Community-Focused SEO and Mentorship with Carolyn Lyden

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Carolyn Lyden heads up Search Hermit, where she works with local business owners on their search engine optimization to drive organic traffic. Though she works with all kinds of business owners, she has a passion for working with female-owned companies, helping them to generate new customers with SEO.

Though this interview will have many items of particular interest for women running agencies and consultancies, guys and non-binary marketers might wanna stick around as well. There’s plenty of insights for you, too!

The highlights:

  • (1:23) Why women-owned businesses?
  • (4:32) Challenges and assets for female entrepreneurs.
  • (8:04) Finding a community of mentors and helpers.
  • (12:12) What local SEO wins look like for small business owners.
  • (14:58) Carolyn’s ideal clients.
  • (18:26) Communication and pivoting strategies for clients.
  • (22:19) Recommendations for GMB messaging.
  • (25:14) How Carolyn is paying it forward.

Don’t have time to listen to the show? Here are the top insights.

Why women-owned businesses?

In Carolyn’s case, it just kind of happened that way. Her grandmother owned a hairdressing business, and all of her aunts and her mother worked in it.

So even as a kid I was spending weekends helping my Mom with Word, and stuffing envelopes and doing the marketing for this older, in-person business.”

Once she graduated from college, many of the businesses she worked for were also women-owned businesses.

“It’s just where things sort of circumstantially fell for me in my career.”

Yet Carolyn still finds a lot of meaning in helping women.

“Often women don’t get the same access to venture capital funding as male-owned businesses do. They’re not getting the money they need and then they’re falling behind on the marketing resources and the technology resources.”

Carolyn loves how visibility and search can help them overcome these challenges.

What are the challenges female entrepreneurs face, and what advantages do they have over their male counterparts?

Aside from the lack of funding and resources Carolyn says there’s a lack of mentorship for female business owners, “unless you’re getting it from another woman in the business.”

She volunteers in mentorship groups on Facebook like Digital Women and Females in Social Media.

facebook group social and digital

Why are mentors so important?

“When you’re first starting, you might feel like: I’m never going to be like Marie Forleo or any of these big people making millions of dollars. It just feels like small, old you. Maybe you don’t understand all the steps along the way.”

Carolyn says having connections with other women can also help you find the right professionals to work with, which can save you a lot of money along the way. She spoke of hiring the wrong accountant, and then eventually being steered to a new one by a fellow female business owner. 

“She found out I was wasting $6000 a year.” The other accountant hadn’t found the waste. “As a small business owner I was like, $6000 is a ton of money. I could have paid myself $6000?”

She also says that female business owners struggle with perception.

“People see you and say, aww, she’s just taking her side project live.”

Women can help remind each other that they can reach their goals and make it as big as they want to make it.

That turns out to be one of the advantages.

“There are women who are willing to be helpful and mentor you through the process, providing their expertise to help you navigate those tricky situations.”

How to find mentors and helpers

Carolyn says finding the right people, in normal times, is 30% in-person networking and 70% online.

“The key for me is going into these communities that I know already exist and then being an active participant.”

This advice isn’t just for women.

“The SEO community is really big on Twitter.” 

Of course, the women’s SEO community has a lot of great advocates on Twitter too.

“If someone [Tweets] oh I need a speaker for XYZ, someone [else] will tweet: here are 6 great women speakers who could fulfill that role.”

Carolyn stresses that you have to put in what you want to get out of it in those sorts of situations.

“I think some new people, men and women, often make the mistake when they’re first starting out, of being like: I need a mentor, anyone help me! It’s more useful to find someone more aligned with what you’re interested in doing, or your goals, or the career you want to mimic.”

Note there are plenty of other communities and the focus here isn’t all on women. Men could find industry-based communities, like Digital Marketing Hacks for Online Entrepreneurs. There are groups for LGBTQ people, like LGBTQ Business Owners and Entrepreneurs. A little searching will help you find the right communities for you. 

What about LinkedIn groups? Carolyn’s not so sure about them.

“I think LinkedIn’s getting weird now with so many people being able to make requests.”

She says she gets a lot of strange requests on LinkedIn and so prefers to stick to Facebook and Twitter.

How do you celebrate Local SEO wins with clients?

Carolyn notes that she believes a lot of times people know the basics of local SEO.

“They know: I need a website, I need a GMB profile, I know I should have a Facebook page for my business.”

They get those up and running. And then? “Okay, cool, now what?”

Carolyn says being able to show people things like, “here are the ways to engage meaningfully with your community, or your clients, their friends, your potential clients…to where they can really see the results coming in,” is very important.

“The partnership is really important between the SEO organization and the company or small business you’re working with. They understand their target audience more than anyone and they understand the language that makes sense to them and the problems they’re having. You can sort of meld your two approaches together to make sure you’re targeting those specific questions and problems.”

As for celebrating those wins?

