Jason Hennessey

Free Google Tools to Identify How to Improve Your Website

There are so many SEO tools out there it can be overwhelming to determine which are worth your time and money, especially when many of them perform similar functions. If you’re getting started in SEO, how do you even know what kind of tools you need? And how do you avoid spending more than necessary by purchasing programs that ultimately don’t give you a return on your investment?

The good news is that some of the best tools out there are free, provided by Google itself. You simply have to put in a little bit of time to learn to use them effectively. These are excellent resources for creating and managing your SEO strategy and measuring your performance, which will give you the information you need to make adjustments along the way and become more successful at SEO. 

These tools are necessary to equip you with the information you need to compete for the top rankings on your relevant search results pages. If you’re not taking advantage of these free resources, by learning to use them well, you’re letting others get ahead of you on the search results page.

Search Operators

Search operators are commands you can type into Google’s search engine to filter information and refine the results you see. If you’re looking for something specific, it can be much quicker to find the information by narrowing the results using a search operator. These can be used in a wide variety of ways to help you with your SEO strategy. Here are a few examples and how you might use them:

“Site:”

Typing “site:” along with a website’s URL into Google’s search bar will give you results and information only from that specific site. This is useful in SEO to filter results for your own website. If you type “site:[yourdomain.com]” into the search bar, you’ll also see more than just pages from your website—it will also show you a snippet of information in an “About” tab, which includes an estimate of the number of pages on your site that Google has indexed. Then compare this data to your competitors’ sites.

There are a couple of other useful search operators you can combine with this one. Try typing “site:[yourdomain.com]” along with “inurl:https” to discover any old HHTP pages that haven’t been converted to HTTPS pages yet. Also try adding “intitle: [your keyword]” to your site search to see how many pages are indexed with a certain keyword.

“Cache:”

Type “cache:[yourdomain.com]” into your address bar rather than your search bar to see the most recently cached version of your web page. This allows you to see how often Google crawls your website. You can also use it to see whether pages with important links have been indexed, and if they haven’t been, take action to ping Google to crawl them.

Quotation marks

Quotation marks are a useful search tool to help you find exact phrases, which can be helpful to look for duplicate content on your site as well as finding plagiarized content. To find plagiarized content, copy some text from your website and paste it into the search bar with quotation marks around it. Then type “-site:[yourdomain.com]” after it, which will exclude results from your website. Ideally, no results will show up. However, if you find your content on other sites, you may have a plagiarization issue.

There are many ways you can use quotation marks to find targeted content to improve your SEO, and one of my favorite ways to do this is by searching for link building opportunities. Here are a few search queries you can use to find websites related to yours that are open to collaboration.

  • “[your keyword]” + “write for us”
  • “[your keyword]” + “write for me”
  • “[your keyword]” + “become a contributor”
  • “[your keyword]” + “guest post”
  • “[your keyword]” + “contribute”
  • “[your keyword]” + “submit a guest post”
  • “[your keyword]” + “accepting guest posts”

The “People Also Ask” Feature

Think of a question or a keyword one of your potential customers might type into the search bar. On the search results page for that phrase, in most cases Google will provide you with a list of related questions under the heading “People Also Ask.” The more questions you click on, the more will continue to show up. These questions are often a great place to find topics for content for your website, because you know that they’re questions real people have asked. By creating content that gives people the answers they’re looking for, you’ll draw more traffic to your website and gain more leads.

PageSpeed Insights

PageSpeed Insights is a tool Google provides that analyzes your desktop and mobile websites and gives each of them a score based on their speed. All you have to do is type your URL into the tool’s search bar. Pay attention to what it tells you for both your mobile and desktop. Your mobile site’s score also plays an important role in your search ranking. This tool is particularly helpful in that it will give you suggestions on how to improve your site’s ranking.

Google Search Console

This is a free tool that measures your website’s performance and helps you identify technical issues. It’s one of the most useful tools available because it will alert you when it notices a problem with your website and allows you to communicate with Google in a way no other tool can, even allowing you to file a request for reconsideration if your site is penalized for negative SEO. 

This single tool can give you a significant advantage over your competitors simply because many people don’t know about it or aren’t using it. As one of the best SEO tools available, it’s surprising that more people aren’t using it—but that also can benefit you by giving you a leg up if you learn to use it well.

