Jason Hennessey

Improving Your Talent Magnet: Three Critical Factors in Attracting and Retaining Top Talent

thinking-back-imgThe pandemic brought a lot of changes to our lives, and for many people, among those was a change in jobs, whether due to workplace shifts as industries adjusted, because of personal circumstances, or myriad other reasons. It’s made the value of great employees even more essential than ever before. The best contractors or employees can be difficult to find, especially as remote work becomes more available, allowing top talent to work from anywhere and get hired nearly anywhere in the world. 

As many things about the future remain uncertain, talented individuals—the kind you want to hire—are looking for stability in their workplace. They want jobs that will take care of them with good pay and benefits as well as work they enjoy and a positive work environment.

Attracting and retaining top talent is an important factor in your business’s profitability. A talented team member can improve your revenue with the value they provide. Furthermore, the cost to replace an employee is significant. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, on average it costs a company approximately 6-9 months of an employee’s salary to find a replacement.

Even in the midst of the pandemic, we added new benefits to improve our talent magnet and help retain our employees. We increased our PTO to five weeks, added incentive programs, and introduced a 401(k) with matching contributions. 

Recruiting top talent requires a top magnet to attract and keep excellent workers. So what factors into your talent magnet? While there are many strategies to improve it, I think there are three especially important areas to focus on, because they are likely to make the biggest impact overall.

  • Benefits

The truth of the matter is that the benefits package you offer is a major deciding factor for many prospective employees. The better the talent, the higher expectations they’re likely to have in this area. Start by gaining an understanding of what type of benefits are important to your top talent, then get creative about what else you can offer to attract the best talent.

Benefits play a major role because they can determine whether your compensation package will meet the employee’s needs. For example, a good health insurance plan is a priority for many people who may have medical needs or family members they must care for. Similarly, offering some form of retirement benefits is beneficial as many people have little in retirement savings but are beginning to see the importance of saving for retirement.

Paid time off is another important and highly desired benefit, and some people may choose a lower paying job that allows them more time off than one with higher pay and more restrictive vacation policies. Time off is about more than just vacations. It’s extremely common for life circumstances to arise that require someone to take time off from work, forcing them to use vacation time. As a result, they may forgo important time off to rest, as ten days of PTO can quickly get eaten up over the course of a year. Offering more PTO tells your employees you care about them and their wellbeing and understand that they have lives outside of work and families with needs.

Another benefit to strongly consider, if you haven’t already incorporated it, is allowing work-from home either full-time or part-time. Full-time remote positions open the talent pool and can allow you to hire top talent from anywhere in the world in a win-win situation for you and the employee. Part-time work-from-home can be very attractive to many, especially if they have a long commute, have children to care for around work hours, or concentrate best in a quiet and controlled environment.

  • Company Culture

Another area to focus on is company culture. While this is harder to advertise in a job listing, it is something many prospective employees want to know about. It plays a role in your reputation as a workplace, and it can be a motivation for current employees to stay or go.

Because employees spend the majority of their days at work, it’s important to create a pleasant and friendly atmosphere that they’ll enjoy, and a big part of that is work culture. Have you ever had a job you dreaded going to each day? It can make your entire life miserable, from the time you go to bed the night before to waking up and driving to your job. In a lot of cases, it comes from negative energy in the workplace or a toxic work culture. A toxic work culture can stem from gossip, a too-competitive atmosphere, high employee turnover, overworking and lack of breaks, poor management, and many other issues. If employees don’t feel comfortable and appreciated for their work, they won’t want to stay. With tools like Glassdoor available to prospective employees to learn about a company’s work culture, your workplace reputation matters. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can strengthen your company culture and make your business somewhere people want to work. Fostering a collaborative environment and helping team members develop a sense of purpose in their work are two impactful methods. A collaborative environment empowers team members to take ownership of their roles and solve problems among their teams at the level the problems arise. It is based on teamwork rather than competition, where everyone plays to their strengths and supports each other in what they do best.

Employees also need to feel a sense of purpose in their work. If their job feels meaningless, they won’t be invested in it and are likely to grow bored or frustrated. Clearly articulating your company’s purpose is an important step in helping employees feel invested in what they’re working toward. Your purpose isn’t what you stand for or what you’re trying to achieve—it’s the reason you do what you do. Every employee’s role should connect to that greater purpose in some way, and it’s important for them to see the reason for their role—their individual purpose as a member of your organization. People want to feel like what they do matters—otherwise, what’s the point? Helping them understand how they make a difference will energize them and increase motivation.

