. A lot of people do that pretty well and I think the WordPress space is generally built to be good at that where you have people kind of promoting each other in a way that everybody benefits. And so, when somebody does have a membership offering or they have a product launch or like a course, you’re generally aware of it because people do podcast tours, shoutout Kai Davis. Those are the two things that I would say overall. But when it comes down to a granular level and when you’re first trying to get that content to have traction, make sure you’re paying attention to things like page titles, meta descriptions, making sure that the key phrase that you’re trying to target with people.
So if you have a particular keyword that you’re trying to get people to buy into, make sure that it has searches, for one, that people are searching for it. Like say, if you were going to, whatever, a freelancing course, start freelancing, something like that, make sure you have that in the page title, make sure you have it in the actual content, make sure the URL is like that. Be clever but not like overly clever because you still want to be found in organic search. And then, try and get other people to link to it and promote it. Like when you go on podcasts and go on videos, make sure that people know about it. That’s just my general advice.
Jonathan: That’s great. Kim, have you got a question?
Kim: Yes an no. I’ll comment more and then I want to hear John’s feedback on that.
Kim: So one of the things when I work, since I work specifically with people on Membership sites, a lot of times our Membership site piece itself has no SEO involved with it. It’s a sub-domain that’s completely segmented. Their main site is where they’re building their audience once it’s built and many of these people have done it over years and years and years. So by the time they launch the Membership site, they’ve got a webinar with 10,000 people that came on the webinar. And we segment out the Membership site because then we don’t have people actually logging into our forward-facing Marketing site. And a lot of the times when I work with clients, we’re doing a completely different strategy. The Marketing sites everything you said about the content and then we keep the membership piece completely separate. It’s a sub-domain fully locked down. Other than the landing page that if somebody finds, they’re not being driven to from the main site, the email list and in a couple of these people’s cases, even large television exposure, not just podcast exposure. So we’re doing it that way which we’re just driving them to that main site. Your thoughts on that type of strategy.
John: Yeah, it makes sense. Yeah. I totally don’t have a problem with that. I think that that is totally beneficial. You’re basically trying to get them hooked into your brand. I mean, ultimately that’s it, what you’re going for. SEO is just kind of the hook that gets people in. Maybe they read an article and then another article and they keep seeing your name and pretty soon, they’re subscribing to your email list. Maybe they’re watching your YouTube and then finally they’re taking the plunge on joining your Membership site. So I think that’s totally fine.
Jonathan: I think in an interesting way this is also linked to our discussion in the first half of the show John. I think what Kim’s just described is a client that’s already built an established audience. But let’s say you’re trying to build content based on your experience but you’re also building your audience as well at the same time, which is a much harder road but it’s still achievable. But I think it’s only achievable, funny enough if you’ve got a niche. You’ve got to really focus on probably a smaller niche audience to start off with than what you think you should. What’s your thoughts around that John?
John: Yeah. You want to be solving for one person. So definitely imagine that person in your mind, who they are, what they desire, what is the better version of themselves that they want to be. Somebody like Ramit Sethi. He has his site iwillteachyoutoberich.com and at first, it took him a long time to get traction and a lot of people. But basically, he’s aiming at a certain type of person who’s trying to either negotiate a higher salary or earn more money. All of his content, consistently over time, has been breaking down why traditional financial advice doesn’t work and what you should do instead. But he’s solving for a very specific type of person. And like I said, any successful Membership site, it’s going to have a specific avatar in mind. Curtis McHale, he has basically like a coaching or mastermind group and it’s specifically for people who are creative entrepreneurs. They’re not even just creative entrepreneurs but people who want to spend more time with their family. People who are like more family focused. They have small kids that they want to spend more time with. They don’t want to spend all their time working and miss that. So it’s a very specific avatar. So, yeah. I do agree with that.
Jonathan: What do you think Kim? Your experience of working with clients. Do you think that if they’re not at that stage where they’ve got a massive audience, so they’re trying to build an audience plus the course as well, they’re going to have to really niche a very tight market niche which then they can start to get some traction. Would you agree with that Kim?