Google Analytics

Track your website activity including useful information like bounce rate, session duration, and much more with this free tool. Use this tool in conjunction with Google Search Console to determine whether the adjustments you’re making are working as you intend them to. Google Analytics allows you to track your progress on your SEO efforts and is more accurate than many third-party tools that perform similar functions because it has direct access to search data and other important information because it integrates with Google’s other free tools.

There is plenty of paid software out there that will perform the same functions as the tools listed above, but in many cases, these third-party programs are not worth the money. Of course there are plenty of third-party tools that provide other helpful insights that are well worth their cost, but for the tools Google does provide, I recommend using them to their full capacity. Google’s tools are not only free but are also some of the most effective. Learning to use these tools will give you a competitive advantage in your SEO strategy, resulting in more leads on your website and ultimately an increase in revenue for your business.

Check Out Your Competition: A Simple Trick to Building a Solid SEO Foundation

Building an SEO strategy is an important part of creating an effective digital marketing plan. A strategy allows you to focus your efforts to create a greater impact and ensure that your SEO tactics build on each other. Without a solid strategy, you may end up missing important details or lacking cohesion in your content, which will confuse Google and cause you not to rank as high on search results pages.

When I’m getting started building a new website, there’s a simple trick I like to use to begin crafting an SEO strategy: sizing up the competition. You’ll be surprised to find that a good deal of the initial work has already been done for you—by your competitors. When I’m building an SEO strategy, I do some simple research to see who my competitors are and how they’re succeeding, then I use that information to begin building my own strategy. 

Start your research by examining your competitors’ websites. Which websites are ranking at the top of the search results page for your market? If they’re at the top, they’re doing something right, which means you can learn from them. 

You can easily find your competitors by searching for a relevant query to your business. Start by searching your business type and location, such as “physical therapist in Miami.” Whose website shows up at the top of the search results page? They’re your top competitor.

One caveat to this is that businesses who spend a lot on advertising, such as billboards and TV ads, may not be the best to learn from in terms of SEO even if they do show up at the top of the search results. Their popularity may skew their ranking even if they’re not practicing the best SEO strategies throughout their website. If the top few results are big advertising spenders, move on to the next couple of search results to learn from.

Once you’ve taken note of the top few search results, you have a pretty good picture of your competition. If they’re ranking at the top of the results, that’s where you want to be. You can begin to build your strategy based on what’s working for them, so it’s time to start analyzing so you can reverse-engineer their strategies. Make a list of the top three, and focus on them.

It may seem overwhelming to look at a website and try to determine what’s making it rank well. I recommend using a web-crawling tool to start, which can give you insight to the workings of the website, including things like keyword rankings and backlinks. Choose a tool like Screaming Frog SEO Spider, Ahrefs, or Semrush, which can give you the information you need.

To help you understand how the websites are working, take note of the following information about them:

  • How many total pages do they have indexed on Google?
  • How many organic keywords are they ranking for on Google?
  • What is their estimated organic traffic?
  • What is their estimated branded and non-branded traffic?
  • What is their domain rating?
  • What is their total number of referring domains, and which have the highest and lowest domain ratings?
  • What are their top pages, and what are the associated ranking keywords for each page?

Use the information you get from the crawling tools to answer the questions above, which will allow you to make more informed decisions about your own SEO strategy. Compare the results to those of your own website—where do they look different? How many pages do you have indexed on Google compared to your competitors? The more pages you have indexed, the better you’ll rank. (However, note that if you have an abnormally high number of indexed pages, it could mean that you’ve been hacked, or that you have a technical problem that needs to be fixed.)

The best way to keep track of all of this information is to create a spreadsheet. Place their information in one column and yours in another to compare details like pages indexed, keywords, and traffic. Make note of each specific keyword, because you can use this information to compete with them. If your competitor is in the top spot on the search results page for a keyword you want to rank for, and their webpage contains 3,000 words, you can one-up them by writing an even better page with 5,000 words. Using this method, you’re able to make your way to the top of search results pages even for more competitive keywords.

Think of this strategy-building as the foundation for your website. Just like in architecture, SEO needs a strong foundation to build on. However, the advantage with SEO is that you can make adjustments to your strategy as you go. If you discover something isn’t working well, you can change it. By putting in the work now to research and develop a strong strategy, you’ll set your website up for success in the long run. 

