Lemons and Ants spoke with Amy Kitchen and Michelle Clarke of The Side Hustle, a one-stop digital marketing agency specializing in custom WordPress builds, SEO, and social media for small businesses and entrepreneurs. They graciously shared their expertise and provided some valuable tips for all stages of business.
Top Tips for Starting Out:
Without clear direction or research or expertise, a website isn’t the greatest thing to start with, The Side Hustle told us. Even though it might sound exciting or make things seem more official or give the impression of good visibility, put it on the back burner, for now.
Too many times, clients with developed businesses come to Amy and Michelle with a website they built themselves; the do-it-yourself solutions they’ve implemented aren’t performing well and/or the site isn’t getting traffic.
“We spend a lot of time cleaning up or rebuilding websites] and if businesses would’ve invested in a solid solution or did a bit more research at the beginning, it would’ve been more robust and sustainable,” Amy says.
Even though a website might sound exciting or will make things seem more official or give the impression of good visibility, put it on the back burner until you’ve invested some time researching. What entrepreneurs who are starting out can do, say Amy and Michelle, is to first focus on setting up social media profiles: LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok (whatever your preferred platform is).
Creating a solid bio and personal brand is an easy place to start to increase visibility. Also, social media pages are *much* easier to edit later, says Amy. Another “DO” is to brainstorm, research, and jot down your ideas somewhere so that you can get super focused on your product or service, market, ideal client, unique value proposition, personal brand, etc. Get clear on all of the things!
If you’ve done a bit of research and/or already have a website, easy and accessible navigation and SEO should be top of mind. What are the baseline SEO tips to boost your ranking in search results? You ask. Amy and Michelle gave us the DL:
- Google Products – Set up Google Analytics, Tag Manager, Search Console, Business Profile, etc.
- Meta data – Customize your descriptions, alt tags, metadata, images, hashtags, etc.
- Accessibility – Use accessibility features (location tags, image descriptions, alt text, etc.) on social media as well as on your website. Google cares about this and ranks accessible sites higher.
If website development is not your expertise (nor does building your own site intrigue you), or you’re feeling out of your league (especially if the above tips sound like jibberish), Amy and Michelle suggest connecting with a professional web developer you trust.
A website is much harder to overhaul once you’ve started your business on a foundation that underperforms. After fixing it, you’ll have invested time and money, x2, they say.
You’ve got nothing to lose by connecting, asking questions, and discussing your needs and options.
Don’t know anyone? Contact The Side Hustle here to discuss what a full customized solution could look like for you.
Michelle provided us with some excellent resources that often offer free introductory workshops throughout the year. Sign up to the newsletters:
Top Tips for When You’ve Plateaued
So … you have a website and consistent clients but maybe you’ve plateaued during a quiet season and need a boost. Or perhaps you’re experiencing growth and you’re ready to ramp up, expand and hire staff, or start running campaigns for steady year-round business.
Michelle and Amy agree that your next two moves at this point would be:
- Hire an expert to audit social media and SEO
- Consider running some ads
You don’t want to pay for ads if you don’t have access to the analytics that break down who your audience is and where your conversions are coming from.
At The Side Hustle, Amy and Michelle run an audit in order to find (and fix) SEO deficiencies. You want your website to optimized for the growth that comes with running Google ads, they say.
Once your website is healthy (has gone through an audit and solutions have been implemented), they optimize Google products. “When our clients are ready to run ads, we can see conversions and target (and re-target) the right clients and set everything up for success,” Amy says.
Top Tip for When You’re Thriving (but Don’t Have a Marketing Team)
Any small businesses that don’t have a marketing team should consider hiring professionals to help with marketing, say Amy and Michelle. Here’s what entrepreneurs and small businesses can seek out once they’ve pushed past the plateau and hit a new level of success:
- Google ads: set goals for ad budget based on traffic, leads, and clients
- Podcasts, YouTube channels: with increased viewership, set a goal to monetize plays or views (turn into ad revenue)
“We work with a lot of coaches and service-based entrepreneurs … [who] don’t have time to monitor [or optimize] ads,” Amy says. The Side Hustle takes care of that for you.
Even if you take a crack at Google ads or a YouTube channel yourself, it’ll likely take way longer, and you still might not be doing it right. Essentially, you’ll be wasting your time.
“Things can change overnight … If you’re not in there constantly to keep up with news laws and compliance, etc., it’s hard for small business owners to keep on top of all this stuff,” Amy says.
That’s why hiring a professional marketing team to use their expertise for your business makes all the difference. Your success is their success.
Note: if your expertise is marketing, go nuts. The reason marketing teams are necessary at this point in the game is because offloading that piece (when it’s not your thing) frees up time for you to do what you are skilled at and what you love.
Aside from marketing, a thriving small business should consider speaking with an expert in website development about creating a *new* website with a focus on performance and SEO.
Often clients start out on a DIY or templated solution for their website, and it’s important to know that not all websites perform the same. They might look great, but not perform as well as they could, The Side Hustle told us.
If you started from scratch by yourself, it’s time to get expert eyes on your website, even if you’re in the throes of success.
We asked The Side Hustle our last burning Qs:
What is a new entrepreneur’s biggest mistake?
Spinning wheels on websites, choosing platforms that won’t perform well, and image-based creators with sparse text on pages and/or whose meta-data is missing.
The Antidote: “Words on pages,” Amy says. Paragraphs of text with keywords is so important. Add a blog or news page. Ensure you’ve optimized your website for accessibility (meta data needs to be on point).
What is your most popular service?
- Website development on WordPress
- Google ads. (Since the pandemic we no longer do Facebook ads). Google offers affordability and better overall SEO power. Google ads give data to improve and guide next steps, whereas Meta analytics are mainly vanity, says Amy.
Last summer, with the ioS15 iPhone, you can now opt in or out of ads on mobile apps. That means users can opt out of your Facebook ads. Because Google is classified as a browser (not an app), there’s no way to opt out.
Because of this, Google ads are hands-down a better ROI, at the moment.
Last (but not least): What is your top tip for entrepreneurs with “zero” budget:
Actually Zero: Get in touch here to explore what you need, where to start, make a goal
Small Budget: Book an audit here