  • Leadership

The third highly important aspect is leadership, as it can make or break an employee’s experience. Directive, top-down management styles can interfere with a team member doing their best work, frustrate them, and even ruin company culture. Leadership plays a large role in a company’s culture and the experience of your employees.

A great leadership team collaborates with team members rather than simply instructing and monitoring them. They should be available to help in problem-solving and mentoring their team members.

One important role of your leadership team is to recognize employees for their work and accomplishments. Always take the time to celebrate achievements and show employees your appreciation—it goes a long way in establishing a positive relationship. One mistake I often see leaders make is providing feedback to employees without praising them. Always try to provide at least three praises for every criticism. They’ll respect you more if you’re praising them rather than telling them what they did incorrectly, and you’re more likely to open their ears to truly hear the feedback if you show them your appreciation.

By offering a strong benefits package, fostering a positive work environment, and having a great leadership style, you’ll create a place people want to work, making it easier to attract and retain top talent.

What Every Business Leader Can Learn From a Bustling Restaurant Kitchen

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Recently, while I was at a busy restaurant waiting for my breakfast to be served, I was struck by a valuable lesson amidst the seemingly chaotic kitchen which was mostly hidden out of customers’ sight.  

So what does all of this have to do with your business? There’s a lot you can learn from the food service industry, both positive and negative, about how to run a business. But if there’s one thing a restaurant has to do well to stay in business, it’s to create an excellent customer experience, from the taste of the food to the level of service.

Now, if you’ve ever worked in food service or even watched one of those Food Network shows, you likely know that the kitchen at a busy restaurant—the “backstage,” if you will—is often a much different picture from what things look like from the customer’s end, sitting in the dining room. While the dining area is relaxed and well-decorated to give a pleasant atmosphere, the kitchen is often chaotic, noisy, and cluttered. 

To the outside eye, a kitchen may seem disorganized, but the mess is often necessary and part of an extremely organized process that includes specialized procedures and chains of actions. The people involved each play an important role and are highly skilled in their unique jobs. These workers understand how to navigate the kitchen, its processes, and even its dangers. The systems in place allow them to operate efficiently, even though the process might be messy. The creative stages of any project require some organized chaos.

The trick that restaurants are excellent at pulling off is taking all of that behind-the-scenes mess and creating a beautiful, easy-looking meal to present to the customer. 

Every business has messy behind-the-scenes processes. How you handle those processes affect what you ultimately show to the customer. Here are a few ways you can ensure the “kitchen” of your business runs smoothly to create an excellent customer experience.

  1. Ensure everyone understands and follows standard practices, from safety to technique.

Do you have a restaurant you frequent where you always order the same thing, knowing it never fails to be a satisfying meal? How do you think a restaurant manages to produce the same quality dish that tastes nearly identical every time? After all, if you’ve ever handed a family member a favorite recipe and found it didn’t taste at all the same when they made it, you doubtless understand that every cook will make the same dish differently. A recipe only counts for so much.

Restaurants put in a significant amount of training to ensure their cooks produce the dish the same way every time. It all comes down to processes, standard practices everyone is taught to follow. In your business, this might look like an SOP. This doesn’t mean an SOP has to eliminate creativity, either, especially in a creative industry—it’s just there to ensure the same steps are always followed and the same quality of product or service is presented every time. 

Ensuring everyone understands and follows standard practices is also an important part of keeping everyone safe. In a kitchen, this means following health and safety guidelines to protect both customers and workers. In some other service industries, this may mean safety guidelines to prevent injury. And in some businesses, it could mean protecting your business from other issues, like liability issues such as copyright infringement or having your website penalized for poor SEO practices. These guidelines should be written into the processes and emphasized during training to ensure everyone understands the risks and the steps they should take to mitigate them.

  1. Communication is vital.

Communication is one of the most important aspects of any organization, and kitchens are particularly good at creating methods and processes of communication that help streamline production and keep things running smoothly. The waiter communicates with the customer, and then relays that information to the cooks, who then communicate with each other to produce the ordered meal quickly and accurately, and then inform the waiter when it is ready to be taken back to the correct table and placed in front of the correct people at said table, all without error. It’s like a complex rendition of the old fashioned game of telephone. Additionally, people working in the kitchen have to communicate about other matters, such as safety—they use standard language to quickly tell their coworkers when they’re moving with something dangerous, such as a knife or a hot pan.