Kim: Yeah. I always recommend for people to really address a specific niche and not go too broad. Actually, no matter how large they are, how big of an audience they are because the more you focus towards a specific audience the more you’re going to address and find the true fans that are going to buy everything you have. I still, even with people building out their new audience, in many many cases I will still divide it into two sites. A branding marketing site that brings them in and then their learning platform, membership platform etcetera, so that you’re managing the two differently as far as where people are logging in and accessing that hidden content. But absolutely, on that branding site, the more that you can target your audience and speak just to that audience, the easier it’s going to be to grow faster.
Jonathan: And I think doing that kind of SEO research around key phrases is a good way because obviously, you don’t want to take this too far, that there’s only like 10 people in the world that are interested in that specific niche. But on the other hand, doing basic SEO research on numbers will you an indication if there’s enough traffic and enough interest. And then, you’ve got to make some kind of judgment call clarifying, are people interested enough that they will pay to join a course for that particular subject. What do you reckon Kim?
Kim: Absolutely. Because there are things people search for that they don’t pay for. Absolutely.
Jonathan: And do you think John there, what do you make that kind of, do you look at maybe what people are paying Google in AdWords around particular key phrases? Can that be an indication that there’s profit in that particular area?
John: Yes and no. I think for Google phrases that are going to be a lot of money, there’s usually a lot of profit to be made. I would tend to think, from what I’ve seen, that a lot of the phrases that would be around Membership sites might not necessarily have a high AdWords cost. But what I would look at is how many people are searching for certain things. And if you’re polling like the people in your network, “Would you pay for this?”, don’t go by that. Go by like do people actually shell hard earned money for this? That’s it.
Jonathan: And you’ve also got to see if there’s a. You’ve got to really do research on the questions people are answering about your particular subject, don’t you John? And get a broad idea. Is there enough conversation out there and enough or enough interest in the topic that you could provide a Membership site that will resolve their problems.
John: Yeah, definitely. There’s only a few things that people really pay for when you break it down. They want to make more money, they want to be healthier or they want to have like a better standard of living. Those are really like the few things that people are going to pay for. Make more money or be in better shape or something like that. Be a better version of yourself. Just trying to figure out how many people are wanting to be a better version of themselves around the thing that you’re offering. How can you help them get there? Just tapping in and finding those people that have that desire.
Jonathan: That’s great. We’re going to close it down now folks for the actual podcast part of the show. John’s going to stay on with us. And in the bonus content, we’re going to discuss some recent articles that you’ve seen that says just producing great content will get people to your site and what John thinks around those conversations. John, what kind of client are the best fit clients for you and how can people get a hold of you in general and find out more about you John?
John: Sure thing. So my best fit type of client are companies that were formed in the last 5 or 6 years, that are making around 250k to 50 million. Most of them are in that half million to 1 million range and you’re selling either some sort of industrial service or an industrial manufactured product and you have a lot of established competitors that you’re to beat. You’re trying to overcome them and figure out how to get more traffic and customers through SEO. How you can find me is at my site which is lockedowndesign.com.
Jonathan: That’s great. And Kim, how can people find out more about you and what you’re up to Kim?
Kim: You can find me at kimshivler.com.
Jonathan: Oh, that’s great. And if you want to find more about WP-Tonic, like I say, we’re a service company that only specializes in maintaining and supporting our clients around WordPress with a specialty of Membership and Learning Management Systems. It’s a passion for me and it’s just a great vertical for me and my team to help you get the results that you’re looking for. Also, if you want to support the show, go to iTunes and give us a review. It really does help the show and I periodically read some of them out which is fun and it does really help the show. Like I say, you can watch more of this interview with John on the WP-Tonic website. We’re going to be discussing some recent articles that he’s read and wants to comment on and that should be good stuff. And we’ll see you next week where we’re going to have somebody doing something interesting with WordPress. We’ll see you next week folks. Bye.
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