The Similarities Between Mowing Your Lawn and Creating Your SEO Strategy

In the process of building your website, it’s important to start with your SEO strategy. While it may not be the most exciting part of creating or revamping your website, it is certainly the most important for your success. By starting with strategy, you give yourself the ability to easily adjust other aspects of the site as needed so you don’t have to re-do any of your hard work. It will also help you avoid common mistakes that many businesses make when they implement SEO.

One of the most common mistakes I see businesses make is approaching SEO like a single-time project. Even though you create your strategy at the beginning, SEO requires maintenance. I like to say it’s like taking care of your lawn—you have to do more than just plant the seeds and watch them grow. Just like a lawn takes water every day and trimming at regular intervals, your SEO strategy will need adjustments along the way and regular monitoring and updating.

Another mistake I often see is when people assume they need a blog, so they simply outsource it to get quick, cheap content, but they don’t have a strategy for developing and using that content. Blogs can certainly play an important role in SEO, but content simply for content’s sake is not enough to help you rank well. And what’s worse, writers who offer $50 a blog post are often working in content mills, overworked and lacking focus, or working so quickly they don’t have the time and energy needed to create quality content for you. At best, you may get a scattering of content that lacks strategy and cohesiveness, and at worst, you may even receive plagiarized content, which can seriously hurt your ranking on Google.

Some businesses treat SEO like pay-per-click ads, turning it on and off and completely changing it as they see fit. But like I’ve mentioned, SEO needs continual upkeep and builds upon itself. That’s why it’s so critical to build your strategy from the beginning—if you stop all of a sudden or change the direction of your strategy, you’ll lose the progress you’ve made.

I’ve also seen many businesses work with SEO companies without experience in their field or that use unproven strategies, and this comes back to bite them. When you’re choosing professionals to work with, ensure they’ve worked with businesses like yours before and that they’re using proven SEO strategies. They should be able to lay out a strategy for you that’s customized to your business with the goal of increasing traffic to your site and show how their methods have worked for other businesses like yours in the past. If their strategy is not entirely customized to your website, they may be trying to sell you a one-size-fits-all solution, which won’t be very effective.

So now that you know the common mistakes to avoid in developing your SEO strategy, where should you start? I recommend thinking about your pillar pages as one of the first parts of your strategy.

Pillar pages are web pages that cover a single topic broadly and contain links to more specific, related content. The related content branching off of these pages is called “cluster content” and should share more in-depth information about the subtopic it covers.

It’s important to use pillar pages in your SEO strategy because they help organize your website to make it easier not only for users to navigate but also for Google to crawl. If Google can’t effectively crawl your web pages, they won’t get properly ranked in search results! It’s best to strategically link your pillar pages to your cluster content through keyword anchor text, which helps Google understand how the site is organized.

In building your SEO strategy, you should determine what your pillar pages will cover. The topics you choose should help you connect with your target audience. Here are some questions to help you focus on the right topics:

  • What questions are potential clients asking in Google searches? 
  • What websites are already ranking on Google for these searches, and what does their content look like?
  • Does our business have different geographic locations that need their own pillar pages?
  • What does the search volume and competition look like, and what can we do to rank well among them?

Once you have your pillar pages in place, you can always adjust them as needed. Understanding your competition and the keywords you’re trying to rank for will allow you to track your progress with incoming traffic and change aspects of your website based on what is and isn’t working well.

It’s good to have an idea of what your pillar pages might look like, but don’t begin building them until you’ve done your research. The first step to building your SEO strategy is examining your competitors’ websites. Which websites are ranking at the top of the search results page for your market? If they’re at the top, they’re doing something right, which means you can learn from them. 

You can easily find your competitors by searching for a relevant query to your business. Start by searching your business type and location, such as “physical therapist in Miami.” Whose website shows up at the top of the search results page? They’re your top competitor.

One caveat to this is that businesses who spend a lot on advertising, such as billboards and TV ads, may not be the best to learn from in terms of SEO even if they do show up at the top of the search results. Their popularity may skew their ranking even if they’re not practicing the best SEO strategies throughout their website. If the top few results are big advertising spenders, move on to the next couple of search results to learn from.