Streamlining communication in your own business can greatly improve your processes and performance. It’s a good idea to create standard means of communication for certain types of issues, as well as chains of command and responsibility. If someone knows exactly who to speak to regarding an issue, it can be resolved much more quickly than if they have to ask around. Similarly, if certain types of communication tend to take longer than necessary, standardizing how that information is relayed may cut down on time. One common area businesses often need to increase communication efficiency is in meetings—having a strong agenda and sticking to it can be a challenge, but if everyone is trained on how to communicate during a meeting, it can save a great deal of time.

  1. A little mess is okay, as long as you have a process for cleaning it up.

Closing a restaurant at the end of the night is a massive undertaking, as there is always a great deal of cleanup needed. But restaurants have processes in place to streamline this and handle the mess. The mess is an inevitable part of creating excellent food.

Similarly, there’s always some messy behind-the-scenes action in every business. Maybe that mess is in testing new products—you’ll have a few ideas you have to discard, and you’ll need to make adjustments to others. If you’re creating a digital marketing strategy, you’ll inevitably need to do some messy work to create a website and strategy that works for your business. What’s important is ensuring your team knows how to clean up the mess so it doesn’t get in the way of future work and the customer has a clean and enjoyable experience.

  1. Presentation matters. Keep your messy processes hidden.

In a way, all work is messy. You want your customers to know you’ve put effort and skill into what you’re presenting them, but the most skilled people always make their jobs look the easiest. That trick is part of what makes for great customer experience. If customers can see the messy parts of the process, they may have a more difficult time trusting what you provide. You want to appear to be an expert. If your plate came out with sauce splattered all over the edges, you probably wouldn’t feel particularly good about the cook. If the restaurant had an open kitchen and you saw a giant mess all over the place, that likely wouldn’t give you confidence, either. Whatever the messy parts of your business are, ensure that’s not presented to your customer—give them the polished, finished product or service and don’t let them peek behind the curtain unless your kitchen or backstage area is scrubbed clean, both physically and metaphorically.

  1. Customer experience is just as important as the product or service you provide. 

When you want to go out to celebrate an occasion and you choose a fancy restaurant, you likely have two considerations in mind: the food and the atmosphere. Sometimes the best food comes from a food truck, but that’s not the experience you want. Similarly, if a restaurant has excellent food but poor service, you’re unlikely to visit again. As a business, it’s important to remember the quality of your service will often make or break your relationship with a customer. There are many ways to provide excellent service, but hiring for and training service skills can go a long way.

No matter what kind of business you have, you inevitably have messy-looking processes you don’t want your customers to see. There’s plenty to be learned from the food service industry in finding ways to streamline those processes to run efficiently and present a polished product or service to your customer. So the next time you’re waiting for your meal to be served in a restaurant, sneak a peek at the operations of the kitchen to glean your next business leadership lesson.

How Your Relationship to Risk Affects Your Success

Jason ImageAs a business owner, it’s important to develop a sense of when to take risks and when to play things safe. Knowing how much risk to take on, when and where, is a balancing act. Without risk, little growth can happen. But risk inherently comes with the chance of something going wrong.

Especially when things are going well for us, it can be difficult to take a step out on the ledge or put anything you care about in harm’s way for the sake of possible gain. Taking risks requires bravery, and we each have different levels of comfort with risk.

Often the best things in life happen because we take risks. I want you to think back to some of your greatest successes, proudest achievements, and happiest days. What led to those moments? Would they have happened if you hadn’t been willing to take a risk? 

The craziest thing I’ve ever done was when I met my wife. We met the day before Valentine’s Day in 1999. A month and a half later, on April Fool’s Day of the same year, I came home and jokingly said, “Let’s go get married.”

She half-jokingly said yes, so we drove to the Justice of the Peace. We hesitated slightly, wondering if we should really do it. There wasn’t any alcohol involved. But we went ahead and got married. We’ve been married 23 years and have three amazing children.

That was one of the best risks I’ve ever taken. Sometimes the universe speaks to you, and you have to just listen to it, even though it might seem crazy. My intuition told me I was making the right choice.

Intuition is a great tool in an entrepreneur’s skillset. It’s something we have to learn to listen to and hone over time. If you’ve been in business for many years, you may find that you know the right answers to things and understand which risks to take without needing to think too much about them—that’s intuition. It’s the knowledge of your subconscious from the experiences you’ve built up over the years telling you what you know is right, even if you don’t consciously know the reasons.