“For many small businesses having 100 more people come to their website in a month or a week is a big deal and can make such a big difference for them. Or having a social media post go ‘viral’, which is just being shared in their local community or something like that. Those sorts of small wins feel like small potatoes to us, but for them it’s a really big success.”

Those so-called small successes can make a really big difference in people’s lives.

“They’re one breadwinner or one of two breadwinners. When they’re seeing changes in their business, when it’s growing, they can hire more people or expand operations, all because of the efforts you’re collaborating with them on.”

Given recent events, these sorts of “small potatoes wins” could have an even bigger impact. 

What's an ideal client for your agency?

Most successful agencies and consultants have taken the time to think about who their ideal clients are. So who has Carolyn pinpointed as her ideal client?

“I like to look for people who are really excited about SEO. They’re eager to learn because I also love the teaching aspect of SEO.”

She also looks for something every agency should probably think about looking for.

“My husband and I call it compliance. People who will comply with the things you ask them to do. Who are willing to make the changes we recommend.”

She says that many business owners are reluctant to make those changes, which makes it harder to get concrete results for them. 

“There’s an element of owning your own business that makes it feel like your baby. So you’re like: this is my baby, I can’t change it, I don’t wanna, I’m afraid any change could potentially go the wrong way. Yeah, you could have great success but it could also be terrible. Even though maybe as an SEO it doesn’t feel like a risk to you because it’s something you do every day. Of course, part of being an SEO is making sure you’re telling them: we can revert anything! We can change the title and if it doesn’t work we just revert back to the one you have.”

Useful communication and client-selection strategies for any agency or consultant!

Communication and pivoting strategies for clients

First, Carolyn spoke about what SEOs should be saying to their clients.

“This is what I’m seeing. This is what’s happening in the SEO world, these are the updates Google’s putting out around GMB, here’s what’s going on with reviews.”

Carolyn also stresses the importance of managing expectations.

“Making sure they’re aware, during this time, that they can expect to see some big fluctuations in traffic, in search engine results, in rankings. Having discussions about how we can transition things around.”

As for businesses, they need to be communicating as well, especially when it comes to helping customers understand what they’re doing during this crisis.

“One of my favorites: a lot of local gyms near where I used to live have decided to keep people from canceling their membership fees.

They’ve essentially rented out all the equipment at the gym. So people could go, pull up their vehicles, get some dumbbells, some kettlebells, maybe even like a rower, like, all the gym equipment has been rented out, and they’ve been hosting online Zoom classes. They’ve upped their offerings to make it worthwhile for people to maintain their memberships at home: they’re offering nutrition courses, yoga classes, physical therapy consultations.

People are finding great ways to pivot.”

yoga deals client example

She even thinks some of these methods will remain as packages or add-on features after the pandemic is finished.

Recommendations for Google My Business messaging

Carolyn notes that Google itself is pivoting a little to give business owners more options. She called attention to the Google Marketing Kit that was once used for reviews. Part of the kit was transforming those reviews into social posts.

“Google itself is shifting,” says Carolyn. “Saying you can use this as a way to announce what’s happening with your business during this time. If you’re a restaurant and you’re offering takeout and delivery for example, or a doctor’s office offering online consultations.”

She notes some other ways business owners have used GMB:

“I’ve seen a lot of businesses making sure their hours are up-to-date, that any new notifications as things shift are posted on their GMB posts.” 

She discussed one New York Business that’s doing take-out and delivery Bento Boxes that have become so exceptionally popular that they’ll probably keep doing them after New York reopens. The proceeds from those boxes are going to pay off his staff whether they’re working right now or not. Many other businesses are doing something similar with their takeout, whether they’re calling them bento boxes or not. 

What is your right now cause?

Carolyn is focusing on business owners who don’t even have the basics. 

“My Mom, as mentioned, is a hairdresser. Most of her work came in through the salon. Now that her salon has been shut down she’s not getting a ton of inquiries coming in. I was like: Mom, do you even have a website? She said no. What if people who don’t know me find me? I was like: that’s the point, Mom!” 

She says she’s been trying to create these really quick 5-page websites for business owners. 

“Home, about, services, contact, and a blog section for them to transition their businesses online. If you’re in digital marketing and you’re interested in helping with something like that, especially if you have a little bit of WordPress knowledge, even if you use Squarespace or Wix, a website is better than no website. Or making quick changes for people who don’t know how to update their hours or change their phone number on GMB.” 

She says she’s gotten a lot of positive responses from this, “I got a call on my cell phone from Google My Business from somebody I don’t know! I got a call from somebody on my site!” 

Connect with Carolyn Lyden

Get in touch with Carolyn:

Carolyn also hosts #SEOchat every Thursday at 1 PM on Twitter, where you’ll hear from different guest hosts every week.

Garrett Sussman

Garrett Sussman

Garrett is the head of content at Traject , a suite of digital marketing tools, and host of the Agency Ahead podcast. When he's not crafting content, he's scouting the perfect ice coffee, devouring the newest graphic novels, and concocting a new recipe in the kitchen.

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