Once you’ve taken note of the top few search results, you have a pretty good picture of your competition. If they’re ranking at the top of the results, that’s where you want to be. You can begin to build your strategy based on what’s working for them, so it’s time to start analyzing so you can reverse-engineer their strategies. Make a list of the top three, and focus on them.

It may seem overwhelming to look at a website and try to determine what’s making it rank well. I recommend using a web-crawling tool to start, which can give you insight to the workings of the website, including things like keyword rankings and backlinks. Choose a tool like Screaming Frog SEO Spider, Ahrefs, or Semrush, which can give you the information you need.

To help you understand how the websites are working, take note of the following information about them:

  • How many total pages do they have indexed on Google?
  • How many organic keywords are they ranking for on Google?
  • What is their estimated organic traffic?
  • What is their estimated branded and non-branded traffic?
  • What is their domain rating?
  • What is their total number of referring domains, and which have the highest and lowest domain ratings?
  • What are their top pages, and what are the associated ranking keywords for each page?

Use the information you get from the crawling tools to answer the questions above, which will allow you to make more informed decisions about your own SEO strategy. Compare the results to those of your own website—where do they look different? How many pages do you have indexed on Google compared to your competitors? The more pages you have indexed, the better you’ll rank.

SEO strategy building is important foundational work for the success of your website as a whole. By taking the time to research the market and lay out a plan before you implement any new SEO practices, you’ll avoid falling into the common mistakes businesses make with SEO and will set your website up to grow continuously and bring you more business.

Which SEO Tools Are Worth It?

If you’re getting started in SEO, you’ll need some tools and software to help you implement, monitor, and adjust your digital marketing strategy. But is it true that you get what you pay for when it comes to digital marketing tools?

There are a lot of various programs out there, many of which perform similar functions, claiming to be exactly what you need. If you don’t have the experience to know which tools give the biggest return on investment, it may be overwhelming to sort through and find the options that best meet your needs.

Before you pay for software, make sure you’re taking advantage of the free software that Google offers. Many of the best tools available are free, straight from Google. We won’t get into them in detail here, but this is what I recommend:

  • Become proficient in using search operators.
  • Use the People Also Ask function on the search results page.
  • Analyze your site and your competitors using PageSpeed Insights.
  • Learn to use Google Search Console well as it will give you a leg up.
  • Track your progress and make adjustments based on info from Google Analytics.

While Google provides some excellent free tools, there are also plenty of tools worth paying for, and if you take advantage of their functionality, they can easily make up for their own cost in increased traffic to your site, resulting in more leads and ultimately revenue for your business. You may find other tools you like to use, but these are the ones I find most helpful, which give the best return on investment. You will get the best results by using all of them rather than picking and choosing.

Ahrefs

(ahrefs.com)

This powerful, comprehensive software is one of my favorite available third-party tools. I spend up to two hours a day using it—that’s how useful it is. It contains a number of useful features that allow you to keep a lot of information in one place. 

With Ahrefs, you can do backlink analysis, keyword research, content gap analysis, technical site auditing, competitive analysis, and rank tracking all from one software suite. This one is definitely worth the price.

Semrush

(semrush.com)

Another comprehensive software suite, Semrush is easy to use through their simple interface and helps you increase your online visibility and gain useful insights for digital marketing. Use this tool for tasks such as organic research and link analysis. It can also help with pay-per-click advertising and social media audits, and it even provides content templates to help you write better marketing copy and website content. This tool is practically essential to your digital marketing strategy, and the majority of SEO experts use it. And it’s no wonder: Semrush can run a technical SEO audit of any site, track your daily rankings, analyze your competitors’ SEO strategies, analyze the backlink profile of any domain, and find relevant keyword ideas.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider

(screamingfrog.co.uk)

Unlike Semrush and Ahrefs, Scream Frog SEO Spider isn’t a massive multi-tool. Instead, it crawls websites the way Google’s spiders do to index webpages. This is extremely valuable because it allows you to understand how Google’s spiders interact with your website, such as whether they’re running into any technical problems. Using this software, you can find broken links, audit redirects, analyze page titles and meta data, find duplicate content, identify canonicalization problems, and generate XML sitemaps. 