But if you haven’t developed a strong sense of intuition, or if you want to strengthen the intuition you do have, where do you start? While the subconscious can certainly seem nebulous, understanding yourself well can help you make conscious decisions that are not led astray by emotions like fear, which is often present when it comes to risk.

There are two main aspects to your relationship with risk: appetite and tolerance. Risk appetite describes how much risk you’re willing to take on, while risk tolerance describes the amount of risk you can afford to take on. 

Generally, it’s best for your risk appetite and tolerance to be well-balanced. For example, if you’re someone with a low risk appetite but a high tolerance, you may be able to afford to lose quite a bit but have to desire to risk anything or be afraid to take a risk at all. This can lead to lost opportunities. On the other end, someone with a high risk appetite but low risk tolerance might take risks they can’t afford and lose too much.

Do you have a high or low risk appetite? Of course, it can vary depending on the kind of risk and what’s at stake: money, time, reputation, relationships, or something else. If you have plenty of time, you may be willing to risk spending a lot of it on something that may or may not pan out while you wouldn’t be willing to spend as much money doing the same. That makes sense, because it’s balanced. But sometimes our ideas of what’s at stake can be warped and make us unwilling to take risks that could lead to great opportunities.

When confronted with an opportunity that puts something you care about at stake, what’s your immediate reaction? Do you freeze up? Do you back away? Or does it excite you? Understanding how you generally react to risk can help you control your emotions so you can better listen to your intuition. If you know you have a low risk appetite, carefully consider your tolerance level—what’s at stake for you? If the opportunity didn’t work the way you intended, could you salvage the situation or recover? 

Many of the best things in life require some level of risk. Getting married requires risk—though usually not as much as my spontaneous wedding. Having children is also a risk. And every entrepreneur knows that there is plenty of risk inherent in running a business. But unless you’re willing to push past fear, listen to your intuition, and assess the situation with an understanding of what’s at stake, you’ll miss many of the best opportunities. Risk is inherently uncomfortable, but often it takes discomfort to reach your goals.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken? Where did it get you? Chances are you wouldn’t be where you are today without some major risks. Keep that in mind the next time your intuition tells you to seize an opportunity. While not every risk you take will work out the way you want it to, if you avoid taking any, you’ll also avoid some of your biggest possible successes.

Why An Executive Coach Is One of the Best Investments You Can Make for Your Business

Years before I needed or could afford a business coach, I watched this TED talk by Cameron Herold. I was inspired to do what he’s done, and saw him as a role model. I started reading and listening to everything he published, and knew that someday he would be the coach I wanted to hire.

Many entrepreneurs are highly independent and feel the need to take on tasks and figure things for themselves. It makes sense. As you built your business, you may have started out handling every aspect by yourself. Then, by the time your business begins to grow, it seems as though things are going well, so you may not feel the need to look for advice. However, even when you’re succeeding, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to improve both your business and your life. 

That’s why I believe in the power of executive coaching. In fact, investing in coaches was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. It’s not easy—for anyone, even people who are not entrepreneurs—to admit you don’t have all the answers and that you need help and advice from someone, whether that’s in business, life, or even fitness. But having an outside perspective from someone knowledgeable and dedicated to helping you can skyrocket your success.

An executive coach can help you develop healthy mindsets around your business, create strong habits and sustainable routines, become a better leader and improve your emotional intelligence, and help you become more productive and creative to leverage your time better. If there are specific troubles you’re having, you can turn to your executive coach to help you work through them. 

However, if you want to benefit from coaching, you have to be open to it. It requires you to be vulnerable and humble, so you can truly listen and be willing to enact change. You need to have the desire to improve. To benefit from coaching, you will need to self-reflect and take action to change your habits and your mindset.

Here are a few ways an executive coach can help you and your business grow:

Increase productivity

An executive coach can help you learn tools to improve your productivity so you can better leverage your time and spend more time doing things that are important to you, such as creative pursuits, being with family, and resting to reenergize. Your executive coach has the perspective so see where you’re running into inefficiencies and why, as well as helping you mitigate those, whether that’s taking on tasks that could be accomplished by someone else or outside factors such as lack of respite that interfere with your cognitive abilities and reduce your productivity.

