Webb Search (Part II): How do I build my online platform to reach more people?
This is the second post in Webb Search, a new column for Accelerate with Google by Veronica Webb, our Editor-at-Large. She'll be writing about her journey of re-inventing her career (which has spanned modeling, journalism, acting, teaching) as she grows an online business using Google tools.
Effortless is bullsh*t. That’s my motto. I write a pro-aging fashion and beauty blog called WebbOnTheFly.com. My message? “Own Your Age. Own Your Beauty. Own Your Power.” But sometimes, even when I’m pouring my entrepreneurial heart and soul out to the internet trying to be noticed through search engines like Google or YouTube, it can feel like no one’s listening. For the last 4 months, I’ve been working with Google’s free digital-skills training tools to maximize the reach of my online business.
The internet, to me at least, is this magical place where anything is possible. That’s not to say it’s a dot-com world of overnight mega-million followers with mega-million-dollar success (again that’s a bunch of BS). At the end of the day, not everyone’s dot-com dreams come true, but the internet is one of the levelest playing fields for all of us right now. Especially for female-founded businesses, which receive only about 2.2% of all available venture capital. Ladies, in light of that fact, free services are a game-changer for getting to the end of the rainbow.
We all start from nothing when we do something new
No one has an unlimited budget to launch a side hustle or a second business. Listen, I know it’s easy to look at me and say, well, she has a successful career in fashion, and people know her, and she's so way ahead of me. I know it’s easy to do that because I did the very same thing… blah-blah-blah... ...excuses...excuses… when I wanted to launch my digital business. Which for me is a totally new career! What got me out of negative head trips and into taking positive action was to set very realistic goals for myself.
First, I asked how much money do I have to put into this business? My budget? My answer: $500.00 total a month. G-Mail for business at $36.00 a month bought me branded communications and billing software. My schedule? 25 hours a week, anywhere I could squeeze the hours in, to begin with. Why $500.00? Because that’s what I could afford to lose. Two, for producing a fashion blog in New York City, one of the most expensive cities on the planet, that’s about what it costs down to the penny. I was strict about recycling the same $500.00 until I made a profit. Metric for success? 100 followers a month each on the blog and social media. In the online world, you have to fight with every professionally whitened tooth and perfectly manicured fingernail to be found. My blog, I felt, was like a palace I had worked hard to build, and no one could find it.
Everybody, no matter how successful they seem will benefit from help
Then, I surveyed my girlfriends to see what they knew about online search and advertising. To my surprise, and I admit, not in a hater way but more of a sisterhood way, I thought, “Oh, I’m not so dumb — we’re all in the same boat!” No one really knew how to buy an ad on Google, or to make their business pop-up near the top of the Google search results. What I didn’t realize was, that baked into my G-Suite tools was the ability to create a Google ad campaign on par with any big company. BUT, like I said, “effortless is BS.”
So I read books on the subject of online ads, a great place to start, but that didn’t really get me to the finish line. My first attempt trying to create a Google ad stalled before it even started. Why? Your business has to be listed first. Sounds easy right? Well, listing a business like a blog that serves a global market, but has no physical address returned this result: “WebbOnTheFly.com: Beauty Salon Mumbai India: Book Your Appointment Now.” One, I have never even been to India. Two, I’m not a licensed cosmetologist and you will definitely never find me in downtown Mumbai giving somebody a blow-out! Why did I get this result? Well, more than likely I got this automatic listing because my blog is a small business entity without a lot of similar types of listed businesses. I told you in the beginning, sometimes, I feel like I’m shouting into the void.
Back to Google, IRL
Two years ago, I had been invited to address a group of entrepreneurial women of color at a GeenieBox forum on business (where I offered tips for other business owners). It was an event that took place at Google’s Manhattan campus. This summer, I found myself back at Google physically, this time in the role of a student at the Grow with Google pop-up Learning Center, offering classes and coaching program for small business. Enrolling in this free nationwide program can be done online, too, and it’s open to kids who want to code and people of all ages wanting to retrain themselves for a career in the digital space.
Back to School
“Make Your Website Work for You” was the first class I took at Grow with Google NYC. The range of people in the hour-long session was astonishing: from an artist who was “broken-hearted” because his paintings didn’t sell and his girlfriend dumped him, a woman in her late 60s who had no idea how to use email or a computer; doggie day-care owners; and even top ad executives from global hotel chains and famous fast-fashion companies who were using their vacation days to attend the array of free classes at Grow with Google.
Professionally, I felt like I fell somewhere in the middle of this crowd. The discussion was open and lively with the coach, whom, I would soon learn, like all Google coaches, was a successful small business owner herself. Working as a Google coach was her side hustle. Just saying, if you’re a digitally savvy business owner and looking for work, you never know, Google might be a second life for you too. I was so energized after the session that I signed up for one-on-one coaching.
This is What Happened Once I Got Help
Back at Google for one-on-one coaching, I was paired with a millennial with a background in engineering. Carefully combing through my website, he asked me questions like “How do you want to create revenue?” I do that by partnering directly with brands, or in this case Google, not through accepting ads on my site. We made a map of my customer profile and the kind of content created on my blog. My instructions were to enter all of these search terms in the Google search bar and access the results for the top-ranked sites in my category.
My business is fashion and beauty for women old enough to be the coach's mom or one of his professors; what I thought was engineering-speak didn’t really speak to me. But, I did come away with some jewels. One was the instructions on how to make my site secure. You know that little lock symbol that shows up in the URL bar when you land on a website? I’ve got that valuable piece of the puzzle solved now and it has increased traffic, which I know because it’s hooked up to Google analytics, thanks to my coaching session.
Being a mom, a lifelong learner, and someone who is avid about my personal fitness, for me, coaching is everything. I took the same approach I take with fitness: take the group classes, and if you’re a Goldilocks like me, just keep signing up for individual sessions and taking classes and comparing notes with your friends until you hit on the coach that’s just right for you.
You See Me, I See You
Finally, I found Google Coach Francilia Wilkins. Within seconds Francilia, who herself is the owner of a consulting firm that raises capital for other small business, just got me. Francilia looked at my brand assets from a 360-degree perspective, weaving together the use of my social media, pushing me to sharpen the language on my website's landing page. But, before listing my business on Google Search, Francilia asked me to think about what would make me the thought leader in the pro-aging space for women of color.
Above: Google Digital Coach Francilia, left, with Veronica, right.
The food for thought was deep and the instructions for listing my business with Google to grow both engagement and followers were very clear:
- Activate Google Analytics on my website: Installing this free tool allows you to see what key search words people use to come to your site and what pages users find most engaging. Useful because you can give people more of what they like.
- Create a Google Answer Box: This is a free form of “advertising” that creates organic search results that come up in Google Search when people ask a question about something you have expertly covered on your website.
- Use stories on social media to link to the blog: Another free form of promotion for my website that allows me to speak from the heart on a day to basis and move traffic to my blog.
- YouTube is the future of brand-building: Did you know that YouTube is the world’s second most used search engine after Google? The video revolution is here. None of us can afford to miss it. By 2021, (can you believe it’s almost here?!), well, it is and stats say 82% of all internet content will be video-based. None of us can afford to miss it.
Join me here next month, to find out what happened after I get this stuff up and running. Remember, getting older means getting better. Reinvent your outlook and your career the tools are literally at your fingertips.
Hero illustration by @missplumpepper; courtesy webbonthefly.com