Copyscape

(copyscape.com)

Copyscape is a tool to help you avoid plagiarization by detecting duplicated content. While there are other ways to go about finding duplicate content, such as searching a snippet of content on Google with quotation marks around it, Copyscape makes this process more efficient and thorough. This functionality is particularly important if you plan to outsource your content writing, as some freelancers (especially ones that charge cheap prices) will plagiarize content for a quick profit, and duplicate content can be penalized by Google. Copyscape also checks for your content on other websites in case someone else has stolen from you. You’ll receive email notifications whenever duplicate content is found so you can swiftly deal with the problem before it affects your ranking. 

Siteliner

(siteliner.com)

While it’s important to make sure you’re not publishing stolen content and no is stealing content from you, Google also doesn’t like to see duplicate content within your own website, as it can confuse the algorithm and result in a lower ranking for you. Siteliner identifies internal duplicate content while also finding broken links and giving reports on page optimization.

Brightlocal

(brightlocal.com)

This tool helps you improve your local SEO through a number of services, including building citations into your website to increase your rankings as well as offering aggregator submissions. It’s interactive dashboard provides plenty of useful information and metrics. Some of the abilities this tool offers are tracking your local rankings, auditing and building citations, local SEO reporting, multi-location tools and reporting, and reputation and review management.

Podium

(podium.com)

Podium is more than just an SEO tool—it’s a digital marketing tool that allows you to easily communicate through messages with customers, clients, or leads. That means you can text clients and ask them to leave you a five-star review on Google or to remind clients of appointment times. In addition to giving you an easy way to send standardized text messages, Podium also manages reviews, allows you to communicate with customers online, and shows you competitive benchmarks for star rating, review count, and more.

Userway

(userway.org)

How accessible is your website? Increasing website accessibility can seem like a difficult task, and one that many people might not even think about, but Userway automates it. It can make your website more compatible with the requirements outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This includes things like enabling accessibility enhancements such as changing text size, font, contrast, and other formatting and design elements; reading text aloud; moderating offensive content; and even reducing your liability to potential lawsuits.

While there are a lot of tools needed to optimize your digital marketing strategy, it’s important to remember that each of these tools will enhance your SEO and improve your overall rankings. I encourage you not to pick and choose which tools to use, but to take the time to learn how to get the most out of each of them. Digital marketers need tools just like any tradesman—you wouldn’t try to carve a bench out of wood with your fingernails. The idea sounds ridiculous. Of course you need the right tools to carve anything out of wood. 

The same goes for digital marketing, and yet so many people try to cut corners or go in blindly setting up their website without the proper information, which ultimately leads to failure. These tools are important to give you the data you need to craft your digital marketing strategy and monitor your progress so you can make adjustments as needed. Without them, how can you know what is or isn’t working?

It may seem like a lot to learn, but these tools have all been well-tested by digital marketers. Investing in the right tools will boost your website’s success, bringing you more business and ultimately more revenue.

How to Hire and Manage a Digital Marketing Team That Pays for Itself

When you’re creating a digital marketing plan, you’ll have to make the decision whether to outsource the work or handle it within your own company. As a business owner, your time is more valuable than anyone else’s on your team. It doesn’t always make sense for you to spend your time building an SEO strategy yourself. Choosing the right team members to handle the job is an important factor in the success in maintaining SEO effectiveness long term.

The first question you must consider is whether you should build an in-house agency to handle the job or outsource it to a digital marketing firm. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach, so it’s about picking what’s best for your business. Then, whichever you choose, you’ll need to learn how to monitor them well to ensure you see a return on your investment with increased revenue. 

Start by considering the size of your business. An in-house agency offers you a lot of benefits and control, but it may not be reasonable if you run a smaller company. I don’t recommend starting an in-house agency unless you can feasibly spend at least $25,000 a month on it. This is a fantastic option for some businesses, but it does require a great deal of resources. You can’t expect to just hire a single full-time SEO expert to run your entire digital marketing strategy. There are simply too many moving pieces involved for one person to do all of them effectively—SEO, link-building, website design, content strategy and creation, and many more things are involved. I like to say that hiring a single SEO expert to handle your digital marketing is like hiring a single contractor to build your house. You need a variety of experts to do the job well and get the results you want.