There are many productivity tools out there that can help you with efficiency, but they can only help so much as they don’t take your specific situation and needs into account. An executive coach can help you develop a plan that’s tailored to you and adjust as needed as your business grows, your role changes, and you face new challenges in work and in life.

Develop a healthy mindset

It’s a popular thought among entrepreneurs that mindset can make a major difference in creating successful outcomes in anything you want to achieve. Plenty of books address this very topic. Your mindset is about your worldview, the approach you take to business, the way you handle challenges, your mental health, and much more. It’s important to have a healthy mindset in order to maintain motivation, achieve your goals, develop strong relationships, solve problems, and create healthy habits. This is one of the most important skills your executive coach can help you develop. 

Because it is such a complex topic, it is truly beneficial to have someone to help you untangle your thoughts, point out negative thinking patterns, and give you cognitive tools to help you create and maintain a healthy mindset for business and for life. 

Become a stronger leader

Your executive coach can help you develop stronger leadership skills by increasing your emotional intelligence and evaluating your strengths and weaknesses. Leadership is one area where it’s often difficult to know where you need to improve and how to do so, and a coach is a great resource to build your leadership knowledge and skills. A coach can give you specific tools and exercises based on your needs or help you strategize when change is necessary. If you know your weaknesses, you can work together to improve your skills in those areas or find ways to work around them. Perhaps that means delegating some leadership tasks to someone who does have the right skills while you focus on what you’re best at and care about most. Often the hardest step to take in leadership is stepping back to gain more value in your life, but it’s what will give you the most freedom. When you’ve set your team up for success, taking a step back can allow your business to grow while you have time to work on the more creative site or pursue other endeavors.

Strategically build your business

The ideal executive coach for you has experience in business and preferable in fields related to your own. This may be someone who has been in your industry for a long time or has experience as a CEO. That experience can be an invaluable resource when making business decisions or developing creative strategies. If you have a specific goal in mind, you coach can help you develop a plan to get there, and their experience may help you identify obstacles or opportunities you may not have recognized otherwise. If you encounter a challenge, you can rely on your coach for advice.

Networking

One of the least expected benefits of an executive coach is the networking opportunities they may provide. After all, they’re likely working with people at your level, in related fields to yours. My executive coach helped me connect with many professionals who have been beneficial to me and my business. Through this network, I’ve created friendships and branched out to create a larger network of my own with other CEOs who encourage and support one another.

While many CEOs dismiss the idea of an executive coach because it seems like an unnecessary use of both time and money, I believe that a good coach is a powerful and underutilized tool. If costs are too high, you can always look into coaching groups, which can also help build your network. I’m incredibly glad that I found an experienced coach who is able to help me as I grow my business and work smarter rather than harder. My coach understands my values, my goals, and what’s important to me so I continue to keep these things in sight as I strategically build my business. I think that every CEO, no matter how experienced they are, can benefit from coaching. It pays to be a life-long learner, and coaching is a great way to invest in yourself and your business.

Why Your Business Needs You to Let Go of Your Control

As an entrepreneur, your business likely started out with very few team members. In fact, maybe it was just you, running every aspect of the business and doing every job all by yourself. That’s certainly not uncommon for many entrepreneurs. But eventually, your business grows, and that growth can present new challenges: there’s too much work for you to keep up with, and you have to recruit help. You have to hand over aspects of your business to others and trust that they will be able to handle them, even if they may not make all of the same choices you would or utilize the same methods as you.

The transition and changing role of an entrepreneur that comes with business growth can be difficult for many. It’s not just a matter of training or finding the right people to hire, either. It’s a matter of letting go of a mindset that holds many business owners back, one that I believe is among the top myths about owning a business: the mindset that if you want to get something done, you have to do it yourself.

What’s wrong with doing it all yourself?

The problem with this mindset is that it can turn you into a control freak, and you may not even realize when it’s happening to you. Maybe you’re running a company with a good number of employees who handle the majority of the tasks, but you’re still heavily involved in the company. After all, you have a lot of financial responsibility—doesn’t it make sense for you to keep your finger on the pulse of everything going on within your business?

Yes and no. While it’s a good idea to know what’s going on within your business, eventually you have to relinquish control and let people who are better at specific roles than you are do their jobs. That lightbulb moment was what caused me to grow as a leader.