Your digital marketing team, whether you’re outsourcing or building it yourself, should include the following roles at least:

  • Marketing director: Coordinates all marketing activities, digital and nondigital.
  • Digital marketing manager: Manages the digital marketing team and communicates with the marketing director.
  • Copywriter: Crafts engaging and informational content for your website with strong storytelling skills.
  • Technical SEO lead: Specializes in technical SEO issues and has a proactive approach to marketing strategy.
  • Web developer: Creates the website and implements technical recommendations, with a strong programming skillset.
  • Public relations specialist: Interacts with the media and builds the brand reputation.
  • Link-building and outreach specialist: Works to create new inbound links to the website to improve its authority and searchability.
  • Social media manager: Manages the business’s social media to create organic traffic growth, and should be a member of your in-house team even if you hire an agency.
  • Paid media strategist: Sets up and manages paid ad campaigns.
  • Graphic designer: Creates graphics for the website as well as any other content you publish.
  • Video editor: Edits videos to generate more leads on your website, social media, and YouTube channel.
  • Data analyst: Tracks data so you understand where new leads are coming from to help you make better adjustments to your marketing strategy.

Considering the number of professionals needed, you can probably see why many business choose to hire a digital marketing firm. A good digital marketing firm will have all of these individuals and more to meet your specific needs, although there may be a few of these roles that would benefit you to hire separately so you have access to them whenever you need, such as a marketing director, graphic designer, and video editor. 

A digital marketing agency that has all of the roles and resources listed above may cost a considerable amount of money, but it’s worth investing in. Hiring an inexpensive firm might seem like a good way to cut costs, but small companies don’t have as many resources and can’t provide you with a return on your investment. They may even result to SEO shortcuts that may show an initial boost in your traffic but will ultimately be penalized by Google, hurting your business in the long run.

Even though the cost of hiring a digital marketing firm may be high, it is often less expensive than building your own in-house team and requires less money and work upfront to launch your SEO strategy. The decision to hire an agency or build one is about what makes the most sense for your business. If you’re able to invest what’s needed into building your own team, it may make sense for you. Or if your budget is small enough that you can’t afford to hire a full-service marketing firm, it may be better for you to hire a few full-time individuals who are skilled in multiple areas. Consider if you hire an inexperienced digital marketing agency, will they be able to get the desired outcomes, or should you make the decision to hire differently for a strong return on investment?

Once you’ve hired your digital marketing team, whether they’re in-house or an agency, you and your team will need to monitor progress. Do they regularly publish high-quality new content? Is the content compelling enough that you would be interested if you were your own customer? It’s important to work closely with the digital marketing team to provide feedback and direct them. You don’t have to be the one to give the feedback—it could be your marketing director.

Whenever you evaluate your digital marketing efforts, take a step back and look at it from the customer’s perspective. Even if your team is doing everything correctly, focusing on the wrong topics can cause your strategy to fail. Your content should be written at about an eighth grade reading level so it’s very accessible to your audience, and it should express sympathy for your client and whatever their problem is that your business solves.

Remember, SEO takes constant maintenance and adjustments. When you make adjustments, it’s important to watch whether the adjustment improves the results or not. Otherwise, you’re just stabbing in the dark. 

Whether you choose to build your own digital marketing team or hire an agency, make an effort to understand SEO strategy. If you don’t know what they’re doing or why they’re doing it, you’ll have no way to effectively monitor whether or not it’s working. You can be successful with either decision, but it takes some involvement from you to get the optimal results.

How to Leverage Confirmation Bias as an Entrepreneur

When we believe something to be true, our gut instinct is to find ways to confirm its validity. This is called confirmation bias. What you believe is what you attract. Left unchecked, it’s a dangerous psychological weapon, and for entrepreneurs, it’s an easy way to fail. What follows are four statements that lend themselves to confirmation bias, along with how to reframe and leverage each in a productive way.

You don’t have to be your past

Of course, you can be; or, rather, you can embrace your past. Just know that you don’t have to be.

It always interests me to learn about a successful entrepreneur who grew up with little to nothing. For me, it was a similar tale. I come from humble roots — a single mother, two grandparents who served as pseudo-parents, both while grinding it out in blue collar jobs. Truthfully, they had entrepreneurial spirit. That mindset of go, go, go

I look back on my childhood as a positive experience. Sure, I never had much money, but that means I also never had any handouts. I never expected anything from anyone. I learned early on in life that if I was going to be successful, it would come down to my own doing.

In fact, this is probably what led to my childhood, teenage, and early adulthood years being filled with countless “ventures.” First there were the quasi-traditional money makers. You know, selling candy at school (the ultimate childhood hustle), waking up before the sun to run a daily paper route. 

Then, as I grew older, the more “unique” endeavors, like being hired as a “party motivator” at various gigs and starting my own DJ business. Or commandeering $17/hr to stock and deliver beer before I was even legally allowed to drink.

None of this is to pat myself on the back for showcasing an early entrepreneurial drive. Instead, I think it’s an example of confirmation bias gone right, as opposed to horribly wrong. Anyone who struggles in their childhood can very easily (through no fault of their own) become prone to defeatism. “I haven’t had much in my life, so I am not much.” 

Accept that thought, and confirmation bias comes out to play. You subconsciously look for anything and everything that will confirm this belief. I was lucky to have enough optimism to reframe my beliefs. The way I was going to be successful was by grinding it out. After accepting that, I just had to find opportunities to grind. I looked to examples of successful people who had an admirable work ethic, and focused on my successful future.

If you believe you’re not creative, the world will agree

This is one of my favorites, because it’s one of the strongest examples of confirmation bias at work. Plus, creativity is such an elusive term. It feels like we still tend to equate creativity with movies, books, paintings, songs…and nothing else.

The arts are certainly fields that live off creativity, but the term itself is much more than end-product. Creativity is a mindset, a process-based way of thinking, and as an entrepreneur — no matter where you are in your journey — you must see yourself as a creative individual.

That’s half of what being an entrepreneur is about! You’re constantly looking for new opportunities, creative solutions to existing problems, ways to do things differently. But again, if you believe you’re not creative, the world’s going to support that belief in an instant. 

You’ll quickly see other entrepreneurs coming up with ideas that you’ll be convinced are way better than yours. Anything that supports your lack of creativity will be sucked up by your brain; and, conversely, anything that might suggest your lack of creativity is hogwash will be rejected. After all, we’re talking about confirmation bias — only information that confirms your belief, however wrong it might be.    

There’s a fine line between confidence and hubris

One of the more difficult aspects of being an entrepreneur is learning when and when not to leap. Part of this comes down to understanding the razor-thin line between confidence and hubris. And, in keeping with our theme, confidence and hubris can stem from confirmation bias.

Tell yourself you’re ready to act, but in a pragmatic way, then believe it and move forward. However, feed your ego with those wonderfully sugar-filled statements like “I’m the best,” “I can’t fail,” “No one can do what I do,” “I, I, I, I, I,” and you might find yourself in the land of uncontrolled hubris. 

It’s tricky to avoid doubt, believe in yourself, and simultaneously not overstep. You don’t want to get into your own head, but you also don’t want to run full-steam ahead off the mountaintop with no parachute. Factor in family, and the decision making process becomes even harder.

The best thing any entrepreneur can do for themself is to recognize the line. Walking it takes practice. Finding balance takes experience. But acknowledging that there even is a balance between confident ventures and overconfident mishaps is how we prevent the pitfalls of confirmation bias. It’s how we keep ourselves from drowning in defeatism or outflying Icarus and paying the price.  

Actionable goals create movement

This brings us to the ultimate way to leverage confirmation bias and achieve your vision: action. Better yet, actionable goals. If you keep yourself organized and chart out a step-by-step path to accomplishing what you want to accomplish, you’re better equipped to use confirmation bias to your advantage.

Since confirmation bias is a product of your belief system, I’ve found that having an organized path to success is an easy way to use it to your benefit. “See” the path so that you can “believe” in the path. What’s more, having an action plan helps mitigate doubt and overconfidence. Actionable and organized goals instill faith in the process, while also painting a clear picture of where you are and where you need to get to. 

There isn’t a single moment in any entrepreneurial venture where you will or won’t face confirmation bias. It tends to show up along the way. However, if you understand what it is, as well as how you can leverage it to support optimistic and mindful thinking, you’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges that appear on your journey.