This problem manifests in both leadership and your daily task list. Sometimes business owners who have already managed to hand off the majority of the tasks to their team members still feel a strong need for control and that can manifest in their leadership style. This can lead to micromanagement, which causes a multitude of problems. It does not allow your team to take ownership over their tasks and can lead to bitterness on the part of employees. It can also be distracting, and they may feel the need to look busy at all times rather than focusing on their work. Furthermore, it can limit innovation, creative solutions, and productivity. 

When team members are allowed to work in the ways that are most effective for them and own their expertise, they are able to shine and bring their best work to the table. You hired each person because of their skills in a certain area, and in many cases they may be better at what they do than you are because they specialize in it. Hovering over their shoulders or trying to get them to do something the same way you would do it won’t create better results. Instead, provide them with the training they need, set clear expectations, and allow them to do their best within those parameters. When you give people ownership over their jobs and allow them to be responsible for their own tasks and problem solving, you might be surprised at creative solutions and positive results that arise.

Why can’t I do it all?

On a more personal level, the mindset of needing control as a business owner can negatively influence your own workday, your life, and even your business success. If you’re anything like many of the entrepreneurs I know, your calendar and task list are always full. There never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. You might get to the office before everyone else and stay late into the night after the rest of the team has left. This is certainly a common experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Not only do these kinds of long hours take a toll on your health both mentally and physically, but you’re missing out on important time with loved ones and much-needed rest that can help make you more effective in your job.

Many business owners take on more work than they need to, and it largely stems from the mindset of a need for control. They don’t believe anyone else can handle the tasks on their list. But I want to challenge this mindset. As the creative head of your business, your time is more valuable than anyone else’s. What are the activities in your day that bring the most value to your business? What tasks must be accomplished by you, and nobody else? Try to whittle this list down to less than six things, ideally three. Then, find a way to designate everything. Yes, it might be difficult, but you may be surprised to find that some tasks you thought had to be accomplished by you could actually be done by another member of your team.

For example, eliminate any unnecessary meetings from your schedule. Unless your direct input is needed, someone else can give you their summary of the meeting. Empower your team to make decisions without you in their realms of expertise. If you’re being bogged down by administrative tasks, hire an executive assistant or even a virtual assistant. Anything that doesn’t require your level of expertise can and should be delegated. 

By freeing up your schedule in this way, you won’t have to work the long-haul days that have kept you exhausted for so long. You’ll have more creative time to dedicate to the business, which will allow you to begin new initiatives and work toward new goals. Just think of what you could accomplish if you had several more hours every day and the energy to fill them with productivity—it is possible, but you must reduce your need for control over every aspect of your business.

Start by building a great culture among your team so they are empowered to take ownership over their roles, solve problems, and make decisions in their areas of expertise. Set them up for success in this way, then get out of the way and let them do their jobs. It’s really true: you can take a step back and watch the business grow.

The photo above shows my leadership team: capable, smart, more expertise in their area than I have, and driven. Together, we accomplish more than I was able to do on my own. I’m not saying it was easy giving up control of my business, but I am so grateful I followed my business coach’s advice. I have watched this group grow the business, develop foundational structure that has enabled scalable growth, and teach me a thing or two along the way.  Do I ever regret letting go of control? Never. I did it, and so can you!

Are You Maximizing Your SEO Results in These 6 Crucial Areas?

Are You Maximizing Your SEO Results in These 6 Crucial AreasWhen you’re building your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, it can be difficult to know where to start with the plethora of information available online. You can gain a lot of great information from reading various articles, however, putting it all together to create a cohesive strategy is more difficult.

SEO is all about making sure your website and online presence, including the content and images you publish, shows up in the right places to attract potential clients or customers when they’re looking for the product or services your business provides. That means you want to be at the top of the search results page for important keywords relating to your business.

One of the most important things to remember about SEO is that it’s cumulative. Every step you take to improve your SEO builds on what you’ve done previously and will continue to help you into the future. In that way, they’re kind of like bricks. You need to lay a strong foundation to build on. But unlike bricks, SEO will become more effective as your website grows, like a snowball effect. You’ll also need to make an effort to maintain your SEO.

There are six essential “building blocks” you’ll need to complete your SEO strategy.

  1. Technical SEO

Technical SEO is the foundation you build everything else on. It’s important not to overlook technical SEO because it encompasses the details that are necessary to ensure everything runs properly, and it dictates how Google’s algorithm interacts with your website. This is extremely important, because if Google can’t read your website’s content and data properly, your pages may not be indexed and listed on the search results at all.

I highly recommend hiring a technical SEO professional, someone who is well-versed in the technical side of SEO and can find and fix errors when they occur. They also play an important role in ensuring that everything is set up correctly so your website and SEO strategies operate the way they’re intended. An expert in technical SEO will know what to be on the lookout for and can keep you from encountering common problems.

Cutting corners on this step can end up costing you in other places. It is foundational because without the proper setup, the rest of your SEO efforts may go to waste. If there are errors with your website, it can cause Google to be unable to read your pages, or it can even result in your site being penalized by Google, which can be difficult to recover from.

  1. Content

The second block in building your SEO strategy is the content you place on your website and other places on the web. While technical SEO ensures that your website functions properly and interacts with Google so your pages are able to show up in search results, you still don’t have much of a website without content. If you don’t have content, there’s nothing to show up on the search results page.

A good content strategy begins by defining your audience—who is your ideal customer? What is their need that your business can fulfill? What questions do they have that you can answer? Then, start building content that addresses their questions and needs. It’s really helpful to build out a spreadsheet to visually display and track your content strategy.

The more content you publish in your area of expertise, the more authoritative Google’s algorithm will see you in regards to that topic. It increases your credibility in Google’s eyes, meaning that it is more likely to send users to your pages. But it’s not enough to simply publish a lot of content within your realm of expertise. If you want to rank well, you’ll need to publish better content than that of your competitors. Always research the keywords you want to rank for and the competition for those keywords. In some cases, it’s beneficial to go after less-competitive keywords. But for more competitive keywords, you can examine what the top-ranking pages are doing well, and then create content that’s even better.

  1. Digital PR

Digital PR describes the way you interact with the rest of the internet and the way that reflects on your website and business. There are a number of things that factor into this, such as whether your business has positive reviews and the number of high-quality backlinks you have in place.

Link-building is the process of gaining backlinks, which are links to your website from other places on the internet. Each link you get is like a vote from that website saying, “There’s something valuable here.” Building links takes a lot of work, but the payoff in terms of SEO can be well worth the effort.

While there are many strategies to gain more backlinks, the most important thing to remember about link-building is that high-quality links are worth more than many low-quality links, such as links from spammy or disreputable sites.

  1. Local SEO

Something some businesses overlook when creating their SEO strategy is local SEO. While it may be incredibly difficult to compete for certain keywords on a national or global level, it can be more achievable to reach the top of the search results page for that same keyword on a local level. In many cases, the majority of a business’s target audience is local, so it makes sense to target them on a local level.

One of the best tools for local SEO is Google Maps. If you haven’t already, set up your Google My Business account, which will allow you to claim and edit your listing on Google Maps. From there, you can fill in your information, add pictures, respond to reviews, and gain useful information about user behavior through the Insights Dashboard.

It’s worth putting the effort into optimizing your Google My Business listing, because for local searches, the Google Maps results often are the first thing a user will see.

  1. Online Reputation

Your online reputation plays a major role in how Google will rank your website. Remember, you want to be seen as a reliable authority to Google’s algorithm. Google wants to send its users to relevant, safe, and authoritative websites. Your reputation is affected by all three of these things. If your website has bugs or viruses and isn’t safe for users to visit, Google won’t recommend it. If your website is full of bad information or spammy content, that also doesn’t reflect well on you.

There are other factors that play a role in your website’s reputation, such as the number of high-quality backlinks you have (or conversely, low-quality backlinks can harm your reputation), whether you have many positive or negative reviews on your Google My Business Listing, and whether you engage in any “black-hat” SEO practices. Black-hat SEO describes strategies that break Google’s rules, and using them can get you penalized.

  1. UX

UX describes the user experience of your website. This is one of the last steps of building your SEO strategy because it can require quite a bit of fine-tuning. It involves things such as the design of your website, how easy it is to navigate and find answers to questions, and the value of the content you provide, among other things. Obviously, you want users to have a positive experience with your website, but it can be difficult to know what users will respond to best. For example, what kind of phrasing and images are most effective on your home page? When you run into a question like this, you can run an A-B split test with two separate versions of the page to see which creates better results. The A-B testing method can be used for many aspects of your website and is a great tool to find the most effective way to engage with your users.

Search engine optimization is an important part of your business’s marketing strategy. If you do it correctly, it can make a big difference in the amount of revenue your business earns. Craft your SEO strategy around a strong foundation focusing on these six areas to improve your search rankings, increase your traffic, and earn more revenue.